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Feeding Baby Chicks


You can easily provide chicks with a healthy, balanced diet using pre-formulated, store-bought feed. Usually sold as "chick starter feed" or "chick starter mash," these formulations provide all the chicks' necessary nutrients from day one until their eighth week. After they're eight weeks old, chicks should be switched to a pullet grower feed until they reach 20 weeks. Pellets and crumbles tend to be less wasteful and messy than mash, which is powdery.

It's recommended (for chickens, not other fowl) to use a feed with a coccidiostat included for the first eight weeks to protect against the potentially deadly disease Coccidiosis. However, avoid using a feed that includes antibiotics unless directly instructed to do so by a vet.

While some sources suggest chicks need grit, a dietary supplement, don't worry about supplying grit unless the chicks are eating food other than the starter feed. If you decide to give them grit, use chick-sized granite grit or parakeet grit.

The Feeding Trough

When chicks are less than one week old, you can help them learn to eat by putting their food in an egg carton lid or shoebox lid. Place the feeder near the heat source but not directly beneath it.

As they get older, chicks often splash and peck around their feed dishes, spilling and spoiling the feed. To save yourself the money and mess of wasted feed, consider purchasing a plastic or metal chick feeder designed to prevent chicks from walking through their feed. Make sure chicks always have access to plenty of food; they won't overeat. To prevent bullying, the trough should be big enough for most of the chicks to eat at the same time. 

Watering the Chicks

Chicks drink a lot; plan to refresh their water several times each day. For the first week, consider adding vitamin and mineral supplements to the water to help get your chicks off to a strong start.

While improvised water dishes can be used, they are not recommended because chicks can drown easily and will walk through them, kick bedding in them, and poop in them. Commercial waterers (also sold as founts) help avoid these difficulties to some extent, though it's still necessary to clean the water dishes several times a day.

When your chicks arrive, take each one's beak and dip it into the water to help them learn to drink. Make sure to get a waterer that the chicks can reach but not fall into.

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Poultry Care Series

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