Can you provide me with information on nutrition for my poultry flock, including feeding alternative feeds?

Answer: Thank you for contacting ATTRA with your request for information on your flock’s diet. Please refer to the ATTRA publication ‘Pastured Poultry Nutrition’, a nutrition publication written by poultry nutritionist, Jeff Mattocks. You can request a copy of this publication by calling ATTRA at 1-800-346-9140. This publication should help you to balance your flock’s diet by comparing the nutrient analysis of the ingredients you are feeding them to their nutritional requirements. Appendix A has the nutrient values of different feed ingredients and Appendix B has the nutritional requirements for broilers in different stages of their life. By comparing these values, it should give you an idea of what may be missing or what may be unnecessary in their diet.Poultry do have the ability to self select their diet if everything they need is made available. It is important to look at the amino acid levels in the available ingredients compared to what is required. Amino acids are building blocks for proteins and are essential for proper and efficient growth. Calcium is another important consideration, and oyster shells or other calcium source should be made accessible for the birds. While typically you start with a high protein (20-23%) for chicks and decrease this level as the birds get closer to harvest weight, many pastured producers continue with a 20% protein level throughout the birds life. Providing “cafeteria style” or “buffet” like feeding with separate ingredients will allow them to balance their diet to a proper protein level that could depend on their age, the weather, what they are foraging in the pasture, among other factors. While the pasture will provide some of the diet it is not wise to rely on it for a sole source of particular ingredients because what is available in the pasture and the nutrient values of what can be foraged changes throughout the year. In regards to feeding layers the distillers grain by-product: It is important to keep the layers protein level at about 16-18%. A higher protein level will result in the hens gaining too much weight which could disrupt their reproductive system and egg production. A low protein and high energy ingredient such as wheat should be made available for the laying hens as well so they can balance their diet. A calcium source should also be made available as laying hens can be depleted of calcium quickly through egg laying.In regards to feeding vegetable/bakery waste: While many backyard poultry producers feed these items to their flocks, it is not wholly recommended as a constant feeding. These items can be difficult to monitor especially if they are from an outside source and can also decrease the birds efficiency in either producing meat or eggs. An alternative way to use such items may be to start a worm bin and feed them to the worms. The worms will turn these wastes into nutrient rich worm castings (vermicompost) to use on growing plants and the worms themselves will grow and multiply and can be harvested for a high protein chicken food. More information on using worms for composting can be found in ATTRA’s publication Worms for Composting.For additional information on feeding distiller grain by-products to poultry please see University of Minnesota’s extensive website on the topic: fact sheet for feeding corn distiller dried grains to poultry can be found at the following link: excellent contact on the subject of distiller grains in livestock feeding is Dr. Sally Noll at the University of Minnesota. Her contact information follows.Dr. Sally NollDepartment of Animal Science1364 Eckles AveSt. Paul, MN