Baby chicks need summery warmth, chick starter, water


Feeding Baby Chicks
Want to start from Day One to grow the healthiest chickens possible? Learn the way it used to be done, and how we are adapting the old ways to today.

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Got new chicks?? Lucky you!!

1. How to Handle

First of all, do not pick them up very much. Handling a lot might injure them. To pick them up, slip one hand under the chick's tummy, and put the other hand on top of the chick to hold it gently but firmly.

2. Get them warm now

Immediately get them warm. If you just got your chicks, and you don't have a warm box (like 90 degrees F, very warm), you can put them in an open box IN THE OVEN, with the pilot light or the oven light bulb on, while you make them a warming box.

3. Water

Get them some WATER, in a heavy, low bowl that they cannot tip over, or a waterer that you buy from the pet store or feed store. A heavy ash tray makes a good temporary water-holder for a few chicks. Keep checking the water to make sure it is clean. They must have water at all times.

4. Food

If you don't have chick starter feed yet, you can feed them for a day or two on instant oatmeal, flaked infant cereal, or other whole-grain cereals. You can put whole grains (rice, wheat, barley, old-fashioned oats, anything) into the blender and blend them slightly. Do not blend completely to a powder --- the feed should have some "grits" in it. Leave the feed with them all the time --- they will stop eating when they have had enough.

That's it --- they're safe for awhile

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More preparations

Make a trip to a feed store

A trip to the nearest feed store is needed. Check your Yellow Pages for Feed Stores. Some pet stores have things for chicks, also. Phone them first to find out. You will need to buy

Chick Starter Feed -- start with about 5 pounds, and write the store's name on the bag so you can get the same kind again
Grit for chicks -- get the right size of grit for chicks; bone or oyster shell does not substitute for grit
A waterer --
A feeder --
To shop for these things online, see our Links section for McMurray Hatchery.

Make them a warming box

The first thing you will want to do is make a box for your chicks to stay warm in. You can use a hanging light bulb with a wire cage around it (from the hardware store), or perhaps a heating pad enclosed in a rubber cover of some kind. Perhaps an old aquarium will work, if it has a good warm light in the top.

If it is very cold outside, you will have to figure out how to keep their box very warm inside. Sheets of styofoam all around every side of the box makes good insulation. Or perhaps use a large ice chest. Small openings for air are all they need. They will eat styrofoam if you let them, so don't use it where they can get it.

A little key-ring thermometer hanging in the box will let you check the temperature easily.

Put a piece of 1/2 inch dowling, or a good stick, in for a roost --- they will quickly learn how to get onto it.

Line their warming box with DRY LEAVES, if you have some. Or saw dust, or shredded dry paper. They love to root around in "litter". Put in a large cement block or a thick, heavy piece of wood to keep their waterer and food dish on, up out of the litter. If you have lots of dry leaves, you can just keep adding more dry leaves as they compact down --- you don't have to empty the box for days or weeks, since the dry leaves keep the poop dry and covered up.

Throw in some grit --- they will find it.

That's it! You're on your way to being a real Chicken Farmer.


From "Feeding Your Peeps" in the Easy Chicken Website

"Got them by mail? Chicks arriving by mail have been stressed pretty heavy. Give them feed and water as if you hatched them yourself, and watch them closely. If they take to the feed and water quickly, you may not want to mess with anything else. They should be fine. If they do not take to the food and water, you can help them along by dipping their beaks. You can also peck at the feed with your finger. If they are still not responding, put marbles in the waterers. Show them how to peck, and keep their attention. Once you get a couple to eat and drink, the others will quickly follow."

Advice from Chicken Hatchers

April 9, 2003
Kristine at

The only way it will work is if they have been setting close to the normal time on fake eggs. Then you slip them in under them at night when they are not really awake enough. Otherwise if the hen has not been setting the chick is just a nuisance.

