Canadian Poultry Magazine

The all mash method of feeding for egg production

By Canadian Poultry   

Features 100th anniversary Technology Poultry Research

October 1927

The all mash method of feeding for egg production is dealt with by D.C. Kennard and R.M. Bethke, of the Ohio Experimental Station.  The extension of this new method of feeding has been rapid but there are factors of importance in connection with it which should not be overlooked by poultrymen.

Now that the all method of feeding chicks and growing pullets has become an established practice, say the authors of this treatise, as a result of the success many poultry raisers the country over have realized from its use, poultry keepers are keenly interested in the question of employing this method in feeding for egg production.  Will it prove as successful in the feeding of chicks and growing pullets? From the results of the last two years experiments involving 200 layers at the Ohio Experiment Station, it seems that it will.

As the all-mash feeding is such a radical departure from the customary practice of feeding scratch grain and mash, many poultry keepers may hesitate to change from the traditional practice, even though they may have employed the new method with the young stock.  Nevertheless, the all mash method of feeding for egg production promises to become a general practice.  Our first thought was that it would be necessary to feed a part of the mash moistened during the winter months in order to insure the heavy feed consumption essential for winter production.  During the past year, however, the tests have indicated that moist mash is not necessary, and that the question of moistening the mash may be regarded the same with the all-mash method as with feeding grain and mash.  In other words, some will likely be able to secure a few more winter eggs by moistening a portion of the mash, while others will not find it worth while to do so, especially if consideration is given to the extra time, labor and skill of feeding involved.


More Sanitary

The birds eat clean feed from a feeder; whereas when scratch grain is fed in litter, which is always more or less filth and musty, they pick up some of the contaminated material along with the grain, especially when they are hungry and greedy.  Furthermore, the litter is often damp and as it is difficult to feed just the correct amount of scratch grain, a surplus is sometimes left in the damp litter and becomes contaminated with must or mould before it is finally picked up by the birds.  The litter also may become a favorable harbor for disease or parasitic organism, and the increased consumption of this filthy material due to feeding scratch grain in it offers greater opportunity of birds to become exposed to disease and parasites.  That birds do pick up straw, feathers, and manure when eating grain from litter, especially when hungry, has been proved.

There is no guesswork or confusion about what proportion of scratch grain is to be fed.

Less labor and skill of feeding

That less labor and skill of feeding are required is self-evident.  Time and labor add to the cost of eggs produced.  More attention must be given to economy in this respect, as one of the best methods of increasing the returns is to reduce the cost per dozen eggs.  Comparatively few poultry keepers are naturally skilled feeders, so that a method of feeding, which requires little skill and at the same time yields the results is desirable.  The question of how much scratch grain to fed is a puzzling one for most poultry keepers. The ration is often unbalanced because of feeding scratch grain too liberally.  The all-mash method enables one to feed a definite ration so that all the birds in the flock get a balanced ration.

How and when to change

The same caution should be exercised in changing from scratch grain feeding to the all-mash method as is exercised in making any other radical change of feeding or management.  The best plan, of course, is to start using the new method with the chicks; then there is no change to be made. In the case of hens, the better plan would be to change during April, May or June, or during the winter moulting period, otherwise egg production may be lowered for a while. When it is desired to place ready-to-lay pullets accustomed to the old method of feeding on the all-mash feeding, it may be expected that four to six weeks will be required for them to become fully accustomed to the new method.  Therefore, it would not be advisable to make the change after the pullets have started to lay or just before they are ready to lay, if a delay in production is not desired.  Regardless of the time or age of the birds, the change should be made slowly over a period of at least two weeks, gradually decreasing the scratch grain fed in the litter to the mash.  In this way there is no change in the ration and the grain in the mash more quickly accustoms the birds to the all-mash mixture.

Suitable mash feeders

Ample eating space should be provided. For best results with the all-mash feeding the open box type of mash feeding should be used.  The reel mash feeder is especially well adapted for this purpose.  The feeder should be only 5 inches deep inside.  Three reel mashers or similar type of feeders providing 24 feet of eating space should be supplied each 100 layers. The reel mash feeder has the advantage of furnishing ample, well-lighted feeding space and never clogging as hoppers often do.  The reel keeps the birds out of the box and prevents roosting on it at night.  This with its elevation off the floor keeps the feed clean and, being easily accessible, the birds are naturally induced to eat more mash. In locating the feeders it is well to place them so the end the feeder faces the front of the house, just inside and within two or three feet of the window or open front space to insure an abundance of light.

