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Feeding Chickens and Ducks

Introduction

In order to get good meat and egg production from birds they must be given good feed containing necessary nutrients. If birds are allowed to wander freely and eat whatever they can find they will not grow properly, will produce little meat and few eggs.

The digestive system of the bird

The bird has no teeth; food is swallowed whole and goes into the crop where it is stored and mixed with saliva. If you feel the crop you can tell if a bird has been feeding or not.The feed passes from the crop into the stomach where it mixes with the juices before passing into the roundish, thick walled, muscular organ called the gizzard. The gizzard contains small stones which the bird has eaten to help the gizzard to grind up the food for digestion. Nutrients are absorbed as ground up feed passes along the intestine.

digestive system of the bird

Birds do not produce liquid urine. Waste from the kidneys forms a thick white material which is mixed with the faeces (droppings). Both are then passed out through the cloaca. The duck produces wetter droppings than the chicken.

What the bird needs in its feed

Like other animals, birds require carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins in their feed.

At different times of their life birds will require rations that contain different amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins:

  • From hatching (1 day old) to 3 months of age, birds will need feed which contains large amounts of protein for body growth.
  • When birds are laying eggs minerals are important in producing good eggs.
  • Birds kept for meat will need a lot of protein in their feed.

Feed materials for birds

Different feeds are important for the nutrients which they contain.

  • Carbohydrates are found in grains which can be fed whole or ground as meal. Birds can be given corn, rice, maize, barley, oats, sorghum, finger and bulrush millet, or bran from rice or other grains.
  • Cake from the processing of groundnuts, cottonseed or dates can also provide carbohydrate and protein. Soya bean meal also contains proteins. These types of protein-rich feeds are from plants while animal products such as fish meal, milk powder and dried blood also contain proteins and can be fed to birds.
  • Birds must not be given too much animal protein. Not only is it expensive but too much of it may cause some diseases to occur in the animals. Too much fish meal can make eggs taste fishy.
  • Fats are found in cottonseed, groundnuts and sunflowers.
  • Minerals are in bone meal (ground bone) egg shells and old seashells which can be ground and added to the feed. If cuttlefish bone is available locally it is an excellent source of minerals.
  • Vitamins may be supplied by adding green plants to the feed or by adding commercially produced vitamins.

Your veterinary officer will be able to advise you about commercially available vitamin supplements and how to use them.

Your waste food can be fed to birds if it is cut up and boiled. It can then be mixed with meal and fed to the birds.

Rations

The ration will change with the requirements of the bird. Young birds need a ration which is rich in protein while laying birds need plenty of minerals. Some examples of rations are given.

Age of Bird

Whole & ground grain

Cake plant/animal

Protein

Minerals

up to 8 weeks

7 parts

2 parts

1 part

0.25 part

8 - 12 weeks

8 parts

1.5 parts

1 part

0.25 part

Laying

8 parts

1.5 parts

0.25 part

0.50 part

The ration should be thoroughly mixed and then water added until it becomes crumbly (like grain) before feeding it to either chickens or ducks. For chickens, whole grain can be scattered over the run encouraging birds to scratch as they feed and so take in minerals from the soil. Ducks can be offered whole grain in a trough of water or given dry. Always clean out unused feed daily. Green vegetables can be hung up in the run to encourage the birds to show an interest and not peck at each other.

Water

Birds need clean fresh water at all times. Every 4 chickens will need 1 litre of water every day and this will double as the weather becomes hotter.Ducks need more water than chickens each day. Ducks do better if they have enough water in which to dip their heads and necks.

Source : Pashu Sakhi Handbook



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