Give your chicks the best foundations for a healthy start

Lisa Mancell, National Coordinator at Farmgate Feeds, gives her advice on how to get your chicks off to the best start.

One of the most heart-warming sights to see in the spring is newly hatched chicks, but how do you ensure their specific needs are met so they grow healthily and become good layers.

The first few weeks of a chick’s life are crucial for their future development and nutrition plays a pivotal role in ensuring that they get off to the best start.

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Well-balanced nutrition

We are all conscious that our chicks need a different diet, but it’s important to be aware of how crucial what you give them in the early stages can impact their future growth and laying capacity.

Although newly hatched chicks can go over 24 hrs without food as the remnants of egg yolk sealed in their bodies provides an initial supply of nutrients, it is recommended that they have immediate access to a high quality, well-balanced chick crumb. This will support their yolk utilisation, progression of immunity and the development of their digestive and immune systems. Ensure a fresh supply of room temperature water is within easy reach and the drinker is specially designed for chicks; drowning can be a risk even in shallow water for newly hatched chicks.

Feed quality plays a crucial role in a chick’s development. Chicks come from a different environment in the embryonic phase, and they depend on key nutrients to start adjusting to new conditions. For laying pullets, a chick crumb should be consumed until they are 6 weeks old. Farmgate Feeds offer a specially formulated starter crumb containing essential vitamins, trace elements and an anticoccidial feed additive as an aid to the prevention of coccidiosis in growing hens.

A happy home

High quality nutrition is most effective when it is supported by a comfortable environment and correct housekeeping. The hen and her new chicks should already be separated from the rest of the flock in a secure, robust coop with nesting box and a run. This will help mum bond with her chicks and care for them properly in those crucial early weeks.

Once the chicks have finished hatching, mum will venture out of the nesting box with her brood following closely behind. This is your chance to provide some fresh bedding and give the nesting area a little clean out - remove the empty shells and any unhatched eggs and get rid of the hen droppings. Ensure the nesting area is easy for the smallest chicks to access safely, they won’t be able to manage a steep ramp.

You don’t need to worry about an additional heat source - mother hen acts as a natural brooder lamp and the chicks will regulate their temperature by snuggling under her. If you need to move the hen or her chicks, then wait for the evening when she is sleepy, so you keep disturbance to a minimum.

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The next steps

From six weeks you can finish feeding the chick crumb and follow on with a well-balanced rearing pellet. This should contain essential amino acids and minerals to support strong, healthy bones and good feather quality. You can continue feeding Farmgate Rearer, which includes a coccidiostat, until 16 weeks. Wait until the chicks are fully grown but have not yet reached laying (around 18 weeks) before you introduce them to the rest of the flock.

The starting period is key for a chick to develop its vital systems - intestine, heart, lungs and the skeleton and muscles, and then a covering of feathers. Without a healthy intestine, heart and lungs, the bird could be compromised for life. Supporting the first few weeks of a chick’s life by providing the best environment, high-quality nutrition and care will give them the best foundation for their future development and laying capacity.

Get in touch with our Farmgate specialists

Contact our team for advice or find your local stockist.

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