Profitable Poultry Production

by M. G. Kains

Chapter VII
Feeding and Feeds -- Part 2

Value of Good Method

Unless properly fed no ration, however well balanced or mixed, will give best results. Method of feeding plays an important part. It is necessary that the hen be kept robust. This can best be done by keeping her active. Hens on free range often do better than confined hens solely because of the active life they lead. Poultrymen need not trouble much about the vigor of their hens if the flocks are kept under the free-range system, but when confined in yards great care must be taken to encourage exercise. The lazy hen is the unproductive hen.

Feed hopper.
Exercise is best supplied by providing a roomy scratching shed covered deeply with even 8 to 12 inches of straw. This straw should be rather dry and whole grain should be scattered in it. There will be no waste; the fowls will find the last kernel. The poultryman's skill will be tested to feed enough at a time without having to feed too often, so as to keep the hens busy most of the day. When too much feed is given at a time the fowls soon become satisfied and will stop eating. It is not essential to keep fowls scratching all the time. The more active breeds, especially Leghorns, do nearly as well when fed from hoppers. When given a yard and a floor they will take sufficient exercise whether forced to scratch for feeding or not. For the larger, less active breeds, however, it is necessary to force exercise. Experiment has shown that enforced idleness ruins both health and egg production. On the other hand, Leghorns have thrived and even done well though compelled to scratch for every grain they eat. With every breed a happy medium should be struck between idleness and too much exercise. No breed of fowls is injured by having exercise and most breeds profit decidedly. The principal disadvantage of feeding in litter is that grain may become contaminated with the droppings of the fowls, but with proper care in removing the straw as soon as it begins to be soiled this can be largely obviated.

Grain Ground or Unground

Poultrymen find that it pays to grind part of the grain feed because this saves energy. Since the energy is furnished by the food there is an actual saving in the food itself, and this can thus be utilized by the fowls for other purposes. Ground grain is more quickly digested and assimilated than whole grain, and hens can manufacture eggs quicker with it. It has been shown that fowls, half of whose grain was ground and moistened, required 20% less feed to produce a dozen eggs than fowls fed on whole grain alone. Fowls, however, enjoy whole grain, therefore probably one-third should be fed in this form. If fed one-half or more of whole grain they would likely lose their appetites and not eat sufficient to meet the demand for heavy egg production. If more than a third of the grain is fed ground it should be supplied preferably in the afternoon.

Ground plan of house and yard. Space-saving arrangement of ground area.

Elevations of poultry house.

If fed wet mash in the morning, the fowls are likely to gorge themselves and not be as active as they should be during the day. Hence a light-grain ration in the litter should be given in the morning. About an hour before going to roost, a good mash feed, followed by a liberal supply of whole grain, will give satisfactory results. Feeding whole grain liberally toward the close of the day in cold weather is a good practice, because the grain will "stick to the ribs" better during the night than will the mash and will help to keep up the heat of the body better.

Ventilated coop and detachable run. Slide door closes coop at night.

Another good practice is to scatter enough grain in the litter at night so as to encourage the fowls to scratch for it early in the morning. This practice will also save time in the early morning. Of course, double quantity of grain should be scattered in the evening.

Weighted gate. Second-hand piping frame, covered with netting. L joints. Large staples in wood posts serve as hinges. Pulleys, weight and cord close gate.
When light mashes are fed in the morning, it is best to feed immediately after the fowls come off the roost, but to feed no more than the birds will eat. As to feeding rations 4 and 5 mentioned above, the following remarks will be found useful: Mix the ground ingredients with water or skim milk and a little salt until the mass is crumbly. Feed first thing in the morning just what will be eaten up clean in ten minutes. Soon after scatter a little wheat or oats in the straw, just enough to keep the fowls busy till noon. Then scatter some more grain. About an hour before sundown feed wheat or corn, enough to fill the fowls' crops. Fowls on free range will not require such frequent feeding.

