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Boosting Breeding Bird Protein Levels

By Kelly Klober

There are a number of other ways to boost the protein levels going into the birds in your breeding pens.

The concept of feeding animal-based protein is somewhat controversial right now, but no other protein and mineral source is more nutritionally dense and easily digested. I have to believe that there are few real health risks if the protein is of high quality and from other, very distinct species.

Some pet foods such as cat food that is rich in fish protein or the moist dog foods that resemble hamburger, or even some small particle catfish feeds can be offered to breeding birds. Offer them in small quantities two to four times each week in amounts the birds will clear up quickly. For example, form the burger type dog food into pea-sized balls and give each bird one or two per feeding.

chicken eating
Also possible is to use actual hamburger. This is a good way to use up hamburger with freezer burn or which has been stored too long.

Milk or even yogurt can be offered to the birds in a trough or small pan a time or two each week. Figure about a teaspoon of yogurt per bird or offer only the amount of milk they will clean up in an hour or so. Make your own yogurt or contact local stores to see what they do with dairy products that are near or past their expiration dates.

Most modern laying crumbles and pellets are quite good complete feeds and contain everything in them right down to a grit source. I like the pellets as there is less waste with them. They do not even need to be supplemented with scratch grains.

Many like to feed scratch grains to increase energy levels going into the birds during cold and inclement weather. With deep litter systems in loose bird houses a bit of grain is often tossed atop the floor litter to encourage the birds to scratch in it and turn it for better decomposition.

organic chicken feed
If grain is being offered as an energy booster in cold weather, offer it later in the day.

The birds actually seem to favor the grains over their layer rations. Unless it is offered in a very controlled manner the birds will overconsume the grain, eat less layer rations, and the resulting egg production will suffer.

The old timers had a trick or two up their sleeves for boosting winter egg production that will work in other seasons of the year, too. It was their common practice to topdress the hens’ feed with a healthy drizzle of wheat germ or cod liver oil. This measure adds a great many nutrients to the birds’ ration.

A variation of this practice is to take a gallon of oats and mix into it a quarter cup of wheat germ oil. Each breeder would then get a teaspoon of this two or three times a week. It may take some time for your birds to readily accept oats. The following week mix a quarter cup of cod liver oil into the same amount of oats and feed as above. Do not use the flavored varieties of cod liver oil.

To either of the above blends, a cup of yogurt can be added to further increase its nutrient content. This is also good feedstuff for birds that have been on a treatment course with an antibiotic product. It can help to restore valuable bacteria to the bird’s system. Bacteria are needed in the gut for the digestive process in birds as well as humans.

Source: Talking Chicken