Advanced Chick Nutrition: The Secret to Great Laying Hens

You’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Quality food is important for our growth and health. The same goes for chickens. Your birds put a lot of energy into creating tasty, nutritious eggs for you, and their food affects egg quality, size, and nutrients. Similar to human children, the right nutrition for baby chicks helps set a solid foundation for your adult laying hens.

What’s in a chick feed, and how does that feed’s quality affect your adult birds? There are a lot of chick feeds out there at different price points, but they are not created equal. A lower-cost feed might seem to be a better value, but your chickens will ultimately be healthier if they start life on a nutritionally advanced chick diet. Not only will they thrive as chicks, but as adults they will lay higher-quality eggs in a shorter span of time. So chick feed with exceptional nutrition will cost less when you look at the end result: healthier birds and better eggs.

Nutrena's NatureWise® line of feeds is a newer product line we've recently begun carrying that offers the best ingredients in balanced proportions. For some of our backyard breeder customers, they offer exceptional value compared to our more traditional feed brands.

The Scientific Proof

How do we know pullets started on chick starters with advanced nutrition experience higher egg production? Nutrena put their feed to the test using a scientific experiment. They observed 84 Speckled Sussex pullet chicks from the same hatchery. The birds had been started under identical conditions on two brands of feed at Cargill's Innovation Campus in Elk River, Minnesota. The birds were divided into two groups of 42 birds each. Group 1 was fed NatureWise® Chick Starter Grower, while Group 2 was started on a leading national brand of chick starter/grower.

When the birds were 18 weeks old, they were transported to a farm in Wisconsin for an in-field trial. The birds were placed in identical controlled environments (housing, lighting, and amounts of food and water). At the farm, all of the hens were fed NatureWise® 16% Layer feed. Once they started laying, they were observed for 14 weeks.

Birds from both Groups 1 and 2 started to lay six weeks after arrival at the facility, at 24 weeks of age, which is typical for Speckled Sussex. Then the remarkable results came in. Over the next 14 weeks, the 42 birds that had been started on NatureWise® Chick Starter laid more than twice as many eggs as the birds fed the national competitor!

On average, the NatureWise® hens also produced 34.3 eggs per week compared to 11.6 eggs per week for the national competitor, and the eggs laid by the NatureWise® hens were larger and had stronger shells. Fewer birds died in the NatureWise® group, too, and the farm’s owners noted that birds in Group 1 laid heavier eggs than those in Group 2.

What’s the Difference?

The simple answer lies in both the quantity and quality of the ingredients. First, let’s look at typical ingredients that are found in most chick starter/grower feeds.

  • Proteins and amino acids help build body tissues. They also assist with metabolic function, conduct specific biological reactions, build hormones, and coordinate functions of different cells within the body.
  • Carbohydrates power cellular activity. They are the body’s preferred source of energy. They make up the largest percentage of a chicken’s diet and come mostly from grains.
  • Vitamins and minerals perform many functions in the body: they encourage healthy growth, create strong bones, and form blood cells. They also support energy use and muscle function.

The quantity of the ingredients affects the health and growth of your chicks. For example, too much calcium can damage your chicks’ kidneys, and too little protein can cause them to process feed inefficiently.

Feed quality is also important: the quality of the all the ingredients—the vitamins, minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates—matters. NatureWise®’s high-quality ingredients make a difference!

Finally, the kind of ingredients is key. Some premium feeds contain extra ingredients that provide supportive nutrition for your birds, such as pre- and probiotics, yeast culture, and essential oils. These extra ingredients boost the immune system, support healthy growth, promote optimal digestion, and cut down on odor in droppings. Nutrena's NatureWise® products contain a proprietary blend of these additional ingredients called FlockShield.

Our partners at Nutrena have worked hard to create a chick starter/grower feed that improves the health and well-being of poultry, and the results from their study demonstrates in scientific terms how these efforts pay off in the overall health, vitality, and productivity of the birds. So if you're looking to give your birds an exceptional start for less money, ask one of us about our new NatureWise® products the next time you stop by. We look forward to helping your chickens live their best lives and produce an abundance of the eggs you love!


NOTE: This post is adapted (with permission) from content proudly brought to you by our partners at Nutrena and Cargill Animal Nutrition. The original article appears here.

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