Method of feeding

The all-mash method is simple.  The mash is kept before the birds all the time.  However, for best results it is desirable to feed daily the amount that will be consumed during the next 24 hours.  As the layers will eat more readily of the fresh mash, the time of feeding should be from 3 to 5 p.m., depending upon the season of the year, so that the birds will go to roost with a well filled crop.  The all-mash feeding lends it self to any of the methods of feeding by means of artificial lights.

The ration  

Generally speaking, the all-mash mixture contains double the amount of grains and one-half the usual amount of protein concentrates, minerals, etc of the mash of the same ration when fed half scratch and half mash.  That is, by adding equal amount of ground or whole grains to the usual mash, all the original mash ingredients become diluted one-half in the final mixture.  Take for example one ingredient, meat scraps.  The amount usually added to the mash fed in connection with scratch grain is 20 per cent; whereas in the all-mash mixture if fed on the same level it would be 10 per cent. The following mixtures have proved effective in extensive test at the Ohio Experiment Station:


Corn, coarse ground – 30
Wheat, coarse ground – 20
Oats, fine ground – 20
Wheat bran – 10
Winter wheat middlings (shorts) – 10
Meat scraps (medium) – 10
Bone meal (chick size) – 2
Salt – ½


Corn, coarse ground – 65
Winter wheat middlings (shorts) or coarse ground wheat – 20
Meat scraps (medium) – 10
Bone meal (chick size) – 4
Salt – 1

In preparation of the mash mixtures, it is desirable to have as large a proportion of the mixture in granular form as possible.  This is accomplished by grinding the corn so the larger particles are about the size of a half kernel of wheat; the use of medium meat scraps; and chick size granulated bone. The birds like the granular mash better than a fine mash and can eat it more readily.

Skim milk or Buttermilk

Liquid, dried or condensed will prove a valuable addition to either of the above rations.  Milk is valuable for its proteins, minerals, and vitamins.  The price of the different forms of milk depends principally upon their content of milk solids.  The solid content of liquid skim milk or buttermilk is usually 7 to 9 per cent; condensed buttermilk, 28 to 30 per cent; dried buttermilk, 90 to 96 per cent.  Liquid skim milk or buttermilk is fed as a drink either in addition to or in the place of water.  Condensed buttermilk may be mixed with water, 1 to 2 pounds per gallon, and given as a drink; or a more convenient method is to spread the buttermilk paste on the wall of the chicken house giving each 100 hens 3 to 6 pounds at noon or about 4 p.m. daily.  The dried buttermilk or skim milk is mixed with the dry mash at the rate of 5 to 10 per cent by weight.  When milk in any form is supplied 5 per cent meat scraps in the mash is sufficient.  If liquid skim milk or buttermilk is given the birds instead of water, and the ration seems to laxative, the bone meal and salt in either formula should be reduced one-half.

Thus far neither of these rations has proved superior to the other.  It seems that about equally satisfactory results may be secured from either.  Both are incomplete as they stand and require supplementing by a good range, legume hay, green feed or cod liver oil.

Necessary Supplements to the Ration

The foregoing rations can not be expected to prove satisfactory unless they are supplemented by an outdoor range which will provide ample succulent green forage or, if the range become depleted it will be necessary to feed an abundance of green feed such as cabbage, Swiss Chard, alfalfa, clover, or rape.  If the birds are confined indoors, it is necessary to feed green feed, alfalfa, clover, or soybean hay, or cod-liver oil, all the year if heavy mortality, low egg production, and poor shell texture of eggs are to be avoided.

Undoubtedly the outdoor range of blue grass and direct sunlight makes the best all-the-year supplement to any ration.  This is particularly true of the farm flock where the number to any ration.  This is particularly true of the farm flock where the number of birds is such that suitable range conditions can be maintained.  But it is often but it is often difficult if not impossible to provide the proper range for large flocks, or limited space may not permit it, and during the winter months the outdoor range cannot always be depended upon.  Under such circumstances it becomes necessary to keep the birds in restricted yards or indoor.  Then the poultry keeper is obliged to give careful attention to the feeding of the supplements described below.

