Are you confused about what type of food chicks eat after hatching? If YES, here are 10 tips and tricks for feeding and caring for baby chicks. Indeed bringing baby chicks into the world is a wonderful and rewarding experience. However, these baby chicks require just three key things: warmth, water, and feed. They are more or less similar to human newborns and might even want the occasional cuddles too.

Immediately baby chickens hatch, they tend to first eat the yolk and the membrane of their eggshell, which provides them with so many valuable nutrients! Since the baby chickens have already eaten their shell nutrients; they may not really need to feed again until 1 – 2 days after they hatch.

Howbeit, you need to understand the importance of clean water to baby chickens within the first 24 hours of their life. Since they’re merely hours old, the baby chickens may not even know how to actually drink! Note that if they have been hatched naturally, the mother hen would probably teach the little babies how to drink from the fresh water, so ensure there’s some nearby.

But if the chickens have been hatched with an incubator, then you should consider popping a baby chicken waterier into the incubator. If within some hours they haven’t cottoned on to drinking, you might be required to guide them by gently dipping their beak into the water.

It is pertinent that the water is in a specially designed baby chicken waterier, as an adult – sized waterier can spell disaster for the chickens. Also be very careful when handling them, as baby chickens can probably become distressed – but it is very crucial that they drink! If they don’t catch up at first, just stay persistent and patient – but always gentle.

What to Feed Baby Chicks After They Hatch

Just like older chickens and layers, baby chicks can eat a lot of different things. However, what baby chicks can eat and what they should eat are two different things. If your intentions are to raise healthy, strong chickens then you will need the following mentioned feeds.

a. Starter Feed, Day 1 to 18 weeks (Chicks)

Day – old chicks through 18 weeks need starter feed, aka starter crumbles, which is made up of over 20% protein. Starter feed also contains the highest percentage of protein a layer will ever consume, which seems ideal given their astronomical rate of growth in the first few months of life.

These starter feed can be bought in both medicated and un – medicated varieties. Medicated feed are known to contain amprolium, which protects chicks from the progression of coccidiosis, a common and deadly intestinal disease that is spread in faecal matter.

When conditions become overcrowded, dirty, wet and warm from the heat source, coccidiosis can thrive with deadly consequences. These types of unhealthy conditions are significantly less likely to occur with pet chickens than they are with commercial poultry operations.

Have it in mind that chicks that have received the coccidiosis vaccine should not be fed medicated starter. The amprolium will render the vaccine useless and the chicks vulnerable to the disease. Chickens build up a natural immunity to the organisms that cause coccidiosis with or without medicated starter.

Allowing chicks to build up immunity in clean, dry conditions will serve them well when they are ready to head out to the big kid coop and medicated feed helps keep parasite populations that cause coccidiosis in check while they build immunity to them.

b. Grit

Even though starter feed and layer crumbles and pellets require no help being digested, treats, grains and other fibrous foods require grit to help digest them. The term grit simply means hard materials such as sand, dirt or small stones that aid in digestion.

Note that chickens have no teeth, and fibrous foods are ground with grit in the gizzard, which is a muscle in the digestive tract. Also note that chickens foraging outside will naturally pick up bits of grit from the ground, those that do not forage outside must have grit supplied to them in a dish apart from their feed.

10 Tips for Feeding and Caring for Baby Chickens

Always have it in mind that hatched chicks are not entirely helpless, but until they grow a full complement of feathers, it is your duty to keep them warm, dry, and safe. Just like any other babies, these little chicks must also be kept clean and well fed. Below are a few tips for making sure you’re meeting your baby chick’s needs.

1. Always provide access to fresh, clean water 

Always remember that the waterier should be the correct size for your flock. Chicks should neither use up the available water quickly nor be able to tip over the fount. Also note that the basin is expected to be high enough to keep the water level between a chick’s eye and the height of its back. This way, a chick drinks more and spills less.

