Feeding Recommendations for Meaties

VA from WV

10 Years
Sep 26, 2009
Eastern Pandhandle WV
I've seen some variation in recommendations about protein content for broiler diets. My broilers start going to processing next week, and have had a steady diet of 20% chick grower ration and 17% finisher supplemented with kitchen scraps and whatever bugs they can catch when pastured. They'll be 2 months old on or about the 10th, and while I am very pleased with the process, I am seeing people discussing the use of rations with much higher protein contents.

While I don't think I've done anything wrong, and am generally pleased with the results, I am concerned that keeping Cornish-Rocks much past 6 or 7 weeks seems to put a LOT of physical strain on the birds. Not CHF or massive deformities, but I note that over half the broiler flock has trouble walking more than a few feet or standing for appreciable periods of time. To my mind, a more rapid finish is desirable(with slower developing birds with fewer/no obvious problems being kept until they are large roasters).

Would people be willing to share their approaches and how they change protein content as the birds grow?

At what point do you change from starter ration to something with higher protein?

How do you control Coccidiosis if you are not using medicated feed?

Links to websites would be great. Thanks!
First off, let me start by saying you're not doing anything "wrong." Everyone has different strageties that may or may not produce the desired results. This is how I prefer to do my broilers. I feed a 23% non-medicated feed from day 1 until proccessing. I give feed them unrestricted for the first 2 weeks, then 12/12 the rest of the way. I typically remove the heat lamp at two weeks, so they eat during normal daylight hours. I have my feed custom ground in 500 pound batches by my local feedmill. The feed cost me between $.13 - $.17/ pound depending on current grain costs. I have lost a minimum number of birds using this method. I butcher them 8 weeks. At this age, they range between 4-6 pounds dressed, with the average being right at 4.5 pounds. I have never had any leg problems at all. As for Coccidiosis, I have noticed some bloody stool here and there, but have never lost any birds to it. I guess the few that I have lost could be from this, but since I've had very few loses, I don't get too concerned about it.

I always keep the feed at one end of my tractor, and the waterer at the other end. That way they have to walk ten feet to get a drink after gorging themselves at the feeder. I also keep the feeder raised to the height of their back, forcing them to stand and eat rather than park it on their belly.

I have noticed since raising them in a tractor, the birds seem much happier and healthier. They oftern can be seen sitting around the perimeter of the tractor, laying in the sun and feeling the wind blow.

I not saying this is the only way to do it, but I have had great results using this method. Other than losing a dozen the first two days from this batch (still haven't figured it out), I have only lost a total of 4 out of about 150 I've raised in the last two years.

Hope this helps.
We feed ours turkey feed (turkey starter, turkey grower, turkey finisher) because that is what we can get. I don't know what the protein level is but it is high. We also put Broiler Booster, a vitamin supplement formulated for meaties and available from Murray McMurray in the water from start to finish. It seems to help prevent leg and other problems. We raise them 25 at a time in a 12' x 12' box stall bedded with shavings. Last batch we butchered between 10 and 12 weeks and they dressed out in the 11 to 13 pound range. A couple were bigger but I didn't get those weighed for some reason. We only had two that developed any leg problems and we processed them right away. We fed 12/12 and had the feeders and waterers on opposite sides of the pen so the chickens had to walk a bit to get from one to the other. We don't range ours outside at all because we don't have the facilities to do so at this time. Other than the two lame ones, none of the chickens had any trouble getting around even at 12 weeks of age and they all seemed content. Hope this helps.
Thank you for the input. I don't think that I am doing anything 'wrong', so much as asking out loud about whether what I am doing is efficient enough to maximize the potential for the birds. My birds all have the ability to forage, get as much sun as they desire, and enjoy the benefits of the scrap bowl of a family of 6, so I believe that they are getting the best life I currently know how to give them.

Our single bird loss, thus far, was a broiler that came up missing after a 'mass jail break' from one of the pasturing pens(to call it a tractor would be overgenerous). We keep things clean, composted, and cover the runs to prevent wild birds from mingling, so the disease vectors are as minimal as you'll ever get without cooping them up all the time. All of our birds are in rotated pasture/tractors.

If there is an area where I want/need to improve, it is increasing the protein content of the feed. I see more experienced folks using higher protein content and note bird sizes that I am not getting at the moment. Or, conversely, will have to retain the birds an extra week to start seeing those weights, which adds to the ultimate cost per pound. (DH is VERY supportive of the broiler project, but if I got it cheaper than the store bought, he'd turn cartwheels.)

I also should use a 12/12 regime with the feed ration. Good thing to note, though because I thought the birds stopped eating when it got dark. My main quest is to get the next run off medicated food entirely.

I am also in that twitchy space where I've taken the birds off medicated food entirely in prep for slaughter in the next two weeks, where I've accepted that I get what I get in dressed weights, and look to the runs that I'll be doing next year for things I want to change. You know what it is like with asking questions in the internet: 5 people with 100 opinions. LOL.
That is very useful. Commercial chicken feeds are all lower protein than have been reported here, so apart from throwing them soup bones and scraps for supplementation, I was stuck in that "is it okay" space.

We also put Broiler Booster, a vitamin supplement formulated for meaties and available from Murray McMurray in the water from start to finish. It seems to help prevent leg and other problems.

I started adding brewer's yeast to the water for the same reason. What I had read suggested leg and other problems as being a Vitamin B deficiency.

Last batch we butchered between 10 and 12 weeks and they dressed out in the 11 to 13 pound range.

Thank you. I have been wondering about the virtue of holding some of the smaller birds until 10-12 weeks anyway, and at least for this run this provides a data point.

Other than the two lame ones, none of the chickens had any trouble getting around even at 12 weeks of age and they all seemed content. Hope this helps.

I don't have any that are lame. I do have a number that are so front heavy that they take 5 steps and flop a lot. These are Cobbs, which is the CornishX that KFC and Popeyes get their chicken from. Huge breasted birds, and I've been blaming much of what I see on the ginormous breasts on them.

Our feeders and waterers are on opposite ends of the enclosures, and I often pull the waterers out during the day so they have to come out of the coop. Many of these birds will content themselves to sit, while my layers and Bantams are always strutting around and being chickens.

But I am seeing, again, turkey feed as part of the 'solution'.
If you try unmedicated feed and have signs of cocci (bloody stool), I have used Apple Cider Vinegar (1 TBSP/gallon water) and/or yogurt(plain, mixed with oatmeal) to help fight it. I have read that both work.
Next question: Is there, in a practical sense and considering available feed mixes, such a thing as too much protein in a chicken diet? If so, what are the downsides?

For instance, in sheep, if you feed too much carbohydrate, it will damage the liver.
I not aware of any organ damage or anything. The first thing that comes to mind is it may be possible that too high protein could cause them to grow too fast, causing sudden death. Not sure about this, others may have a better idea. The other thing is that the chickens may not be able to utilize all the protein at a higher percentage. This would cause them to "waste" feed, and by this I mean not digest all the protein, not spill it. The higher the protein, typically comes at a higher price, so you could possibly be wasting money at a certain point.

I'm sure if any of this is true, it's just my opinon.
VA: I had also heard of adding yeast to the water. Do you use it in leu of the broiler booster, or in addition to? And how much do you add?
I give them broiler feed, 20% from day one til processing. I don't seem much sense in switching feed when they're total life is only 8 weeks. It makes it much more simple, and you save money buying feed in bulk. I don't feed medicated feed, and I don't worry about cocci. Plan on losing a few birds- that's just the nature of the breed.

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