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Feeding Chicks

3 Apr 2018

Chick health


Providing optimum nutrition at the very start of a chick's life is important.

The first few days and weeks of an animal's life are precarious, but the risk of developing problems can be reduced by good husbandry, warmth and nutrition.

The nutrition of the hen is very important. Proteins, vitamins and minerals are passed to the chick via the egg. A chick lives off its yolk sac for around 24 hours and then requires a good quality chick crumb. Containing 18% protein, this will help establish a strong frame and ensure successful early growth.
Starter crumbs are available in various particle sizes and protein contents, according to species. Young ducks, geese, turkeys, quail and game birds mash or pellet. The lower protein growers diet (15%) supports slow, healthy growth.

Layers diet

A good layers diet is a complete feed, in pellet or mash form, with optimal levels of protein, oil, fibre, vitamins and minerals. The diet should contain optimal levels of calcium for strong shells and a balance of proteins, vitamins and minerals for yolk colour. Importantly, the layers diet formulation require a higher protein level than chickens. The best crumbs will be freshly made, free from dust and contain a source of quality protein, fishmeal being the best example. Chick crumbs should be offered ad-lib in suitably small bowls and fresh water made available at all times.

Coccidiosis is a disease of the gut that can cause sudden death. Infection is easily picked up from the litter and one bird carrying the disease can quickly devastate a flock. Unless rearing to organic standards, chick crumbs are best purchased with a coccidiostat (eg Avatec) incorporated. Alongside good husbandry,
an in-feed coccidiostat has proven to be an effective and inexpensive way to keep this once common problem to a minimum.

After four to five weeks, the chicks need to be gradually introduced to a growers mash or pellet. The lower protein growers diet (15%) supports slow, healthy growth. 

Mixed corn is also beneficial when feeding chickens and is often referred to as a ‘scratch’ feed. It should be used as a treat as it encourages foraging, but it must not be fed as a complete layers diet.

Water is the essential nutrient and therefore must be fresh and available at all times.

Worms may be a problem with free range laying hens, but you can buy a medicated feed to treat this. Worms can cause reduced egg production, pale yolks, weak shells, diarrhoea and weight loss. The worming diet simply replaces the normal diet for seven days and eggs can still be eaten. Worming should be carried out every three to six months


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