Feeding Meat Birds Choosing a high protein feed for growing meat chickens, turkeys and ducks is essential for maximizing your birds' growth. Modern varieties of meat birds have been bred to grow rapidly and build large breast muscles. To support this rapid growth, a high protein feed care should be taken to match the protein requirement of feed available to the nutritional requirement of your birds. If feed properly, meat chickens, turkeys and ducks will gain one pound of meat per two pounds of feed consumed, this is called feed conversion.
Please note that meat birds should not be fed formulas designed for the laying hen or breeding birds. Pullet, laying hen and breeding bird feeds are formulated to promote skeletal growth and supply the mineral needed for egg production. For example, a common poultry starter feed such as Purina Mills Start & Grow Sun Fresh Recipe is only an 18% crude protein feed. As you can see by the feeding recommendations below, an 18% crude protein feed would be deficient to meet the nutritional needs of meat birds. If feed a lower protein feed, the feed conversion will increase, costing you more to raise the bird to their market weight. This means more then two pounds of feed will need to be consumed for each pound of gain.
The source of the protein in feed is important. Protein is made of amino acids. The highest quality protein matches the amino acid requirement of the animal consuming the feed. The highest quality protein sources for monogastric animals, such as humans, poultry and swine, are eggs, milk and meat, in that order. Lower quality protein from grain sources needs to be supplemented with specific amino acids (lysine and methioine) to avoid a deficiency. Do not be intimidated to feed a formula that contains meat and bone meal. It is a high quality protein source for poultry. Remember that birds are omnivores meaning that they eat both meat and plants naturally.
Supplying unlimited access to fresh water promotes growth. Birds will consume two pounds of water for every pound of feed consumed. Birds should never be without water.
The guides below summarize both the amount of feed and the percent crude protein recommendations.
Choosing and Feeding a Poultry Starter *
* Starter feed is a seasonal product and not always stocked at feed stores. Call TWO weeks before the arrival of your bird to order starter. ** Duck starter is difficult to find. Second choice is a turkey/game bird feed.