It can be a little worrying when you see how fast the feed is going down in the chick feeder. This might make you ask yourself, “Are they going to hurt themselves by eating all of that?” After all, these little fuzzballs are only so big, so concern for their health is not unreasonable… is it?
For the first three weeks, you should not be concerned about any overeating. While baby chicks can spend a lot of time with their beaks in the feeder, they are not always gorging themselves with food. It’s not uncommon for them to simply take a couple of quick pecks at the feed before running off to check out something new.
Chickens are very curious creatures and they don’t have hands. Consequently, they’ll use their beaks to give things an inquisitive ‘peck’ as they mentally process what their dealing with. But just because they’ve peck at it, this doesn’t mean that they’ve swallowed it. Their beaks are simply what they use to get a ‘handle’ on things.
Also worth noting, chickens are sloppy eaters. So while the feed in your chick feeder might be rapidly going down, you should not be overly concerned. There is a real good possibility that you will find a sizable portion of the feed when you change the bedding.
Can You Overfeed Chicks?
One thing to remember when considering how much your chick is eating, is that these happy little chirpers have a different biology than we do. While our food goes directly to our stomachs, birds have an organ called the crop. This crop acts as sort of a ‘holding pouch’ for food, before it goes further down where things are actually digested.
For this reason, you should not worry about overfeeding your chicks. They will simply eat as instinct dictates, with their bodies processing things as needed. However, what you should be concerned with is what they are eating.
Flock owners will often give their chicks the occasional ‘treat’ as this provides stimulation for the birds and a chance for some fun interaction. If done in moderation with the right ‘treat’ then this is actually a good thing. But restraint is in order.
For example, tossing a small bread crumb into the brooder will result in one chick grabbing it and then running like mad as the rest of the flock tries to steal it away. And while the exercise is good, the bread has very little nutritional value. In a sense, it is simply a piece of cake.
Don’t let your chicks fill up with cake! Their bodies are growing at a phenomenal pace and they need lots of nutrition.
### Important Note ###
It’s worth noting that your domesticated chicken is a long ways from the original Red Junglefowl and as such has different needs. The demand for protein in particular is significant and if this demand is not provided for, then the risk for health issues is high.
How Often Do You Feed Baby Chicks?
For chicks of any breed, a constant supply of food should be available for the first three weeks. However, depending on your breed of chicken, you may have to start rationing their food intake after three weeks of age.
If you are raising chickens meant for filling the freezer – aka, broilers – you should consult your chick supplier as to the recommended feeding schedule as this will be different from other breeds of chicken.
For example, it is recommended that the Cornish Broiler be on a feeding schedule of 12 hours with food, followed by 12 hours without. This is because this breed of chicken grows very fast, being ready for butcher at around 7 weeks of age.
If you were to allow this breed of chicken to have access to food 24 hours a day, they would most likely eat themselves to death. Heart attacks are not uncommon for overfed Cornish Broilers, as well as broken legs; their bones being unable to grow strong enough to support the quick and massive weight gain.
However, this feeding schedule only applies to the broiler breeds. If you are not raising broiler chicks, then round the clock food should be fine. (If you have any concerns at all, then consult the chick supplier. It’s been my experience that they never hesitate to help.)
For us, when raising our non-broiler chicks, a constant supply of food and water is made available in their brooder until the day they graduate to the coop. This happens at around 8 weeks of age.
What Do You Feed Baby Chicks?
One of my biggest pet peeves is listening to other flock owners brag about how they able to cut corners on something related to their flock. And for the record, I love not spending money (some might even refer to me as being ‘cheap’). But there are just some things that you should not strive so hard to cut corners on – with one of those tings being food.
Chicks should only ever be given a high quality Starter Feed. To give them anything else is to promote a situation where a lack of proper physical development can occur.
We buy Starter Feed Crumbles at around $16 for 50 lbs. And depending on how big our flock is, this 50 lb. bag can last a LONG time. Considering just how crucial protein and nutrition is to a growing chick, I would argue that if your trying to skimp on $16 then perhaps you should consider not raising chickens.
I do not say this to be mean, but I do have a thorough understanding of what it takes for a domesticate chick to grow. Remember, these are not the wild animals that lived solely on foraging. These breeds are the result of considerable effort and as such, have definite needs.
There are very few things as rewarding as raising a batch of chicks. Those fuzzy little cheepers are uber adorable and transform into the appearance of an adult within 2 months. Unlike grass, it is actually fun to watch them grow!
Please do not be daunted by the task of raising them. While things are critical in the beginning, it does not take long before the work load and the worry diminishes significantly. However, I do implore you to approach this task responsibly.
If you are considering on taking that first step towards a backyard flock of your own, then check out, ‘Raising Chickens: 5 Easy Steps For The 1st Timer’.