Baby chicks need a steady diet of good-quality chick feed to ensure that they are getting the proper nutrients during their first few weeks of life, but after watching newly hatched chicks trail around after a mother hen, nibbling at grass and weeds, scratching through the dirt and eating bugs and worms, I believe that adding some nutritious supplements to the diet of all chicks, but especially those being raised in a brooder indoors, can be extremely beneficial for optimal health and growth.
When chicks are hatched in the coop under a mother hen, she'll lead them outside at just a few days old and show them what's good to eat and what's not. The little ones race around gobbling up all kinds of bugs and worms, munching happily on weeds and grass, and scratching in the dirt. It stands to reason that this varied diet is healthy for them, so brooder babies deserve that same variety in their diet.
I've raised dozens of chicks and I find that those I supplement with a few things are much more energetic and healthy than those I don't. The supplements are great for the mother hen as well since she's not been eating as much as she should during the incubation period - so the added nutrients help her get back in tip-top shape as well.
I make a custom mix that I call the Breakfast of Champion Chicks which I feed to all my baby chicks (and ducklings). It's a variation of my Breakfast of Champion Layers that I feed daily to my laying hens and ducks. The recipe can be found HERE. By getting the chicks used to the various tastes, that helps them acclimate to the layer feed mix I serve around my coop, and also lets their bodies adapt to the supplements right from the start.
The ingredients I use for my Breakfast of Champion Chicks are:
Probiotic powder (buy here) - aids in digestion, boosts good bacteria in the intestine, supports the immune system, reduces ammonia levels in the poop, reduces chance of contracting salmonella or e.coli
Brewer's Yeast and Garlic powder (buy here) - garlic boosts immune system, aids in respiratory health and Brewer's yeast is important for strong bone growth
Cluckin' Good Herbs (buy here) - all natural dried herb mixture which is an overall health booster, improves immune system and respiratory health, supports digestive and circulation systems and has antibiotic properties.
Raw rolled oats - antioxidant, helps prevent and alleviate pasty butt in chicks, provides protein, fiber and nutrients, supports immune system health
I don't really measure anything out. I just mix all the powders up in roughly equal amounts and then sprinkle a bit on top of the chick feed each time I refill the dish and mix it up with my fingers.
I make the feed mix available to the baby chicks 24/7 for the first 8 weeks of their life, at which time I switch to starter/grower feed (and still sprinkle the mix on top). By 18 weeks, the little ones are nearly a POL (point of lay) and can switch to layer feed. Here's a handy feed guide for the life of your hens for you to bookmark - it will take your little ones from chick to laying hen with suggestions for supplements, type of feed and healthy treats.
I also do feed limited treats to the baby chicks. I try to stick with oatmeal, scrambled eggs and chopped weeds and herbs for them, as I feel these are the most nutritious 'treats' you can offer them.
Remember, you also need to provide grit for the chicks to help them digest - I put out a dish of coarse dirt for them or put a whole clump of dirt and grass right in the brooder with them. That keeps them entertained, allows them to practice nibbling on grass and also introduces some of the pathogens found outdoors in the environment to them to start to build strong immune systems.
Adding a few drops of apple cider vinegar to the chicks' water also helps immune, digestive and respiratory health, combats coccidiosis, balances ph levels in the body, aids in the absorption of nutrients - just be sure not to use a metal waterer because the vinegar will eventually rust it.
Adding these few natural (and nutritious) supplements to your chicks' diet should result in a far healthier, hardier flock for you and your family to enjoy for years to come!
Garlic Reference Articles:
I would love for you to join me here...