As you’re preparing to hatch eggs this year, now is the time to plan out the feeding schedule and products you will need. To help you, we have put together an everything guide to feeding chicks.
There are several considerations when sorting through when, how much, and what to feed baby chicks.
Factors like medicated or unmedicated feed and how long do you keep them on starter feed. Do you feed the hen and chicks separately or together? Should you feed them kitchen scraps?
All important questions to consider!
Let’s take a look at what we have learned through research and experience with our chicks.
Medicated vs. Unmedicated feed
The first feed purchase you will make in prepping for new chicks is chick starter feed.
There are two types of chick starter available, one medicated and one not.
What’s the difference between medicated and unmedicated feed?
The medicated feed contains Amprolium, which is a preventative measure for coccidiosis, a parasite infection. It is not an antibiotic but instead a thiamin blocker. The parasite needs thiamin to multiply so the Amprolium helps to stop the multiplication process.
You do not have to have a prescription for the medicated feed; it is available at any feed store.
One of the significant concerns is, does medicated feed affect my eggs or meat of my chickens?
The answer is, “No.”
Amprolium is not an antibiotic, and the FDA has deemed it safe for use.
Why use medicated feed for chicks?
Chicks housed with other fowl in a store; for instance, have a higher risk of contracting coccidiosis, which can spread to your other chicks.
However, the decision on what type of feed is up to the flock owner.
If an owner wants all organic with no pharmaceuticals in their chickens, the unmedicated feed is best.
Adding herbs to the chicken’s diet can help boost their immune system naturally but may not prevent coccidiosis.
Feed Chicks with Broody Hen or Separate?
Once your little peepers are born, you can feed the hen separately from the chicks or feed them together in the same area.
Dangers of feeding the hen and chicks together is that the hen’s feed is much larger, and chicks can choke and even die from ingesting the adult feed. Also, the calcium content in layer feed can cause kidney damage to your wee ones.
Although it may be a hassle, you can avoid this danger by feeding the hen and chicks separately.
Another option is to feed the hen and chick the same feed, supplementing oyster shell in a side dish for the hens to eat at their leisure. The extra protein in the starter feed does not hurt the older chickens, so this option is undoubtedly the easiest.
How long to feed Chick Starter?
Baby chicks can be on chick starter until 8-12 weeks according to what the flock owner decides. The amount of growth obtained in the eight weeks may indicate to the owner that choosing to keep the protein-rich diet available to the new chicks a bit longer may be necessary.
Can you feed table scraps to chicks?
Fresh veggies and fruits are an excellent supplement to a chick’s diet, but the 90/10 rule applies here as when they are older. Never should a supplement be more than 10% of a chicken’s diet. 90% of the food should always be the feed that has the proper nutrition that the chick or chicken needs.
However, you don’t want to start feeding table scraps too early, wait till after twelve weeks of age and always have a side dish of chick grit available for them to dine on.
The mama hen will guide her chicks in what to eat and what not to eat, which is reassuring to any flock owner.
What is Grit?
Chickens use grit to help break down their food as an aid to digestion. The rocky substance grinds down the grain in the chick’s gizzard.
There are three types of grit: insoluble, soluble, and mixed.
Insoluble is a finely crushed granite; soluble is ground-up oyster shell/cockle shells or limestone that aids in hardening eggshells and the mixed type is the soluble and insoluble put together.
Baby chicks should have insoluble grit, which comes in various textures. The most delicate texture, a sandy substance, works well as a starter grit for chicks—plan to increase the grit texture as they grow older.
Is Free-Ranging an Option?
Free-ranging is an option but in tiny doses. Once again, the age of the chick will determine the amount of time you allow the chicks and mama hen to be outside of their secure area to free-range.
A few things to prepare before allowing your precious peeps to free-range is to close off an area specifically for them that not only keeps the chicks in but protects them from all predators.
Make sure the litter in the free-range area is clean. If at all possible, lay new litter down, so there are no surprises of treats or feed hiding in the litter.
Limit the time chicks are out of their safe enclosure, especially when they have gotten big enough to go outside of the coop.
One tip that makes the process easier is having their free-range time just before sunset. The chicks will be more apt to want to return inside of the coop for you as it gets darker.
Those are the basics of feeding baby chicks, the feed, the plan, and the extras.
Do you have any other tips?
Please share them in the comments.