types of food baby chicks can and cannot eat

Types of Food Baby Chicks Can and Cannot Eat

Chickens are great companions. They provide fresh eggs, nutrients for your lawn and years of entertainment with their big personalities. Best of all, chickens are easy to feed, willing to finish almost any of your daily leftovers.

A baby chicks’ diet is extremely versatile, but there are some foods to rethink before throwing them into the coop. Here, we’ll outline the nutrient-dense foods baby chicks love and the leftovers to keep in your compost pile.

Browse Organic Chicken Feed

What Are the Essential Nutrients for Chickens?

Baby chicks require a more nutrient-dense diet than their adult counterparts. When feeding your baby chicks, ensure their feed has the following nutrients:

  • Protein: After hatching, a chick’s diet should include approximately 18% to 20% protein. Protein builds chicks’ muscles, promoting strength and bone integrity during their crucial developmental stages. As chicks reach 19 weeks old, gradually taper their protein intake to about 16% of their diet.
  • Vitamins: All poultry require fat- and water-soluble vitamins. Specifically, they require all vitamins except vitamin C, including vitamin A, D, E and K, niacin, folic acid, biotin, thiamine and riboflavin.
  • Minerals: Minerals are equally important. Baby chicks require a diet with calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and copper, among others.
  • Grains: Most chicken feeds incorporate healthy grains, like corn, wheat and soybean meal. These grains act as sources of vitamins, oil and protein, which all poultry require for energy.
  • Fats: Most of a chicken’s fat content comes from oils that contain linoleic acid, an important fatty acid. Fatty acids break down vitamins and minerals, allowing chickens to receive all of their benefits.

Baby chicks’ feed should provide at least 90% of their nutrition, with the remaining 10% from their pasture.

On top of their feed, poultry require a constant source of water. Chickens drink almost three times their weight in water. A good water-to-chicken ratio is one quart per four chickens.

What Can Baby Chickens Eat?

Do you plan on feeding your baby chicks a homemade diet? Consider incorporating these nutrient-rich foods:

1. Worms

Chickens love worms! Worms naturally exist in a chicken’s environment, so it’s in their biological makeup to enjoy worms. Specifically, baby chicks can eat mealworms and red worms. Both are great sources of protein, but avoid feeding your chickens too many worms, or it may overwhelm their system.

2. Crickets

As with worms, baby chicks can eat crickets, and they often do in their natural environment. Crickets are high in protein, fat and carbs, making them an ideal snack in moderation.

3. Tomatoes

Baby chicks can eat tomatoes, but they can’t eat the plant, leaves or flowers as they contain poisonous solanine. Tomatoes themselves are full of essential vitamin K, folic acid, fiber, potassium and antioxidants. If you have a garden, toss any malformed tomatoes into your coop. Your chickens will be thankful!

tomatoes are full of essential vitamins

4. Oatmeal

Oats are considered a superfood, full of vitamins, minerals and some protein. Baby chicks can eat both raw oats and warm oatmeal every now and then. Adding birdseed and plain yogurt boosts oatmeal’s nutrients, too!

5. Strawberries

Baby chicks can eat fruit, and they especially love strawberries. Strawberries contain many vitamins and minerals, namely iron, copper, magnesium, Vitamin B and potassium. Also, strawberries are packed with other anti-inflammatory antioxidants that keep your chicks healthy.

6. Bananas

If you have any brown, spotty bananas, your baby chicks will gladly eat them for you! Baby chicks can eat bananas, but avoid feeding them any unripe bananas. Bananas are high in Vitamin B6 and pyridoxine and a good source of magnesium, copper and healthy carbs.

7. Apples

Baby chicks can eat apples, but you should chop them up and remove any seeds for easier consumption and digestion. Apple sauce is another good alternative. Apples are a good source of carbs and contain fiber, potassium and Vitamin K, too.

8. Lettuce

When it comes to vegetables, baby chicks can eat lettuce, as well as kale, turnip greens and chard. Romaine lettuce is high in phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K and folate, supplying your baby chick with almost all of the necessary minerals. Avoid iceberg lettuce, however, as it’s low in nutritional value and may cause diarrhea.

9. Watermelons

Baby chicks can eat watermelons, but they should never consume watermelon rinds or seeds. Baby chicks may benefit from watermelon on hot summer days as an added source of hydration. Otherwise, they don’t offer many nutrients.

10. Grass

Adult hens typically peck through grass for insects and eat any smaller pieces of grass. Usually, day or week-old chicks won’t show much interest in eating grass. Some owners give their chicks the option, however, because it encourages foraging.

What Can’t Baby Chickens Eat?

Some of your groceries, however, are best left for your compost pile. Foods that baby chickens cannot eat include:

  • Onions
  • Chocolate
  • Avocados
  • Eggplant
  • Peanuts
  • Moldy Bread
  • Rhubarb
  • Pickles

All of these foods contain different toxins that make baby chicks, and all other poultry, feel sick — or even cause death in extreme cases. Most chickens instinctively avoid these toxic foods. If your chicks do consume these toxins and you notice illness symptoms, give them plenty of access to electrolytes and extra nutrients. Chickens heal themselves over time in less severe cases.

What Is the Best Food for Baby Chicks?

organic chicken starter feed

The best food you can give your baby chicks is organic chicken starter feed. The foods listed above are healthy for chicks — and you’re encouraged to recycle any leftovers — but they may receive too many or too little nutrients.

Organic chicken starter feed is packed with essential nutrients like:

  • Organic carbs, including corn, soybean meal and wheat
  • Organic soybean oil
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Zinc sulfate
  • Copper sulfate
  • Calcium iodate
  • Vitamin D3
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Riboflavin
  • Folic acid

Opting for organic chicken starter feed over non-organic alternatives ensures your baby chicks receive non-medicated and non-GMO nutrients. Natural feeds contain little to no cheap filler products, giving you more nutrients for your money and your chickens a healthier lifestyle.

How Much Should You Feed Baby Chicks?

Chickens are good at eating what they need. Ensure your chicks have a constant supply of organic chicken starter feed and refill their supply as needed.

Because baby chicks and adult chickens require different amounts of nutrients, it’s best to separate them until the chicks are at least 2 months old. Plus, older chickens tend to be aggressive with smaller chicks, sometimes bullying them away from food. Keep an eye on every chick and make sure they’re all getting an equal share of food.

Shop Organic Chicken Starter Feed at Nature’s Best Organic Feeds

Kreamer Feed believed in organic food well before the grocery chains. Since 1998, we have been the leading certified organic feed manufacturer — best known for our brand, Nature’s Best Organic Feeds.

If you’re looking for the best feed for your baby chicks, choose our high-protein organic chick starter. Our chicken feed is packed with essential nutrients, perfect for your growing backyard animals.

Learn more about our organic chicken starter feed online. You can find our products at your nearest Tractor Supply Co., which you can locate directly on our product page!

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