Feed formulations for EU red layers in the development phase

Collection of starter, grower and developer formulas for red layers during weeks 0 to 17 of the development phase

Ioannis Mavromichalis, Ph.D.

Wheat is the main cereal being used in most poultry diets in the EU, even though corn is produced and imported at substantial quantities. Soybean meal, mostly imported, remains the major protein source, with rapeseed meal providing strong local competition. Rapeseed meal resurgence in the EU is due to the use of rapeseed oil as biodiesel, and as such its availability and price depend vastly on the policies of the EU regarding biofuels. Nevertheless, efforts are undertaken to secure further protein sources to replace imported soybean meal.

Some fishmeal is used in the first couple of feeds, as is also the case with broilers to ensure proper protein nutrition, but the presence of such specialty protein sources is based mostly on tradition and not on price considerations (as is the case with poultry meal in U.S. diets). Finally, wheat middlings or other similar fiber-rich ingredients are used to maintain energy levels low to ensure pullets do not grow too fast or too fat. Soybean oil is there just to control dust in the growing facilities and facilitate pelleting of the feeds.


For the micro-ingredients, salt is generally used to cover the needs for sodium and chlorine and, only in the summer, some sodium bicarbonate is used. However, the use of wheat (high gut viscosity) and too much chlorine exacerbate the issue of sticky droppings and wet litter. Thus, it is highly recommended to use salt to cover the needs for chlorine and sodium carbonate (as shown in the formulas) to cover the remaining needs for sodium.

The feed-grade amino acids are used to keep overall protein levels low, to facilitate feeding programs without growth-promoting antimicrobials, and because these amino acids are often priced just sufficiently low enough to enable them to enter the formulas at the expense of soybean meal. High-protein diets are no longer practiced in the EU, and even protein levels used in these formulas may be considered as rather generous by some nutritionists.

Finally, the vitamin and trace mineral premixes are present only to indicate their need to be added at the manufacturer’s recommended inclusion level. The actual vitamin and trace mineral levels are to be presented in a different Feed Formulation Library segment. It merits noticing that some choline chloride is added, despite the fact that actual ingredients probably provide enough of this vitamin to cover the needs of the pullets. This addition simply reflects industry practice and indicates the lack of recent data regarding actual bird requirements. Nevertheless, less choline chloride is added to reflect the higher levels present in wheat and rapeseed meal versus corn and soybean meal, respectively.

Downloadable PDF: Starter formula for EU red layers in the development phase


Brown layers are usually of higher body weight and larger frame than white layers. They also consume slightly more feed. Thus, their feeds are slightly under-formulated compared with formulas destined for white pullets and vice versa.

These formulas represent a classic approach that portrays a mid-industry picture. So, the diets are classic 19/17/15% crude protein for the starter/grower/developer feeds, respectively. Actual energy levels should conform to genetic line guidelines, and here we have intermediate levels at 2900/2850/2800 kcal ME for the three feeds presented. In fact, the differences in nutrient specifications are not great enough for some markets to have different pullet feeds depending on breed. Instead, one set is being used (that for white layer pullets) with lower allowance of feed when used in brown pullets, i.e. less time on each feed.

Calcium and phosphorus levels are again rather generous, but for growing pullets it is important to ensure proper bone calcification that requires levels above those needed for maximum weight growth. In fact, some guidelines call for even higher levels. The requirements for sodium and chlorine are adequate for pullets.

Finally, the amino acid levels are rather generous for some genetic lines, whereas they may be inadequate for others. The important aspect is that levels drop as pullets age. Some amino acids never become limiting when enough soybean meal is used, as is the case here with threonine. In the case of tryptophan, actual levels could have been even lower by 0.1 percentage point (not by 1%) for each diet, but more than enough tryptophan is provided by the natural ingredients in these formulas.

Downloadable PDF: Grower formula for EU red layers in the development phase

Feed allowance

In general, the pullet development phase ends at about 16 or 17 weeks of age, when birds are moved into the layer facilities. The development phase is roughly divided into three equal segments. An example is as follows:

Starter = 1 to 5 weeks of age

Grower = 6 to 10 weeks of age

Developer = 11 to 16/17 weeks of age

Pullet body weight and frame size should be monitored weekly. If performance is below growth targets recommended by the genetic supplier, then the feed should be extended until birds reach their targets. The reverse is also true – if birds overconsume feed and they grow faster than anticipated – then they can be switched to the next feed sooner. Alternatively, feeds can be made more or less dense in nutrients to properly adjust growth of the pullets.

Downloadable PDF: Developer formula for EU red layers in the development phase

Download the spreadsheet

Layer Feed Formulations are available in a downloadable MS Excel spreadsheet, which includes four sets of formulas — U.S. white and EU red in the development and production phases — with three variations each: starter, grower and developer.

DOWNLOAD Layer Feed Formulations

Additional installments in the Layer Feed Formulations series:

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