Chicks are so much fun to raise. And it’s important to know that these cute fur balls have a specific diet. Just follow this complete nutrition guide to know exactly what to feed them.
To receive good nutrition, chicks should mostly eat chicken feed that’s specifically formulated for baby chicks. But you can occasionally also give them food like bread, bananas, oatmeal, and scrambled eggs. Never feed chicks raw or dried beans, moldy food, apple seeds, coffee grounds, chocolate, or processed foods.
There are tons of details to know about a chick’s diet. Here we have that information for you! Keep reading to find out more.
What Basic Nutrients Do Chicks Need?
To begin, we want to list the basic nutrients chicks need to grow and thrive. A chick’s diet should be based on these nutrients and should include a variety of all of them.
Chicks need a lot of energy to grow, meaning that energy is a necessary nutrient for chicks. Protein, carbs, and fat all provide that essential energy for chicks. Little chicks need as much energy as they can get because they love to run around and play. Without the necessary energy, chicks will not eat as much and will begin to develop deficiencies.
Minerals are so important for a chick’s growth. This is because it helps them with things like bone growth, and cell balance. If you plan on feeding your chicks some type of grain, it is important to know that minerals are not high in content in grain for chicks. If you decide to feed them grains, make sure to give them a mineral supplement in order to not create deficiencies.
Carbs are essential in a chick’s diet, just like humans. Carbs come from foods like corn, rye, grains, etc. These carbs give chicks good intestinal health and growth. Make sure not to feed them too many carbs because it could cause deficiencies in their growth.
When it comes to Vitamins, chicks need almost all of them. Vitamins like Vitamin A, Vitamin, B, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin D, and the B-vitamins are all necessary in a chick’s diet. The only vitamin that is not needed for chicks is Vitamin C. This is because chicks can make their own vitamin C. These vitamins are important in a chick’s diet because they assist in bone growth, providing energy, and proper blood flow and clotting. Without these essential vitamins, chicks may develop deficiencies.
Protein is one of the most important and essential nutrients that a chick’s diet needs. Chicks are able to create 10 amino acids by themselves, but the food they eat needs to contain the other 10. This means that protein in the food they eat is absolutely necessary. Food like corn and specific chick feed contain great amounts of protein. Chicks love their protein, so make sure they have plenty of it in their diet!
Fat in a chick’s diet provides assistance in absorbing necessary vitamins that come from fat. Make sure your chicks get the necessary fat in order to grow big and strong! Although getting chicks the fat they need is essential, you should know that giving chicks too much fat can be very harmful to them. So make sure to feed them fat in moderation.
What Food Can Chicks Eat?
Luckily, chicks are one of the easiest animals to feed and take care of. This is because they can eat a lot of different foods which makes it easy to feed them.
The best thing to feed baby chicks is chicken feed that’s formulated for chicks. Chicks have different nutritional needs than mature chickens. I’ve used Purina Start and Grow Medicated Feed Crumbles (affiliate link) and had great success. My chicks develop really well and turn into beautiful mature hens.
Here is a list of some of the best foods you can feed your chicks to supplement their chicken feed!
|Mealworms (live or dried)||Is a Good Source of Protein|
|Bread||Not a Ton of Nutritional Value but Can Still be Fed to Chicks|
|Bananas||Contain Great Vitamins|
|Apples (no seeds)||Has Tons of Vitamins and Nutrients|
|Blueberries||Has Tons of Vitamins and Nutrients|
|Tomatoes (Fruit Only)||Has Tons of Vitamins and Fiber|
|Scrambled Eggs||Has Protein and Vitamins|
|Eggs Shells||Has a Lot of Calcium|
|Oatmeal||Has Tons of Vitamins and Nutrients|
|Carrots||Has Tons of Nutrients|
|Rice (no uncooked rice)||Has Tons of Vitamins and Minerals|
|Cucumbers||Has Tons of Vitamins and Nutrients|
|Crickets||Has Tons of Vitamins and Minerals|
|Dog Food||Contains Plenty of Fat|
|Fish||Contains Plenty of Fat|
|Flax Seed||Contains Plenty of Fat|
|Ham||Contains Plenty of Fat, Vitamins, and Protein|
|Honey||Has Tons of Vitamins|
|Nuts||Has Protein and Vitamins|
|Pineapple||Has Tons of Vitamins but also lots of sugar, feed sparingly|
What Food Can’t Chicks Eat?
Although there are tons of food that chicks are able to eat, there is a big list of foods you should never feed them as well. Feeding chicks the wrong food can cause some serious issues like deficiencies, diseases, toxins entering their body, and sometimes death. Be aware of what your chicks are being fed! Here is a compiled list of some of the most dangerous foods you should never feed chicks.
|Food||Reason Why They Can’t Eat|
|Raw or Dried Beans||Has Hemagglutinin|
|Moldy Food||Has Harmful Toxins|
|Apple Seeds||Has Cyanide|
|Coffee Grounds||Coffee is Not Good for Chicks|
|Chocolate||Has Caffeine Which is Bad for the Chick|
|Processed Foods||Has Too Much Salt and Sugar|
|Raw Chicken||Possibility of Salmonella Poisoning|
|Eggplant Leaves||Has Solanine|
|French Fries||Too Greasy for Chicks|
|Wild Mushrooms||Contains Possible Toxins|
|Onions||Can Cause Anemia|
|Potato peel||Has Solanine|
|Raw Potato||Has Solanine|
|Sprouted Potato||Has Solanine|
|Rhubarb Leaf||Highly Toxic|
|Uncooked Rice||No Nutritional Value and Can Cause Impaction|
|Tomato Leaf or Flower||Has Solanine which is Toxic|
|Xylitol||Contains Toxins chicks Cannot Handle|
Why are Some of These Foods Okay or Not Okay?
