What Should I Feed My Baby Chicks?
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You’ve gotten your chicks! Congratulations! Whether you hatched them at home, purchased at a local store or ordered online, raising baby chicks is a great experience. Or, if you’re here to simply learn more and be prepared, good for you. Knowing what to feed baby chicks from the very beginning will help your flock to be as healthy as they can be from the start.
If you are still in the beginning stages, consider learning more to help you decide whether baby chicks are right for you.
What Are Baby Chicks’ Dietary Staples?
Baby chicks will need constant fresh water, feed & eventually grit. These along with other supplies will help to keep them warm and healthy.
Please make sure you have what you need by reading more about essential supplies needed to raise baby chicks.
Clean water is essential! Thankfully that’s pretty simple to accomplish. Daily water checks will have to become part of your routine. Make sure the water is clear of debri twice a day and topped off daily.
There are electrolytes and probiotics that you can add to their water for the first few weeks of life. If you opt to go that route, please be aware that changing out their water will become even more important as bacteria will build up faster with these additions.
Tricks For Keeping Water Clean
As your chicks get older they will start to make more of a mess. Running, jumping, scratching around is all normal.
There are a variety of watering systems that you can purchase or even make yourself which will help with these issues. Whichever you choose, consider placing it higher off the ground as your chicks get older. If you’re concerned about them knocking it over, you can place a heavy stone or small brick inside to hold it down. You can also hang the watering system, just make sure it is secure. Watering systems that have a nipple system are typically best for adult birds but there are watering cups that may be suitable for your chicks.
Baby chicks can be frail and easily impacted by stress for the first few weeks. In addition to stress caused by a variety of factors, there is a bug called coccidia (caused by parasites) that is one of the most common reasons for chicks to die.
For that reason, we would recommend starting your chicks with a large feed bag full of “medicated chick starter”. This medicated feed will likely prevent this. While it will not eliminate it completely, it will give your chicks the best chance they can get. The medicated chick starter is not an antibiotic.
Of course, we’ve had success and have not lost any birds while using unmedicated feed, and many people do. However, if we were to start a new flock of more than 10-15 birds at a time, we would absolutely use the medicated feed. You ultimately have to decide what works best for you and your flock.
How Long Do My Baby Chicks Need to Eat Chick Starter?
Chicks should be on their chick starter until they are about 12 weeks old. At that point you can slowly transition them to a “developer” feed, or even a layer feed (but mix 50/50 chick starter and layer until they are about 20 weeks old. Your hens will start laying their first eggs around 18 weeks.
Transitioning slowly from feed to feed is so important, as chickens are very sensitive to dietary changes.
How Soon Can I Feed My Baby Chicks Treats?
Knowing what to feed baby chicks is so important, especially when it comes to “treats” outside their staple feed.
You can feed these treats to your cute chicks immediately, but a word of caution first! Do not pile them on and choose treats that are very simple to digest for their little tummies.
A great start that many swear by for brand new chicks is scrambled or hard boiled eggs, finely cut into small pieces (no added spices). After a few weeks you can then add in additional treats such as greens, mealworms or others listed below. Always remember that these should be fed on occasion and should never replace their feed as their main source of nutrition and food.
Foods Baby Chicks Can Eat Besides Starter
As a general rule to take note of, if whatever you’re feeding them is soft then just put it in with the chicks. Anything firm or harder should be chopped into smaller pieces. Remember, these treats should only make up about 5% of your chicks diet! Do not go overboard and slowly introduce new foods.
- Fresh Greens (lettuce, kale, spinach, turnip greens, chard etc.)
- Sprouts, see How To Grow Your Own Lentil Sprouts.
- Most Fruits & Vegetables (think watermelons, bananas, tomatoes, berries, apples without seeds, cabbage, carrots, asparagus etc.)
- Cooked Oatmeal
- Grass Clippings (less than 1″ long)
- Worms, Crickets
List of Common Foods to Avoid Feeding to Your Baby Chicks
- Raw Potatoes
- Nightshade Leaves- from tomato plants or pepper plants
- Uncooked Rice
- Bread (close to zero nutritional value)
- Rhubarb and Leaves
What is “Chick Grit”, And Do My Baby Chicks Need It?
Yes! If your chicks are eating anything other than their feed, they need to have access to grit.
Chicken grit is a hard, finely ground substance that chicks, hens and roosters alike swallow to help them better digest their food. Chickens obviously do not have teeth to help chew and thus speed up the food digestion process like most animals.
In a free range environment chicks would be given very small pebbles to help digest their food from their mother hen. Since we are all likely using a brooder set up, providing this grit for your chicks is essential.
Chick grit is not oyster shells. Only offer oyster shells to your adult, laying hens.
How Do I Feed My Chicks Grit?
Simply offer your chick grit in a bowl they can reach and they will naturally take what they need. You can mix the grit in with their food by using a 1:25 ratio. That would mean 1lb of grit per 25lb bag of feed.
Labor of Love
You now know what to feed your baby chicks! You’re well on your way to a healthy, thriving flock of laying hens that will enrich your life and help you on your journey to greater self reliance.
Check out how eggs can be preserved for up to a year using hydrated lime. Also don’t forget to see how you can grow your own lentil sprouts on your kitchen counter for your chickens!
Please comment below and share your plans, we’d love to hear from you!
Wishing you and your family all the best on your journey!
Herbs, Birds & the Bees
Garden, Chickens, Bees & Homestead