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.

Joy Nwokoro