Feeding chickens with the proper amount of nutrients will help them grow and fuel them for normal body functions. In feeding native chickens, the free-range method is recommended wherein chickens are given space to freely roam and eat on their own. Native chickens can thrive under minimal care through this method, but supplemental feeding can be considered to help chickens attain their nutrient requirements.
Farmers may use the following feed ratio to meet the nutrient requirements of native chickens:
- 50% rice bran, 20% corn bran, and 30% copra meal
- 75% of the preceding mix and 25% commercial feeds
- 50% cereal and 50% forage with other supplemental feeds
- 25% grasses and 75% supplemental feed.
When formulating a feed ratio, farmers must consider the palatability and cost of their feed. Most importantly, the feed should have a balance of all required nutrients. To identify these nutrients, here are the major components of any poultry feed.
Carbohydrates are the main energy source for chickens and take the largest portion of their diet.
Carbohydrates come in the form of sugar, starch, cellulose, and non-starch compounds, but chickens can only digest carbohydrates in its sugar and starch form.
Sources of carbohydrates for chickens include corn bran, corn grain, corn grits, rice bran, molasses, brown rice, camote, cassava, and wheat.
Fats contain 2.25 times more calories for the same amount of carbohydrates. This is why fats are added to poultry feed to increase its overall calorie amount. There are also vitamins that chickens can only absorb in their body by dissolving them in fat.
Fats are composed of smaller compounds called fatty acids, which are responsible for cell membrane integrity and hormone synthesis. Chicken particularly needs a type of fatty acid called linoleic acid, which must be supplied to chickens through their diet as chickens cannot synthesize them on their own.
Proteins help the chicken’s body to construct more tissues such as muscles, cartilage, skin, feathers, and its beak.
Protein can be derived from plant sources like copra, ipil-ipil leaves (Leucaena leucocephala), soybean, corn gluten, and sunflower seeds. Protein can also be obtained from animal sources like meals made from blood, crab, fish, shrimp, and bone.
Minerals play a role in the formation of bones and blood cells. It is also required for various body functions such as blood clotting, enzyme activation, energy metabolism, and proper muscle function.
Different minerals are required in varying amounts. Microminerals, those that are needed in low quantities, include copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium, and zinc. In contrast, macrominerals, those needed in high quantities, include calcium, phosphorus, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.
Sources of minerals include calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, limestone, oyster shell powder, and sodium chloride.
Vitamins are essential for growth and normal body functions.
There are vitamins that dissolve in fat like Vitamin A, which is needed for the development of epithelial tissue and reproduction; Vitamin D3, which is used in bone development and eggshell formation; and Vitamin K, which is essential for blood clot formation.
Vitamins that dissolve in water include Vitamin C and B complexes which are all involved in many metabolic functions.
Accompanying poultry feed is water. It softens the feed and helps carry it down to the chicken’s digestive tract.
Water is often overlooked but it may as well be the most important aspect of nutrition. Chickens consume twice as much water as feed. Water deprivation exceeding 12 hours will negatively affect the growth and egg-laying performance of chickens while water deprivation exceeding 24-36 hours may result in death.
Once nutrients are processed in the chicken’s digestive organs, blood —which is 90% water—circulates around the chicken body to distribute nutrients. The digestion process ends with waste products which are carried away from the chicken body with water.
The information provided here was taken from a presentation entitled “Nutrition and Feeding Practices for Native Chickens” by Shernelyn S. Palma of Department of Agriculture – Region 13. The presentation was part of the technology forum on native chickens during the Native Animals Fair organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources (PCAARD).