What do you feed baby chickens after they hatch

Baby Chick Care | Purina Animal Nutrition

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Backyard Poultry

Backyard Poultry

Starting a Flock : Caring for Chicks

Purina Animal Nutrition

Bringing home your baby chicks is an exciting milestone in raising backyard chickens. The three key essentials for raising strong baby chicks: Warm, water and feed. Start chicks strong by providing a complete chick starter feed from day 1 through week 18.

For those of us welcoming new chicks, how can we give them a solid start?

To best transition chicks into a flock, provide comfort, care and complete nutrition from day one. A chick never gets over a bad start. The actions we take before chicks arrive and the care we provide in the first few days can help set-up our chicks to be happy and healthy long-term.

Before baby chicks arrive: Set up the brooder

Set up your brooder about 48 hours before your chicks arrive. This allows time for bedding and equipment to dry and the temperature to set.

Equipment for day one includes:

  • Brooder: The brooder is the first home of new chicks. Be sure it is comfortable, warm and draft-free with at least 3 to 4 square feet per chick. The area should be circular and expandable.
  • Heat lamp: Assemble a heat lamp in the center of the brooder for bird warmth. Hang the heat lamp about 20 inches above the litter, with 2.5 to 3 feet between the lamp and the guard walls. The temperature under the heat lamp, or comfort zone, should be 95 degrees Fahrenheit and adequate room in the brooder should be available for the chicks to get out from under the heater if they get too hot. After week one, gradually reduce heat by 5 degrees Fahrenheit each week until reaching a minimum of 55 degrees.
  • Bedding: Add an absorbant wood shavings bedding to the floor of the brooder. Place bedding 3 to 4 inches deep to keep the area dry and odor free. Remove wet bedding daily, especially around waterers. Do not use cedar shavings or other types of shavings that have a strong odor because the odor could affect the long term health of the bird.
  • Lights: Provide 18 – 22 hours of light for the first week. Then reduce light to 16 hours through the growing period or to the amount of light they will receive when they are 20 weeks of age.  The amount of light intensity required would be provided by a 40 watt bulb for each 100 square feet (10’ x 10’) of floor space.
  • Feeders: Offer 4 linear inches of feeder space for each bird. Clean egg cartons filled with feed make excellent and easily accessible feeders for young chicks. Provide low-lying feeders, or trough feeders, for after the transition.
  • Waterers: For every 25 chicks, fill two 1-quart waterers with room temperature water and place them in the brooder. To help water stay at room temperature, place the waterers in the brooder, outside the comfort zone (do not position underneath the heat lamp), 24 hours prior to the chicks’ arrival.

Introduce baby chicks to water

Once chicks arrive, introduce them to the brooding area. Water, at room temperature, should be available, but wait a couple hours to introduce feed.

This gives chicks a couple hours to drink and rehydrate before they start eating, fresh, quality water is essential for healthy chicks. Dip the beaks of several chicks into the water to help them locate it. These chicks will then teach the rest of the group to drink. Monitor the group to ensure all chicks are drinking within the first couple hours. 

Teach baby chicks to eat

After chicks have had a chance to rehydrate, provide the nutrients they need through a complete chick starter feed.

Provide a chick starter feed with at least 18 percent protein to help support the extra energy needed for early growth. The feed should also include amino acids for chick development; prebiotics, probiotics and yeast for immune health; and vitamins and minerals to support bone health.

To provide all the nutrients chicks need for a strong start, choose a starter-grower feed from the Flock Strong® Feeding Program. Complete starter feed options include: Purina® Start & Grow®, Purina® Start & Grow® Medicated, Purina® Organic starter-grower and Purina®  Flock Raiser.

First, teach the chicks to eat by placing feed on clean egg flats, shallow pans or simple squares of paper. On day 2, add proper feeders to the pens. Once chicks have learned to eat from the feeders, remove the papers, pans or egg flats. 

Adjust feed as baby chicks develop

To keep feed fresh: Empty, clean and refill waterers and feeders daily. Also, raise the height of feeders and waterers so they are level with the birds’ backs as chicks grow.

As chicks mature, their nutritional needs change. At age 18 weeks, adjust the feed provided to meet the birds’ evolving nutrition needs.

