With spring just around the corner, there is naturally a proliferation of young animals on properties across the country.
On dairy farms, the focus will be on early lactation and feeding calves to ensure early rumen development and good growth rates. In the same way, anyone wanting to grow young chicks for either egg production or as meat birds for the freezer, must provide a well-balanced diet for these young birds if growth rates are to be optimised.
Chicks should have access to a good quality feed and clean, fresh water from day old. Sprinkling a little of the feed on tissue paper or newsprint placed in front of or around the feeders for the first 7 days can help to encourage feed intake. This paper can be removed between days 7 and 14. Feeders should be filled to their highest level, making it easy for chicks to access the feed. Once chicks are eating well, be careful not to overfill feeders, as this results in waste. Bright lighting in the first weeks helps to ensure that chicks find feed and water and helps them adjust to the new environment. Lighting can be reduced after the first week, with the number of hours provided reducing as birds get older.
To ensure good early growth rates and frame development, choose a good quality chick feed, in the form of a crumble, that is high in good quality protein and energy and which is balanced for macro (e.g. calcium and phosphorus) and trace minerals. The NRM range of poultry feeds contains two diets formulated specifically with the growth of young birds in mind. Both NRM Chick Starter and NRM Meat Bird Crumble are formulated to contain a combination of grains as an energy source, quality proteins for lean tissue development and a balanced supply of macro and trace minerals and vitamins – providing the essential nutrients required to support growth and development in young chicks.
Added organic acids and essential oils present in the NRM range of poultry feeds help to support gut health in the young growing bird, improving the digestion of nutrients available in the feed. NRM Chick Starter is ideal for young laying hens and contains a coccidiostat to aid in the control of coccidiosis. The NRM Meat Bird crumble is ideal for rapidly growing meat chickens and is also suitable for turkeys and game bird species.
From about 6 weeks of age, the feed offered to layer chicks can be changed from a chick starter to a pullet grower to ensure that birds do not get overweight. Regular monitoring of the weight of your chicks is important to ensure they are consuming enough feed, so that they are growing at the expected rate and that they are meeting their recommended growth targets (available from the poultry breeder).
Just as providing a high quality feed is important to ensure good growth rates, ensuring that birds are kept in a clean, well-ventilated but not drafty environment is vital if birds are to be as healthy as possible.
As with any youngstock, investing some time and energy in making sure that young chicks are fed well, kept warm and that any disease risks are minimised will help to ensure good early growth rates and a productive lifetime for these animals.
For further information, contact your local Nutrition Specialist.
Article supplied by Natalie Chrystal, Nutritionist.