For supplementing the depleted range from July to December, cabbage and Swiss Chard are probably the most satisfactory.  Early cabbage becomes available during July, and the late varieties can be fed well into winter.  Following this the golden tankard mangel wurzels may be used to advantage.

Alfalfa, clover, and soybean hays, in numerous tests conducted by the Ohio Station during the last three years, have proved effective substitutes for succulent green feed for winter feeding.  The second or third cutting of alfalfa or clover is best, as it is the leafy part of the immature plant that carries the valuable properties.  Soybean hay should be cut whent the seeds or beans are just beginning to form.  At this stage there is a rather good yield of hay which carries a large proportion of leafy material rich in protein and vitamins.  All of the hays should be carefully curred so as to preserve the green color and high quality.  This means that they must be cured without getting wet from rain or dew.  In some cases it may be necessary to cure the hay under cover.

Feeding Hay

Hay can be fed in racks, or cut in half-inch lengths and fed from wire netting basket feeders, or it may be tied in a bundle and suspended from the ceiling within easy reach of the birds.  From November to May as good results were secured from laying pullets confined indoors and fed legume hays as from birds having access to an outside range surpassed those kept indoors. Alfalfa and cloverleaf shattering are often available when these hays are being fed other farm animals and can be fed the chickens to good advantage.  No benefit was secured from ordinary alfalfa meal mixed in with mash at the rate of 5 per cent by weight.  Whether the more recent product, alfalfa leaf meal, will prove valuable like the hay remains to be determined.  It is surprising how the hay is relished by the birds and the quantity they will eat.

Cod Liver Oil

Cod liver oil also has proved a very effective substitute for green feed or outdoor range.  Although its use did not improve hatchability, it did increase egg production, produce better shell texture of eggs, and reduce mortality of birds.  When it is desired to use cod liver oil, the crude medicinal oil of light yellow color is added at the rate of two pounds, or a quart, to each rate of two pounds, or a quart, to each 100 pounds of the mash.  It is best to mix the oil with 10 or 15 pounds of the mash or one of its ingredients; then in turn mix this with the remaining 85 or 90 pounds of the mash to be prepared.  This secures a finished mixture which is uniform and free from lumpy material.

Weight of Layers

Does the all-mash method of feeding maintain the body weight of the lavers?  Monthly weight records of pullets taken through out the year beginning November 1, revealed no difference in the weight of birds fed scratch grain and mash equal parts, or those fed the same ration in the form of all mash.  This is according to expectations for the birds feed the all-mash ration consumed the same proportion of grains; the only difference being that the grain was fed coarsely ground in the all-mash method.

The Exercise Theory

Extensive test with 10,000 chicks and 2,500 layers during the last three years by the Ohio Station failed to reveal any benefit from the feeding of scratch grain in litter to either chicks, pullets, or layers.  This is, of course, contrary to the traditional exercise theory; but from the evidence at hand it appears that chicks do not require scratch grain fed in litter either for exercise or for other reasons.  Now that more is know as to what constitutes a complete ration for chickens, it seems that the supposed objects for which scratch grain is fed in litter are attained by proper nutrition.  Undoubtedly exercise is beneficial to chickens; but it is questionable if any benefit is to be derived from feeding scratch grain in litter to induce young White Leghorn chicks or even the layers to take this particular form of exercise in addition to their natural activities.  It is not known as yet whether this method of feeding will prove equally satisfactory with the heavier breeds.

IN view of the uniformly good results secured with layers and its obvious advantages, the all-mash method of feeding for egg production promises soon to become a general practice.  It should be emphasized, however, that the success of the method depends upon the mash mixture, the supplements employed, and the use of a suitable box-type of feeder, such as the reel mash feeder, which affords ample feeding space.  Furthermore, it is difficult to wean the older birds from the habit of eating scratch grain.  To avoid this difficulty it is best to start the chicks on all-mash method of feeding.

A good mash formula for chicks from the commencement of the third week is three parts wheat, one part wheat middling, one part ground oats, one part corn meal, one part buttermilk powder, half a part meat scrap.

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