Feeding broiler chickens. Which feeds to use and how long to use them for.

Two of my broiler chickens eating their finisher ration while free ranging.

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How much do broiler chickens eat?

A broiler chicken will consume 12.5 kg of food in 10 weeks and can weigh as much as 3.75 kg. Broilers consume 3 kg of feed for every 1 kg of body weight gain in this time.

Actual feed consumption varies depending on breeds and rearing conditions.

Age in weeks.Average weekly feed consumption.Cumulative weight of feed.Broiler weight (kg).Increase in broiler weight (kg).
Week 10.2 kg0.2 kg0.0450.045
Week 20.4 kg0.6 kg0.1500.105
Week 30.7 kg1.3 kg0.3800.275
Week 41.0 kg2.3 kg0.7000.425
Week 51.3 kg3.6 kg1.0500.625
Week 61.5 kg5.1 kg1.5000.400
Week 71.7 kg6.8 kg1.9000.400
Week 81.8 kg8.6 kg2.3500.450
Week 91.9 kg10.5 kg2.8500.500
Week 102.0 kg12.5 kg3.3500.500

All chickens benefit from some darkness at night and broilers can be given up to 6 hours at night without feed.

Commercially broilers are kept under 24 hours of light and fed all the time.

Factors to consider when feeding broilers:

  • Access to clean and fresh water: Broilers need access to clean and fresh water at all times to stay hydrated and help with digestion. Broiler chickens without water will begin to suffer and die within 6 to 12 hours.
  • Feeding schedule: Broilers should be fed at regular intervals over a long day of 16 hours to prevent overeating or undernourishment.
  • Feeder and drinker design: The type and placement of feeders and drinkers can affect broilers' feed intake and water consumption.
  • Environmental factors: Temperature, humidity, and ventilation can all impact broilers' comfort and health, which in turn can affect their appetite and nutrient absorption.

Feeding broilers properly is critical for their growth and health and a comprehensive feeding program that ensures broiler chickens receive the right nutrients in the right amounts and at the right time. 

Broilers as a type of chicken are more susceptible to interruptions in their feed and water than ordinary chickens are. 

Below: Pasture raised broiler chickens on finisher feed and grains.

Broilers are raised for meat production, and as such, require a diet that meets their high energy and protein needs.

As the meat from these chickens is intended for human consumption, very strict rules must be followed when formulating broiler feed-stuffs as it could impact the health of the human eating the chicken.

How many times a day should I feed my broilers?

Broiler chicks should have access to starter feed all the time for at least 18 hours a day  for a maximum of 21 days.

After day 21 you should split your broiler chicken's feed into 5 or 6 servings daily over the course of 16 hours or so. Broiler chickens do better on smaller, frequent meals as opposed to large meals once a day.

Broilers are eating machines and do best if given regular feeds with short breaks in between to move around. Feeding too much at one time could overload the crop and digestive system and lead to front heavy chickens that can nor stand properly.

Feeding broilers the right nutrients in the right amounts can help:

  • Promote optimal growth and weight gain,
  • Enhance immune function and disease resistance,
  • Improve meat quality and yield,
  • Reduce mortality and morbidity rates,
  • Ensure fit birds with no mobility issues.

Make sure all feed is cleaned up before giving any more to prevent waste and prevent rodent problems.

What do you feed broiler chickens?

The best feed for broiler chickens is a specially formulated pellet or mash produced specifically for their growth stage. A broiler feeding program consists of three main components: starter feed, grower feed, and finisher feed. Each feed stage is designed to meet the specific nutrient requirements of broilers at different stages of growth.

Broilers can also be grazed on pasture and finished on a variety of foods like milk and maize depending on the finished product you are after.

All broiler feeds contain calcium, phosphorus and other minerals as well as vitamins like A, D and E and essential amino acids like methionine and lysine.

Below: You should be careful what you feed broiler chickens as they are destined to be food.

Broiler feed types and when to use them:

Feed should be changed gradually from one type to the next over the course of 3 to 5 days rather than abruptly switching in one day. Slower growing broilers can be fed each stage for a little longer.

The three types of feed for broiler chickens and when to feed:

Feed typeHow long to feedFeeding frequency.Amount to feed
Broiler starter feed (21 -24% protein)Day 1 to 12.Ad lib, always available for a minimum of 18 hours a day.200 grams per chick in week one, approximately doubling every week
Broiler grower feed (19 to 20% protein).Day 13 to day 30.6 to 8 times per day.600 grams per bird in week 3 approximately doubling every fortnight.
Broiler finisher feed (18% protein).Day 30 onward.4 to 6 times per day1.7 kg per bird per week.
Pasture.Anytime from day 21 depending on local climate and conditions.As much as local conditions allow for free ranging. 
  • Starter feed: Starter feed is the first type of feed you should give your broiler chickens. It's fed from day 1 and is designed to provide them with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Starter feed typically contains high levels of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Grower Feed: Once your broiler chickens are 12 to 15 days old, you can switch to grower feed for the next 21 days. This type of feed has slightly less protein and fewer calories than starter feed, but still provides the nutrients your chickens need to keep growing.
  • Finisher Feed: When your broiler chickens are approaching the end of their growing cycle, you can switch to finisher feed. This type of feed is lower in protein and higher in calories, which helps your birds put on weight quickly.

Broilers reared on pasture must only have grass as some plants adversely affect the  flavour of the meat or be toxic.

A sample feeding schedule for broiler chickens:

To ensure your broiler chickens are growing at a healthy rate, it's important to follow a feeding schedule.

Here's a sample feeding schedule you can use:

  • Day 1 to day 12 - Provide starter feed 24/7,
  • Day 13 to day 16 - Provide starter feed 12 hours a day and then grower feed 12 hours a day,
  • Day 17 to day 36 - Provide grower feed  for a minimum 18 hours a day,
  • Day 30 onward - Allow to range on pasture,
  • Day 37 to day 42 - Give Grower feed for 9 hours and then finisher meal for 9 hours a day,
  • Day 43 onward - Give Finisher feed for a minimum of 18 hours a day.
  • Day 60 to finish - Give your choice of finisher additions like corn, grains or maize.

Foods you should never give broiler chickens:

Chickens that are being raised for meat must never be allowed to eat:

  • Treats: Never give Broiler chickens treats, they are destined to be eaten by humans and it could easily upset their finely balanced digestive system.
  • Medicated chicken feed: Medications have withdrawal periods based on how long it takes for those medicines to become undetectable in the meat.
  • Layer pellets or food produced for other chicken or poultry types.
  • Commercially produced insect protein like store bought meal worms.
  • Any foods that are poisonous to chickens like avocado or chocolate.
  • High carbohydrate foods that encourage broilers to put weight on too fast too early in the growing cycle.

Can you overfeed broilers?

You can overfeed broiler chickens, these birds will eat considerable amounts and a broiler which has overeaten may become too heavy for its skeleton and muscles and is more likely to die or suffer illness.

You can tell if your broilers are eating too much in one go as they will become front heavy and may topple forwards or struggle to stand.

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