Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky
The type of chicken that you are raising for meat consumption will determine the type of feed that will be best for your flocks. There are many options available for meat animals. There is the commercial-type Cornish Cross chicken (often referred to as a broiler) that has a fast-growth rate and a generous amount of breast meat. There are a number of alternative, slower-growing types of chickens are available and have become popular in some places. They will take much longer to grow and will have a much smaller breast size. Because of their extended growing period, some consider these birds to be more flavorful. Some of the performance expectations for the different kinds of chicken meat birds are available at the end of this article.
In addition to these commercially-grown types of chickens, other breeds of chickens have been raised for meat. There are a variety of different ‘ranger’ chickens available at different hatcheries (e.g., Freedom Rangers, Red Rangers, etc.). Some producers have also had good experience with Delawares. It is important to purchase a strain of Delawares that has been genetically selected for meat production. Purebred Delawares are not very profitable. Delawares were a meat-type chicken decades ago, and there has been a movement by the Livestock Conservancy to select for meat characteristics to maintain the breed.
For most commercially grown chicken meat birds, different types of feeds are often given at different development stages. There is typically a starter feed for the first 28 days and a grower feed for 29-49 days of age. If the birds are grown for more than 49 days, one or more finisher feed may be given. The level of protein in the diet will decrease as the chickens get older. There is not a lot of data on the nutritional requirements and performance of the alternative breeds. Most of the recommendations simply say to follow the dietary specifications from cornish-cross chickens. Where the nutritional specifications are present, follow those recommendations. Where they are not specific requirements, follow general recommendations.
PERFORMANCE OBJECTIVES OF PRODUCTS IN NORTH AMERICA:
AVIAGEN: Ranger Classic Broiler
AVIAGEN: Ranger Premium Broiler
AVIAGEN: Rowan 708 Broiler
AVIAGEN: Rowan Ranger Broiler