Understanding what to feed baby chicks after hatching is crucial in raising a healthy flock. Proper feeding ensures that they grow up strong and live happy, productive lives. Knowing that the first few days of a chick’s life are the highest mortality days means that you must take special care to watch them closely and feed them well.
Understanding the Nutritional Needs of Baby Chicks
When it comes to the question of what to feed baby chicks, the answer lies in their nutritional needs.
- Protein: Chicks need a high amount of protein for rapid growth. Chick starter feed usually contains about 20-24% protein.
- Amino Acids: Essential for growth and development, the most critical ones being methionine and lysine.
- Carbohydrates: Provides energy for the chick. Typically sourced from grains in the feed.
- Fats: Essential for energy and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. They’re usually included in the feed but can also come from added oils or fats.
- Vitamins: Essential for various biological functions. Vitamin A, D, E, K, and B-complex vitamins are particularly important.
- Minerals: Essential for bone development and other bodily functions. Calcium and phosphorus are very important, as well as small amounts of other minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium.
- Water: Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
- Grit: Not exactly a nutrient, but grit (small, hard particles of sand or similar material) is important for digestion once chicks start eating food other than starter feed.
Remember that most of these needs are typically met by providing a commercial chick starter feed. Always check the nutritional analysis on the feed bag to ensure it meets the above needs. Additionally, while treats and scraps can be given to chicks, they should be limited to prevent nutritional imbalances.
The Role of Protein
Protein plays a vital role in a chick’s diet, contributing to its rapid growth and feather development. Ideally, chick feed should contain about 20% to 24% protein.
As you might have guessed, protein is used for building the little muscles that chicks need to hop around and be cute!
Essential Vitamins and Minerals
Key vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Calcium, and Phosphorus are essential for chicks. These nutrients help with bone development and overall health.
Water – Should I Add Electrolytes to The Baby Chicks Water?
Yes, adding electrolytes to a baby chick’s water can be beneficial, particularly during times of stress, such as during transportation, extremely hot weather, or illness. Electrolytes help to maintain a good balance of body fluids, improve hydration, and support heart and kidney function.
You can purchase pre-made electrolyte mixes specifically formulated for chicks from many farm supply stores or online.
While electrolytes can be beneficial during stressful times, under normal conditions, a balanced chick starter feed and fresh, clean water should provide all the necessary nutrients for your chicks.
Always remember not to overuse electrolytes, as an imbalance in electrolytes can also lead to health problems. I will use Electrolytes for the first two fillups of the water jug, or two full quarts. That gets the chicks off to a good start.
The First 24 Hours Post-Hatching
In the first 24 hours post-hatching, chicks absorb the remainder of the yolk, which provides them with the nutrients they need. This period requires no additional feed but introducing chicks to water is crucial.
Introducing chicks to water is surprisingly simple. Gently pick them up and dip their beaks quickly into some water. Make it fairly quick because they have nostrils in their beaks and you don’t want to drown the little ones.
I introduce chick starter feed right away as well because when they are ready, I want there to be feed available to them. Baby chicks sleep a lot right after hatching because hatching is hard work. Make sure they are rewarded for their hard work with food and fresh water when they become active.
What to Feed Baby Chicks: Week 1-8
After the initial 24 hours, your baby chicks should start on a chick starter feed, which is specifically designed to meet their nutritional needs.
Chick Starter Feed
Chick starter feed contains the right balance of protein, vitamins, and minerals. You’ll find both medicated and non-medicated options available. The medicated feed can help protect against diseases like coccidiosis, while the non-medicated feed is ideal for organic flocks.
Additionally, introducing grit at this stage will help with digestion, especially if you start introducing treats and greens to their diet.
Here are some popular options for chick starter feeds:
- Purina Start & Grow: This is a non-medicated feed and is designed to provide all the nutrition necessary for chicks.
- Nutrena NatureWise Chick Starter Grower: This feed contains probiotics to support a healthy digestive system and comes in both medicated and non-medicated varieties.
- Manna Pro Chick Starter: Available in medicated and non-medicated options, this is another popular choice.
- DuMor Chick Starter/Grower: A feed offered by Tractor Supply Company that is also a complete feed, providing all the necessary nutrients.
- Kalmbach Feeds Organic Chick Starter: If you’re looking for an organic option, this feed may suit your needs.
- Blue Seal Home Fresh Starter: This feed boasts a balance of amino acids for growth and development.
- Prairie’s Choice Non-GMO Chick Starter Grower: A good option if you’re interested in non-GMO feed.
Remember to check the specifics of each product to ensure it aligns with your chicks’ needs and your preferences (e.g., medicated vs. non-medicated, organic, non-GMO, etc.).
Common Mistakes in Feeding Baby Chicks
Common mistakes include overfeeding, giving treats too early, and not providing enough clean water. Overcome these by following a feeding schedule, waiting until they’re older before introducing treats, and changing the water daily.
Equipment for Feeding Baby Chicks
The right equipment will make feeding your chicks easier and more efficient. For instance, you can use a plate or bowl for food and/or water, but the natural tendency for chickens, even chicks, to scratch and peck can leave food all over your brooder.
And chicks will poop when they have to and wherever they happen to be, including in the water bowl. Plus the chicks could drown in an open water bowl.
There are several types of feeders available, from simple trough feeders to no-waste feeders. Cleaning your feeders regularly prevents mold and diseases. You can get a feeder and waterer combo here if you like.
Similarly, you have several options for waterers. From nipple drinkers to traditional ones, the key is to always provide fresh, clean water.
Tips for Ensuring Healthy Growth
Keep an eye on your chicks and adjust the feeding as needed. If you notice any signs of nutritional deficiencies, such as slow growth or dull feathers, you may need to adjust their diet.
Understanding what to feed baby chicks after hatching is vital in ensuring their health and well-being. Every stage of their life has specific dietary requirements, and it’s up to you to make sure they’re met. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section. For additional information on chick nutrition, the Poultry Extension is a valuable resource.
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