Transition layer chicks onto a higher-calcium complete feed, like Purina® Layena® Crumbles or Pellets, when they begin laying eggs at age 18 to 20 weeks. For meat birds and mixed flocks, choose a complete feed with 20 percent protein, like Purina® Flock Raiser® Crumbles and feed this diet from day one through adulthood.
Thinking about getting your first chicks? Visit our Baby Chick Resource Center for everything you need to start chicks strong.


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4- to 5-Week-Old Baby Chicks


6- to 8-Week-Old Chicks: Moving to the Chicken Coop


A Guide to Backyard Self-Sufficiency


Adjust Nutrients in Chicken Feed as Birds Grow


Backyard Chickens Are a Kids’ Best Friend


Benefits of Raising Chickens

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What do baby chicks eat?

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So you're about to have baby chicks but you're not sure what feed they should eat? No problem!

In this article we'll cover everything you need to know, from what they should eat immediately after hatching, to exactly what kind of food is best for them, to when they can have treats - and what kind of treats will help their development.

Immediately post hatch, feed nothing!

Technically, baby chicks don't need anything to eat or drink for about 48 hours after they've hatched. That's because they are sustained by the yolk of the egg, which they absorb into their body just before they break through the shell.

It's how chicks can be sent by post from hatcheries with nothing to eat or drink in their container. 

So don't worry that your chick's still in the incubator without food or drink while she dries out and fluffs up. She'll be fine for now.

I generally leave my chicks to dry out in the incubator for between 6 and 12 hours after they've hatched. Once they're dry, fluffed up and reasonably active, into the brooder they go.

It's at that point you'll need to introduce food and drink. For more about drink, see this link.

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What kind of feed should chicks eat?

Chicks grow at an amazing rate in the first few weeks of life, and it's critical for their healthy development that they're fed a properly balanced chick food, known as "starter feed" or "chick crumb".

It's very important that you buy the right kind of feed for baby chicks. Don't try to give them the same food as your adult flock: it's too high in calcium which can cause irreversible kidney damage, and too low in protein which chicks, growing at an explosive rate, need.

One of my hatches tucking into their chick crumbs at Day 2 in the brooder.

Commercially produced starter feed is balanced to contain exactly what a chick needs. Look for a good brand, preferably organic and non-GMO, which contains between 15% and 20% protein.

And check whether it's bulked out with soy and corn. If you can, buy a feed that's unprocessed whole grains. It's more natural and healthier.

The best and least expensive place to buy it is your local feed store, but if you can't get there for any reason, you can buy online.

The brand I recommend if you're in the US is this one, which is both organic and guaranteed GMO free, has exactly the right amount of protein and is soy and corn free.

You'll find the UK equivalent (Fancy Feeds Chick Crumb) at this link.

Can you make your own?

Some people do. I don't recommend it for the reason I've stated above: it's really very important for the chick's development that she has a properly balanced feed with exactly the required amount of protein and very low calcium.

To try to provide that yourself is a big ask. In my view, it's better to pay for a high quality feed that you and your chicks can rely on.

Medicated or non-medicated?

I've never fed my chicks a medicated feed, and if you keep your hatchlings in a clean brooder, regularly clear away their droppings, and make sure they have sufficient space, there is really no need.

If you've bought chicks from a hatchery you need to check whether they have been given a vaccination against coccidiosis. If they have, you should definitely not offer any form of medicated feed.

It won't necessarily harm them, but it will nullify the vaccine.


is medicated food necessary?

Commercially hatched chicks have medicated feed to prevent the spread of disease. Backyard flocks should not need it.

Chicks who are hatched and raised in very cramped conditions, as often happens in commercial farms, are generally given medicated feed to prevent the spread of disease.

If you're hatching more than 50 chicks at a time, you may need to consider a medicated food.

But backyard flocks really should not need it, particularly if you're aiming to raise your flock naturally. Don't be tempted to give your chicks medication "just in case".

Instead, make sure you practice good husbandry and effective biosecurity measures. Your flock will be healthy and happy without having chemicals in their system.

In the brooder: when and how to introduce feed.

As soon as you transfer your chicks from the incubator to the brooder you should introduce them to water.

Food isn't so critical. They're not going to starve to death if you allow them to settle into their new surroundings before offering grain. In any event, chicks need to spend a good part of the couple of days after hatch sleeping.

