Frequently Asked Questions About Animal Feeds


    Frequently Asked Questions About Animal Feeds
    Why do I need to know about animal feeds?
    7 Reasons you should pay attention to animal feeds
    What you need to know about chicken feeds
    Which feeds are the best for my chicken?
    What feeds do I give my chicken?
    Is Chick Starter The Same As Chick Mash?
    What to feed from day old to maturity
    What do chicken like to eat?
    How much feed do chicken eat?
    What is the schedule for feeding chicken? What time do chicken eat?
    At what age is a chicken grown enough be eaten?
    How long does chicken take to mature? How long does a chicken live?
    I was told not to change feeds suppliers. What are my options?
    What is the danger of changing chicken feeds suppliers frequently?
    Why do chicken fight?
    Other Frequently Asked Questions:
    Other things to know about chicken feeds
    ‘Unga sio unga’ - My personal experiences on the chicken feed scene

    Frequently Asked Questions About Animal Feeds
    Your questions about animal feeds, pet food, and feeding livestock answered. Which feeds to use, how much to give, how to change feeds, where to get feeds, when to feed your animals and pets, etc.

    Why do I need to know about animal feeds?
    It is critical to get in front of your animal feed budgets. Mistakes in this section can cost you your business. You realize a bigger return on your investment when you better understand the feed industry. Additionally, this information improves your capacity to handle feed-related emergencies, reduce panic, and smoothen out feed related transitions.

    You may be sitting there thinking, this is not for me. Before you left, consider this: you’ve come this far. And you want more.

    If you are looking for information on animal feeds, it says a few things about you: Na mambo ni matatu;
    1. You have pets, chicken and/or other livestock, whether for domestic consumption or for sale.
    2. You understand the cost factor in feeding domestic animals.
    3. You are looking for specific information to improve your operation.

    So, today, let’s examine feeds. What are they? Why do you need to know about feeds? What do you need to know about feeds? What is a good feed? What is a bad feed? What is a Toyota type feed – good anywhere? How much does feed cost? We will try to answer all these, including tips that the breeders and feed millers won’t tell you.

    7 Reasons you should pay attention to animal feeds
        1. Feed costs are over seventy percent of your agribusiness investment.
        2. Access to quality animal feeds is a key factor of production
        3. Feed price increments and a lack of proper budgeting, can make you close shop abruptly
        4. Learn how to hack animal nutrition for higher productivity
        5. Improve your feed and feeding management for profitability
        6. Arm yourself with information which ensures you can handle feed emergencies like the boss!
        7. Plan, project, and preset your operating and profitability estimates even before you put your money down.

    Let’s start with a focus on chicken feeds.

    What you need to know about chicken feeds
    Housed chicken must be fed daily. Commercial chicken farming relies heavily on feed millers. You are dependent on both the breeders and the millers. The two are joined at the hip. For a long time, Kenchic recommended Unga Feeds, now Fugo. Take the advice.
    The breeders work very closely with the feed millers to improve quality of animal feeds and thus, ensure a high performance of their breeds. The only exception to the feed factor is in free ranging setups. In this case, formulated commercial animal feeds are a supplement, not the main meal. It is important to carefully consider this big expense that you will be incurring on a daily basis.

    Which feeds are the best for my chicken?
    Are you confused about which feeds to give to your chicken? Relax! You are in good hands. Let’s briefly go through the various types of feeds and when to give what feed to your chicken.

    The most important thing to look out for is the quality of the feed. You can ask your feed supplier for information on the raw materials they use for each feed brand, and their numbers for the main nutrient categories including crude protein, energy, fiber, fat, and others.

    These are expressed as a percentage and usually indicated on the packing label for popular brands. The crude protein percent goes something like; Game bird – 24% (turkey, geese, ostriches, etc) , Broiler starter – 22%, Broiler finisher - 20%, Chickmash – 18%, Layers - 16%, Kienyeji – 14%, Growers – 15%. Note these are just suggestions to help you get the idea, not real numbers.

    Each miller has their numbers and different formulas. This is dependent on the raw materials of choice. All the millers formulas correlate. Additionally, you can pay a small price to get the feed tested to confirm these numbers by KEBS. The point is to compare the difference in nutrients for each feed that is designated for a specific stage of growth, breed, and purpose.

    Remember that ultimately, the quality of feed with show through in the performance of your flocks. Think growth rates, percentage daily egg laying levels, and long-term health.

    What feeds do I give my chicken?
    The best feeds for you chicken depends on their age, breed, and your purpose for keeping them. Do you know the age of your chicken? Do you know the breed? And are the chickens for sale? Do you focus on meat more than eggs?

