“What is the proper way to feed broiler chicks to maturity? I have 2 1/2 week old chicks on starter feed – they are feathering out now. Do I need to change from starter to a different protein such as grower, corn or what? Looking forward to response” ~ Julia
Thanks for the question.
Broilers do require a different diet than a layer or even a dual purpose bird.
For those who are not familiar, broilers are strictly meat birds.
They are often referred to as fryers.
They are bred to grow rapidly so that they are ready for the dinner table between 4 and 10 weeks of age.
As early as 4 weeks, they are marketed as Cornish hens. Closer to 7 weeks they will be ready for the grocery store. After 8 weeks, these birds are used most often for de-boned chicken products like nuggets or sandwiches.
Because broilers need to grow quickly, they present some physical challenges in addition to specific nutritional requirements.
Rapid growth requires maximum food consumption.
For this reason, it is often recommended that you raise your broilers with 24 hours of light each day so that they have continuous access to food.
Once the heat lamps have been removed from your brooder box (usually around 4 weeks depending on your climate,) you would hang a 40 watt light bulb at 6 feet above the birds.
You can of course forego the artificial light but the growth rate will be slower.
Broilers require a high rate of protein in their feed. For the first 4 weeks the should receive feed with a protein content of around 23%.
From 4 weeks to slaughter the protein content needs to be around 19%.
It is important to provide a diet designed specifically for broilers rather than layers because the calcium content in lay rations is too high for broilers.
Although you can provide home rations for your broilers, their nutritional needs are extremely important and you have such a short time raising them to get their nutrient levels correct.
This is an instance where I would recommend a commercial feed formulated specifically as a broiler starter or broiler grower/finisher. Although it is more expensive than home rations, I think you’ll be happier with the end result on your dinner table.
However, this recommendation is based upon the fact that I am not a nutritionist.
You see, there are numerous charts available on the internet with the percentages of nutrients recommended for broilers. But when I read words like “DL-Methionine” my eyes tend to glaze over and my mind is definitely somewhere else.
With that said, I will share with you a recipe that makes 500 pounds of broiler feed.
Because I am not a nutritionist, I don’t know if this recipe would be better suited as a starter or a grower/finisher. Honestly, I don’t know for sure if this diet meets all the nutritional requirements of broilers at all.
If any of you are nutritionists and know the answer to that, send me an email and I’ll share your conclusion with everyone else next week…
Broiler Chicken Feed
Things You’ll Need:
- 250 pounds cracked corn
- 150 pounds ground roasted soybeans
- 25 pounds rolled oats
- 25 pounds alfalfa meal
- 25 pounds fish or bone meal
- 10lbs aragonite (calcium powder)
- 15 pounds poultry nutri-balancer
- Large container big enough to hold 500 pounds dry mix
- Small shovel for mixing
You should measure all your ingredients ahead of time. Measure out the amount needed of each grain and set aside. Get your container ready. It’s not necessary but it is a good idea if your container or tub has a lid to protect from mice.
Start by pouring your corn and soybeans into your tub. With your hands mix them together well. There should be close to a 50/50 mix when you scoop a handful out.
Next, mix your oats, alfalfa, and fish meal into your base mix. This is where you might need your small shovel to reach the bottom of the container.
Finally mix in your aragonite and poultry nutri-balancer. Continue to mix until all ingredients are mixed evenly throughout.
Feed this mix in place of your regular chicken feed. Feed at the rate of 3 pounds for every five birds per day
Julia, I hope this has been of some help.
Best of luck with your chickens.