Dry Mash or Wet Mash

Fowls enjoy wet mash more than dry, but dry mash saves labor, since enough may be put in the hopper to last a week. When fed wet, at least one feeding must be given daily. Since fowls eat wet mash more greedily than dry, more care must be exercised to avoid overfeeding. Where skim milk is available the ration may be cheapened by using it to wet the mash. Bran and middlings may be made to take large quantities of milk and thus to balance out and cheapen the ration. Thus it can be made to save more costly feeds. When skillfully fed, wet mash should give better results in egg yield than dry. Cut bone may be fed daily or three times a week, just what the fowls will eat up clean in 10 or 15 minutes. Each hen can use 3 or 4 ounces a week to advantage, though more should be fed during heavy laying and in winter than at other times.

As a rule it does not pay to boil poultry feed, besides, most feeds give better results when fed raw. This does not apply to potatoes and similar starchy feeds, which are improved by boiling.

No radical changes should be made in the ration. A definite plan should be well worked out before feeding starts and should be adhered to so as to get best results. Feed and feeding are not all; when fowls are not laying, it must not be thought that the ration is necessarily at fault unless there is good reason to believe so. Even though some other ration may be better, it is not advantageous to make a sudden change in its favor, because such changes are sure to upset egg production for greater or less time. Any changes found necessary should be made gradually. It is just as important also to feed at regular times and in regular amounts. "A feast and famine" will never produce best results. Every night the hen should go to roost with a full crop and should find her breakfast ready for her when she gets up. Success in poultry feeding, especially for eggs, depends upon wholesome food fed liberally, regularly and in variety, and upon plenty of activity for the fowls.

Value of Skim Milk

At the West Virginia experiment station Professors Stewart and Atwood sought to determine the value of skim milk for laying hens. On most farms skim milk is fed to calves or pigs. Can fowls use it to better advantage? Separator skim milk was used. Generally during the colder months it was sour when fed, and during the warmer periods thick also. Two experiments were conducted, one for 122 days, the other for three months. In the first, two lots of Single Comb White Leghorn fowls were used, each lot containing 20 hens and 2 cocks. In the second each lot consisted of 60 hens and 6 cocks.

The skim milk was used to moisten the ground feed. This was usually fed in the morning, while the whole grain was scattered in the afternoon in the litter covering the floors of the poultry houses. At no time were the fowls fed heavily, as the eggs which were laid were used for hatching and it was not considered desirable to become too fat.

The table shows that the hens in each lot lost in weight about seven-tenths of a pound each, while the cocks gained slightly.

The following table shows the amount and kind of food consumed by each lot of 22 fowls during the 122 days of the test. Both lots were fed exactly the same except that lot 1 received in addition 2 quarts of skim milk daily, or 244 quarts during the experiment.

If the skim milk be valued at 1 cent a quart, which is practically equivalent to 50 cents a hundred pounds, an extremely high valuation for feeding purposes, then the total cost of food for pen 1 was $10.19 and for pen 2, $7.75

The following table shows the number of eggs laid by each lot.

The pen which received the skim milk laid 248 eggs more than the other, or practically an extra egg for every quart of skim milk they received. Valuing the skim milk at 1 cent a quart, the food cost of 1 dozen eggs was 9.8 cents a dozen for the fowls fed the skim milk and 9.3 cents for the other lot. During the time covered by the experiment the eggs produced were actually worth 20 cents a dozen. The 248 extra eggs produced by pen 1 when valued at this price were worth $4.13, which would give to the skim milk a value of 1.6 cents a quart.

In a second test 6 pens of Single Comb White Leghorn fowls were employed, each pen containing 20 hens and 2 cocks. The experiment was divided into two periods, June 30 to August 5, and August 6 to September 30. During the first period pens 1, 2 and 3 each received two quarts of skim milk daily to moisten the ground feed, as in the earlier experiment, while during the second period pens 4, 5 and 6 received the skim milk. It was found that all the hens increased slightly in weight during the tests. The following table shows the amount, kind and cost of food consumed during the first period of 37 days.

Valuing the skim milk at 1 cent a quart, the cost of food for pens 1, 2 and 3 was $6.09, and for pens 4, 5 and 6 $5.05. The following table shows the number of eggs laid by each pen of fowls during the period.

