Early nutrition and dietary considerations

The first few days after the hatch is a crucial time for chicks as their digestive and immune systems develop. Immediate access of chicks and poults to a complete diet and clean water improves growth rate, enhances yolk sac utilization and boosts the immune system. Providing required micronutrients through an excellent early nutrition program will support gut microbial ecology and the proliferation of lymphoid organs, thereby boosting immunity and enhancing the intestinal integrity of growing birds. 

Providing easy access to feed is a vital part of an early nutrition program.  Ensure that you provide feed on papers throughout the brooding area – at least 50% of the brooding area should be covered.  Providing multi-vitamins and electrolytes in drinking water will support the development of a healthy immune system.  

A precise diet formulation to match nutrient supply with nutrient requirements is one of the most important aspects of the animal feeding program. Specific dietary considerations should be practiced in formulating early life diets.

Dietary consideration for pre-starter (1 to 4 days of age) and starter diets (4 to 10 days of age)

As young chicks’ gut and digestive enzymes have not developed, the following additives need to be added to the diet to increase digestion and absorption of nutrients during early life.

  1. Pre-starter diets should be prepared with more focus on digestible nutrients than the total requirements to compensate for the inability of an immature gut in digesting the nutrients.
  2. Inclusion of multienzyme blends (e.g. lipase, xylanase, beta-glucanase, mannanase, protease, phytase, cellulase, amylase) at specific activities increases nutrients digestibility and availability in pre-starter diets.
  3. Consider adding synthetic emulsifiers (e.g. soy-lecithin, milk-derived casein, lysophosphatidylcholine or lysolecithin, bile salt, glyceryl polyethylene glycol ricinoleate, and sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate), lipase enzyme, and carnitine to support the immature digestive system in fat digestion, absorption, and metabolism.
  4. Balance dietary amino acids precisely and pay specific attention to dietary lysine concentration. Lysine is a precursor of carnitine; carnitine is a fat carrier that is located on the mitochondrial membrane and transfers activated fatty acids to the mitochondria for beta-oxidation (a metabolic pathway to get energy out of fat).
  5. Probiotics and prebiotics supplementation in early life can prevent pathogenic infections and enhance the immune system.
  6. Vitamin C and E supplementation in pre-starter and starter diets boosts chick immunity. 
  7. Reconsider practicing a least-cost feed formulation technique for the pre-starter and starter diet to make sure that the diet has the highest possible quality. Feed consumption during the first week of life is small compared to the rest of life, so feeding a more expensive pre-starter and starter diet may be an effective method of improving production.  
  8. Pellet, crumble, and mash diets are the three main feed forms in poultry production. A crumble diet is usually recommended for early life. Although small grain particles give a larger surface area for digestion, coarse particles promote gizzard development and activity. The larger the particle size of feed the longer feed retention time in the gut; this provides more opportunity to digest the entrapped starch in cereal grain cells and release more potential energy from the feed. Some studies have recommended a particle size of 800 to 1000 microns. 


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About the author(s)

Research Associate at Poultry Innovation Partnership | + posts