Farming with chickens is relatively cheap compared to other farming options. One of your biggest expenses will be chicken feed, so you need to know exactly how to minimise food wastage and spoilage in order to keep your costs down.
Chickens are notoriously messy eaters, dropping food in the sawdust bedding or climbing into their feed trays if they can fit.
For the first two weeks after introducing your new chicks to the poultry house, they will require flat, low feeding trays. This allows the small chicks to feed easily.
After two weeks you can put their feed into an automated feeder, according to Manyano Rasmeni, owner of Rasmeni’s Farming in the Eastern Cape. These feeders keep the chickens from getting into their food.
“These feeders save a lot of feed,” Rasmeni says. “It doesn’t allow them to spill feed easily either.”
Expert chicken feed tip: According to Rasmeni, the best way to avoid feed wastage is to put an A3-sized piece of cardboard under the feeding tray. This will keep the feed from falling into the sawdust on the floor of the chicken house and disappearing. On the paper they will still see the feed and peck it up.
“This improves feeding by at least 15%,” says Rasmeni. This is because the food is more visible. The sound of feed on the cardboard is also similar to the sound that people make when they shake chicken food to let the chickens know it is feeding time and make them come running.
“This is like an inducer for them to continue eating,” Rasmeni explains.
You have to make sure the particle size of the feed is appropriate for the age of your birds.
There are two sizes of chicken feed: the mash and the pelleted feed, says Rasmeni. The mash is loose particles and is easy to consume for younger and smaller chickens. When they are older and bigger, around two weeks, Rasmeni advises moving them on to pelleted feed.
“The advantage of the pellet form is that even if it falls onto the ground, the chickens can easily pick it up,” says Rasmeni. It also stops them from only picking out their favourite parts of the feed. That way they have a more balanced diet.
Storing the chicken feed
Chicken feed needs to stay fresh and should not be stored for long. You should only buy enough feed to last you a month or so, Rasmeni advises. Over time feed loses its nutritional value.
“Feed is mostly highly effective within the first three months,” says Rasmeni. “When it is fresh, and all the nutrients are still there.”
Expert chicken feed tip: Stay ahead of the pests by having a pest control management system to continually keep rodents in check.
“Pest control is one of the most important things when storing a high number of bags of feed,” says Rasmeni. Rats that get into your feed can mean the difference between your making a loss or a profit.
Don’t store food on the floor, but rather on a pallet, and make sure it is kept dry.
Fresh, clean water supply
It is extremely important for chickens to have enough access to fresh, clean water.
According to Rasmeni the chickens first need a four-litre drinker with a low lip, that is suited for small chicks. As soon as they are big enough you can move over to a twelve-litre drinker. This, he says, is a good amount of water to keep your chickens hydrated throughout the day without you having to go check on their water every few hours.
Expert chicken feed tip: “Pour water once in the morning, and top up in the evening,” says Rasmeni, when you have moved to the 12-litre drinker.
This also helps to minimise the disturbance caused when going inside the coop to refill the water.
“Every time a human moves into their environment, it causes a disturbance to their feeding patterns and it makes them very restless,” says Rasmeni.
Watch the World Poultry Foundation’s training video on chicken feed: