Backyard Poultry

What Do Baby Chicks Eat? Chick Starter Feed Is Key for Lifetime Success

Starting a Flock : Chick Nutrition

Starting a Flock : Caring for Chicks

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

Baby chicks grow quickly, doubling their hatch weight in the first week and growing up to seven times their hatch weight in the first month. To support this early growth, baby chicks should eat a complete starter-grower feed which contains the 38 unique nutrients they need to start strong and stay strong. A starter-grower feed with the Chick Strong® System helps raise strong chicks that grow into happy, healthy hens.
 
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. No dessert before dinner. Eat your vegetables! Do you remember hearing these phrases at the dining room table while growing up? Although you may have hated brussels sprouts, these wise words had the best intentions: Eat healthy, so you can grow strong.
 
We give advice with the same intent to backyard chicken raisers.Baby chicks require 38 nutrients to start strong and stay strong.
 
Lifetime success begins on day one. It all starts with chick nutrition and care. Baby chicks need 38 unique nutrients to grow into happy, healthy hens. Each of these nutrients – and the proper balance of them – plays a role in growth, performance and flock happiness. 

Raising baby chicks into happy, healthy hens starts on day one

Your mother’s advice to eat more vegetables wasn’t just something to roll your eyes at. A balanced diet supports life-long health and well-being.
 
Industry research shows the long-term impact of early nutrition on lifetime health and performance.1 The same holds true for backyard chickens. Feeding chicks for a strong start can better equip them for a lifetime of success.2
 
Just like people and other animals, chicks need a strong start to grow into happy, healthy adults. Many people begin raising backyard chickens for farm fresh eggs, but before the first egg arrives, early chick nutrition is the foundation.
 
Early nutrition develops the digestive tract and builds a healthy immune system, ultimately improving chick growth.Providing chicks a complete starter-grower feed is key.
 
Chicks grow quickly, doubling their hatch weight in the first week and growing up to seven times their hatch weight in the first month. This early growth requires the correct balance of nutrients. 

What to feed baby chicks

Start your chicks strong by feeding a complete starter-grower feed from day 1 until the first egg arrives around week 18.  
Each of these starter-grower feeds includes all 38 nutrients baby birds need to start strong and grow at the proper pace. Some nutrients directly impact bone, skeletal and chick growth while others work in tandem to support overall bird health and appearance.
 
Nutrients in Purina® complete starter-grower feeds include:
  • 18% protein and 1.25% calcium for bone and body growth
  • Prebiotics and probiotics for immune and digestive health
  • Amino acids for muscle and feather development
  • Marigold extract for brightly colored beaks, feet and legs and overall appearance
  • Phosphorous and trace minerals for bone strength
  • Vitamins A, D, E, K and B for overall health and growth
 Continue feeding the same starter-grower feed from day 1 to week 18. We recommend waiting to introduce treats or scratch to the diet until week 18. If you are feeding a complete starter-grower feed, your chicks do not need grit. If you start chicks on a medicated starter-grower feed, keep feeding that same medicated feed until their first egg.
 
Most layer chick breeds will lay their first egg around week 18. At that time, transition to a complete Purina® layer feed to help hens lay strong.
 


Want more tips on how to start your chicks strong? Visit our Flock Strong® resource hub for local poultry events, a guide to raising chickens and much more!

1 “Maternal and child undernutrition: Consequences for adult health and human capital.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. 26 Jan. 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2258311/. 12 February 2018.
2 Leeson, S. and J. D. Summers, 1987. Effect of immature body weight on laying performance. Poultry Sci. 66: 1924-1928. https://academic.oup.com/ps/article-abstract/66/12/1924/1471476/Effect-of-Immature-Body-Weight-on-Laying?redirectedFrom=fulltext. 2 February 2018.
3 “Early nutrition and its importance in poultry: A review.” Indian Journal of Animal Nutrition. 26 January 2018.