What Do Baby Chicks Eat? – A Complete Guide

Baby chicks eating with their mother hen

“What do baby chicks eat?” is a question many first-time chick raisers ask themselves. After all, these tiny creatures have specific dietary requirements that must be met in order for them to survive.

Furthermore, young chickens require certain nutrients to grow and develop properly. In short, they don’t just need food — they need protein, fat, vitamins, carbohydrates, and minerals.

Fortunately, this article offers a complete guide to feeding baby chicks. From the basics of nutrition to the types of foods you should avoid feeding them, you will find all the information you need here.

11 Things You Need to Know About Feeding Baby Chicks

Before you actually begin to feed your chicks, it’s best to get the basics down. After all, you’ll have a better chance of raising healthy chickens if you’re prepared, especially when it comes to providing them with food.

Here are 11 things you need to know about feeding baby chicks:

1. Newly hatched chicks do not need to eat immediately

Newly hatched chicks

Surprisingly, day-old chicks are still absorbing nutrients from the yolk they consumed before hatching, meaning they don’t need anything to eat or drink for about 24 to 72 hours.

Yet soon after, you’ll need to offer them their first food source.

2. Choosing the correct feed is essential

Chicks eating the correct feed

So what do baby chicks eat to get the best start in life, you ask? The answer: chick starter feed. This is a type of baby chicken food specially formulated to provide all the nutrients young chickens require.

Basically, it’s more protein-dense than adult chicken feed, ensuring your little baby chicks get everything they need to grow strong and healthy.

3. Non-medicated vs. medicated feed

Chick eating on white background

When you wonder, “What to feed chicks?” you might come across both non-medicated and medicated options. Generally, medicated feed helps protect your chicks from common illnesses.

Further, those living in cramped conditions are often given medicated feed, as it can help keep their immune systems strong.

However, note that for baby chicks that have been vaccinated, it is best to buy non-medicated feed to avoid any interference with the vaccine.

Therefore, for anyone who has bought chicks from a hatchery, don’t forget to ask about vaccination status. The last thing you want is for your baby chickens to suffer because they were given the wrong type of feed.

4. Giving consistent fresh water

Chicks drinking fresh water

Once you have transferred your chicks from the incubator, a second important step is to provide them with fresh water. It helps with their digestion and keeps them hydrated.

Moreover, cleanliness matters; ensure their drinking water is changed daily and is free from contaminants.

5. Avoid giving your baby chicks grit too early

Grit for chickens

Even though chicks need grit, they don’t require it right away. Most starter chick feeds are formulated to be easily digestible, meaning you will not need a gritty mix to help them break down food.

On another note, chicks eating in the wild usually use small pebbles, coarse sand, and other abrasive substances to help grind their meals.

6. Watch for spoilage

Chick bowed low eating food

When feeding your baby chicks, watch for spoilage. If the chick food smells odd or looks moldy, it’s time to throw it out. Remember that offering spoiled food can be harmful and lead to potential health issues.

7. Treats aren’t for starters

Chick about to eat a treat

Baby chicks don’t need treats initially. Their meal should be strictly chick starter feed to ensure they get the proper nutrients.

So while baby chicks love various treats, it’s best to wait until they’re a bit older before adding anything to their diets.

8. Avoid feeding baby chickens harmful foods

Stack of chocolate that is harmful to chicks

While it can be tempting to give your baby chicks whatever is on hand, avoid feeding them toxic foods. In particular, foods like onions, chocolate, or anything salty can be dangerous to their health.

Hence, always make sure to do in-depth research before introducing any new food to your chickens.

9. Thinking of Going Homemade?

Chick eating homemade food in owners hand

Preparing homemade food for baby chicks can be complex, as it’s not just about combining grains and seeds.

Primarily, baby chicks require a balanced diet, and missing out on essential nutrients can affect their growth.

Thus, if you’re thinking of making your own baby chicken food for your new chicks, thorough research and consultation with experts is a must.

The following video shows one way to make a homemade feed for baby chicks:

Homemade organic chicken feed for chicken babies | No growth hormone, No antibiotics!

10. Observe and adjust accordingly

Chick eating a lot of feed

Since every flock is different, observing your baby chick’s dietary behaviors is vital. Monitor how much it eats, how frequently and for how long, and whether it is consuming food consistently or not at all.

If you suspect your chick is not eating enough, it may be necessary to change the amount of food or even the type of feed offered.