April 9, 2003
Ruth Bloch at

On day 18, take the turner out and lay the eggs on their side, fill the reservoir, close the lid and don't open it again until the chicks are finished hatching and dry. Then you can move them to a nice warm brooder you should have all set up and waiting for them. I always like to turn on the heat lamp on the 20th day so it's nice and toasty.

April 9, 2003
HS Wong

Sticky chicks or stuck chicks? Sticky chicks have gooey stuff all over and one of the causes (the most common one) is too high humidity! Your chicks have not lost enough "water"; hence the "sticky" stuff. On the other hand, if your chicks are "stuck" to the internal surface of the shell and suffocates, etc., that's due to too little humidity. They dry out too fast and gets stuck to the membrance which prevents them from turning in the shell, or from breaking the shell completely.


From "Hatching and Brooding Small Numbers of Chicks " s/DI0631.html

"About 2 inches of litter material give the chicks better footing and help keep the box clean. Wood shavings, chopped straw or paper, peat moss, or sand are suitable. Replace the litter when necessary to keep the box clean and dry.

"Waterers to be used with pint canning jars are often available at farm supply stores. They should be placed onto a wooden block to help keep them free from litter. A small dish?with marbles or pebbles added to keep the chicks out of the water?can be used for a waterer. You can also use a saucer having an inverted cup placed over it. Replace the water twice a day, or more frequently if necessary to keep the water clean and fresh. Clean the waterer each time you make the change, and refill it with lukewarm water.

"Although chicks don't need feed or water the first 48 hours after hatching, both are usually provided as soon as the chicks are transferred to the rearing box. Use a small box or tray for a feeder. Let the chicks scratch around in the feed for the first few days so they get off to a good start on the feed and don't eat too much litter.

"Chicks are best started on a chick starter mash. For other poultry, use the appropriate starter feed for that species, of bird, if available. Mashed, hardcooked egg also makes an I excellent starter feed. You can use breakfast cereal for a few days if it is in a form the chicks can readily eat. Rapidly growing chicks must have a well-balanced starter diet for proper growth and development."


From VEGETABLE GARDENS OF THE COLUMBIA BASIN [website gone, and missed]

"Start your chicks on crumbles. You can buy this as starter feed or Start & Grow which you can continue to feed them as pullets. You do not need to provide grit as long as you feed your chicks exclusively on crumbles. As soon as you switch to whole grains and other foods, you must provide grit to enable digestion. Start & Grow and other starter feeds come in both medicated and non-medicated forms (see below). A chick feeder is a good idea, especially at first, as this will help keep the feed clean. Later, you may choose to feed chicks on the ground where they can scratch for the feed but this is less sanitary and may contribute to the spread of disease. The feed should be kept in front of them at all times. If it completely runs out before the next feeding, you need to increase the ration. I feed my chicks morning and evening. "


from I.C.S. Poultryman's Handbook
A Convenient Reference Book For All Persons Interested in the Production of Eggs and Poultry for Market and the Breeding of Standard-Bred Poultry for Exhibition
International Textbook Company
Scranton, PA

All text is quoted accurately from this book. Anything in SQUARE BRACKETS [ ] is a note from ChickenFeed Website.

No food is given to young chicks for the first 48 hr., but grit of some kind is supplied to clean out their digestive organs. Beginning with the third day, they may have stale bread moistened with sweet milk and pressed until nearly dry. For the next 2 or 3 da. a mixture of stale bread crumbs and fine oatmeal makes a good ration, and is better fed in small quantities at frequent intervals. [NOTE: Remember, this is 1912, before additives were put into bread. If this is tried, make sure the bread is healthfully made.]

For chicks that are a week or more old, a simple ration can be made of 4 parts, by weight, of cracked corn, 2 parts of broken wheat, 2 parts of oatmeal, and 2 parts of granulated meat scrap. The corn should be broken into small pieces and the meat scrap must be of good quality, rich in protein, and of small size; meat scrap that contains fat is not fit to use in this ration. After the chicks are 6 wk. old, a ration made of cracked corn, whole wheat, hulled oats, and meat scrap can be used. In addition to the grain and meat ration, grit, green food, broken sea shells, or bone meal are necessary for young chicks. All food fed to chicks should be in small particles to avoid disorders in the crop and digestive organs. [NOTE: A Vitamix blender can handle tough grains. Used ones can be found. Don't blend to a flour. Use a commercial starter mix to compare grain size. Blend a few seconds, pour though a seive, re-blend the big pieces, and repeat.]

