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Feed Chicken Protein or Carbs?
June 17, 2013
Feed Chicken Protein or Carbs?
depends on what they're up to this season
Feeding Chickens Proteins or Carbs depending on season
For commercially available feeds, nutritionists work to create an appropriate balance of ingredients using a variety of sources. Included in each blend, grains like corn and wheat supply carbohydrates which provide energy for living, breathing and body functions like temperature regulation. On the other hand, proteins provide the necessary building blocks for growth including the development of tissue such as skin, feathers and muscles, along with the egg whites for laying hens. No single feed ingredient can supply all the necessary nutrients, just like no one protein source can provide all the necessary amino acids at the appropriate levels.
Throughout the year, a flocks’ consumption needs will change based on a variety of factors including weather, access to free range and additional sources of nutrients, etc. Overall, birds will tend to eat less during warmer months and will need to consume more feed during cooler temperatures as they use more energy working to stay warm. With this in mind, it is important to consider adjusting how and what the flock is fed.
During hot summer months, it can be difficult enough to prevent heat stress within a flock even without considering how feed may be a contributing factor. Not only does heat stress diminish the birds’ appetites, additional heat is generated when a bird digests food. Due to this, it is definitely important to consider feeding birds outside of peak daily temperatures to help increase nutrient intake. High calorie carbohydrates like corn will contribute additional heat when digesting, so it is recommended to include corn during cooler months, but not as necessary during the summer. You can help your flock to stay warm in the fall and winter simply by providing one of our Soy Free feeds with corn in it or supplying it as a nightly treat in the form of Scratch n’Corn or Cracked Corn. Avoiding high protein feeds during the summer can also be beneficial in preventing heat stress as surprisingly even more heat is generated when metabolizing proteins than compared to other nutrients like fats and carbohydrates. In addition, providing unnecessary excess carbohydrates in the diet can not only lead to obesity and a reduction in egg production, but it can also water-down and reduce the overall amount of daily protein intake leading to issues like feather picking.
When considering using higher protein feeds, make sure there is a need for it as it tends to be one of the most expensive ingredients in the feed. Certain species or breeds may have recommendations for higher protein, and definitely younger birds will thrive best when fed high protein feeds like Naturally Free Starter. For adult birds, providing higher protein feeds when they are molting can help regrow feathers faster and thus assist their return to laying sooner. Feathers are about 85% protein and most hens going through a molt will reduce or stop laying eggs for up to several months until their older feathers have been replaced. Animal based proteins are most beneficial during molting as they are high in the right kind of amino acids to create the keratin needed for feathers, while proteins sourced from grains have reduced levels of amino acids.