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.   

Fungal Components

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.

Probiotics

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.

Prebiotics

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:

    • Flaxseed
    • Barley
    • Berries
    • Dandelion greens
    • Kelp
    • Garlic
    • Honey
    • Wheat bran
    • Yams
    • Lentils

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.

Keeping Chicken Feed Fresh

A big part of keeping your backyard chickens happy and healthy is providing them high quality chicken feed, like those from Nutrena! But if you don’t store your feed properly, no matter what brand you buy, you can run into trouble. Learn from Nutrena poultry expert Twain Lockhart a few key tips to keeping your feed fresh and your girls happy!

 

Helpful tips:

  • Dump feed in a metal trash can with a lid on it to keep out rodents
  • Save the tag from the feed bag
  • Keep feed in a dry, cool place
  • Buy a little less feed in the summer time, more trips to the feed store

 

Non GMO Chicken Feed. Wouldn’t Ya Know, Nature Smart® Is Now Non-GMO!

Non-GMO chicken FeedsNew Non-GMO label: Nutrena Nature Smart®

At Nutrena, we appreciate hearing what you like most about our different lines of feed, but we also welcome feedback for what you’d like us to add for your girls.

In our most recent research, 64 percent of poultry hobbyists were “very interested” in a non-GMO offering from Nutrena.

We’re happy to announce that our Nature Smart® line will now be labeled non-GMO in addition to being a long-standing USDA-certified organic product line.

We’ve fulfilled requirements to be labeled as a non-GMO backyard poultry feed, and after careful review of the production and formulation practices of Nature Smart, we’re able to stand confidently behind a non-GMO label without changing the feed you’ve come to know.

Same Product, New Label

The best part about this new non-GMO label is that the feed you’ve become accustom to remains the same — the formulation is the same as it’s always been. Because the Nature Smart line has been USDA-certified organic for quite some time, the product has been made without the use of GMOs since the beginning.

According to the USDA National Organic Program — Agricultural Marketing Service, for all products certified as USDA-organic, the use of GMOs is prohibited. To meet the USDA organic standards, farmers and processors must prove they are not using GMOs and that their crop is protected from any prohibited substances. The USDA conducts on-site inspections to ensure that farmers are following their organic-system plan. Having had the USDA-certified organic label for years, Nature Smart meets the above requirements.

Nutrena Nature Smart non-GMO green stamps will appear on packages in the marketplace as soon as March, with a new non-GMO label appearing in the summer.

Continuing Choice

This announcement adds another layer of choice to our line of Nutrena poultry feeds. Because the Nature Smart formula remains unchanged, your girls will continue to find the same premium, healthy choice they love, with the added benefit of being certified non-GMO.

As a brand, Nutrena aligns with the full spectrum of consumer choice, and is a one-source supplier of natural (as defined by AAFCO), organic, economical, soy-free and omega-3 feed offerings.

It’s important for us at Nutrena to listen to the feedback we hear from you and make improvements to meet your needs.

We will continue to listen to your feedback across product lines, and develop our portfolio when possible as the needs of you, your family and your girls evolve.

What’s in poultry feed – Part I

Corn, soy and grain are common ingredients in most poultry feeds.
Corn, soy and grain are common ingredients in most poultry feeds.

One of the most common questions I am asked in my job time after time is “Can you tell me what is in your feed?” People are naturally curious about the ingredients in their animal’s feed and have been trained to read labels on the food we eat, so why not on the feed our animals eat? Most poultry feeds consist of similar main ingedients, the most common of which are discussed below:

Soybean Meal – This is the most common form of plant protein, and if your feed tag lists “plant protein products” as an ingredient, chances are soybean meal is what is being used. Soybeans are readily available throughout the country and have the highest concentration of protein of any of our plant sources, with a typical level of 44-48%. When high protein soybean meal is blended with other ingredients, it can raise the overall protein content of the feed.  Additionally, soybean meal contains a close match nutritionally to what animals require for amino acids. Especially important in this profile is the amino acid lysine, which is essential in young growing animals.

Canola Meal is sometimes used in conjunction with or as a replacement for soybean meal. While the protein content is not quite as high, this ingredient is still considered a great source of plant-based protein.

Corn is added to feed as an energy source and provides a whopping 1.54 Mcal of digestible energy (DE) per pound (1.54 Mcal/lb = 1540 Kcal/lb = 1540 Calories/lb) . If “grain products” are listed on your tag, it is usually referring to corn, wheat, or other grains. Feeding grain as an ingredient in a complete feed helps to provide the energy necessary for maximum egg production and optimum growth.  However, feeding straight corn or other grains (like those found in scratch) in excess by themselves can be detrimental to the health of your birds. With low protein content and no vitamins or minerals added, too much grain alone can affect laying rate, growth rate, and overall health and immunity. Keep any added straight grain at no more than 15% of the total diet, with the bulk of the ration being a commercial poultry feed.

Wheat Midds are obtained from the milling of wheat, wheat bran, wheat shorts, wheat germ and wheat flour. Wheat midds may be represented on your feed tag as “processed grain by-products”. To many people, by-products have a negative connotation. Most think of by-products as “left overs” or “fillers”.  This is simply not true. Some of the most nutrient rich ingredients we have for poultry feeds are made of the product that remains after a grain has been processed for another specific purpose. Midds in particular are a good source of energy, protein and fiber. Additionally, wheat midds help create a nice pellet that holds together well; midds can enhance the quality and make a clean pellet with minimal dust and fines.  

These main ingredients typically make up the highest inclusion of most poultry feeds. In the next article in our series, we will explore the differences in nutrition that can be made by value-added ingredients, such as probiotics and prebiotics, marigold extract, and others!