Layer Chicken Growth Stages and their Nutrition Requirements
In the life of a layer chicken, there are key stages that every farmer should be aware of. Each of these stages are important, and each requires a very specific diet. As you get started on the journey with baby chicks, it’s important to look forward to the milestones birds will celebrate. From baby chick to retirement, there are six important growth stages each of which require nutrition changes.
Nutrition is key in maintaining optimum growth and output in all livestock, most especially poultry. This means that the kind of feed and supplements you provide, need to be specifically tailored to cater for each growth stage. Read on to find out how you can use various nutritional solutions to boost immunity, optimise bird health, and improve egg and meat production.
We recommend using these six stages as a roadmap to creating a complete feeding program:
Weeks 1-4: Baby chicks
When you first bring home your day-old chicks from the supplier, they need to overcome stress they may have endured from temperature fluctuation, transport handling, vaccination and change of environment. Glucose based supplements are ideal for this early stage of a chicken. CIBUS Chick Start is an instant energy and anti-stress formulation containing glucose, amino acids, vitamins and essential minerals that provides energy, nutrients, and helps combat the effects of dehydration in day-old chicks. Mix the powder in the drinking water for at least the first 5 – 7 days when you bring your chicks home.
When it comes to feed, start your birds strong by providing a complete starter-grower feed with at least 18 percent protein to support chick growth. The feed should also include amino acids for chick development, prebiotics and probiotics for improved immunity, and vitamins and minerals to support ideal growth. Make use of a high-quality premix with your feed – at this stage CIBUS Chick Grower Premix.
Weeks 5-15: The Teenage Bird Stage
During weeks 5 and 6, chicks will go through visible growth changes, including new primary feathers and a developing pecking order. Growing birds are now referred to differently. Pullet is the term for a teenage female, while a young male is called a Cockerel. Between weeks 7 and 15, the physical differences between genders will become even more obvious.
Continue to feed a complete starter-grower feed mixed with the CIBUS premixes outlined above. Along with 18 percent protein, make sure the feed contains no more than 1.25 percent calcium. Too much calcium can have a detrimental effect on growth, but a complete starter feed from a reputable feed producer should have the right balance for growing birds.
At this stage, continue to provide adequate vitamins, essential amino acids, minerals and electrolytes to improve growth and production. We would recommend CIBUS Superminovit, a powerful formulation for faster, healthier growth, disease resistance and improved immunity from diseases. CIBUS Vitaboost Poultry Tonic is liquid based alternative that can be used – it is a super concentrated vitamin formulation blended to boost growth in all types of poultry.
Weeks 16-17: Puberty
Around weeks 16-17, farmers begin to check their nesting boxes for the anticipated first egg. At this point, consider layer feed options so you can make a smooth transition. If mixing your own feed, consider CIBUS Layers Premix which is appropriately balanced for this stage.
As compared to starter-grower, a layer feed has less protein and more calcium. This added calcium is important for egg production. In any case, be sure the layer feed is made with simple, wholesome ingredients and includes 16 percent protein, at least 3.25 percent calcium as well as key vitamins and minerals.
Week 18: The First Egg
When birds reach 18 weeks old or when the first egg arrives, slowly transition to a layer feed. Transition between feeds gradually to prevent digestive upset.
On various farms, we have found it’s best to transition over time rather than all at once. Mix the starter and layer feed evenly for four or five days. If birds are fed mash feed, start with a mash layer feed. The same goes with pellets. The more similar the two feeds are, the smoother the transition will go.
Use CIBUS Layers Extra to supplement the key vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, amino acids and probiotics required during this phase. Layers Extra enhances and maintains egg production, promotes growth, and combats poor productivity. It contains Calcium and Phosphorous in the right ratios for strong bones, strong egg shell and yolk quality.
Month 18: Moulting
Once the first egg has been laid, it’s business as usual for a while. Around 18 months, feathers will likely begin to cover the coop floor. Welcome to moulting season!
Protein is the key nutrient in a flock’s diet during moult. This is because feathers are made of 80-85 percent protein, whereas eggshells are primarily calcium.
When moult begins, switch to a complete feed with 20 percent protein. A high-protein complete feed can help hens channel nutrients into feather regrowth. Once birds begin producing eggs again, switch back to a layer feed to match their energy needs.
One day, the time may come for the veterans of a flock to retire from egg-laying. Although a hen will stop laying as she ages, she still has an important place in the flock as a steady companion who brings joy to the entire family.