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Should Baby Chicks Have Food All The Time?

Today’s backyard chicken has very little in common with their original parent, the Red Jungle Fowl. Careful and selective breeding has produced an incredible range of traits for this domesticated bird.

But with this plethora of physical traits comes significant dietary demands.

It is my opinion that baby chicks should have access to food all of the time as their bodies will go from the size of an egg to roughly that of a volleyball in just eight weeks.

Obviously, that is an incredible amount of growth!

Should they be lacking in the protein and the nutrients that this rapid growth demands, then their health will be directly impacted by it.

Can Baby Chicks Overeat?

While overeating can be a real issue for some animals, it is generally not a thing for chickens. I have never seen, nor even heard of, a chicken that was in need of a diet.

This would be especially true of baby chicks considering how fast they grow and how active they can be.

Broilers, a breed of chicken meant specifically for meat production, can give the appearance of over-indulgence as they will often fall asleep with their beak in the food trough. But as they are generally harvested a little after seven weeks of age, long term health issues are not a factor.

Baby Chicks And Treats

It is a good practice to start working with your chicks right around four weeks of age. Establishing a bond or even a simple ‘treat call’ will be advantageous to you and your flock in the long run.

And the best way to do this, is through treats.

As mentioned, today’s domesticated baby chick has significant nutritional needs. Consequently, you want to be very careful about what kind and how much of a treat you are giving them.

The treat that has always worked well for us is grasshoppers/crickets.

This seems to be a fairly healthy and engaging treat for the chicks, as they love to chase, not only the little hopping insect, but each other as they attempt to steal the treat from whoever has it.

Watching this is enormously entertaining! But care must be taken not to do it too often. Their primary diet must be a high quality ‘Starter Feed’ – in order to guarantee adequate nutrition intake.

Also, intense running and chasing is good exercise but should not lead to exhaustion, over-heating or dehydration.

For an in-depth look at engaging with your baby chicks, please read: “How To Make Your Baby Chicks Like You.”

Wasted Feed

One of the things that really frustrated me when I first started raising chicks, was just how much feed ended up on the ground. It seemed like half the time the chicks had their beaks in the feeder, it was just to throw food around.

Unfortunately, this is just the nature of raising chicks – they can be very messy eaters.

Don’t feel discouraged if you find yourself in this situation. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference to the chicks if the feed is in the actual feeder or on the ground.

Scratching and pecking is who they are and if they’re hungry, they’ll eat – no matter where the food can be found.

# Note #

It can be helpful to put a little distance between the feeder and the waterer. Chicken feed absorbs water easily. And wet feed can turn into a health issue for your new flock.

Be sure to clean the soggy chick feed from the brooder.