Chicken’s nutrient requirements, both environmental and physiological

All animals should be fed a wholesome diet in sufficient quantity that is appropriate to their age and species in order to maintain good health and satisfy their nutritional needs to promote a positive state of well being.

No animals shall be provided with food or liquid in a manner, nor shall such food or liquid contain any substance, which may cause them unnecessary suffering or injury.

All animals shall have access to food at intervals appropriate to their physiological needs (at least once a day) apart from when the animal is under veterinary instruction to be treated otherwise.

All animals should have access to a suitable water supply and be provided with adequate supply of fresh drinking water every day, or be able to satisfy their fluid intake through other means.

Feed and water equipment should be designed, constructed, placed and maintained in such a way that contamination of food and water and harmful effects of competition between animals are minimised.

When introducing birds to a new environment, the flock-keeper should ensure that the bird can find feed and water.

chicken feedersWater and food should be refreshed daily to prevent the birds drinking stale or contaminated feed or water.

Systematic inspection of all flocks should be undertaken at least twice a day in order to reduce the risk of welfare problems. Any birds that are not fit will be slow to feed and so can easily be identified. To avoid infestation through the whole flock sick, injured or weak birds should be immediately removed from the flock for proper examination by a vet to be treated or humanely killed accordingly.

Disease may be noticed by a change in water consumption, a reluctance to eat, changes in litter quality or in the general behaviour of the flock.

Appropriate parasiticides should be used to control external parasitic diseases and measures, not causing harm to the birds, should be taken to prevent the establishment of red mite infestation.

All those in contact with birds should practice strict hygiene and disinfection procedures.

Chickens can suffer from lameness, 60% of which is caused by infections acquired in the parent flock or hatchery. This has an impact on the bird’s freedom of movement and therefore could affect it’s feeding habits, causing it to slowly starve to death.

When the temperature is low it is important to increase feed or provide heaters, however they should not be exposed to excessively hot or humid conditions and they become heat stressed. All accommodation should be adequately designed giving sufficient ventilation at bird level to avoid overheating while protecting against adverse weather conditions. The accommodation should also provide sufficient lighting – chickens should not be subjected to more than 8 hours of complete darkness – ideally they should be free to roam around a field during the day.

Breeding birds have a larger appetite, however chickens will eat as much as is given to them causing them to become obese.

During the first 6 weeks of life feed levels should be adequate to ensure good skeletal development. The level of feed intake throughout rearing be increased by no less than 7% week-on-week to achieve a steady growth and the desired weight and condition at point-of-lay.

During lay, cockerels and hens have different nutritional requirements. It may therefore be necessary to split them up temporarily so the hen can be fed more and the cockerel does not get injured. Dietary changes can reduce feather pecking in laying hens. Feather pecking remains one of the biggest problems.

In barn reared birds, diets containing up to 69% corn Distillers Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS) were fed to laying hens without affecting bird health or egg production. Phosphorus has been recognised as one of the indispensable constitutes of their diet. It helps with growth of cells and metabolism. Because of the abnormal and artificial conditions it lives in it has a deficiency in mineral absorption.

To enrich the environment, insoluble grit should be offered from about 6 weeks of age. This will also help the gizzard to break down any litter or feathers which may have been consumed. It also encourages scratching and foraging.


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