Chickens have many basic dietary requirements. While many are aware of the need of macronutrients such as carbs, proteins, and fats. Micronutrients; however, tend to be less popular. That does not mean they are any less important or provide less vital for healthy growth. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are only needed in small amounts but play essential roles in multiple bodily functions. Most notably they play major roles in growth and development. It is important to ensure your chickens meet their nutritional requirements as these vitamins and minerals cannot be synthesized by the body and must come from their diets. Its extra work but keeping track of these nutrients and supplementing them when needed will greatly better your chicken’s health and lifestyle. Here we go over some basics of micronutrients so you can understand the important roles they play in your chicken’s health.
Vitamins are organic molecules that act as co-enzymes. They help kick start multiple reactions in the body. Vitamins are divided into two groups: fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins.
Most vitamins fall under the water-soluble category. Water-soluble vitamins can be dissolved in water which makes them difficult to be stored in the body. When consumed in large amounts water-soluble vitamins will be flushed out in urine.
Vitamins C and B complexes are perhaps the most well-known in this category. Vitamin C has collagen synthesis and antioxidant effects. Under normal circumstances, poultry are not deficient in vitamin C. Vitamin B complex includes B1, B2, B6, B12, niacin, folic acid, biotin, and pantothenic acid. It is the most diverse and functional of all vitamins. Its primary function is to mediate metabolism, decompose fat and protein, maintain skin and muscle health, enhance the immune system, nervous system function, and promote cell growth and division.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins that are mainly stored in the liver and fatty tissues. These vitamins can be stored in the body, unlike water-soluble vitamins. Keep in mind; however, excess consumption can lead to toxicity. Vitamin A maintains vision and normal differentiation of epithelial cells. Vitamin D helps maintain normal blood calcium levels and bone health. Vitamin E is mainly for maintaining reproductive function and antioxidant effect. Finally, vitamin K aids in blood clotting.
Mineral absorption is affected by many factors such as poultry species, age, sex and sexual maturity, climate, temperature, growth, and mineral content in soil and feed. Getting enough minerals is essential to keeping poultry healthy. Minerals are split up into two categories: macrominerals and trace minerals or microminerals.
Macrominerals are those that are needed in larger amounts. This includes calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Their primary functions are bone formation, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission. When preparing your chickens feed, it is crucial to have the correct calcium to phosphorus ratio. An off ratio will inhibit proper growth. Macrominerals sodium, potassium, and chlorine help to maintain the osmotic pressure balance. Additionally, they assist in glucose and amino acid absorption.
Microminerals or trace minerals are needed in small concentrations but are essential for the body to perform many vital functions. Trace minerals include manganese, zinc, iron, copper, cobalt, iodine, selenium, and chromium. These minerals are vital elements of poultry growth, reproduction, bone, eggshell formation, and transportation of oxygen. Deficiencies of any of these essential nutrients can cause poor growth, anemia, and affect egg production and egg size.
Throughout the growth process, many enzymes depend on specific vitamins and minerals for their action to maintain regular health, metabolism, and performance. When an animal is deficient in any of these micronutrients, enzymes will begin to lose basic functions and will result in health problems and stunted growth. With this in mind, ensuring your flock meets their nutrient requirements is essential for raising healthy chickens.