The most critical aspect of rearing chickens is knowing how much to feed them. This helps you administer a proper amount of feed and manage your budget. Commercially produced starter feed is balanced to contain all the chick’s requirements without additional supplements. A good feed should also be organic and Genetically Modified Organic(GMO) free.
The estimated amount of feed that baby chickens eat per day is 25-55 grams. Finely-milled chick starter feed can be given to them in portions of 5-6 times a day or simply after every 2 hours. They will drink about three times what they eat.
Basically, baby chicks eat from sun up to sundown, so it is very common to overfeed or underfeed your chicks. Fortunately, this article will help you understand all the feeding requirements straightforwardly.
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Feeding Baby Chicks at Different Stages
Baby chicks are aged between 0 and 8 weeks. Here are a few essential things to consider when feeding them:
They will not need any feed for about 48 hours after hatching as they are sustained by the yolk of the egg absorbed by their bodies just before they break through the shell.
After 48 hours, baby chicks up to the age of 8 weeks will only feed on properly balanced chick starter feed. This feed has all the nutrient requirements for their growth and development. It is typically in mashes or crumbles since they are easily digestible.
The starter feed should have at least 18% protein to help support the extra energy needed in their early growth stages. The feed primarily contains:
- Prebiotics and probiotics: These feed additives have microbes that add beneficial bacteria to the chicken’s digestive tract.
- Yeast and fiber: for optimum digestion.
- Vitamins A, D, E, and K, niacin, folic acid, biotin, thiamine, and riboflavin: Support rapid skeletal system growth.
- Minerals such as Calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, and copper: Support general muscle growth.
- Grains such as:
- Soybean meal and Canola meal offer a good concentration of plant proteins.
- Corn is a good source of energy and essential in vitamins and minerals.
- Wheat midds, are an excellent source of fiber.
Dos and Don’ts of Feeding Baby Chicks
Chicks can be very delicate, depending on their age. It is therefore important to note what can harm them to see them develop. Here are some important factors to keep in mind when feeding them:
- Always ensure the chicks have enough feed throughout the day for their proper growth.
- The feed should be medicated with amprolium, which is designed to prevent coccidiosis (an acute invasion and destruction of the intestinal mucosa by protozoa). This should only apply if the baby chicks are not vaccinated against coccidiosis.
- Avoid using a feed that contains antibiotics unless directly instructed by a vet.
- Occasionally feed them with exciting treats to excite them. These threats include mealworms, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, dubia roaches, fodder, and boiled or scrambled eggs.
- Use grit as a dietary supplement but specifically chick-sized granite or parakeet grit.
- Purchase a plastic or metal chick feeder specifically designed to prevent chicks from walking through the feed and making it dirty, threatening their health.
- Baby chicks should not consume any feed with high levels of Calcium because they only need small amounts to grow strong bones. Excessive amounts could cause kidney failure and decrease the young chicks’ lifespan.
- Do not feed baby chicks with the following foods: Onions, chocolate, avocados, eggplants, peanuts, moldy bread, rhubarb, and pickles. These contain toxins that could make them sick or even cause death in extreme cases.
How to Avoid Overfeeding
In most cases, baby chicks won’t overeat. Instead, each chick will eat only as much as it needs to get the nutrition and energy required for the day. How much the baby chickens sleep will also depend on what they eat.
This is because the chicks have an organ called a crop which acts as a holding station for food before it is transported further down the digestive tract to its digestion station. Once the crop is full, the chicks can’t eat any further.
However, giving your baby chicks too many treats might make them overfeed. To avoid this, you can provide the chicks with good, high-quality feed and only give them treats from time to time.
Play with your chicks whenever you have time to divert their minds from food and speed up what they have already consumed.
What Happens if the Baby Chicks Overeat?
Although baby chicks rarely overfeed, the consequences can be dire when they do. Some of the things that can happen include:
- They could just die.
- Chicks might suffer a heart attack.
- They can also break their legs as they get too fat even to support their body weight.
How Do You Check Whether the Chicks are Underfed
Underfeeding does not necessarily mean starvation. Your chicks could have enough feed but be deficient in the most important nutrients. On the other hand, they could also have very nutritious food that is insufficient for their daily growth and development. Here are some of the signs that your chicks are underfed.
- Hungry baby chicks will have a bad temper and will even start fighting.
- They will not have proper growth and developmental milestones.
- If your baby chicks are experiencing poor feathering, they probably suffer from protein deficiency.
- Vitamin A deficiency will have your baby chicks’ eyes swollen and interfere with restarted growth in chicks.
- Convulsions attack vitamin E deficient baby chicks within just a few days.
To avoid this, ensure the feeding trough is big enough to accommodate all your chicks. This will prevent bigger chicks from bullying the little ones. In addition, make sure there’s enough nutritious starter feed in the trough at all times.
Finally, don’t feed your baby chickens on a schedule. They should be free to feed themselves whenever they want.
Chicks grow rapidly, especially in their first few weeks of existence. They, therefore, require correctly formulated food to ensure healthy growth and development.
If you are uncertain about the type of feed that is suitable for your baby chicks, check the bag label for the protein and calcium levels since these are the two extreme nutrients considered in the starter feed.