The Connection Between a Chicken’s Diet and Egg Production
Many factors affect egg production in chickens, such as the age of a laying hen and environmental factors. A chicken’s diet is among the factors that affect egg production. Furthermore, a chicken’s diet also affects egg quality and egg size. Chickens with a balanced diet, especially with high natural protein and vitamin sources, have better egg production and quality than birds with a poor diet.
Importance of a Balanced Diet for Chickens
A balanced diet is crucial for a chicken’s optimal egg production and growth. Chickens require a complete diet that meets all their dietary needs. An inadequate diet can affect all aspects of your chickens’ lives. A well-balanced diet can give baby chicks the nutrients they need for rapid feather growth and development. A nutritious diet with high levels of minerals, vitamins, protein, and energy is integral for a chicken’s starter period.
Pullets also require a well-balanced diet after reaching the egg-laying period. Hens need a diet that increases their nutritional intake. A well–balanced diet for hens, for instance, has adequate levels of protein and vital minerals like phosphorus and calcium, which chickens need to sustain optimal egg production when they begin laying.
Chickens require a balanced diet for optimal health. A chicken won’t maintain a strong immune system when on a poor diet. A balanced diet has many vitamins, including vitamins C and B, which chickens require to maintain robust immune systems, enabling them to combat diseases. These are some crucial elements that define a well-balanced diet for chickens.
- Energy sources-Chickens need a diet with energy sources to provide the fuel they require to maintain their body temperatures. The best energy sources to include in a balanced diet for your flock include wheat, soybean meal, and cracked corn.
- Protein sources-A well-balanced diet for your chickens should have abundant protein sources. These sources help your birds grow healthy and fast. They also help them enhance their egg production capabilities. Some great protein sources in a well-rounded chicken diet include insects, mealworms, fishmeal, and seeds.
- Fiber sources-Dietary fiber is a crucial component of a well-rounded chicken diet. Fiber sources help enhance absorption and digestion in a chicken’s small intestine, making it easy for the bird to absorb minerals and nutrients from its diet. Vegetables and fruits are excellent fiber sources in a high-quality chicken diet.
- Fatty acid sources– A balanced layer diet should have sufficient fatty acid sources. Such sources can significantly improve egg weight and egg production. A balanced poultry diet’s excellent fatty acid sources include flaxseeds, sunflower, and canola seeds.
The Role of Legumes in Chicken Feed
Banning bone meal and meat in poultry diets has led to soaring demand for legume-based poultry feeds. While soybean meal has been the primary protein source for poultry diets worldwide, genetically modified soybeans have led to an interest in alternative natural protein sources among poultry feed producers. No wonder producers are using legumes as an alternative to genetically modified soybean meals.
A chicken diet rich in legume seeds could be an excellent substitute for soybean meal. Legumes such as peas are high in energy, protein, and amino acids, vital for optimal egg production in poultry. Legumes have double the protein and nutrients of soybean meals and other grains. Legumes have around 27% crude protein. Legume seeds are also rich in B vitamins and iron, which are integral to a chicken’s overall health and egg production.
Legumes such as cowpeas are suitable ingredients in chicken feed. These legumes have a higher amino acid profile than soybeans. Faba beans are also excellent legumes to substitute soybean meal in chicken feed. They have a richer nutritional content than soybean meals. A chicken feed with these legumes can help boost egg production, quality, and overall health. They have relatively lower levels of detrimental anti-nutritional factors than other legume seeds.
Overall, legumes are crucial in chicken feed. They provide protein, carbs, B vitamins, and protein. They are also high in minerals like magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, iron, and manganese. Legumes are low in fat, particularly saturated fats. Because legumes are plant-based foods, they are ideal ingredients in chicken feeds since they are cholesterol free. Due to their high nutritional value, legumes are crucial nutritious sources in poultry nutrition.
Effects of Soybean Meal on Egg Production
Due to the ongoing restriction on GMO, genetically modified soybean meal in poultry diets, chicken raisers are fast switching to legume-based diets for their flocks. However, these developments don’t mean soybean meal isn’t vital in egg production. A key advantage of feeding soybean meal to your egg-laying flock is that soybean meal can help improve egg size, which depends on four factors. These factors include dietary consumption of linoleic acid, energy, fat, and methionine.
