What do you feed baby chicks

Successful rearing of the chicks

As a rule, Mother Nature has equipped her children in such a way that they can raise their offspring without human intervention. Man only has to take care of the optimal conditions. Sometimes, however, it is necessary that humans have to help a little, especially when rearing the chicks after the artificial brood.

Natural chick rearing by the mother hen

If nature is allowed to run its normal course, the mother hen takes care of her offspring lovingly and with perseverance. She ensures that her chicks eat the right food, offers them shelter and warmth under their plumage, protects them from intrusive chickens from the herd and warns the little ones of the dangers that lurk every day.

A lot of work is saved for the chicken farmer if he opts for natural brood. All he has to do is ensure the optimal conditions, a dry barn, run, feed and water - everything else is done by Mama Henne!

But even in nature the mother hen does not look after her chicks forever. At around five weeks of age, the chicks become significantly more independent and rarely seek shelter under the hen. The plumage of the chicks has already developed well by this point, so that they can protect themselves from the cold. The family group is slowly dissolving and by the eighth week of life at the latest, mother hen separates from her chicks and goes her own way. The upbringing phase is over and the little ones now have to cope with the large herd on their own.

Artificial rearing by humans

If eggs are artificially hatched, the chicks grow up without a mother. But they don't have to starve to death, because pecking is innate to them. Much more important is the vital source of heat, which is denied them by the lack of a mother.

Cozy warmth for the chicks - hot plate or radiant heater?

For this purpose, a heat source is set up or hung in a separate stable area or the chick box, which you can seek out.

These heat sources can be used to raise chicks:

  1. Heating plate: This is a mostly square plate that is adjusted by adjustable legs so that the chicks can slip under it. The plate heats up, creating a natural alternative to the hen for the chicks.
  2. heating lamp: A heat lamp is a special bulb that produces only a small amount of visible light. Most of the energy is converted into thermal radiation. With the heat lamp you need some experience to adjust the heat correctly.
  3. Ordinary light bulb (no LED bulb): As shown in the photos below, it is also possible to use an ordinary 60 or 80 watt light bulb. However, this option should only be used as a short-term emergency solution. Both the risk of burns and the risk of fire are too great.

Our tip

We recommend using a hot plate to raise the chicks. It generates the most natural form of heat, is easy to set up, even for beginners, and only requires a fraction of the electricity.

Our recommendation:

The optimal temperature for the chicks

In the first few days, the temperature should be around 36 degrees Celsius but also offer the opportunity to withdraw from the heat.

In the next few weeks, when the first little feathers grow, the temperature is then lowered further and further. As a rule of thumb you can use the From the 5th day onwards, reduce the temperature by 1 degree every 2 days.

Our tip

The chicks should be watched as the temperature is reduced. If you hear loud beeping and the chicks sit together on a bar, the chicks freeze. Then the temperature should be increased again.

However, it should not fall below 18 degrees Celsius.

When the chicks are largely feathered at around six to eight weeks, they can cope well with the prevailing room temperature and can go outdoors together with the other chickens. A lot of exercise is now the best guarantee for good development.

What do chicks eat? - Feed the chicken chicks

In the first 48 hours after hatching, the chicks do not need any food. They then feed exclusively on the yolk sac, which is drawn in through the umbilical opening shortly before hatching.

From then on, the chicks are offered either pelleted chick starter feed or chick meal.

Our tip

Especially the feed in the first days and weeks ensures that the chicks grow into vital and healthy hens. Therefore, one should not use substitute feed such as crushed wheat or laying flour. Only high-quality chick feed lays the foundation for a splendid development of the chicken chicks.

Our recommendation:

Sometimes it can be useful to mash the pelleted feed a little in the first few days to ensure easier absorption. The chick starter can be given up to the second month of life, after which it is followed by a common laying hen feed. A bowl of sand with mussel grit (e.g. bird sand), which is necessary for the chickens to develop and digest, should always be available.

Of course, clean, sterile drinking water must always be available because it is essential for optimal chick rearing. It is important to ensure maximum cleanliness and careful, regular cleaning of the containers in order to contain possible germs to a level that is tolerable for the chicks.

When are chicks allowed to join the other chickens?

When the chicks have grown into pullets, the time has come to let them join the other chickens. If the chicks are from artificial brood - i.e. without a mother hen - the chicks are allowed to join the other chickens when they are around 8 weeks old.

However, the chicks are not simply put in the coop with the other chickens. Slowly getting used to each other is gentler on the chicks and lays the foundation for a good climate in the group.

Instructions: Put chicks to the other chickens

  1. The chicks come to an area in the hen house that is separated by a fence. In this way, the chicks, but also the old hens, can get used to the new roommates.
  2. After 2-3 days the fence will be opened a little bit: The chicks can already explore the chicken coop and make their first contact with the other chickens. The chicks get food and water in the separated area.
  3. The fence can be removed after 3-10 days: Here you should watch the chicks carefully beforehand. If they are heavily chopped by the other chickens, the retreat area should be kept. If the animals get along well after a few days, the area can be removed earlier.


If the chicks come from a natural brood and are guarded by a mother hen, the chicken chicks (with mother hen) can be placed with the other chickens as early as 4-6 weeks of age.