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Mash or Crumbles for Layers

Ioannis Mavromichalis
My consulting work in the poultry industry is focused on broilers and laying hens (commercial and breeders). In that, I find myself drawn mostly towards practical issues, one of which I would like to discuss in this blog entry. It has to do with the physical texture of feed offered to commercial layer hens. As it stands, there is not such a thing as a consensus when it comes to this issue.

In some parts of the world, the whole industry is very attached to feeding mash, but in other parts, the industry seems to prefer exclusively the feeding of crumbles. Those preferring mash over crumbles point to the poor margins made by selling eggs and make a good point about the lack of strong data to justify the expense of crumbling the feed. In contrast, those who prefer to feed crumbles point to the natural habit of birds to pick larger particles of feed, thus effectively separating the ingredients in mash feed. Research results are equally confusing!

In my opinion, crumbled feed works best, but for that, crumbles must be rather durable. Otherwise, they tend to create too much dust, negating any effects. They also work well when the individual ingredients making up the feed are not of uniform size. Of course, fine grinding of feed would solve these issues, but then feed would be too prone to bridge in the silos, not to mention the extra dust in the house! Yet, when economics cannot justify the extra cost, mash would certainly be my recommendation, but here I would try to make sure ingredient particle size is not too disparate. Still, I feel I am loosing some finely ground micro-ingredients below the feeder chain.

Having said all that, do the birds really care? They are fed a limited amount of feed, and as such they are going to consume all they find. So, mash should not be a problem, correct?

Care to join the confusion?


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    dave boseworth

    i have always found the birds waste less feed with crumbles or pellets. Of course i am not dealing with birds who have been de-beaked, where they might not be able to pick up pellets.

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    dr h sodhi

    crumbles will always be better then mash due to balance ration & more digestive in nature due to partial cooking. It will help birds to sustain better production during stressful time ,it will help to achieve better egg weight. Higher cost of crumble will be compensated in term of low feed intake & better f.c.r.per kg eggs

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    mary ellen

    Why don't they use pellets?

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    Hugo Cilliers

    With pellets and crumbs hens (layers) seem to get bored and canabilism can start.

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    Syed Farjad zaidi

    Poultry farming has got lot of variability, different people have different experiences: geographically different area, enviroment, feed raw material, feeding equipment (chain feeder, Auger, trolley feeding) in cages make difference. If the raw material is too powdery it affects production, if particle size is considered for mash there is no difference, but in hot areas crumbled or small 3mm pallets helps to reduce feed consumption time.

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    Ann Pottenger

    what about pellets?

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    In India the layers are mostly fed with mash only we compared with pellets we found the mash was equally good. But crumble feed has in the chick stage that to especially during the first 3 wks of age which gives better uniformity after that difference between mash and crumble was insignificant.

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    Your efforts in this field are worth praising but it has been noticed that layers on crumbs tend to develop wet litter problem which in the long run adversely affect performance.

    Dr. R.R.S.Chandravanshi

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    Waseem Al-Shible

    Dear Sir
    Thank you for your valuable articles and notes.
    In my country we use the crumble feed at the first 2-3 weeks of age in the layers and breeders for the coordination of the chickens' body weight, but after they use the mash feed.
    In many cases when some bodies used the crumble feed in the later than 3 weeks or during the egg production (in layers) the bad phenomenon happened.
    There is feather picking if we search about the causes of this phenomenon there are two resolutions
    The first one is turning to the mash feed.
    The second one is increasing the feed meals frequent (6 meal in the day instead of 4 meals).
    The chickens had a habit of peck if the chickens consumed them feed in short time (as in crumble feed) they will pick them feather or feather of other birds.
    So we must mimic them habit.
    Thank you and best Regards

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    Dr Ali Ahmed

    I have introduced very good pellets for layers first time ever in Pakistan and they are giving extraordinary results from feed intake and production point of view. They are equally effective in both cage and floor layers. There is no usual wastage of feed and still we have not experienced any problem like Cannabolism and feather picking even in controlled sheds (cages).
    In this way, in my view, pellets are the most efficient and economical way of feeding Layers.

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    Dr Dinesh Gautam

    We are doing crumbs for laying hens. I have not experienced any problems of cannibalism or feed wastage using crumbs.

    Birds will be in steady peak production when fed Crumbs. Due to heat treatment and thus killing of pathogenic bacteria and some fungi, I have observed very less mortalities in farms fed Crumbs than mash.

    It is very easy to control/maintain final feed moisture levelin crumbs than in mash- thus reducing fungalmultiplication and built upof Mycotoxins.

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    Ann Pottenger

    I currently feed a variety of layer breeds pellets and the only feather picking problem I've had so far has been with my Leghorns. I'm getting good winter egg production overall, with lights of course.

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    Shakeel Ahmad

    In my opinion it is better to keep layer on crumbs during first 2-3 weeks after that we should shift it to mash because the problems like vent picking, prolapse and wet litter may be seen.

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    I feed both to my birds. one week it's pellets then the next week wet mash as they consume more that way.

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    Dr.Mohammad Akram

    Salmonellosis is one of the most important zoonotic disease and have a serious public health concern. Poultry feed is the most common source of contamination of Salmonella. Therfore in my opinion use of crumble / pelleted feed in all kind of poultry due to heat treatment could be helpful to reduce the problem of Salmonella in poultry and consequently in human.

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    Ray Davis

    There will not be consensus, Feeding is a complex issue on its own.
    Ad Lib or controlled feeding, feed trough design, beak trimmed or not,floor or caged birds, feeding system etc. all have an influence on the decision between mash and extruded feed. Within that category comes the decision around the particle sizes of the feed constituents
    It is a choice by the owners, made to suit their particular farming cicumstances. We feed commercial layers Mash on an Ad Lib basis for two reasons.The wastage factor with extruded feed and the higher feed cost associated with the extrusion process.

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