Chickens in need of weight gain require high protein food sources such as cracked corn or wholewheat bread soaked with milk to gain weight quickly and steadily. Oats or high-fat seeds can also provide necessary supplements.
Preparing a comprehensive, balanced “layer feed” diet in pellet or mash form is often recommended by animal sanctuaries.
Protein is an essential macronutrient for chickens. It plays an essential role in cell repair, immune function, digestion and growth processes as well as helping the body absorb vitamins, minerals and fats. A healthy flock of laying hens should have between 12-23 percent protein in their diet with an extra boost during molting season.
Most complete feed rations come in pellet, crumble or mash form and consist of corn for energy and soybean meal for protein as well as various supplements such as calcium, vitamin E and mineral premixes/coccidiostats. Sanctuary owners should select high quality layer food without antibiotics, arsenicals or coccidiostats that could impede laying or increase disease and illness risk.
Chick or grower feed, typically given to baby chicks for their first eight weeks of life, contains more protein than standard layer feed and may help molting hens gain weight more quickly. Although, this feed should not be given to adult hens, as it could lead to digestive problems.
Chickens rely on carbohydrates for energy for growth and egg production, as well as to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E. Carbohydrates can be found in cereal grains such as maize, sorghum, barley and wheat as well as legumes like field peas and soybeans.
Feed should comprise around 10 percent of their diet for healthy laying birds. Treats can either be provided separately or mixed into their feed, but keep to healthy treats such as cooked meat scraps and fruits like sweet potato and pumpkin.
Poultry should also receive grit to maintain optimal gizzard function and increase their nutrient levels in their eggs. It will also boost calcium levels for improved bone health and shell strength. Alongside grit, other forms of feed such as vegetable prunings or cooked whole grains such as rice should also be given as part of their daily regiment.
Chickens rely on fat for several important functions: to absorb vitamins, maintain proper body temperature and protect their internal organs from harm. Like protein, fats provide energy; however they take much longer to digest due to being denser than their counterpart.
Most poultry feeds include enough fat to provide healthy growth and laying. Unlike mammals, where fat deposits itself evenly throughout muscles, birds tend to store most of it on their underside between legs up towards vent.
If your chicken is struggling with its weight, give more treats or provide high calorie, nutrient-rich foods like cracked corn, oatmeal, mealworms, bread soaked in milk, grits and cooked egg scraps as ways to help gain pounds. Also give larger rations of pellets, mash or crumbles so as not to overdo treats as uneaten food can become rancid over time.
An excessively fiber-rich diet may not be ideal for chickens as it slows their digestive process and makes absorbing nutrients difficult, and may lead to intestinal blockages. Furthermore, their type of fiber intake could play an integral role in how much weight they gain or lose.
DF can be divided into two groups, soluble and insoluble fibers, and their application in feed can have an impactful influence on poultry digestion and immune response. Soluble fiber sources like barley glucans or arabinoxylans from wheat or rye has been demonstrated to increase viscosity within the digestive tract, decreasing FI levels while increasing feed conversion ratio.
Insoluble fiber sources like sunflower or oat hulls has been shown to decrease GIT viscosity and decrease FI by increasing chyme retention time and stimulating gizzard development, increasing feed digestibility and providing beneficial SCFAs that inhibit pathogenic Selenomonadales and Enterobacteriaceae bacteria within the GIT.