Figuring out what to feed baby chicks doesn’t have to be difficult. Just like adult chickens, baby chicks are adaptable and can thrive on a variety of foods. You can choose to feed a commercial chick starter feed or make your own feed. Many people find that with a few grains and their every-day kitchen scraps they can make their own healthy, inexpensive chick feed.
When to Start Feeding Baby Chicks
Chicks live off the nutrients from their yolk sacs for the first 24-48 hours of their lives. This is why chick hatcheries are able to ship day-old chicks. If you used an egg incubator to hatch the eggs, the babies can stay in the incubator for the first day. When you move them to the brooder the next day they will need feed and water.
If a broody hen hatched the eggs herself, leave the family alone for the first day or two. Then provide chick starter feed and water.
Teaching Chicks to Eat and Drink
If a hen is raising the baby chicks, she will show them the food and water. She knows what to feed baby chickens, and will show them how to pick out the best morsels from their feed.
If you are raising them, it is your job to teach them how to drink and eat. This can be done easily by dipping their beaks into the water and food when you first place them in the brooder. If they reach 48 hours and you have not seen them eat or drink, repeat the demonstration until they learn.
What to Feed Baby Chicks
What do baby chicks eat? Just like their parents, baby chicks can eat a lot of different things. However, what baby chicks can eat and what they should eat are different things. If you want to raise healthy, strong chickens you need a good chick starter feed with the right nutrient levels to meet their needs.
Chick Starter Feed
You have two main options when it comes to choosing a chick starter feed:
- Buy a Commercial Chick Starter Feed
- Make Your Own Chick Starter
Purchasing a chick starter feed is easy. They are typically mashes or crumbles, and have all the nutrients that a baby chick needs. However, many people prefer to make their own because it less expensive or so they can control the ingredients.An organic chick starter feed or a homemade chick starter feed can be many things.
Homemade Chick Starter Feed
Here are a few ideas:
- What to Feed Baby Chicks During the First Week
After the yolk sac nutrients are used up, you can give your baby chicks a simple diet of bread (whole grain is best) soaked in milk with boiled eggs. Eggs have the protein and vitamins baby chicks need, and lots of selenium, an important mineral that is not found in many other foods.
- What Baby Chicks Can Eat After Week #1
As they get bigger your chicks can start eating leafy greens like alfalfa, clover, spinach, lettuce or cabbage. They love meat scraps, but they don’t need much. An ounce of meat a week per 10 chicks is enough. Start adding grains like whole wheat, barley, millet or oats to their feed. Split peas, sunflower seeds and flax add protein and healthy fats to the diet. Feed milk and other dairy products.
- Baby Chicks Need Grit
Be sure to provide grit to your chicks; like grown chickens they lack teeth and use grit to grind up their food. Sand works well for chicks.
After 3-4 weeks the chicks can go out foraging in warm weather under supervision. They love green grass. The chicks below have an attentive, if giant, babysitter.
Feeding baby chicks can be as simple as scooping a cup out of a back of commercial chick starter feed, or as inexpensive as fashioning a healthy baby chick meal from kitchen scraps and common items in your pantry.
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You’re the Mother Hen: learn how to teach baby chicks to eat and drink.