Make sure that the chicks are not able to roost over or step in the water. The simplest way to provide water to newly hatched chicks is to use a 1 – quart (1 L) canning jar fitted with a metal or plastic watering base, available from most feed stores and poultry – supply catalogues.

2. Do not cut corners and provide water in an open dish or saucer

Once you do this the chicks will walk in it, tracking litter and droppings that spread disease. They will also get wet and cold and the stress will open the way to disease. Have it in mind that some chicks may drown. Damp conditions in a brooder, whether it is caused by spilled water or a leaky waterier, should be avoided.

3. Never leave feeders empty for too long

It is advisable that you fill feeders in the morning, and let the chicks empty them before filling them again. Note that leaving feeders empty for long periods of time attracts picking, but letting stale or dirty feed accumulate is unhealthy and detriment to the health of the chicks, so strike a healthy balance. Clean and scrub feeders at least once a week.

4. Always think about good gut health

Experts in the business of chicken rearing tend to spike their chicks’ water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per gallon (3.75 L). Chickens like it, and the poultry keepers have seen positive effects. Note that the science of probiotics is all but new.

But recent times, facts have shown some reasons why it was/is beneficial. Encouraging the growth of beneficial gut flora fends off harmful organisms through a process called competitive exclusion. Have it in mind that chicks raised in an incubator always have beneficial gut flora more slowly than chicks raised under a hen.

Therefore, to enhance their immunity, probiotics are available that are either dissolved in water or sprinkled on feed to give the chicks an early dose of the same gut flora that will eventually colonize their intestines. A hand substitute is live – culture yogurt, but a little goes a long way — giving chicks too much yogurt will cause diarrhoea.

5. Consider sprinkling a little starter ration on a paper towel or paper plate

Doing this will more or less help your young Chicks find feed! As soon as most chicks are pecking freely, remove the feed – covered paper before it starts to hold moisture that attracts mold. Then for the rest of the first week, put the starter in a shallow lid or tray, such as a shoebox lid. When the chicks start scratching out the feed, switch to a regular chick feeder.

6. Always choose a feeder that works for your space

According to experts, a good feeder prevents chicks from roosting over or scratching in feed and has a lip to prevent billing out. If for any reason your space is limited, consider using a feeder that has a small footprint. One such style is a base, similar to a drinker base that screws onto a feed – filled quart (1 L) jar, and has tiny openings through which the chicks can peck.

But if your brooder has enough space, a hanging feeder is ideal since it holds a lot of feed, so chicks are less likely to run out during the day; it minimizes feed wastage since the young chicks can’t scratch in it and are less likely to bill out feed if the feeder is maintained at the proper height; and it is easy to raise on the hanger to the proper height as the chicks grow.

7. Always provide clean waterier

Note that the use of warm water and vinegar or other poultry – approved sanitizer can be very helpful. Just like it was stated above, always select a waterier with a drinker that is easy to clean. A fount that’s stressful to clean may not be sanitized as often as it should be.

8. Avoid making your chicks travel far for water

It is advisable that you place drinkers no more than 24 inches (60 cm) from the chicks’ heat source. But as you move the chicks to expanded housing, always ensure they never have to travel more than 10 feet (3m) to get a drink. When upgrading to a larger waterier, it is pertinent you leave old waterier in place for a few days — at least until the chicks get used to drinking from the new source.

9. Ensure the chicks are drinking before they start eating

Chicks always seem to experience less of a problem with sticky bottoms if they get a good dose of water before they get a belly full of feed, especially when the feed is commercially formulated chick starter.

10. Avoid feeding layer ration to chicks

The high calcium content of layer ration can extensively damage a chick’s kidneys. Even if you run out of starter, or you forget to pick some up and you have chicks to feed, you can make an emergency starter ration by cracking scratch grains in the blender or, if you have no scratch, by running a little uncooked oatmeal through the blender and mixing it 50/50 with cornmeal.