    First, let’s look at meat chicken. This includes the white broilers that grow in 4-6 weeks and improved kienyeji. Let’s call them pure hybrid broilers and dual-purpose slow-growing broilers.
    Second, brown layers which are kept for table eggs. At times farmers also keep improved kienyeji for eggs, but this is not recommended. Improved kienyeji for meat can also be referred to as slow-growing broilers. And knowing where I come from, don’t ask me to say that twice, or fast!

    Broilers have their own feeds as a meat breed. This is broiler starter and broiler finisher. Day old broilers eat broiler starter. There is a choice between mash and crumbs format. Then change to finisher after 2-3weeks till slaughter. Choose between mash and pellets format.
    Pure end of line hybrids such as the white broilers and brown layers require higher quality feeds to achieve maximum performance.

    Day old everything else eats chick starter for one week, then Chick mash to 2 months, then grower to lay, then layers mash till disposal.

    Some people get confused by the names when it comes to Broiler Starter, Chick Starter, and Chick Mash.

    Let’s clear up the confusion on the names of feeds.

    Is Chick Starter The Same As Chick Mash?
    Chick starter is the same as chick mash with most feeds suppliers. Chick starter is the official name, the name you will find in reports and manuals, the name used as standard across the world. Meaning wherever you are, it is clear what you are referring to. Whether where you are is Kagûndûinî, Murang’a, or South Dakota, US.

    Chick mash is a local market name or a brand name. In some regions, old-school farmers were advised by old-school agricultural extension officers and feed marketers who used that name. And it stuck. So much so that when those farmers came to the market to buy feeds, they demanded for it by that name. And the market complied. The same thing that happened with kienyeji feeds a lil’ while back.

    However, the ideal situation from a farmer’s perspective would be to have a higher protein chick starter ration for the first week, and then the normal chick mash to week eight.

    What to feed from day old to maturity
    So if you are looking for chick starter feeds and you find chick mash, take it! And if you find both in one shop, look at the variations in the main nutrient levels displayed on the packing tag.
    Additionally, don’t confuse chick starter the feed, with vitamin supplements for day old chicks branded with the same name in the agrovet shops. This is packed in a small sachet and goes into the water just like the normal vitamin powder for day old chicks.
    White broilers are out the door by latest six weeks.

    After eight weeks for everything else, switch the feed to growers mash. Ration the feed according to your purpose for keeping the chicken. Add daily rations for meat birds and stick to the recommended feeding schedule for egg layers.

    Keep feeding growers mash for the next two months or until you see the first few eggs, then switch to layers mash. After start of lay, continue feeding layers mash until disposal.

    What do chicken like to eat?
    Anything you can eat on the one side. And then there are bugs, mites, toads, greens, fruits, vegetables, snakes, lizards, slugs, dudus, and all that crap. And then there was unga. Balanced commercial chicken feeds. It may come as mash, or crumbs, or pellets.

    How much feed do chicken eat?
    This depends on the type of breed, age, and your purpose for keeping them. And by type I mean light breeds and heavy breeds. It’s as simple as looking at the body size and weight.
    A mature heavy breed will eat about 180g of feed per bird per day. A brown layer or pure kienyeji will top out at around 140g of feed per bird per day. Each broiler eats less than 4kg of feed from day old to slaughter time.

    From this, you can calculate the math downward to get how much to give per growth stage on week 1, week2, and how to increase the quantity. For example, if you have 100 day old chicks, start with 5g per chick per day. Review how soon they clear the feed pans and adjust to 10g before the end of the week, adjust to 20g on week 2, 30g on week 3, etc.

    Or, you can download the technical manuals with feeding schedules from the breeders’ site to follow the recommended growing and management guidelines for each brand of breed.

    Do not be fooled by feed marketers and hungry ‘animal nutrition experts’ to believe that story of 100g per bird per day for laying hens and improved kienyeji. It is just hot air. But if you are asking, it means you don’t know, and you can’t prove it either. So, take it, or take it!

    Equally important is fresh and clean drinking water. Offer water that is at least double the amount of feed provided.

    What is the schedule for feeding chicken? What time do chicken eat?
    Broilers eat 24/7. Other chicken should eat not more than 3 hours after they wake up. And not less than 3 hours to their sleep time for the usual 2 times feeding. Assuming daylight at 6.30am, they should not go past 9.30am without fresh feed and water. Every day.
    For brown layers, adopt a 40/60 feeding ratio; 40% of the daily feed quantity in the morning and 60% in the afternoon.

    The most important thing is consistency in the routine. If you decide feeding time is 9am, stick to 9am every day.

    At what age is a chicken grown enough be eaten?
    Now is a time as good as any! I mean, seriously. Chicken is eaten from day old to many years old.

