Sunday, February 17, 2013

Feeding & Watering Baby Chicks

Feeding Baby Chicks is relatively easy but there a few things all chicken owners need to bear in mind when selecting food for their new birds. The key is to buy the right formulation for the your birds as they grow to maturity.

Starter Formulas (Age 0-6 weeks)

When selecting food for your baby chick, buy a formula that is described as a "Chick Starter." Starter formulas for laying hens generally have a high (20%) protein content. The extra protein is there to give chicks the nutrition they need to grow and to build adult feathers.  If your flock is composed of meat birds, you should look for formulas that are even higher in protein (20-24%) as these breeds need extra nutrition to put on muscle mass. 

Starter feeds also differ from adult formulations in their form. Adult chickens consume food in the form of pellets. However, these pellets are too large for baby chicks, so starter feeds are always in the form of small pieces called "crumbles."
Chicken Crumbles - Modesto Milling makes excellent poultry feed products
Many starter formulas also contain medications to prevent coccidiosis. This is a serious parasitic disease that can kill young birds and many owners seek formulations that contain medications to protect their new birds. We prefer not to medicate and use an organic brand of feed manufactured by Modesto Milling. However, the choice of medicated or non-medicated starter feed is really a personal one. 


Baby chicks will also readily (greedily) accept vegetable scraps. If you decide you want to provide these, make sure the ripped into small pieces and that they are from fairly soft veggies such as leafy greens.  It's best to limit these feedings to a "dessert course" because you don't want scraps to take the place of more nutrient dense starter crumbles.

Grower Formulas (7-20 weeks)

These formulas are designed to help you birds reach maturity. High protein formulas (18-20%) are excellent for raising meat birds. However, high protein formulas are less suitable for layers where you want the birds to develop strong bones before reaching laying age. If you have all layers in your flock, you should use a grower formula for weeks 7-20. These formulas are lower in protein (12%) and are formulated to provide your young birds with the nutrition they need to grow to adulthood. 

That said, If you have a mix of laying and meat birds in your flock, it's probably best to stick with higher protein feeds. 

Grower formulas may or may not contain medication and are usually sold as crumbles. Many owners that medicate their birds do so for just the first 6 weeks while others medicate through week 20. Again, this is personal preference, but all owners should stop feeding their birds medicated feed once the birds reach adulthood at week 20.

Adult Formulas (+20 Weeks)

Adult layer formulas have higher protein levels of about 15-17% . They are designed to give your birds the nutrition they need to maintain their bodies, grow new feathers, and, importantly, lay eggs! In addition to higher protein content, adult layer feeds are rich in calcium. Calcium is the mineral that egg shells are made from, so feed with high calcium levels ensures your birds will lay eggs with strong shells.




Chicken Pellets also from Modesto Milling


Chicken Water

When feeding your baby chicks don't forget that they also need a constant supply of clean water.  Water is particularly important for chickens because the aforementioned feeds are dry. Water softens crumbles and pellets and allows chickens to properly digest their food.

Use a dedicated chick waterer, not a open dish or bowl.  Baby chicks can drown in bowls or spill them over and make the bedding in the brooder excessively wet.

A BriteTap chicken waterer is particularly helpful when raising baby chicks. The BriteTap poultry waterer is fully covered; the chicks drink from small valves located on the bottom of the waterer. As a result of this unique dispensing system, baby chicks can't drown in the BriteTap waterer and there are no open pants to become contaminated with poop or bedding. 

Chicks naturally peck at brightly colored objects so they easily find, and quickly learn to drink from, the red valves located on the BriteTap waterer. For more information about the BriteTap waterer, visit the ChickenWaterer.com web site.

Click to see video of chicks drinking from the BriteTap waterer

Chicken Water Stays Clean With A BriteTap Chicken Waterer

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