What to Feed Baby Chickens After Hatching: A Helpful Guide

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What to Feed Baby Chickens After Hatching – Much like any newborn, baby chickens require special attention, but especially when they’ve just hatched. 

You could say that they need “egg-cellent” nutrition to give them the best possible start in life. 

They need to have strong defenses and armed and ready to begin their journey from a baby hatchling to a fully feathered chicken.

Baby chicks undergo rapid development and transformation during those formative days, weeks, and months. 

Thus, you need to really understand what to feed baby chickens after hatching if you want them to stand a chance of surviving and thriving.

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The Basic Needs of Chicks

Bringing baby chicks into the world is an exciting and rewarding time. 

There are three key things any baby chick requires for survival: warmth, water, and feed.

In that respect, they’re similar to human newborns. 

You might even want to give them the occasional cuddle too!

Giving your chicks a solid start in life will put them in good stead for happy and healthy adult life. 

And as we like to say, happy hens lay happy eggs, and we all like a bit of sunshine in our lives.

If you want your chick to transition seamlessly into a flock, then you need to start by providing them with the care, comfort, and nutrition they need even before they hatch.

Setting Up a Brooder

As mentioned, even before your chicks have hatched, you need to be preparing their environment so that the conditions are perfect for their arrival. 

Here are some things to keep in mind:

When to Set Up

We recommend that you set up your brooder 48 hours in advance. 

That way, there’s ample time for any equipment or bedding that you’ve installed to be set to the optimum temperature to keep those hatchlings warm and safe. 

The Equipment Needed

We’re basically recommending the following essential items: a brooder, a heat lamp, some bedding, lights, feeders, and waterers.

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Brooder

The brooder is the very first home of your chicks. 

It should be warm and dry, draft-free, and comfortable. 

Ideally, it needs to be three to four square feet per chick. 

We also suggest making the brooder expandable and keeping it circular.

Heat Lamp

Next, you need to assemble your heat lamp in one corner of the brooder so that your bird is kept nice and warm. 

It is best to position the heat lamp about 20 inches above the litter.

We also recommend that you station it about three feet away from the actual guard walls. 

In terms of optimum temperature, for comfort sake, the area under the heat lamp should be 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

We’d also advise that you leave some space for your chicks to get away from the heater if they start to feel too hot. 

Over the following weeks, the temperature can be reduced by five degrees Fahrenheit until it finally reaches a minimum of 55 degrees.

Bedding

You also must put down proper bedding. 

We recommend absorbent wood shavings for the floor of your brooder. 

Ideally, make these three to four inches deep and ensure that you maintain the area by keeping it dry and odor-free.

Any wet bedding should be removed daily and replaced, especially if it’s close to your waterer. 

We advise against the use of material such as cedar shaving because it can have a strong and unpleasant odor that could also affect the long term health of the bird.

Lights

In the first week, to aid with growth and development, lighting should be supplied for as long as 22 hours a day and certainly no less than 18. 

You can reduce the light gradually to just 16 hours throughout the rest of the growing period. 

In terms of the strength of light required, a 40-watt bulb per 100 square feet of floor space is advisable.

Feeders

Depending upon how many chicks you’re hatching and what size brooder you have, will determine the number of feeders you would need. 

As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need to accommodate four linear inches of feeder space per bird. 

It’s not necessary to invest in anything too fancy. 

Just something simple like a clean egg carton will do an excellent job.

Filled with food, they’re easily accessible and ideal for young chicks. 

For the follow-up stage in their development, you should consider providing access to low-lying feeders or a trough feeder to transition them through to maturity. 

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Waterers

We’ll go on shortly to discuss the importance of water. It’s nothing short of essential. 

For every 25 chicks you have, you should fill two one-quart waterers full of room temperature water and, for now, position them inside the brooder.

For the water to be at room temperature, put the waterers inside the brooder 24 hours before the scheduled arrival of your chicks.

You may also opt to purchase the best chicken water heater, which can help provide your chicken water with the right temperature during the colder months.

What to Feed Baby Chickens After Hatching

what to feed baby chickens after hatching
what to feed baby chickens after hatching

From down to feathers, a tiny little peep to a hearty cluck cluck, a baby chick is on a rapid and exciting journey the minute it’s hatched. 

The most important physical transformation, though, takes place from the day they come into the world, for about the next eight weeks. 

By that time, they should already have reached three-quarters of what will be their adult weight. 

Hence, you must provide them with the essential nutrition they need to grow and set them off abundantly on the road ahead.

Water

You won’t be surprised to learn that the first thing a baby chick needs is abundant access to fresh, clean water. 

Safe to say that water plays a vital role in any baby chicks wellbeing, supporting all of its essential bodily functions. 

That’s particularly true during the early stages of development.

That is because there’s so much going on inside a chick’s little body.

Both chicks, as well as adult, fully mature chickens, consume approximately double water to physical feed. 

A lack of adequate water supply can have a severely detrimental effect on a young chick’s health and wellbeing. 

It’s critical then that you introduce your chicks to the brooding area as soon as they arrive and ensure that room temperate water is immediately on hand.