Chicks are naturally very inquisitive, and the way they explore the world is with their beak. So a good way to introduce food to them is by using kitchen paper on the brooder floor (on top of a non-slip cover) and sprinkling a few grains of starter feed on it.

One of my day-old Speckled Sussex chicks ventures out from the heat lamp to investigate what those strange bits are.

The noise of the feed dropping will attract their attention, and they will automatically investigate. In doing so, they learn what food looks, smells and tastes like.

I generally sprinkle some feed into the brooder at the end of day 1 or early in day 2. I've never yet had a chick who didn't want to know what it was!

Once they're used to it, it's time to introduce a feeder. I have a detailed article about which type of chick feeder is best, here. 

When can a baby chick start having treats?

This is probably the question I'm asked most often about chicks!

The answer is that baby chicks raised by a mother hen have "treats" from day 1. They're not inside, they're out there in the yard with her, eating everything she tells them is good to eat!

Hens are good teachers of their baby chicks!

In our brooder, we have to take the place of the mother hen.

But unlike a mother hen, we can't be there all the time to make sure our chicks eat what they're supposed to eat first. And, like children, if chicks have the choice between a yummy treat and proper food, they'll go for treats every time!

But the chick starter feed is their main diet and it's important they have balance in those first few days after hatch. So don't give chicks treats for several days, until they are very familiar with what their grain looks, smells and tastes like. 

I normally start to give my chicks some treats in week 2, or at the earliest at the end of week 1 in the brooder.

And even then, feed sparingly. Think of treats as a yummy dessert!

Which treats are good for chicks?

The chick's digestive system is still very undeveloped, so be careful what you feed. It's all too easy to upset their digestion and cause problems.

I generally start with some hard boiled egg, chopped into small pieces, or some sweetcorn, again chopped small. At first they look on it as a killer monster, but once they get the taste you'll find they devour it in seconds.

And no, it doesn't turn them into egg-eaters later! Think about it: a hard boiled egg looks, smells and tastes nothing like fresh, uncooked egg.

The other treat I give chicks, as a boredom-buster as well as a treat, is a lettuce which I hang from the sides of the brooder box. Hours of endless fun pecking at it!

That lettuce didn't last long!

As the chicks get older their developing digestive systems will be able to deal with goodies like watermelon, pumpkin, mealworms and fish – but only ever in moderation.


As soon as your chicks begin eating anything but starter feed, they must be given grit.

Chicks with their mother hen will pick up grit naturally from the yard. Again, we need to play mother hen with chicks in the brooder.

If you're not sure why chicks needs grit at such a young age, this article will explain all. 

Chick grit is made of smaller particles than adult chicken grit. Ask at your local feed store, or buy online if it's more convenient.

Leave it in a dish, separate to their food. Chicks know instinctively when to take it.

Bear in mind we are talking about grit only here - never feed your young chicks oyster shell. The calcium will damage their kidneys. Oyster shell is only for adult laying hens.

Food for weak or sick chicks.

If you have a chick who's struggling, feed some finely chopped hard boiled egg. It's full of protein and helps nourish those who can't eat properly yet.

Offer it on a small saucer and encourage the chick, if it's able, to peck at it. If not, try smudging some on the end of your finger. 

Keep struggling chicks hydrated, too - water is much more important than food for a baby chick. An electrolyte drink is always a good stand-by, fed from a spoon or by dropper.

When is it time to move onto a different kind of feed?

Keep your chicks on a starter feed until around 8 weeks, at which point they need to have a "grower" feed which keeps pace with the change in their development.

If you have starter feed left over, mix it - 50% starter, 50% grower - for a couple of weeks. The chicks will be fine and it gets them used to a slightly new taste gradually.

Don't be tempted to keep your starter feed for next time you have baby chicks. It tends to go mouldy and the bacteria it produces would be a killer for any new chicks.

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To find out exactly how you can, take a look at my article about my backyard "Chicken Chat" Q&A sessions. 

More information about caring for baby chicks.

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Rearing chicks after the hatchery

In the first hours of life, after the chicks have hatched, it is important to know everything about rearing the chicks after the hatchery. After the babies see the light, they must be immediately removed from the incubator and dried quickly. Chickens in the first hours of life are very weak and insecure. Therefore, you will need to create all the conditions for their comfortable existence, because you will have to replace them with a mother hen, which takes on all the duties and responsibility for adapting the “children” to the environment.

