The pre-layer feed (mash and crumbles) assists in the development of calcium metabolism within the hens and helps control the reduced daily feed intake normally associated with early production. The feed when correctly used can also enhance the uniformity of the pullet flock. It is fed from the 16th/18th week to when the egg production reaches a consistent 5% weekly production.
Unlike feeds for ruminants, poultry diets are usually complete feeds and supply the total daily requirements apart from water. These feed help to maximize production whether it be for eggs, meat or rearing replacements. Essentially, broiler varieties of chicken feed are denser in protein, which encourages the flock to grow bigger, faster.
- This is a loose and unprocessed version of chicken feed. Similar to the texture of potting soil, the mash is the finest variety of chicken feed commonly available. Mash is normally used for chicks, as it is easy to digest, however it is not uncommon for fully mature birds to be fed mash.
- Pellet system of feeding is really a modification of the mash system. Pelleting involves conditioning raw materials by adding heat and water in the form of steam. The conditioned feed ingredients are then compressed into a dense mass and shaped to conform to the die against which they are pressed and cut. The heat and moisture are withdrawn through cooling so the ingredients can withstand moderately rough handling without excessive breakage. Pellets can then be crumbled into smaller particles to allow the chickens to consume the feed efficiently. The greatest advantage of using pellets is that there is little waste in feeding.
- In simple terms crumble is a coarse variety of mash but not as compact of pellets. Reminiscent of the texture of oatmeal, crumble is a semi-loose variety of chicken feed that is slightly easier to manage than mash. This feed acts as a gap between mash and pellets as most birds prefer the crumbly texture.
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