Wondering when to switch your chicks to layer feed. Nutrena Poultry Expert Twain Lockhart explains what you need to know in this short video.
Are you a chicken keeper who would like to add some ducks to your flock? Learn about the nutritional needs of ducks.
Chickens and ducks have similar dietary needs, with some important differences. Free-ranging ducks may be able to eat a multi-poultry diet, but they will do better on a feed formulated to meet their specific nutritional requirements.
- Niacin: Ducks need higher levels of this vitamin than chickens. Too little can result in leg deformities.
- Protein: Ducks are omnivores, meaning they eat both animal and plant matter. A diet for ducks should be about 18% protein, some of which should come from animal sources.
- Calcium: Compared to chickens, ducks need less calcium. Too much can be harmful.
- Balanced diet: Laying ducks need certain vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Also, an imbalanced diet can cause a condition called angel wing, which causes the flight feathers to twist upwards.
- Prebiotics and probiotics: These elements are important to the health of both the digestive and immune systems.
- Quality feed: Ducks are sensitive to mold toxins (mycotoxins) in their feed. To prevent mold growth after purchase, store your feed in a cool, dry location.
- Hard, small pellet: Ducks love to dabble, or dip their food in water while eating. Smaller pellets are easier for them to swallow than large pellets. Harder pellets hold together in water, which means less mess in their drinking water!
James Konecny of Royal Oaks Farm and owner of Lake Barrington Feed and Supply near Chicago breeds award-winning waterfowl by following these requirements in his feeding strategy.
You can give ducks a multi-purpose poultry feed, but why not choose a feed formulated especially for them? Country Feeds Duck Feed is a complete, wholesome, balanced diet with the following important elements:
- A guaranteed minimum amount of niacin
- Prebiotics and probiotics to support digestion and immunity
- Vitamins and minerals for healthy egg production
- Small, hard pellets that are perfect for dabbling
Help your ducks live their best lives with their own specially formulated diet: Country Feeds Duck Feed!
Bantam chickens can be a lot of fun, but before you bring them home you should understand some basic facts about how to best care for them and the pros and cons of these miniatures.
If you’re thinking about getting ducks this video will help you decide if ducks are right for you. For instance, did you know ducks need water to eat? Watch this video to learn more fun duck facts from Nutrena Poultry Expert Twain Lockhart.
If you raise chickens for meat, you know the importance of diet in getting your birds to harvest weight in as little time as possible. Because meat birds (for example, Cornish cross or broilers) are harvested between 6 and 10 weeks of age, it’s important to rapidly maximize growth. A diet containing 22% protein may support this rapid development. Probiotics are another important key to high yield in a short time frame.
History of Poultry Probiotics
Protein and probiotics didn’t always go hand in hand in meat-bird feed. In fact, probiotic technology is relatively new in the world of poultry farming. In the late 1940s, farmers fed antibiotics to meat chickens to further increase their size and prevent disease. These birds grew 2.5 times faster than chickens on a normal diet.
However, 40 years later, Dr. Leighton Linn, a livestock veterinarian from South Dakota, questioned this practice. He believed that correctly formulated probiotics would be superior to antibiotics.
Linn moved to Missouri in 1974 to found Star-Labs with partners Cliff Boyer and Gary Jones. Through careful research, they created a combination of probiotics to colonize a chicken’s entire digestive system and demonstrated through scientific trials that birds fed with the proper combination of probiotics experience significant growth.
Live Is Better
Star-Labs also found that the heat required for the pelleting process killed some of the probiotic micro-organisms. But they knew that meat birds gain the most benefit from feed with live, stable bacteria. With this discovery in mind, Star-Labs developed technology for poultry feeds that delivers live, effective probiotics able to withstand the heat of the pelleting process.
Effective probiotics may include the following strains:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Enteroccus faecium
- Bifidobacterium thermophilum
Why Probiotics for Meat Birds?
Simply put, the superior, research-based results speak for themselves. According to Dr. Gary Davis from North Carolina State University, quality probiotics “enhance nutrient utilization, uptake, and absorption…[and] an immune response in the bird’s gut. This is an excellent management tool to help birds fight off diseases.”
Diets containing high-quality, stable probiotics, such as NatureWise® Meatbird Feed, can boost the number of good gut bacteria, crowd out bad gut bacteria, increase nutrient absorption, and create a slightly acidic gut that favors good bacteria.
See for Yourself!