Also remember not to use this mixture any longer than necessary, though — grains are high in calories and low in the protein, vitamins, and minerals a chick needs for good growth and health.

Conclusion

Raising baby chicks can be extremely rewarding and it is wonderful to see them hatch and grow. Just the sound of their tiny peeps and cheeps can be adorable and a good sign that your chicks aren’t just surviving, but thriving. Don’t forget to encourage your chicks to drink plenty of water.

Hatching can be a daunting process and their little bodies need to rehydrate. Avoid panicking even if they seem a little listless during the early days. They’re probably just tired. Just make sure they always have access to a fresh supply of water and be sure to monitor them carefully to check they’re actually drinking.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How Do You Take Care Of Baby Chickens?

Give your chickens lots of space. Young chicks need to be close to water and food at all times. Spread a 4-inch layer of pine shavings on the floor, then lay several layers of newspaper over that. Scatter lots of chick feed on the paper and also have feeding troughs filled in the pen.

  1. What Can Baby Chickens Eat?

In the wild, baby chicks eat a plethora of bugs, greens, and even small worms. As they grow and become stronger, they become more able to seek out other delicacies like grains et al.

  1. What Do Baby Chickens Drink?

Water, at room temperature.

  1. Can Baby Chickens Get Wet?

Yes, baby chickens can get wet, but it is dangerous because they baby chicken can get sick and die.

  1. How Do You Calm A Baby Chicken?

You place them in a warm and well lighted chicken cage.

  1. How Much Do You Feed Baby Chickens A Day?

A well known ballpark figure for estimating purpose is 1/4 pound of feed per chicken per day, or, 1.5 pounds of feed per chicken per week. Keep in mind that this is a ballpark figure.

  1. Do Baby Chickens Need Vitamins?

Yes, and as a matter of fact, everyone who is raising baby chickens should have a product such as Save-A-Chick powder or Poultry Nutri-Drench in their toolbox. Both products contain a chick-safe version of vitamin B, a very important vitamin for babies who are losing vigor or under stress.

  1. What Can Baby Chickens Eat Besides Feed?

Aside from chicken feed, 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.

  1. At What Age Can Your Chickens Begin Eating Treats?

When raised by a broody hen in the wild or in a back yard, chicks will be introduced to ‘treats’ in the form of bugs and greens as early as a couple of days old. In the brooder, you should not give chicks treats until they’re at least a week old.

  1. When Raising A Flock Of Chickens Of Mixed Ages, What Type Of Feed Do You Use For The Flock?

Poultry feed in the form of mash, crumbles and pellet forms.

  1. How Warm Do Baby Chickens Need To Be?

The temperature under the heat lamp, or comfort zone, should be 95 degrees Fahrenheit and adequate room in the brooder should be available for the chicks to get out from under the heater if they get too hot. After week one, gradually reduce heat by 5 degrees Fahrenheit each week until reaching a minimum of 55 degrees.

  1. Do Baby Chickens Need A Heat Lamp?

Yes, baby chickens need a heat lamp, however, the heat lamp must be regulated to the appropriate temperature.

  1. Can Baby Chickens See In The Dark?

Baby chickens do not have night vision. They can’t see in the dark.

  1. When Can You Put Baby Chicks Outside In A Coop?

Ideally, chicks will not require a heat source when moving from brooder to coop. If the temperatures outside remain above 65°F and the chicks are at least 6 weeks old, they can move into the coop without supplemental heat.

  1. When The Chicks Are Born Do They Need To Be Separated From The Rest Of The Flock?

Depending on the flock’s temperament, it may be best to separate the chicks from the rest of your flock. Most free-range flocks get along great and show no aggression with the baby chicks. But every experience is different, so introduce the new chicks carefully when they are several weeks old.

