With the wide variety of options to choose from, it is no wonder purchasing animal feed can be confusing. Not only are there a range of age specific feeds, but within each type there are choices offered with different ingredients, whole grains or pellets, and other factors based on varying consumer needs. While many selections come down to personal preference, some of the most confusing and vital considerations are regarding use of higher protein feeds and when additional carbohydrates are beneficial.
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 generate energy for living, breathing and body functions. 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 flock’s 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 energy is generated when a bird digests food. Due to this, it is important to consider feeding birds outside of peak daily temperatures to help increase nutrient intake. Avoiding high protein feeds during the summer can also be beneficial in preventing heat stress, as even more heat is generated when metabolizing proteins than compared to other nutrients like fats and carbohydrates. Providing unnecessary excess carbohydrates, such as corn, during warm months can not only lead to obesity and a reduction in egg production. During the warmer months, our Organic 3-Grain Scratch is a better option because it doesn’t have corn in the mix.
On the other hand, during colder months, high calorie carbohydrates like corn will contribute additional heat when digesting, helping your chickens and ducks stay warm. You can help your flock during these months simply by transitioning from our Naturally Free Organic Layer feed, which doesn’t have corn in it, to instead providing our Organic Layer with Corn feed. You can also give your birds a nightly treat by sprinkling a small amount of Organic Scratch n’ Corn or Cluckin’ Good Organic Cracked Corn around their coop.
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 Organic Starter. For adult birds, providing higher protein feeds or supplementing their protein when they are molting can help regrow feathers faster and thus assist their return to laying sooner. Feathers are about 90% 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.