The balance in favor of the milk-fed fowls was 230 eggs, which extra egg production was brought about by feeding 222 quarts of skim milk, or slightly more than an extra egg for every quart of skim milk fed. Valuing the skim milk at 1 cent a quart, the food cost of the eggs from the milk-fed fowls was 8.4 cents a dozen; and 8.3 cents for the other lot. The eggs produced during this period were worth in the local market 25 cents a dozen. At this price the 230 extra eggs were worth $4.79, which would give to the 222 quarts of skim milk an actual feeding value of slightly more than 2 cents a quart when fed in small quantities as in this experiment.

During the second period of 56 days skim milk was fed to pens 4, 5 and 6, instead of pens 1, 2 and 3. During this period the hens which received the skim milk increased in weight slightly more than those whose mash was moistened with water. The following table shows the kind, amount and cost of the food consumed during this period.

Valuing the 6 quarts of skim milk fed to pens 4, 5 and 6 at 1 cent a quart, the total cost of food for these pens was $11.10 and for the other fowls $8.84. The following table shows the number of eggs laid by each pen of fowls during the second period.

During this period there were fed 336 quarts of skim milk, which increased the egg production 242 eggs, or at the rate of three-fourths of an egg for every quart of skim milk fed. The eggs produced during this period were worth 25 cents a dozen in the local market. Valuing the 242 extra eggs at this price, it is seen that the skim milk had a feeding value in this case of 1-1/2 cents a quart.

In both experiments more eggs were produced when skim milk was substituted for water for moistening the mash. Under the conditions prevailing in these experiments and with eggs selling for 20 or 25 cents a dozen the skim milk had a feeding value of 1-1/2 to 2 cents a quart. In these trials 802 quarts of skim milk were fed, resulting in an increase in the egg production of 702 eggs.

Feeding Capons

The unusually high prices quoted for capons has led to considerable discussion in the agricultural and poultry press relative to the profit in this branch of poultry raising. The discussion is not free from exaggerated statements of interested individuals, and little satisfactory information is available. To get data concerning the growth and food cost several feeding experiments have been made by the New York experiment station.

Six lots of capons and one of cockerels were fed for several months and several lots of capons for shorter periods of several weeks. Birds of several breeds and crosses were used, chiefly Asiatics, but none of the smaller breeds. No special comparison of breeds was attempted, although for the most part each lot was of one breed.

To all of these fowls sweet skim milk was fed nearly all of the time in place of water. Much of the time it constituted about 60% of the total food, supplying generally from 12 to 15% of the total dry matter in the ration.

For the eight lots for which records were kept the longest time, from hatching to maturity, the lowest pound cost, live weight, was at the average weight of 4 pounds. Largely because the market prices were always lower for the smaller fowls the cost of food to grow the birds 4-1/2 pounds represented the highest proportion (a little over 50%) of the market value found at any time from earliest marketable size as broilers to the heaviest capons. From the time the capons weighed 5 pounds until they weighed 10-1/2 pounds the total cost of food consumed did not at any time reach half of the market value. Although the cost of every pound added to the weight was greater as the birds approached maturity than it had been for any earlier increase, the prices for the largest fowls were so much higher than for the smaller that the margin over cost of production was always greater with the nearly full-grown capons. On this account the later feeding was justified, so long as there was a regular increase in weight, until the spring months, at which time the greatest demand for capons and highest prices usually prevail.

One lot of capons was fed for comparison with a lot of cockerels taken from the same flock of chicks. For the whole period that record was kept, nearly six months, the cockerels increased in weight about 30% faster than the capons, but the rate of growth was much more irregular. At the average weight of 6 pounds the capons had cost for food 12% more than the cockerels; but more food was required on the average by the cockerels, so that at 9 pounds weight these had cost over 8% more than the capons. As the cockerels grew faster and larger than the capons, they averaged about 10-1/4 pounds before the capons had reached the weight of 9-1/2 pounds, and at the heaviest weights had cost no more for food.

At the average prices then existing in New York state markets the cockerels could have been sold at the greatest profit at about 6 pounds weight, and the capons not until they had reached the weight of 9 pounds, at which weight the difference between the cost of food and the market value was two and one-half times as great as for the cockerels. In some markets and more generally in recent years better relative prices have prevailed for such poultry as well-fed cockerels, so this difference found at the time in favor of capons would often be much smaller.

Next: Chapter VIII

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