  1. How Much Protein Should Be In Your Chicken Feed?

Pullets seven to eighteen weeks of age should be fed 17 percent to 18 percent protein. After nineteen weeks of age and throughout their egg-laying cycle, hens need about 16 percent protein. Hens or chickens that are molting can be fed an increased amount of dietary protein, up to about 20 percent and a lower amount of calcium.

  1. Do Baby Birds Need To Be Fed Overnight?

Baby birds need to be fed every half to two hours depending on their age. Young nestlings also require feeding during the night. You will need to teach the bird how to forage on its own by providing the types of food it would normally eat in the wild (worms, insects, seeds, fruit etc.).

  1. How Much Feed Should You Give Your Chickens Each Day?

A well known ballpark figure for estimating purpose is 1/4 pound of feed per chicken per day, or, 1.5 pounds of feed per chicken per week.

  1. How Many Mealworms Should You Feed Your Baby Chick?

Mealworms should be fed in moderation. My rule of thumb is no more than 1 mealworm per week of chick age. So, in that case, don’t feed a 2-week old chick more than two meal worms.

  1. How Do You Take Care Of A Baby Bird Overnight?

Keep him or her warm and quiet by placing a heating pad on the lowest setting under half of the box or placing a small hot water bottle inside the box. Then put the box in a closet or another warm, dark, quiet, and safe place away from people and animals.

  1. Will Baby Chickens Die Without A Heat Lamp?

Chicks should live indoors for at least 2-3 weeks until they are big enough to better regulate their body temperatures. Then, they’ll need a very good outdoor shelter in which to stay warm and grow properly. In general, chickens can survive hardier temperatures than you might think.

  1. Are Dried Mealworms OK For Baby Birds?

Dried mealworms typically come in bag sizes of between 100g and 5kg. Extremely useful for storing away, dried mealworms can easily be soaked in warm water overnight in order to rehydrate them for an extra ‘juicy’ bird treat. They are also useful for scattering on bird tables and over the ground.

  1. Can’t I Just Mix My Own Chicken Feed At Home?

You can, as long as you have the right formula to make the bird feed.

  1. Do Baby Chickens Need Light At Night?

Baby chicks kept with their mother do not need light at night, and get warmth from their mother. However, new chicks hatched without a hen do need warmth, and they also need a little light at night. Typically, chicks who are not with their mother can get both warmth and enough nighttime lighting with a heat lamp.

  1. What To Do If A Baby Chick Is Dying?

Try adding 1 teaspoon sugar, molasses or honey to 1 quart of water. This sweet energy boost is great for the first few hours, then you’ll want to switch back to plain water.

  1. How Do You Know When Baby Chicks Are Old Enough To Eat Mealworms?

Baby chickens can eat mealworms starting at around one to two weeks old. In fact, their high protein value makes them much more nutritious than many other treats.

  1. What Is The Difference Between Broiler Starter And Finisher?

The starter diet has the highest level of protein a chicken receives during its lifetime. Feed broilers a finisher diet until they reach slaughter size. Feed the pullets and cockerels a developer until they are at least 20 weeks of age. When egg production starts, feed them a “layer” ration until egg production ends.

  1. Do Chickens Recognize Their Owners?

Surprisingly yes, chicken really do seem to recognize their owners. In fact, research has shown that chickens are capable of recognizing up to 100 human faces, so it won’t take them long to learn who their owner is.

  1. What Are The Different Types Of Chicken Feed?

Chicken and poultry feed comes in three forms: crumbles, pellets, and mash. Crumbles are excellent if you can get them, but pellets are sometimes the only form available. Mash is usually used for baby chicks, but it can be mixed with warm water to make a thick oatmeal-like treat for chickens.

  1. Does Laying Mash Help Hens Produce More Eggs?

Laying mash is a type of feed specifically for laying hens formulated with nutrients to help them healthily lay more eggs. Compared to scratch feed, which is a grain-based chicken feed, laying mash provides more of the key nutrients used for egg production, such as protein and calcium.