The accompanying table gives the feeding standards for young chicks.


Food			Quarts

(a) "for chicks having the free range of a farm"
Shelled corn		16
Wheat			8
Hulled oats		4
Pearl barley		3
Millet seed		0.5

(b) "for bantams or chicks of tender constitution"
Millet seed		0.5
Cracked Kafir corn	1	
Cracked wheat		2
Cracked wheat		2
Canary seed		1
Oatmeal			1
Finely granulated meat	0.5
(c) "for those partly or wholly confined"
Fine siftings from
	cracked corn	40
Cracked wheat		30
Oatmeal			10
Millet seed		3
Granulated meat		7

(d) "for those partly or wholly confined"
Fine broken corn	35
Cracked Kafir corn	6
Cracked wheat		40
Hulled oats		30
Broken peas		5
Animal charcoal		5
Millet seed		5
Meat scrap		10

(e) "for half-grown chicks on the range"
Cracked corn		50
Whole wheat		50
Clipped oats		30
Barley			10

(f) "for half-grown chicks on the range"
Cracked corn		200
Whole wheat		300
Barley			200
Clipped oats		100
Screenings		200
Buckwheat		100

Mixing of Chick Foods:
The term chick food is used to describe mixtures made from food materials that are used for feeding chicks. Many kinds are manufactured and sold commercially; if they are of good quality, their use may be convenient and safe [!]. Chick food can be made of numerous kinds of grains and seeds. Any of the mixtures given in the accompanying table form suitable chick foods. After the grains in (a) have been ground and mixed, 4 qt. of beef scraps should be added to the mixture; (a) is adapted to chicks having the free range of a farm; (b) is for bantams or chicks of tender constitution; (c) and (d) are for those partyly or wholly confined; (e) and (f) are grain mixtures suitable for half-grown chicks on the range.

Feeding Schedule for Chicks:
Chicks thrive best if fed five times a day until they are 6 wk. old, after which age they may be fed four times daily; and at 8 wk. of age, three meals a day are sufficient. The following schedule may be observed in feeding five meals a day:
First Meal---Soon after daylight. Bread crumbs, seed, or small grain, according to age.
Second Meal---Eight or nine o'clock. Egg food, mash feed, or chick feed, according to age.
Third Meal---Noon. Small grains or chick feed, scattered into chaff or dry litter of some kind.
Fourth Meal---Two o'clock. Either egg food, mash feed, bread softened with milk, or johnny cake.
Fifth Meal---Four o'clock. A full meal of small grain or chick feed, scattered in the chaff or litter.
The small grains and chick feed should be scattered in dry chaff or cut straw. Fine or short-cut alfalfa or clover hay makes good litter; sand, sawdust, or chips of wood are undesirable litter for chicks. Clean, dry earth may also be safely used for litter.

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How to Raise Baby Chicks

Organic Baby Chick Food at

New book !
by one of C'Feed's foremost Experts, Robert Plamondon.

Developing Egg

Chick Rearing Tips from Scotland

Experiments with Eggs

Feed Instructions
Feeding Breeders
Feed Recipes

Types of Feed

Mash: a blend of several feed ingredients, ground to a small size but not to a powder

Pellets: small kernels of compressed mash, causing birds to eat the whole blend, not pick and choose

Crumbles: pellets broken up into smaller pieces

Starter: a blend of feed for chicks and growing birds, usually in the form of mash; approximately the same as "Grower"; can be replaced with "adult" food as soon as chicks go for it, somewhere between 4 and 8 weeks of age

Grower: approximately the same as "Starter"