As mentioned above, there are tons of foods chicks should and should not eat. You may be wondering why chicks can and cannot eat certain foods, and I have the answer for you. It really comes down to the fact that certain foods contain toxins or ingredients that chicks just can’t process. If a chick eats something it can’t process, it’ll cause health problems like diseases and deficiencies.
For each of the foods you can feed baby chicks, it’s because those foods don’t contain toxins harmful to chicks and are easy for the chicks to break down.
It is as easy as that! Make sure to not feed your chick dangerous foods!
At What Age Can I Feed Chicks Human Food?
Chicks shouldn’t be given kitchen scraps until they’re 3-4 months old. This is due to the fact that chicks, especially brand new baby chicks, need certain nutrients to grow and remain healthy, and setting up a firm foundation while the chicks are young is necessary. It is also unhealthy to feed your chicks too many snacky foods, especially while they’re young.
What you should do is start your baby chicks eating starter feed. This will create a solid diet for your chicks to give them those necessary nutrients. Once the chick is 3-4 months old, you can go ahead and start to feed them more kitchen scraps and typical human food. Even then, chicken feed and free-range grazing should be the staple of their diet.
Do I Have to Give Chicks Feed?
Feed is a typical food fed to chicks and it contains necessary nutrients and grain. It’s common and recommended to feed this to your chicks, but it’s not totally necessary.
Yep, that’s right. You do not have to feed your chicks feed if you don’t want to.
Chick feed is a wonderful and easy way to provide your chicks with the necessary vitamins and minerals, but you can certainly provide them with the necessary nutrients in other ways if don’t want to go with feed. I do highly suggest feeding younger chicks starter feed until they reach 3-4 months old.
If you do not want to feed your chicks feed, just make sure to feed them a variety of nutritious foods that will provide them with all the necessary nutrients.
How to Avoid Deficiencies
Deficiencies in chicks can happen if the chick is not fed the right amount of food, or the right food. All you need to do to avoid deficiencies in your chicks is to feed them a balanced diet that consists of a variety of the basic nutrients chicks need to grow and develop.
Take the list given above, and feed your chicks a mix of all of them, and you should be good. You can also feed your chicks grains, and some grains will have a variety of nutrients and the necessary calories.
If you are worried your chicks are still not getting the right amount of nutrients, then consider giving your chicks a nutrient supplement. The supplement is basically a grain to add to whatever else you feed your chicks that has the necessary nutrients the chick needs. It is an easy and foolproof way to provide your chicks with the nutrients they are not receiving!
Signs of Vitamin Deficiencies
It is important to know the signs and symptoms of deficiencies so you can help your chicks if they’re in danger. Some of these signs include weakness, ruffled feathers, drowsiness, anorexia, and emaciation. If you notice these symptoms in your chicks, these are clear signs that you need to be feeding them more or feeding them food with more/better nutrients. Severe deficiencies can be fatal, so this is something to be taken very seriously.
If you notice these deficiencies, all you need to do is give your chicks a supplement and begin feeding them the correct food with the correct vitamins and minerals.
How Much to Feed Chicks
Now that we have gone over what you can and cannot feed chicks, it is important to know how much you should and should not be feeding your chicks. Just like humans, chicks need a lot of food. Make sure your chicks are never without food and water, and you should be good to go! They will eat when they want to and can have that food ready for them. You can also get feeders and waterers in order to have that food for them constantly.
The only reason you should not be feeding chicks food constantly is if the food contains too much of a certain nutrient. For example, chicks need fat in their diet to grow, but if they are fed too much fatty food, then it can be harmful to the chick. Make sure not to feed chicks too much of one certain type of food but enough of the necessary ones.
It is also important to note, that as chicks get bigger, they will need more food and water. Keep this in mind when feeding them.
Can Chicks Learn How to Eat on Their Own?
Most chicks won’t have any trouble learning how to eat on their own.
When they’re raised by a hen, she’ll show them what to do. When you pick up new chicks and you’re raising them yourself, sometimes you might have to show them what to do.
All you have to do is dip the chick’s beak gently into the food and water. They should generally start to figure it out pretty easily from there. If you notice they have not eaten by themselves within 2 days, then repeat the process until they learn to eat and drink on their own.
In my experience, this is rarely needed. A lot of feeders and waterers are colored red because red is supposed to catch their attention and make them want to peck at it. Green can have this effect too. With the chicks we’ve raised, we gave them food and water and they figured it out right away. And once one figures it out, the other chicks tend to follow suit.
Chickens tend to be really curious and peck at things they’re unsure of, so finding food and water usually isn’t very difficult even for young chicks.
If your chicks won’t eat, there may be a reason. In this article, I talk about other reasons chicks won’t eat and exactly what to do to help them.
Safety When Feeding Chicks
One of the most important things to know when feeding chicks is that their poop can carry harmful bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter.
This means that you need to be careful when feeding chicks because those bacteria could be passed onto humans and could cause illnesses. So if you want you can wear gloves when handling your chicks’ feeders and waterers. Or we just always make sure we wash our hands after handling chickens or any of their stuff.
You’ll probably want to wash your hands when you handle them anyway. As your chicks get big enough to jump and climb around, you’ll find them perching on top of their feeders and waterers and literally pooping right down into their own food. So hand washing will probably come to you naturally.
Also, be aware that chicks sometimes peck at and even eat their feces, and this is completely normal.