Chicks need to hydrate quickly, but you can leave it a few hours before you introduce them to feed.

How to Introduce

Your chicks must master the art of drinking and rehydrating their tiny bodies with fresh, quality water before they consume any food. 

You could try gently dipping their beaks into the water to coax them along and also help to familiarize them with where their water source is.

Strong, healthy chicks will naturally teach other chicks in your brooder how to drink. 

However, make sure that you are monitoring them all closely during those crucial first few hours to make sure no-one is missing out on drinking.

Feeds

Once your chicks are rehydrated, it’s time to introduce the essential nutrients and minerals they require for survival. 

There are plenty of excellent commercial options available, or you could make your own feed.

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Commercially Made

Similar to us humans, those young, recently hatched baby chicks also need a rich and balanced source of carbohydrates, fats, and minerals to support their growth. 

If you’re worried about what to feed baby chickens after hatching, don’t be! 

It’s really not rocket science but rather just good common sense.

If you’re at all concerned about getting it right, you can rely upon commercial chick starter mix. 

It’s been specially formulated to contain the perfect blend of minerals, proteins, nutrients, carbohydrates, and fats to support a baby chick’s growth and development.

Once your chick is ready to start pecking at food, you have plenty of options, with many commercial brands selling chick starter products. 

Typically, chicks need a nutritionally balanced chick starter mix up until they’re about eight weeks old.

These days, many of the big brands have follow-on products.

They’re easy to administer and will take your chick up to the point they’re ready to lay eggs themselves. 

These grower mixes provide them with the nutrition they require to lay a healthy and bountiful egg supply.

Home-Made Chick Food

If you don’t want to go down the commercial feed route, you can create your mix at home. 

A fantastic alternative that you can easily prepare at home and which baby chicks just love requires just two staple ingredients. 

All you need are eggs and oatmeal.

Baby chicks can thrive and grow on this mix. 

To prepare your feed, simply hard boil a couple of eggs, mash them up thoroughly, then mix with some oatmeal.

If you’re the kind of person who loves organic, this is a great alternative to commercial feed.

How to Introduce

Place their feed onto something like a simple square of paper or a clean egg flat. 

On the second day, you can progress and add the feed to the feeders positioned around your brooder. 

Once the chicks have mastered the art of feeding this way, you can go ahead and remove the papers or egg flats.

Reminder

Keep their food fresh. Empty, clean, and refill their waterers and feeders, at least once daily. 

As the chicks grow in size, you’re also going to need to raise the level of where your feeder is so that they’re level with the birds’ backs.

Protein-Rich Food

As soon as a baby chick is born, their anatomy starts to develop. 

Protein is a vital nutrient that a hungry, developing chick needs to support growth. 

It helps stimulate and support the growth of muscle and tissue as well as internal organs

It’s an essential building block and can be found naturally in worms.

As such, feel free to offer up a supply of fresh worms to satisfy the hunger and protein requirement of your chicks. 

Worms are abundantly found throughout the spring and summer months and are nature’s own home supplied source of fresh protein.

Treats

While their digestive system is still underdeveloped, you should be careful about what treats you give them as you don’t want to upset their delicate digestive system. 

Chop up some hard-boiled eggs along with sweetcorn to make a tasty and nutritious treat that they can easily digest.

Something like lettuce, hanging from the side of the brooder, is also a good option. 

It provides restless and inquisitive baby chicks with hours of fun and pecking practice!

Is It Okay to Offer Your Baby Chicks Grit?

A question that frequently pops up on forums is “Do recently hatched chicks need grit?“. 

The short answer is, it depends on what else they’re eating.

If you have baby chicks that are only eating a starter mix, they probably don’t need grit just yet. 

On the contrary, if they’re now at the stage where you’re adding in a range of supplemental food, such as scraps from your kitchen, then a bit of added grit will aid their digestive system.

Grit is just as it sounds; they’re little pieces of sand, stone, or earth from your local environment. 

If you are lucky enough to live in a nice temperate climate where your happy chicks wander around outside all day long, then they’ll naturally peck at grit, so you probably don’t have to worry. 

If not and they’re couped up for large parts of the day, make sure that you put out a source of grit as it really does help with digestion.

Raising baby chicks can be incredibly rewarding

Raising baby chicks can be incredibly rewarding and it’s wonderful to see them hatch and grow.

The sound of their little peeps and cheeps is adorable and good sign that your chicks aren’t just surviving, but thriving.

Remember to encourage your chicks to drink plenty of water.

Hatching can be an exhausting process and their little bodies need to rehydrate.

Don’t panic 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.

Chicks quickly grow at an almost alarming rate, especially during the first few weeks so it’s important to get them started on a properly balanced chick food like a commercial or homemade starter feed.

As chicks mature, remember that their nutritional needs will change.

From 18 weeks onward, it’s time to adjust their feed to meet with their evolving nutritional needs.

Don’t be tempted either to save any leftover starter feed for the next time you plan hatching baby chicks.

It has a tendency to get moldy and take on bacteria that could kill them.

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