Ask for NatureWise® Meatbird Feed with probiotics. It will support your birds’ health, feed conversion, and livability—all without antibiotics. To maximize the potential of NatureWise® Meatbird Feed, follow the below feeding instructions:
- Provide as the sole ration from hatch to finish.
- Use a 12-hours-on/12-hours-off feed rotation to prevent overeating.
- Keep clean, fresh water available at all times.
- Clean feeders and waterers regularly.
For more information on these probiotics and their benefits, see the post “Chicken Feeds: They’re not all the same.”
Did you know that a quality chicken feed is more than just grains, vitamins, and minerals? While these ingredients are necessary, they are only part of a diet that helps your birds live their best life. Quality, higher-technology feeds include beneficial microflora, which are gut-friendly organisms such as bacteria and yeast. These tiny living things populate the chicks’ digestive systems, aid in digestion, and strengthen the chicken’s immune system.
Let’s at look some of these added extras that contribute to a chicken’s digestive health. Then you’ll know what to look for when you’re looking for your next feed.
The next time you look at a feed label, check for the words yeast culture. Also called fermentation metabolites, this additive is composed of compounds produced by fermentation of dietary yeast, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae (sak-uh-roh-MY-seez sehr-uh-VEE-see-eye). When fermented inside a chicken’s gut, yeast culture has the following functions:
- Supports the immune system and gut microflora
- Contributes to the health and strength of intestinal tissues
- Produces compounds that latch on to bad bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella and prevent them from attaching to the cells of the digestive tract
Another fungal product involves the fermentation of Trichoderma reesei (trih-kuh-DER-muh REE-see-eye). This feed component is an enzyme source, and the compounds it produces help break down carbohydrates to make nutrients more available to the chicken.
You’ve seen probiotics intended for humans, but did you know that probiotics are also helpful for your chickens? Probiotics are live microorganisms that result from fermentation and aid in digestion. Around 70 percent of the bacteria in a chicken’s digestive tract is Lactobacillus strains. They support the existence of beneficial bacteria, and some protect against bad bacteria. Many of these microorganisms are found in several places in the digestive tract. Look for these probiotics on feed labels:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus (LAK-toh-buh-SI-luhs a-suh-DAH-fuh-luhs): Helps ferment carbohydrates, produces chemicals that support growth, reduces impact of harmful microorganisms
- Lactobacillus casei (LAK-toh-buh-SI-luhs KAY-see-eye): Helps ferment carbohydrates, reduces colonization of bad bacteria, reduces impact of harmful microorganisms
- Bifidobacterium thermophilum (bye-fih-DOH-bak-TEER-ee-um ther-muh-FIH-lum): Helps ferment carbohydrates, benefits immune system
- Enterococcus faecium (en-tuh-row-KAW-kuhs FEE-see-um): Helps ferment carbohydrates, reduces impact of harmful microorganisms
When probiotics form part of the chicken’s microflora, they support the immune system and reduce disease. They also help the gut better absorb nutrients and can prevent or cure diarrhea.
The prefix pre means “before,” and prebiotics pave the way for probiotics to do their job. They serve as food for good bacteria, supporting growth and strengthening the chicken’s ability to resist bad bacteria. When they are fermented by a chicken’s body, they create compounds that stop the growth of harmful bacteria and keep them from sticking to the intestinal walls.
Prebiotics cannot be broken down and absorbed by the digestive system. After the chicken eats prebiotic material, some remains in the crop. However, most prebiotics travel into the lower parts of the digestive tract, including the ceca. Here they aid in fermentation and balance the acidity of the ceca for optimal health.
Some of these prebiotics might appear on the feed label, or you can supplement your chickens’ diet with these common sources of prebiotics:
- Dandelion greens
- Wheat bran
While technically not a prebiotic, yeast culture has properties that can be included in the prebiotic category. It assists with nutrient absorption and digestion and produces compounds that can improve growth and enhance the immune system.
What to Look for on the Label
The next time you buy feed, read the label closely. There are two main sections to every feed label:
- Guaranteed analysis lists the percentages of ingredients that the feed is certified to contain.
- Ingredients includes everything that is found in the feed.
Look for probiotics, such as Lactobacillus strains, in the Guaranteed Analysis and Ingredients. The fungal products will appear in the Ingredients section only.
The next time you choose a commercially formulated feed for your flock, remember to look for yeast culture, prebiotics, and probiotics. These important ingredients will give your chickens some extra love and help them live their best lives.
Learn the best methods to help a struggling chick gain back its strength with these easy to follow tips from Poultry Expert Twain Lockhart from Nutrena.