by Sam Shafer
When it comes to poultry feed, particle size makes a big difference for bird nutrition.
Research shows that chickens increase their feed intake and performance when given pelleted feed or crumbled pellets, compared with mash.
This has led researchers to wonder whether feeding crumbles could jumpstart very early chick growth and boost final broiler body weights. It is important to study this question because pellets and crumbles are more expensive than mash—and producers need to know how changing diets could pay off.
In a new study in The Journal of Applied Poultry Research, researchers at Kansas State University and University of Ghana tested four dietary treatments with differing amounts of crumbles in 1-day-old Cobb 500 male broiler chicks. Their findings suggest that feeding crumbles for just 7 days can lead to long-term improvements in body weight, average daily gain, average daily feed intake and feed conversion ratio.
The researchers conducted a 42-day experiment to evaluate four dietary treatments in 900 chicks. The chicks were divided into pens of 25 birds per pen. There were 9 pens per treatment. The treatments were: 21 days of mash; 7 days of crumbles, followed by 14 days of mash; 14 days of crumbles, followed by 7 days of mash; or 21 days of crumbles. The researchers gave the birds the dietary treatment for the first 21 days, followed by a common mash diet from day 22 to 42.
The scientists found that birds given crumbles, even for just one week, had improved performance after the 42-day mark. The birds given 21 days of crumbles had the highest body weights and greatest improvement in feed conversion ratio.
These improvements could be attributed to higher feed intake, and there is some evidence that larger particle size could cut down on feed that falls out of birds’ beaks.
Going forward, the researchers state that, “Further research is required to address the impact of early feed form on carcass characteristics to ascertain the overall benefits of pelleted diets to broilers in the starter phase.”
What does this study mean for producers?
While crumbles cost more than mash, feeding crumbles to chicks for just seven days can improve final body weight.
The best results come from feeding crumbles for the first 21 days.
The full paper, titled “Evaluating the effect of feeding starters crumbles on the overall performance of broilers raised for 42 days,” can be found in The Journal of Applied Poultry Research and online here.
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