So, first put the chicks in a box, the walls of which should be about 50-60 cm high. Paper or a soft, lint-free cloth should be laid on the bottom so that small paws do not get stuck in the threads.

Optimal heating for raising chicks

After hatching chicks in the incubator, it is important to create the right and optimal temperature and light conditions for them. Heating and lighting should be provided around the clock. For heating, you can use heating pads, an incandescent lamp, or put a box near the battery. It is very important in the first days of the life of the chicks to control the temperature in their box. It must not exceed 29-30 degrees, but you don’t need to adjust even lower. To provide babies with the right light, poultry farmers recommend using infrared lamps. Their light is soft and even.

Watch the chicks: if they are constantly crowded and squeezed in groups in the corner, then they are definitely cold. If they are active, run around the box a lot, then the temperature suits them perfectly.

After the chicks get stronger and grow up, you can slowly reduce the temperature to 26-27 degrees, this should be done about five days after hatching. Then you can lower it by three degrees every seven days. When the chicks are one month old, the optimum temperature for them will be 18 degrees.

When do you start feeding hatched chicks?

Do not rush to feed chickens from the incubator in the first minutes of life. This moment was provided by nature. The chicken still has a residual yolk, which means that it will have enough energy for the first time. Chickens need to be fed 10-16 hours after you take them out of the incubator. There is reliable evidence that the chicks that received food in this time period show good productivity. Day-old chicks, when they first peck at something, digestion starts in their body. A few years ago, poultry farmers believed that egg yolk was considered the best food option for babies. But now it has been proven that day-old chicks should be fed less fatty foods. Judge for yourself, because the yolks are made of fat, which can adversely affect the delicate ventricle, and thereby overload the digestive system. Therefore, it is believed that corn grits will be the best food for chicks.

You can also find out what to feed hatchery chicks on the popular farming forums for poultry farmers, where farmers share their experiences and observations.

During the first hours of life, chicks should be fed with plain, purified water. Often farmers give them potassium permanganate, but in fact it is pointless. Because a small chick, after hatching, still has a sterile intestinal microflora. You can, if possible, pour decoctions of chamomile and yarrow into the drinker. What can really be useful for babies is a glucose solution. It can be a good prevention of anemia in chicks. As for the drinker, it should be small so that your wards cannot get wet there. It is undesirable to pour cold liquid into the drinker, it should be at room temperature.

Day-old chick feeding

The feeding of day-old chicks varies slightly during the first days of life. When the chicks are 24 hours old, they can begin to give semolina, wheat, barley groats and millet. You can also start feeding your chicks starter feed, which is enriched with all the necessary substances at this stage of life for proper development.

The diet is also changing, now it is worth giving food to chickens every 2 hours. Even at night, it is worth taking care of the chicks.

It is already possible to start pouring yogurt into the drinker for day old babies. Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium. You can also give not too fatty cottage cheese, stirring it with cereals for friability.

Day old chicks may not understand how to eat milk at first, so you may need to feed each one from the dropper.

Do not forget to give your wards and vitamins. Their presence in the diet will ensure the proper development of babies and protect them from diseases.

Small birds, with proper care and diet, begin to grow and grow stronger before our eyes. After three days, you can introduce greens into their diet - knotweed, green onions or dandelion leaves. Greens must be finely chopped, and fall asleep in the feeder, both in pure form and mixed with cereals.

Video on how to care for and feed chicks

In this video you can learn how to care for newly hatched chicks at home.

than feeding chickens from the first days of life at home


  • 1 Fundamentals of feeding chickens: What do beginners need to know
    • 1.1 Frequency Frequency
    • 2 Power supply and gibbet of chicks
      • 2.1 only hatched
      • 2.2 shall
      • 2.3 Weekly
      • 2.4 Two or more weeks
      • 2.5 Monthly
      • 2.6 Three months
    • 3 Video
    • 4 Conclusion

    You can get good hens only if the feeding of chickens from the first days of their life is carried out correctly.

    In poultry farms, the process of growing poultry is put on stream, then a beginner who raises chickens in his subsidiary farm may have numerous questions. As the bird matures, its diet changes and is supplemented.

    Day old chicks

    Feed for chicks from the first days of life can be natural, combined (feed) or mixed. Its choice depends on the number of birds and the owner's ability to care for her.

