Caring for your chicks weeks 1-6: FOOD & WATER
Updated: Feb 25
This is the 3rd part of our blog to try to give you a place to read up on how to care for your chicks in terms of what to feed them. - we are by NO means experts, nor are we writers -We are learning new things every single day, which makes us in the perfect position to come along on this journey with you. We can share what has worked for us, and in our area. I have decided to link some of the items we have either purchased specifically from Amazon, as with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is harder to find things that are usually readily available. If you click on them from here, and purchase one of the items, I will get a tiny compensation. So thank you, if you see something you need :)
When chicks prepare to hatch, they begin to absorb the yolk with all nutrition they will need for the next 2-3 days. This is how hatcheries can successfully ship day old chicks without food and water. We tend to get a lot of questions about what to feed them. Also many of our farm families purchase a combination of chicks, ducklings, and keets. Everything applies except the following notes you will see highlighted and in BOLD
FRESH WATER (Room Temp & Unsoftened) NEEDS TO BE AVAILABLE 24/7
Around 24-48 hrs after hatch we will remove chicks from brooder and introduce them to their waterer by gently dipping their beaks. The water should be just slightly warmer than room temp, (Cold water can be shocking on a newly hatched chick.) After this first introduction they should know where to go for water, its a matter of keeping it fresh (and slightly warmed) 24/7. A saucer with marbles makes a great first waterer, keeps them from getting super wet, and prevents drowning. After a few days or by end of week they an switch to something bigger like a Tupperware dish idea with holes, or commercial poultry waterer. If you decide to try the chicken cups or nipples for automatic watering, I have heard the nips work best. We have tried everything, DIY, commercial, expensive, inexpensive. Our favourite waterer when they were small, was a dish
with some holes cut into the lid, raised up on a brick or block. The cups, we had really hoped would work, we were close, but didn't trust it not to leak and drop 5 gallons of water on our basement floor while at work. Today, we are trying a smaller version of what we have in our pen. A 2L water jug with a couple of holes cut out of each side. By the time we moved them outside we had gone with this contraption:
Drilled a few holes in each side, and it worked perfectly
DUCKLINGS REQUIRE DEEP WATER THAT THEY CAN DIP THEIR BILLS IN UP TO THEIR NOSTRILS
FOOD: We freely give medicated chick starter crumble for the first 4-6 weeks. The first few days up until a week, I usually add warm water. I have noticed a decrease in pasty butt by doing this. (Also covering the shavings with paper towel for the week helps avoid this). I usually introduce the crumble dry and scattered on clean paper towel the last day before removing it. This way they start to scratch and peck at the crumble, and hopefully continue this and avoid eating the wood chips when paper towel is removed. we use medicated - there are no antibiotics, its simply Amprolium, which is similar to a probiotic for chickens. It helps to prevent against Coccidososis not treat it. Coccidosis is a GI parasite that is commonly found on farms and causes bloody diarrhea and possibly death. Amprolium helps keep the numbers of the parasite down while the chicks own immune system helps build antibodies against it. Most of the feed we are able to find at our local feed stores. Chickens don't seem to be as fussy if you change their diets like domestic cats and dogs. We have never had issues transitioning over just a couple of days to a new food. Once they are 4-6 weeks old, we changed to a grower chick feed (approx 18% protein) then at 18-20 weeks a layer feed. We keep their food dish topped up, and clean out and refill 3-4 times a day. A small feeder is good for keeping the food fresh, dry and limited waste. Days that we are gone all day, then we will use a larger feeder, and larger non-spillable waterer.
IF YOU HAVE DUCKLINGS DO NOT FEED MEDICATED CHICK STARTER
Ducklings will require either starter duck/goose crumble (20% protein) - or unmedicated chick starter with extra Niacin (Brewer's yeast) added. A little bit will not hurt them, but they eat a lot more than chicks, and will consume more Amprolium that what is expected (liver has a tough time processing that much at once)
TREATS: The first treats we started with our chicks were at about 3-4 weeks scrambled eggs, than frozen peas - warmed, some warm oatmeal, and some plain yogurt. Once they were over 6 wks, we gave them corn on cob, and veggie scraps. once in a while. There is an entire list of things you can and should not offer them. Please look it up before feeding them something you are unsure of. To mention a few things: Raw potatoes, avocado, apple cores, rhubarb, garlic,
DUCKLINGS LOVE PEAS AND PEAS = LOTS OF NIACIN
GRIT: If your chicks are only eating commercial feed, they do NOT require grit. If you are feeding them treats and people food they will. If they are outside foraging, they can usually find grit in the form of dirt, gravel, etc. It is not a bad idea to provide grit after 6 weeks, in a separate dish that they can peck from if they need it.
OYSTER SHELLS: Calcium addition for hens that are laying. Not required for first 18 weeks. Free feed in a separate bowl, they will eat what they need.
Electrolytes: I have never tried electrolytes with any of my chicks, but have tried Apple Cider Vinegar with lethargic chicks I had purchased from a fair. They died within an hour of being in our care, and the ACV didn't help. Some people swear by it, but I just don't have any luck, so cannot promote it.
Local Feed Stores in Ontario we have used regularly:
Bakers Feed Store in Crosby
TCO in Napanee https://tcoagromart.com
Northway Home Hardware in Inverary
**We found the service, price and quality great at each of these locations**
Wanting to Try:
Willows Agriculture in Lyndhurst