Feed materials for birds

Different feeds are important for the nutrients which they contain.

Carbohydrates are found in grains which can be fed whole or ground as meal. Birds can be given corn, rice, maize, barley, oats, sorghum, finger and bulrush millet, or bran from rice or other grains.

Cake from the processing of groundnuts, cottonseed or dates can also provide carbohydrate and protein. Soya bean meal also contains proteins. These types of protein-rich feeds are from plants while animal products such as fish meal, milk powder and dried blood also contain proteins and can be fed to birds.

Birds must not be given too much animal protein. Not only is it expensive but too much of it may cause some diseases to occur in the animals. Too much fish meal can make eggs taste fishy.

Fats are found in cottonseed, groundnuts and sunflowers.

Minerals are in bone meal (ground bone) egg shells and old seashells which can be ground and added to the feed. If cuttlefish bone is available locally it is an excellent source of minerals.

Vitamins may be supplied by adding green plants to the feed or by adding commercially produced vitamins.


The ration will change with the requirements of the bird. Young birds need a ration which is rich in protein while laying birds need plenty of minerals. Some examples of rations are given.

Age of Bird

Whole & ground grain

Cake plant/animal



up to 8 weeks 7 parts 2 parts 1 part 0.25 part
8 – 12 weeks 8 parts 1.5 parts 1 part 0.25 part
Laying 8 parts 1.5 parts 0.25 part 0.50 part

For chickens whole grain can be scattered over the run encouraging birds to scratch as they feed and so take in minerals from the soil.


Birds need clean fresh water at all times. Every 4 chickens will need 1 litre of water every day and this will double as the weather becomes hotter.

Protein Deficiency

If the feed contains too little protein (animal or plant) the birds will become weak and may develop infections. They do not grow well and meat production is badly affected. Egg laying decreases or stops.

Mineral Deficiencies

Lack of calcium in the feed can cause:

The bones of the leg to curve making the bird unable to walk properly

Soft shelled eggs or eggs without shells are laid

If birds lay eggs that have either no shell or a soft shell these eggs will be broken and can be eaten by other birds. If this happens the chicken can develop a habit of eating eggs which then becomes a problem.

To prevent these problems birds must be given plenty of minerals as powdered shell or bone. If birds are allowed to scratch for grain they will take in minerals they need from the soil in the run. A good source of minerals is to feed crushed egg shells to the birds.

Problems caused by a lack of Vitamins

If vitamins are not present in the feed then:

Birds do not grow well, are weak, cannot move properly and the feathers are ruffled.

Chest problems can occur and birds have nose and eye discharges.

The toes curl inwards and birds have difficulty in moving.

These problems can be prevented by adding commercially bought vitamins to the feed or providing the birds with green vegetables in addition to the feed. Vitamin deficiencies can cause birds to start feather picking which becomes a problem.