    How long does chicken take to mature? How long does a chicken live?
    If you’re in biz you read the first part. If you’re into pets and hobbies, you only saw the second. So let’s flip this. A chicken will live for as long as you want it to. If you are looking to sell, a broiler takes a month to get to slaughter weight. It is not advised to keep it for longer. All others from 3months to get to good marketable weight, peaking out at 5 months, their maturity age. And they can live for more than 7 years with good care.

    I was told not to change feeds suppliers. What are my options?
    That is solid advice, based on solid science. And I suggest you decide whether to follow it solidly or stop getting told. Why would you want to be stuck with one feed supplier when the choice pool is in the hundreds?

    If you change your feeds to a lower quality ration, your production will tank, and you may not recover. If you change your feeds to a higher quality ration, your production will improve. The disruption in production due to change of feeds is as normal as vaccinations, debeaking, or deworming.

    Changing feeds in older chicken results in more wastage and poor feed conversion. Older hens learn to digest new raw materials slower than young ones.
    Consider your goals and options. And make a move!

    What is the danger of changing chicken feeds suppliers frequently?
    Chicken are creatures of habit. One of these is digestion. When a chicken gets used to one formulation, it gets better at digesting the constituent raw materials with time. The more of the same they get, the more they are able to digest it. Meaning, it is able to squeeze more nutrients and value from the feed.

    Changing the feeds means changing some of the constituent raw materials as each feed supplier has their own unique formulation. The chicken has to start learning to digest some new things. This takes time to get to the same level of conversion efficiency. Think slower growth rates and small drops in egg production. This means that if you are constantly changing feeds, ultimately you end up spending more on feeds and time, due to the poor feed conversion efficiency.

    Why do chicken fight?
    • Like all other animals, chicken will compete to get access to what’s in front of them at the moment. This includes food, space, and mates among others.
    • A weak or younger chicken will be picked on and beaten by the others by pecking, to get it to leave the comfort of the floor. Isolate the weaker and sick birds.
    • Chicken, especially cocks, will fight to establish authority and the pecking order in the henhouse.
    • Chicken will get aggressive and start fighting even in a big flock if they are overcrowded, continually stressed, dehydrated, overheated, under-ventilated, underfed, and such things. This might lead to cannibalism within the flock. The brown layers are especially notorious for cannibalism when kept in poor conditions. Like a bad disease outbreak, cannibalism can wipe out your flock in a few days.

    Other Frequently Asked Questions About Chicken, Feeds, & Feeding Management:
    1. I was told to feed my improved kienyeji chicken growers mash from week 3. Is this right?
    Under normal circumstances, improved kienyeji eat growers mash from the third month till disposal or point of lay. Unless by grower you mean a broiler grower ration. Otherwise, challenge that feeding schedule with an expert before you lose money.

    2. I have broody pure kienyeji hens or hens with young chicks. What feeds do I give them?
     If they are housed, first ensure they are in a separate space from the laying hens. Switch to chick mash as soon as the chicks hatch, then when you separate the chicks from the mother hen, keep feeding the chicks chick mash to week eight and switch the mother hen back to layers mash. If they are free ranging, there is nothing to worry about. Mother hen knows exactly what’s good for her chicks. She’ll show them how to forage and scratch the ground for the tasty morsels. Just supply supplemental feeds in the pen as above. 

    3. I have mature improved kienyeji cocks and hens. Should I give them layers mash? Will the cocks have problems or lay eggs?
    Layers mash is formulated to stimulate the reproductive health of the mature chicken – whether male or female. Layers mash ensures that the hens produce many high quality eggs that can hatch into strong young chicks. And if it can hatch into a good strong chick, it means it has all the good nutrients and is therefore also perfect for the table.
    The cocks need the same nutrients to maintain their virility so that they can fertilize the hens with strong seed. So, layers mash is good for the hens and good for the cocks. And the cocks won’t lay eggs. However, if you are doing serious breeding, talk to your supplier for special breeders formulations.

    4. I have young kienyeji or improved kienyeji. Should I give them growers mash or kienyeji mash?
    Growers mash if they are housed, and kienyeji mash if they are let out to scratch for themselves. Continue with kienyeji mash through lay for free ranging chicken. Switch to layers mash at point of lay for housed chicken.

    Kienyeji mash was intended as a supplement to free ranging chicken. It is lower in protein and energy. If you house your chicken and give them kienyeji mash only, they will take longer to gain weight, mature, and lay. Don’t be surprised if they start laying from the 7-8months!

    The good thing is that you can supplement the kienyeji feed easily even for housed improved kienyeji. They are not as choosy as pure hybrids about the quality of the feeds. 

    5. I want to free-range my chicken. How soon should I let out the chicks to scratch for themselves?
    If you have mother hen around, they can start from day one. If you are using a brooder to grow the chics, start opening the door for them to get out as soon as heating is over, which is around week 3 at the latest. This is also the best time to introduce greens, kitchen scraps, and other cheaper supplements. Ensure their spaces are free of predators. Provide access to clean drinking water at all times.

