Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky
Chickpeas are produced primarily for human consumption, but they can provide the poultry industry with an alternative feed ingredient. The chemical composition of chickpeas is similar to that of field peas, except that the fat content is higher in chickpeas. The crude protein content of chickpeas ranges from 12% to 30%, with methionine and cysteine being the first limiting amino acids.
Like other legumes, chickpeas contain anti-nutritional factors, including protease inhibitors, amylase inhibitors, lectins, tannins, and oligosaccharides. These antinutritional factors interfere with nutrient absorption from the digestive tract. Most of the antinutritional factors in chickpeas can be deactivated by heat treatment. The effectiveness of the heat treatment depends on the temperature and exposure time. Extrusion is an effective method of heat treatment that destroys anti-nutritional factors and improves the utilization of starch, fat, and protein.
In general, raw chickpeas can constitute up to only 10% to 15% of a poultry diet. In growing diets for turkeys and laying hens, raw chickpeas can constitute up to 20% of the diet. Higher levels of inclusion slow weight gain and decrease egg production and feed efficiency. Chickpeas can make up a larger proportion of the diet if antinutritional factors are destroyed by heat treatment.