Young chicks are very messy and just like any young creature they enjoy playing around. This means that food and water will tend to get knocked over no matter how well made the containers.
Chicks like adult chickens need a constant supply of clean water. However you should never use a flat open water dish especially when they are very young as they will kick bedding in it and poop in it and you will find yourself continuously changing the dish. Worse than that, young chicks like young children can drown in even the shallowest of water. To be on the safe side we suggest you use a special chick waterer which can be purchased cheaply, they will still manage to kick bedding in it, but raising it slightly off the ground from two weeks old should help.
If your chicks do not appear to want to drink, try dipping one of the livelier ones beaks in the water. You may need to do this a few times before the chick responds. Once one drinks from the water container the others will usually follow its lead. But do check that all the chicks are drinking as lack of water will quickly kill them. Never be tempted to try to give a young chick a drink with a syringe as it is remarkably easy to drown them this way.
Again a flat dish is not a good idea as the chicks will quickly mess it up. We suggest the best solution is to buy a special chick feeder like the one in the picture above. It is not 100% chick proof but it will save a lot of time.
As to what to actually feed the chicks, this is easy as there are special foods available that contain the right balance of nutrients in relation to the chicks age.
Newly hatched chicks will not need to eat for the first 24 hours as during that time they will be absorbing their yolk sac, which can keep them going for a day or two. This is what makes shipping newly hatched chicks around the country possible.
Chicks will need a ‘Starter Feed’ which comes either in mash or crumbs (crumble) depending upon how ground down it is, from day 1 until they are ready for a ‘Growers Feed’, which they should then be given until ‘Point of Lay’. The exact timing of when the chicks should change from one type of feed to the other will depend upon the exact make up of the feed, so read the manufacturers instructions carefully. It is also possible to buy a starter/ grower mix which can last up to 16 weeks of age.
There are various mineral and vitamin supplements available that can be added to the chicks water. However if you buy a good quality starter feed these should not really be necessary.
Let the chicks have access to food 24/7, as unlike a lot of other young creatures they will not overeat.
If you seem to be having a problem getting your chicks to start eating, try putting some food on a piece of cardboard or similar material and gently put one of the chicks’ beaks to the food. Keep trying this until one starts eating, you should find the noise of the food and the chicks beak on the cardboard will attract other chicks and soon you will have all the chicks madly pecking at the food.
Chickens need grit or small pebbles to aid digestion as they don’t have teeth. You should use canary or parakeet grit or even sand for baby chicks, which you can buy at most pet stores or pet sections of grocery stores.
N.B Never give chicks oyster shell or limestone as this extra calcium, will cause bone development problems in chicks and may also damage their kidneys.
Some Helpful Chick Supplies