  1. What’s The Best Nutrition Plan For Healthy Chickens?

Select fruits, vegetables and grains will keep chickens happy and ensure they are receiving a nutritionally balanced diet. Good choices include leafy greens, cooked beans, corn, non-sugary cereals and grains, berries, apples and most other fruits and vegetables.

  1. What Kinds Of Harmful Chemicals Do Farmers Feed Chickens?

Poultry meat may be contaminated with toxic elements such as arsenic, cadmium, or lead as a result of coming into contact with the materials on the farm or factory or while moving through marketing channels.

  1. At What Age Will I Know If I Have Hens Or Roosters?

When sexing most juveniles, the best, most fail-safe method is to look at the saddle feathers in front of the tail when the bird is about 3 months old. By that age, roosters will have long and pointy saddle feathers, while a hen’s will be rounded.

  1. Can A Baby Bird Survive Without Its Mother?

Yes, a baby bird can survive without its mother as long as they are properly taken care of.

  1. Which Chicks Have Tail Feathers First, The Pullets Or Roosters?

The chick with significant tail growth is likely a pullet. After about 1 week of age, many pullets will start growing tail feathers while cockerels will still have little fluffy butts. This is one of the early indicators of gender.

  1. What Is The Best Thing To Feed A Baby Bird?

Plethora of bugs, greens, and even small worms.

  1. Where Do You Find The Most Accurate And Up To Date Information On Feeding Poultry?

Poultry Development Review Journals or Website. FAO information products are available on the FAO website (www.fao.org/ publications) and Poultry feed availability and nutrition in developing countries.

  1. When Should I Switch To Layer Feed?

When birds reach 18 weeks old or when the first egg arrives, gradually switch your laying hens to a layer feed. It’s important to make the transition over time to prevent digestive upset.

  1. How Do You Tell If Your Incubating Eggs Are Fertilized And Therefore Likely To Hatch?

Well the egg will start to wiggle a little bit, then one part of the egg will feel a bit softer, then you’ll be able to hear the chick tapping on egg with its beak, once you hear this the chick will hatch within 2 days. If it doesn’t hatch but it’s still trying to get out you could crack the egg yourself.

  1. What Disease Causes Chickens To Lose Feathers?

Just one of the diseases that might cause your chicken to lose feathers is vent gleet. This is a fungal infection in your chicken’s vent, which is where they expel eggs and waste. While the feather loss from vent gleet is usually close to the vent, it can be anywhere. If your chicken develops vent gleet, consult a vet.

  1. When Do You Put The Chicks With The Rest Of The Flock?

Baby chicks must be raised on their own to an absolute minimum age of six weeks old before being introduced to the rest of your flock. If possible, wait until your pullets (young, non-laying hens) are 8-12 weeks old before making the introduction.

  1. How Much Should I Feed My Hens?

Typically, when hens are restricted from consuming the amount of feed they desire, egg production will cease. An average laying hen will consume about ¼ pound of feed per day, depending on factors such as size of the bird, weather conditions, and level of productivity.

  1. How Many Times A Day Should I Feed My Chickens?

Feed your chickens at regular times each day. Chickens need to eat all day, so always have good quality feed in their pens. A good format to follow is to top their feed up in the mornings and let them out for 30-60 mins in the late afternoon.

  1. Why Did My Baby Chick Suddenly Died?

Coccidiosis is the most common cause of death in baby chicks. Coccidiosis (aka: cocci) is a common intestinal disease, caused by several species of parasites that thrive in warm, wet conditions and is transmitted in droppings.

  1. When Is It Time To Move Onto A Different Kind Of Feed?

It is advisable to keep your chicks on a starter feed until around 8 weeks, at which point they need to have a “grower” feed which keeps pace with the change in their development. If you have starter feed left over, mix it – 50 percent starter, 50 percent grower – for a couple of weeks.

Joy Nwokoro