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What's the best food for new chicks?

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Table of Contents

Optimal Food For New Chicks – Egg Laying And Broiler Chicks

baby chick feed

New chicks have specific nutritional requirements that allow them to quickly reach critical body weight at an early age. Both beginner and advanced farmers generally purchase commercially manufactured feed to ensure they are giving their newly hatched chicks the correct concentrations of protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In short, avoid attempting to make your own chick feed if you don’t know exactly what you are doing.

Chicks that don’t consume the proper chick feed suffer from leg issues, slow growth, the inability to feather normally, and high body fat. Realize that chick feed differs from egg laying chicks and broiler chicks so choose the correct feed from day one.

Quality Starter Chick Feed - Weight Doubles

If given a high-quality starter feed, chicks will double their weight five times during the first 6 weeks of life. Chick feed, otherwise known as crumble, should contain low levels of calcium to avoid long-term kidney damage and high levels of protein to encourage rapid growth. Give chicks crumble for about 8 weeks and then mix it half-and-half with grower feed for a couple of weeks before switching over to grower feed exclusively.

Quality chick feed is more expensive than low-grade feed, but it’s far healthier for chicks. If quality is the goal, choose a non-GMO feed that contains whole grains, not just corn and soy.

Medicated Chick Feed

For small operations, medicated chick feed is not required and is best avoided. However, large farming operations with more than 50 chicks choose medicated chick feed that contains coccidiostat. Coccidiostat prevents coccidiosis, a common parasite that is common among chicks growing in unhealthy, cramped conditions. To minimize the risk of coccidiosis, place feed in a chick feeder, not on the floor, so it doesn’t come in contact with droppings.

Chick Feed Schedule

0-21 Days

During the first two days of life, chicks don’t need any food or water. Move chicks from the incubator to the brooder. After chicks are drinking from the water source, introduce the starter chick feed to the brooder. Chick starter should be the only food that chicks eat for the first 21 days to avoid upsetting their stomach.

After 21 Days

After 21 days, it is time to offer other foods besides their starter feed. Before doing so, it is necessary to provide them with grit made of fine granite or flint. Grit mimics the dirt and stones chicks eat in the wild, serving as teeth to mix up food in their gullet and aid digestion. Simply put a dish of fine grit next to their food so they can consume it as they choose.

What Food Can I Feed My Chicks?


Chicks love insects. However, insects are extremely high in protein and need to be balanced out with other food sources. Most growers tend to feed their chicks mealworms, black soldier fly larvae, and crickets, but chicks will eat nearly any insect.


Chicks enjoy cooked oatmeal, making oats a great way to increase calories and put on weight quickly.

Chicks also enjoy eating corn, but ideally, grind up corn kernels so they can easily digest them. Better yet, feed them cooked corn or sprouted corn.

Fruits and Vegetables

Chicks love pumpkins and squash. For the most part, chicks prefer cooked pumpkin and squash.

Chicks love fruits like apples, strawberries, bananas, watermelon, and especially grapes. Feeding chicks fruit from time to time gives them a nice treat and a change of pace from their chick feed.

Chicks enjoy greens like lettuce, cabbage, grass, and weeds. Free-range chicks constantly nibble on the vegetation in search of insects. A certain amount of plant foliage is healthy for chicks, as it aids in digestion.

Fermented dairy like yogurt is something that chicks enjoy. However, chicks can’t process lactose so avoid fresh dairy.


Flax seeds and chia seeds are an enjoyable treat. Both of these seeds contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that are healthy for chicks.

What Can’t Chicks Eat?

There are certain foods that chicks can’t eat or don’t enjoy eating. Some of these foods are toxic to chicks and can even kill them. In most cases, chicks intuitively know what foods to avoid, but it is best not to offer them toxic or harmful food in the first place.

Tomato Plants

Chicks can’t eat tomato plants because they contain the toxic chemical solanine. However, chicks can safely consume tomatoes and most will gladly eat them. Chicks should also not consume raw potatoes, as they contain toxic glycoalkaloids. Raw beans are also toxic, as they contain the compound hemagglutinin.

A lot of Other Stuff

Chicks can’t eat onions, garlic, chocolate, eggplant, avocado rinds and seeds, peanuts, pickles, rhubarb, moldy bread, and any other moldy food. Other off-limit foods include citrus rinds, citrus in general, coffee, raw eggs, processed food, and dry rice.

Egg Laying Chick Feed

An egg laying chick has different nutritional requirements than a broiler chick. Egg laying chicks consume far less feed and will generally only eat 1 kilogram of feed during the first 6 weeks of life. Feed for an egg laying chick should contain between 18%-20% protein originally to spur growth quickly. After switching over to grower feed, the protein concentration should be dropped to 16% protein. Grower feed should also contain high levels of calcium, increased phosphorus, and vitamins A, B2, B12, D3, and K. Trace amounts of manganese, copper, and zinc should be included in grower feed to support high-quality eggs. Place ground oyster shells near an egg laying hen’s food source so they have access to all the calcium they need.

Broiler Chick Feed

Broiler chicks start with a feed that contains between 21% and 22% protein for the first 10 days of life. Between days 11-25, broiler chicks should be fed a diet that contains 20% protein along with vitamins A, B2, B12, D3, and K. Overall, broiler chicks eat about 4 kg of feed during the first 6 weeks of life, four times more than an egg laying chick.

Food For New Chicks

Finding the right food for new chicks doesn’t have to be complicated for farmers who stick to a commercial blend that has the optimal amount of protein, fats, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. For the most part, chicks should only eat chick feed starter during the first 3 weeks of life and then incorporate other healthy foods into their diet. Opt for a feed that is specific to either egg laying chicks or broiler chicks to quickly reach critical body weight at an early age.


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