    The best option is mixed feeding, which allows you to provide the chickens with everything they need.

    Chick Feeding Basics: What Beginners Need to Know

    The first question a new breeder asks is usually whether it is okay to feed the chicks immediately after the hatchery.

    The opinions of poultry farmers in this case are divided. Some believe that chickens still absorb the remains of the yolk and do not need food, while others are confident in the need to feed the babies. To answer this question, it is worth turning to veterinary data.

    This is what a chick just hatched from an egg looks like. The process can take from 2 hours to a day.

    Chicks, after the yolk is used up, for the correct formation of the digestive system and the straightening of the intestines, by all means need to eat.

    For this reason, not only water, but also a saucer with food must be placed in the box in which the babies will be kept. Chickens will peck themselves as soon as they feel hungry . Some will eat immediately after they dry out, while others - only at the end of the first day of life.

    Trying to force feed a bird should not be done .

    Feeding frequency

    Feeding frequency is very important. With natural feeding, products such as yogurt, cottage cheese and chopped eggs quickly deteriorate due to the increased temperature in the cage, and therefore they should be given in small portions every 2 hours . Anything left uneaten within 30 minutes should be removed.

    Hard-boiled chicken eggs are not included in the diet of chickens in the first days of life, believing that they can provoke diarrhea.

    There is also an opinion that the yolk is too fatty food for babies. Both statements are considered partially correct. Eggs alone should not be fed to chicks, but should be combined with other foods. They give eggs at the rate of 1 egg per 6 chickens per day.

    Chicks should have constant access to dry food (crushed grain).

    Feeding and watering the chicks

    The chicks should be watered from the incubator with boiled water, which is changed as it gets dirty. Access to water must be constant.

    As a means for the rapid formation of microflora, yogurt (home-made) or biokefir should be given to babies.

    In the event that fresh whey is available, it is good to prepare a wet mash of crushed cereals on its basis. Also, when using starter feed, you can slightly soak it in whey, but not more than 1 feeding per day.

    Newly hatched

    The first day after the chicks have hatched is an important stage in their development. Therefore, it is necessary to know exactly how to feed chickens from the first days of life at home.

    If the nutrition of the chicks is not correct during this period, then most likely this will cause their significant mortality (death).

    Since not all chickens will immediately peck at food, it is best to use crushed groats : wheat and barley. It will not deteriorate due to the high temperature in the cage, and the kids will not get poisoned.

    The chicks should be fed with clean boiled water, into which you can throw a little manganese, but only in such a volume that the liquid does not turn pink.

    It is also useful to add a few drops of glucose to the drinker. But dairy products should not be given yet. Also, do not get babies an egg as their first meal.

    Daily allowance

    Feeding chickens, starting from the first days of life, should be very varied and include not only cereals and dairy products, but also greens and protein foods. Day old chicks are fed at 2 hour intervals .

    Babies are given a mixture of cottage cheese and finely chopped hard-boiled eggs, as well as hard-boiled millet porridge and various crushed cereals.

    It is also necessary to provide a sufficient amount of vitamins, for which on the second day it is necessary to offer chopped green onions to the chickens (you do not need to take store-bought ones because of the high content of chemicals in it).

    Starting from the 4th day, finely chopped dandelion and wood lice grass should be added little by little to the food. Also, boiled chopped boneless fish and ground beef are being introduced as protein foods. This feeding continues for 7 days.

    Dry crushed groats must be available to chicks at all times. During the entire period, it is necessary to give babies kefir or yogurt.


    At the age of 1 week, chicks develop rapidly, depending on how they are fed during this period.

    Week-old babies at this time require the maximum variety of grains . They continue to be given dairy products. The egg can be omitted. It's time for the chickens to pour some coarse sand - it is needed for better digestion of food.

    In the same period they begin to give a small amount of vegetable and fruit waste (DO NOT confuse with rot!).

    If you plan to feed with compound feed, then you can start adding starter feed .

    Two weeks or more

    Starting at 2 weeks old, when the weather is good, the chicks are ready to go outside .

    The diet remains the same, but you can slightly reduce the portion of protein food, since the kids will get a fairly large number of insects and worms in the ground.

    They will also find greens on their own and can be left out of the mix.

    In areas where chicks walk, poisonous plants should not grow, since at this age the chicks cannot yet distinguish them from edible ones.

    Learn more