11. Transitioning feeds

Chick eating grower feed

As the chicks grow, around 7 to 8 weeks old, they should transition from chick starter to grower feed. This is when they start eating larger quantities of food and gaining more weight while maintaining a good protein content.

Additionally, you wouldn’t want your chicks to eat too much starter feed, as it can cause digestive problems and lead to obesity.

What Are the Essential Nutrients for Baby Chicks?

Raising chicks requires a deep knowledge of their nutritional requirements. Luckily for you, this section will list all the essential nutrients your baby chickens need during their formative weeks.

Below are eight dietary ingredients that are crucial for young chicks:

  • Protein: Key for growth and muscle development, protein is essential in the diet of your baby chicks. Thus, ensure their chicken feed is designed with adequate protein levels.
  • Fats: Fat is an important energy source for baby chicks. However, it is particularly vital during the first few weeks of their lives, as their systems are still developing.
  • Amino Acids: As with humans, your baby chick needs amino acids, such as arginine, leucine, and lysine, to grow. Meat and dairy naturally contain these substances, but hard-boiled eggs also do.
  • Vitamins: Vitamins like A, D, and E are essential. They ensure your chicks remain healthy, supporting bone development and immune function.
  • Minerals: Minerals like calcium and phosphorus play key roles. Specifically, they support skeletal health and other vital functions in baby chicks.
  • Water: Often overlooked but vital, water assists in digestion and nutrient absorption. Thus, always provide clean and fresh water for your baby chicks.
  • Carbohydrates: Apart from grains and fats, carbohydrates are energy sources that support chick activity and growth.

In order to ensure your chicks thrive and grow into healthy adult chickens, understanding their nutritional needs is critical. Overall, baby chicks raised with the best care will be healthier and happier than those that are not.

List of Food Baby Chicks Can Eat

Group of chicks sharing food

If you are new to poultry keeping, you may find it difficult to answer the following questions: “What do baby chickens eat?” and “What types of meals are safe to feed my chicks?”

For your reference, here is a list of foods that can be healthy for chicks to consume:

  • Starter crumbles: Start your chicks off right by providing them with starter crumbles. This will help them get used to eating and digesting food, which is crucial for their health and well-being.
  • Mealworms: Mealworms are a great source of protein for baby chicks. To be specific, they help the chicks grow faster. They are also packed with zinc, fat, fiber, and magnesium, all vital nutrients for healthy growth.
  • Cooked vegetables: Both chicks and adult chickens show improved health when they eat specific vegetables, including kale, beets, carrots, pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers.
  • Fresh herbs: If you have a limited supply of starter feed, give your chicks fresh herbs as a substitute. Parsley, oregano, calendula, and rosemary are all good choices.
  • Fruits: Chopped fruits, excluding avocados and citrus, can be fed to chickens of all ages. However, remove any seeds or pits before serving them to your baby chicks.
  • Crickets: Baby chicks should be fed crickets because they have a high nutritional content and are protein-rich.
  • Hard-boiled eggs: Crushed hard-boiled eggs are a nutritious and effective way to supplement the protein in your baby chicks’ diets.
  • Yogurt: Full of probiotics, yogurt can benefit the baby chick’s digestive system. Just ensure it is plain and without added sugars.
  • Oats: Oats are generally a natural source of many nutrients. While these shouldn’t be the only food you offer your chicks, including oats in their diet can help to balance nutrition.
  • Brown rice: Cooked brown rice is easy for baby chicks to digest. It also provides essential carbohydrates to keep their energy up.

When it comes to raising baby chicks, knowing what they can safely eat is essential. Ultimately, remember that what your chicks are eating will have a significant impact on their overall development.

Meanwhile, here’s a cute video of baby chickens eating fresh herbs:

Feeding your chicks fresh greens - Natural probiotics and pasty butt prevention

List of Food Baby Chicks Can’t Eat

When considering the question, “What do chicks eat?” it is equally essential to know what foods they should avoid.