    6. How can I quickly fatten my chicken? I want to sell them in a month!
    Faster means more expensive. You are going to pay. Either directly, or with time. Or both! Having said that, here goes
            i. Broilers.
                    a. You don't have a month.
                    b. Find a higher quality feed and never let the feed and water bins run out.
                    c. Stay on top of housing, feeds, and management.
                    d. Supplement with high-protein scraps, vitamins and AGPs.
            ii. Improved kienyeji and dual breeds.
                    a. Increase the quantity of feeds given per day
                    b. Ease them into an extended lighting program to prolong their day length
                    c. Put them on a pure hybrid broiler ration – broiler starter and finisher
                    d. Supplement with high-protein scraps, vitamins and AGPs.
            iii. Indigenous kienyeji and hybrid brown layers.
                    a. Do all of the above, double down, and then bid your time! Seriously, these are the hardest to fatten quickly.

    Other things to know about chicken feeds
    1. You can buy retail quantities at your local agrovet store. Stockists, agents and depots will normally sell per bag. You pick up from the shop. Most direct-to-farm suppliers offer free scheduled delivery on bulk purchases.

    2. Feeds are packed in 10/20/50 kg bags. Most smaller millers still have the 70kg option.

    3. Always substitute downwards, not upwards, on the feed type per age ladder. If your broiler finisher runs out, you can give starter for a day. Broilers should only eat broiler rations. The only exception is if you are doing slow-growing broilers. If your layer ration runs out, you can feed grower for a day. If your grower runs out, you can feed them Chickmash for a day. Avoid substituting upwards. Do not give layers mash to broilers or any chicks below two months old even for a day.

    4. With feeds, you normally get what you pay for. Cheap price, cheap raw materials, cheap feed. Check out the section on ‘Unga sio unga – my experiences on the chicken feed scene.’

    5. Hybrids require high quality feeds to realize performance. The rest, dual breeds, indigenous can get away with takataka and free-range. You can free range brown hybrid layers, but you still have to offer high-quality feeds as a supplement.

    6. A chicken will eat a little at a time, 10-30g per eating session, many times throughout the day. And drink at least double the amount of water.

    7. The most common presentation of animal feeds is mash format. Most established millers will have the crumbs and pellets versions. Dont be afraid to ask. 

    8. A broiler’s life goes through eat-drink-sit/sleep-drink-repeat to slaughter. On top of that, other breeds of chicks will jump, play, sand-bathe, scratch, perch, and do cuddly chick things.

    ‘Unga sio unga’ - My experiences on the chicken feed scene
    When I started here, my former feeds supplier was giving me a hard time delivering to the site. He used to deliver when I was at Mowlem, same same Kangundo road. Hi Kevo! Tarime, pale city stadium. I was forced to look for a new supplier in a rush. It was the first time I was running solo, completely independent of supervision or partners. I was lost. I opted to go for Unga Feeds. From there I went to Pembe, then Faida, Belmil, Thika Farmers Fresh Feeds, Jubilee, Prosper, and Fresha in that order.
    I have also experimented with Farmers Options, Sirari Feeds, and a few local shops like Mwangaza. What do I know about feeds? My testing strategy is simple. Check your growth charts to see the age and weight for growing chicks and pullets. Switch feeds by mixing the old, new, and vitamin for around three days then new only for about two weeks. Compare the performance against the chart on the old feeds.
    For broilers, ask your supplier if their feeds are for four weeks or six weeks. Stay away from those who try to get you on the six week theory. Their ration maybe of lower quality, so you pay for it in time and feeds. Broilers should be ready for slaughter by 28 days.
    My sure bet is brown layers and daily laying percentage. Up to akina Jubilee and Prosper, I easily hit the nineties. Some you will be lucky to clock in at seventy. Remember that ten percent theory in chicken? Your daily egg production should not drop by more than ten percent. You’ll start working to buy feeds.
    Quality is synonymous with price.
    Unga and Pembe will feast on your profits. But you are unlikely to have major performance issues. A few times you will run into fake bags packed in suspect depots.
    Faida is the in-between in terms of feed quality. However, they have huge fluctuations in feed quality from batch to batch, their service sucks, and their 'animal nutrition experts' leave a lot to be desired. These are the same people who went around telling us to feed layers 100g per bird per day. Eti ‘ugonjwa ya macho’ is fowl pox and nothing else.
    Belmil, Farmers Options, Sirari, and Thika Fresh Farmers are below par for me. You will be lucky to hit 70% daily lay percentage. Jubilee and Prosper kinda hit the right spot for me back then, between quality and price. Fresha is just easily available locally. I tried 2 bags of Suguna. It looked good, but my review was inconclusive there. 

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