Written by Stephanie Coomer
June 15, 2023
A lot of people want to know how you get a Standard Bred bird to look the way it does-healthy, alert, strong, and vital. A utility chicken is likely not going to look like a Standard Bred bird magically with feed alone. The breeding behind that bird is a huge factor in the bird's type and size.
Once you have secured your birds from a reliable source/ breeder, getting that bird to grow properly, fill its frame, and grow to its maximum potential takes many factors.
At the end of the day, you get what you put in.
Help chickens be chickens
The primary things your poultry needs, besides clean fresh water, is grass or dirt and sunlight. Access to the ground allows them to find the nutrients their bodies need naturally.
When I am judging a class of chickens, I can generally tell the ones that are kept inside all the time.
"Inside birds" tend to have a paler face/comb and often can lack the vigor of others. If you are unable to house your birds with access to the outside with pens or runs, I recommend getting a few drop pens. These easy-to-use pens will allow for some turn-out on the ground at least a few times a week for a few hours.
Something so simple and easy, is so beneficial to your birds.
A diet that delights
Next, a quality diet is key to a healthy, productive bird. Just feeding any old feed or scratch can be harmful to your birds in ways you may not realize. Having a diet that is properly formulated with a chicken's best health in mind is vital to a productive flock.
Take protein, for example-not all proteins are equal. Many of your big box store poultry diets use plant-based protein only, but chickens are not herbivores and plant-based proteins are not equal to animal-based proteins. The amino acids in these ingredients have various digestibility coefficients.
Animal protein sources like (pork) meat and bone meal and/ or fish meal tend to have very high amino acid digestibility.
In other words, the birds can readily use the amino acids present. In addition to high digestibility, animal protein sources contain a high percentage of these amino acids, and even a little goes a long way. An ideal diet would balance the use of both animal and plant-based proteins.
So, minding the types of ingredients used in your diet will lead to better growth, productivity, and fertility.
Room for all
Lastly, let's talk about space and over-crowding. Many people do not realize that not having the room to grow and being too crowded can greatly affect the size and rowth of your birds. If you have a large fowl breed, giving them as much space will allow them to properly put on the bone and mass they are bred for.
With any breed, having too many birds in an area will lead to them suffering in some way usually in growth.
Over-crowding can also lead to vigor issues: Feather picking, egg eating, and a decline in productivity can become common. Happy chickens lay more eggsl Personally, raising two of the larger breeds of Large Fowl, I prefer to allow my hens and pullets to be pasture-raised, giving them as much space and access to the outside as possible.
If pasturing/free ranging is not an option, making runs as large as possible and limiting the number of birds in each pen is very important.
At the end of the day our husbandry is directly related to how our flock is growing and producing. Happy Hatching!