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Plain Talk

5 minute read

Chicken Digestion-A pellet’s perspective, Part I

A feed pellet’s birth is quite a process. You start out in a feed mill along with millions upon millions of other pellets. You wind your way down through different parts of the mill, eventually making your way into a holding chamber. You see people coming and going checking your quality and safety. “No unwholesome pellets here,” you shout!

The next thing you know, you drop into a bag and it is stitched closed. It is dark and dry, but you feel comfortable and you feel you and your fellow pellets in the bag being loaded onto a truck. After rumbling down a road for a while, you reach your destination. It sounds like a feed store.

Off the shelf  

You eagerly await your purchase and luckily it does not take long. Then you are off again for another ride in a car—a much shorter ride this time—and you get to the farm where you know you will be put to work. Finally, a chance to meet the farmer and chickens that you were designed to help and feed.

The bag is opened and you get a glimpse of the farmer. “Treat me right, and I will do my best for your chickens,” you holler. The farmer smiles and pours you and your friends into a big trash can with a lid. The next day, the lid opens and a scoop descends. You are lifted up and you get your first look at the yard before being dumped into a bucket. The yard is nice and you see a coop in the distance. And what is that you hear? Why, chickens of course!

The farmer picks up the bucket and heads toward the coop. With every step you can feel your little pellet-self swell with pride. Your purpose is about to be fulfilled! You get to meet the chickens for whom you were made! You hear a sloshing and scrubbing sound after the owner sets the bucket down. Yes, that must be the foot bath. Then a click and a long creaking sound. Could that be the coop door opening? Then you year flapping and clucking. Yes, that must be the chickens giving their hello to the farmer. And a lovely hello in response comes from the farmer. Oh, nearly there!

On the floor

The bucket is set down in the coop and suddenly a chicken hops up on the edge. She is a reddish, chestnut color with a full red comb and wattles. She looks down at you and appears to be taking aim, but then tragedy strikes! The chicken starts flapping and hops away, and you feel the bucket tilting. Oh no! Her weight has knocked the bucket off-center. The tilt increases until you feel the side of the bucket hit the ground and you tumble out onto the floor!

Discarded on the floor for no one to notice? Perhaps to be stepped on and smashed without fulfilling your dreams of providing perfectly balanced nutrition to a wonderful chicken? No, no, no! It cannot end this way! The next thing you know, you see the farmer’s frowning face. A comment or two about a chicken named Rosie being naughty catches your attention. But what is this? You feel yourself being pushed back into the bucket. Salvation! You have been rescued from a terrible fate. You have been lucky enough to end up with a farmer who values every pellet, so you are all picked and put back in the bucket. No waste here!

The bucket rises, and you know this is it! The feeder awaits, and beyond that the chickens themselves. The bucket tilts, under the controlled direction of the farmer this time. You get your first glimpse of the coop. What a sight! Wonderful roosts and nest boxes that are gleamingly clean. Are those eggs that you see in those nest boxes? An array of shell colors from white, cream, and brown to even chocolate and green are in those nest boxes. Pretty soon you will have a hand in the construction of those eggs. A little part of you will be in those wonderfully, delicious packages of protein goodness!

This is the coop?

Whoosh! Down into the feeder you go! And within moments your attention on the farmer is replaced with the all the attention you place on the coop! Insulated roof, check! A big waterer next to you? Most certainly, and it is clean to boot! The smell of fresh wood shavings is a welcome new scent. Is that a droppings board under the roosts? Indeed, indeed! What is that little door with light coming through it? Hmm…that is new and you are unsure of what it is. Suddenly a chicken pops through the door. She is fluffy, black and has a big red comb with five spikes. So that must be the door to the outside! It is a pop hole for the chickens to use to come in or go out.

Suddenly, you are surrounded. More and more chickens appear through the door and they are vying for position over you as you sit within the feeder. They are talking and chatting amongst themselves. A few of the chickens appear to be courting the farmer. They are telling the farmer about their plans for the day and adventures already begun. The farmer smiles and you shout a thank you in return.

You see that trouble-maker Rosie and the big, black, fluffy hen. Then you see an array of chickens from brown to white, buff to blue, and many in between. You see combs with ridges, some with spikes, and others with combs replaced with feathers on top of the head! Feathers with stripes, speckles, spangles, and lacing, they are all looking to snap you up.

Ready for my close-up

You realize how funny a chicken looks when is staring directly at you. Their beaks look so narrow and their eyes stick out on the sides. You chuckle at the view and then one of them locks eyes on you. Maybe you should not have laughed. Her eyes are a reddish bay color. She has red wattles and a red comb that is a little bumpy in the front but ends with a spike pointed toward her tail. Her feathers are alternating rows of black and white which makes her look a bit like a zebra. She has the look and design of a chicken that can handle winter with no problems whatsoever. Her beak is a nice creamy yellow color with a tad bit of reddish brown.

It is the beak that you focus on as she leans in toward you. So this is the hen that is going to help you while you help her. She is going to eat you and you are going to provide her with all the nutrients that she needs to make her healthy and productive. It is good to know your purpose in life, even if it is the life of a pellet!


What will happen to this little feed pellet? In the next issue of Chicken Whisperer Magazine, we learn how precious nutrients find their way out of the pellet and into your flock.

About the author

Dr. Brigid McCrea, PhD, is a poultry scientist who has worked with small flock owners for over a decade.  Her expertise is being utilized at Auburn University in the development of curriculum for 4-H Youth Development's Animal Programs.

Written by Dr. Brigid McCrea, PhD

Published : 06/06/2017 - 3:57pm



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