Here is a list of foods baby chicks can’t eat:

  • Processed foods: Baby chicks shouldn’t consume processed foods. They contain additives, preservatives, and high salt levels that can be dangerous for young animals.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that causes the body to create more adrenaline. This imbalance can result in dehydration, tremors, and even death in chicks.
  • Moldy food: Mold can introduce toxins harmful to a baby chick’s health.
  • Garlic and onion: Baby chicks should steer clear of garlic and onion. These two ingredients contain sulfur compounds toxic to young chickens, especially if consumed in large quantities.
  • Raw eggs: Since chicks will eat almost anything, it’s critical to ensure they don’t try to ingest raw eggs. Stick with boiled ones to avoid accidentally introducing bacteria into their meals.
  • Sugary treats: Although sugary treats, such as chocolates, candies, and gums, are delicious and fun for you to eat, they’re not suitable for your baby chickens.
  • Fruit pits: Before feeding your chicks fruits, remove the pits and seeds. They have cyanide compounds that can harm your young feathered companions.
  • Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits are one of the most common foods baby chickens can’t eat. They contain high amounts of sugar and acid, which can cause serious health problems for your chicks.

All things considered, to help keep your chicks healthy, always provide them with the appropriate diet. While it can be fun to give them treats, some types of food are just too dangerous for them to eat.

What Is the Best Food to Feed a Baby Chick?

Chicks eating outdoors

In terms of feeding baby chicks, many seasoned poultry lovers, including myself, swear by Manna Pro’s Medicated Chick Starter Grower. I remember when I was raising a batch of chicks, this feed proved valuable.

It is especially well suited for those who are handling large numbers of baby chickens, as this product contains amprolium — a preventive against coccidiosis.

Not to mention, it has received numerous glowing reviews. Specifically, many people have testified that their chicks thrive on this formula and were able to grow into healthy adults with robust immune systems.

How Much Should You Feed a Baby Chick?

Feeding baby chicks the right amount is crucial for their growth. For the first eight weeks, you can stick to providing them with 1 to 2 ounces of starter feed per day. This feed should have a protein content of 20 to 22%.

As the chicks get older, specifically from 8 to 16 weeks, their diet needs to adjust. During this phase, you can give them 1 to 2 pounds of grower feed daily, ensuring the protein content is between 14 and 16%.

Following this phase, they’ll transition to layer feed and eventually to adult feed.

What to Do If a Baby Chick Is Not Eating or Drinking

Chick not eating

Just like adult chickens, baby chicks can sometimes refuse food and water. This behavior can stem from various reasons, such as unfamiliarity with eating or drinking, incorrect temperatures, and stress.

First, if you have baby chicks raised by a mother hen, consider separating them for their safety. Then, a helpful remedy is to offer them a few drops of sugar water or a weak electrolyte solution to stimulate their appetite.

You can also gently teach the chicks to eat by leading them to their feed. Furthermore, make sure to check and adjust the brooder’s temperature as needed.

If these steps don’t work, consulting a vet is crucial to ensure their well-being. Remember, understanding their needs is vital, as baby chicks are no exception to requiring proper care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Two chicks side by side

When Do Baby Chickens Start Eating and Drinking?

Based on my personal experience raising poultry, I have observed that baby chickens typically start life with food and water after 24 to 72 hours of hatching.

So once this short period has passed, you can then sprinkle some water and starter feed into the brooder. Doing so will help encourage your chicks to start eating and drinking.

Can Baby Chicks Eat Bread?

Yes, baby chicks may eat bread, but only in moderation. Unfortunately, overfeeding chicks with this type of food can lead to a number of problems, including malnutrition, digestive issues, and fatal dehydration.

Can Baby Chicks Eat Bananas?

Yes, baby chicks can eat bananas. However, this fruit is best given in small amounts, as too much sugar can cause stomach issues. Also, avoid unripe ones because they contain lots of starch and might cause diarrhea.

What Can 2-Week-Old Chickens Eat?

At two weeks, keep your chicks on the starter feed they’ve been eating for the last few days. However, they may also be ready for cooked vegetables, mealworms, crickets, and fresh herbs.

Final Thoughts

All in all, feeding baby chicks is relatively straightforward. They simply need a balanced diet that contains all the nutrients they need to grow and develop.

For example, from protein to fat and fiber, many vital ingredients should be included in a chick’s daily meals. Luckily, they can be found in many food items, such as herbs, oats, and starter feeds.

Yet, it’s worth noting that while baby chickens seem to be able to eat almost anything, this is not entirely true. In fact, some types of food, like citrus fruits, can harm their health if ingested too much or too often.

Ultimately, now that you know what to feed baby chicks and what not to feed them, you’ll be well on your way to having a healthy flock in no time.

Any questions or additional insights regarding feeding baby chicks are welcome in the comments!

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