Layer: feed blend for chickens that are laying eggs, having extra calcium and protein added

Broiler: feed blend for chickens that are growing as fast as possible, in order to be harvested for meat as early as possible

Scratch: whole grains fed separately to chickens, usually scattered on the ground or litter of the coop; usually a mixture of grains, such as wheat, rye, oats, etc. (corn/maize must be cracked before using as scratch grain)

Feed Ingredients Concentrate: a blend of protein-rich foods, plus any other nutrients desired; usually fed together with a grain ration

Grit: angular, hard crushed rock, preferably from granite, used by the chickens in place of "teeth" --- seashells and bone CANNOT substitute for grit; for confinded birds, grit should be offered several times a month at least; it should be of the right size for the age of the bird; birds allowed to free range don't need to be offered grit -- they find their own ideal sizes and types to suit themselves

Corn: American term meaning maize corn, or "corn on the cob" (in England "corn" means what grain means in the US, that is, all food grains)

Grain: American term meaning any small, hard seeds, especially grass-family seeds (called corn in England); provides energy, B vitamins, phosphorus, and the whole grains are a fair source of protein, too

Bran: the outer coating of a kernel of grain; extremely high in silicon, which slows down its decomposing in the soil; cheap by-product of milling, often given away free by large mills

Germ: the embryo plant inside a kernel of grain; very nutritious and high in protein; wheat and rice germ (also called "rice polish") are a saleable by-product of milling

Middlings: an old milling term for the parts of the kernel that are milled off with the germ, and probably contain both the starch and bran (please email me if you have more specific information :-)

Calcium: provided by sea shells, crushed bone, and fresh or dried greens --- amounts need to be measured closely, if not free range; must be provided in higher quantities as soon as chickens begin to lay eggs

Protein: any food high in amino acids, used to build tissues; protein quality is determined by the "completeness" of the amino acid varieties in the food source; all meats, eggs of all kinds, milk, cheese, nuts, seed germs, and soy beans are high protein sources

Amino acid: a molecule that is one building block of protein; there are many different amino acids, most of which can be manufactured in the body; the few that cannot must be supplied by foods, and are called "Essential Amino Acids"; a food that supplies all 8 essential amino acids is called "complete"

Vitamins: an old, general term meaning "life-giving"; a chemical found in nature or made by man to imitate natural ones; new vitamins, and new uses for known vitamins, are always being discovered; see RECIPES section for which ones to use

Minerals: non-life-created chemicals found in nature; these and vitamins can be added to dietary regimens to improve health; sea water contains all the minerals of the earth, in their natural forms and safe amounts; "trace minerals" are those needed in relatively very tiny amounts, and can be highly toxic if these amounts are exceeded; "macro-minerals" are those needed in large amounts, such as calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium

Kelp: sea-weed, plants that grow in the sea; contains all the minerals of the earth; all kelp is edible, and can easily be dried and fed to chickens by clipping a sheaf of it to something in their area (also, this replaces any need to add salt to their rations)

Methods of Raising Poultry
Free range: ideally, not controlled by fences, able to get to fresh greens and insects; as commercially used, this term allows fences, with minimum amount of space per bird set by government agency definition

Pastured poultry: hens kept in movable, usually wheeled, pens, moved daily over fresh pasture, creating delicious meat and the very most nutritious eggs (and very fertile pastureland, too)

Organic: inspected by government agencies, organic food sources must not contain traces of harmful chemicals; the term as currently used does not insure that poultry has been raised in the best possible way, only that it has near zero harmful ingredients

Types of Chickens
Pullets: female chickens in their first year of lay, or prior to their first moult; female baby chicks

Hens: female chickens in their second year of lay, or after their first moult

Straight Run: a random mixture of male and female baby chicks, usually less expensive than only pullets

Cockerels: male baby chicks; male young domestic fowl

Broilers: chickens raised to be eaten

Layers: chickens raised to be egg-layers

Layer-Broiler: chickens raised to be both egg-laye