Organic soybean meal is a rich source of protein for laying hens and turkeys. Soybean meal has similar levels of methionine and lysine to legume-based diets. These two dietary components are vital for egg production in laying hens. Organic soybean meal is also a rich source of energy and protein. Soybean meal also has a rich amino acid composition. Unlike legume-based poultry feeds with high concentrations of anti-nutritional compounds such as alkaloids, phytate, tannins, and protease inhibitors, soybean meals have a lower concentration of these substances.
Because of its excellent amino acid profile, soybean meal can help balance amino acid levels in cereal grains and other ingredients in chicken feeds. Soybean meal lowers feed consumption in layers while supporting optimal egg production. It also enhances growth performance in layers. Organic soybean meal doesn’t negatively impact egg quality.
However, GMO soybean meal can adversely affect egg quality in laying hens over time. Hens relying on soybean meal have a higher tendency to lay eggs with whiter and lighter albumens than those consuming legume seeds and other legume-based diets.
The Study: Balanced Diet vs. Soybean Meal
A recent study to assess the effectiveness of a balanced diet vs. soybean meal shows that a balanced diet can help improve and maintain optimal egg production in egg-laying hens. The study used a sample of 300 eggs from hens in a semi-intensive system. Furthermore, the study considered eggs’ morphological traits, such as egg weight, shape, surface area, yolk color, and albumen thickness.
Eggs from hens on a balanced diet had better egg components than eggs from layers of soybean meals. However, eggs from layers on a soybean meal had a denser fatty acid composition than those from layers relying on balanced diets. Furthermore, hens on a balanced diet had a higher egg shape index than layers on soybean meals.
Albumen from layers consuming a balanced diet is thicker than those on soybean meals. Since hens on balanced diets consume many nutrients, their egg yolks have significantly brighter redness than those from layers on soybean meals. The eggs from layers on well-rounded diets had more monounsaturated fatty acids than those from birds on soybean meals.
Egg Quality and Fatty Acid Composition
Fatty acid composition means the amount of monounsaturated fatty acids and oleic acid in poultry eggs. Egg quality refers to the standards determining poultry eggs’ internal and external quality, including chicken eggs. The criteria for measuring internal egg quality include yolk color, yolk height, and albumin viscosity. On the other hand, the standards for evaluating external egg quality have egg width, height, and eggshell thickness.
Chickens that consume legume-based diets produce eggs with a higher fatty acid composition than layers consuming soybean meals. The yolks from hens on legume-based diets have a richer content of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats than those from hens on soybean meals. Diet significantly affects the fatty acid composition, so the hens on a well-balanced diet have eggs with a higher fatty acid composition than those from layers consuming a low-quality diet.
The diet also significantly affects egg quality. Hens on a well-balanced diet produce eggs with a richer yolk color, albumin viscosity, and a higher yolk height. Consequently, eggs that get well-rounded nutrition are likely to produce high-quality eggs, unlike layers that get poor nutrition from their regular diets.
Age of Laying Hens and Egg Quality
A recent scientific study aimed at determining the relationship between the age of laying hens and egg quality. The study examined hens of different ages based on their eggs’ yolk index, albumen height, and membrane strength, which are all crucial determinants of egg quality.
According to the study, the quality of albumen height, yolk index, and membrane strength decrease as a hen age. Overall, the study demonstrated a relationship between laying hens’ age and egg quality. Younger hens were likelier to lay higher-quality eggs than their older counterparts. Overall, egg quality diminishes as a hen age.
However, the study demonstrated that older hens produce eggs with higher yolk and egg weight than younger hens. The study used the Haugh unit (HU) score to determine egg quality. Younger hens usually produce eggs with a high HU score, meaning they have higher quality eggs than those from older hens.
The scientific study also shows a significant effect of a hen’s age on yolk PH, a parameter poultry experts use to measure the PH value in poultry eggs. Younger hens lay eggs with a much more neutral yolk than older hens.
There is a direct connection between a chicken’s diet and egg production. Egg production is at its peak among hens that consume high-quality diets. That’s why poultry farmers switch from soybean meals to legume-based diets to enhance their chickens’ nutritional requirements, ultimately achieving their egg production goals.