Alternative Foods for Chicks/ Environmental Enrichment

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Wonderwell, Dec 16, 2012.

  1. Wonderwell

    Wonderwell Hatching

    Dec 16, 2012
    I've just ordered my first chickens. The chicks will come in April and I've read everything I can about chick care here and on the internet (I'll get some books soon). I've got the basics memorized at this point. I'm curious about what foods other than commercial feeds people give their chicks. How much? at what age? etc. Please be specific, I read some vague stuff here that with no experience I can't always understand how to put into practice. I have 8 chicks coming. People mention giving crickets and mealworms for fun-- at what age? how many per chick? If need be, I'll stick with commercial foods till they're adults, and the next generation raised by hens can have a more natural life. But if people are having success anything other than this, I'd love to hear about it.

    I've been reading the thread on Home Feeding Ideas and Solutions, and have learned lots about what adult chickens can eat. In an ideal world hens raise chicks and they learn from her. But since the easiest way to get the heirloom chickens I wanted is to order chicks, the first time at least I'll do the raising. I've ordered 2 Buckeye Females, 1 Buckeye Male, 2 female Chanteclers, and 2 female Austrolorps.

    I've read about putting dots on the wall so the chicks have something to peck at other than each other. I've read to use sticks of varying widths and heights for perches. Any other ideas of how to make the chicks home more fun and interesting?

    I plan on getting Harvey Ussery's book, this seems to be most highly recommended. I was also thing about getting, Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard by Jessi Bloom. Do people think these books will have enough info to get started, are there any other book suggestions? Like I said, I've read the 60 day guide to raising chicks here on BYC, plus lots of other stuff that repeat the basic info again and again.

    Thanks for any suggestions.
  2. Wonderwell

    Wonderwell Hatching

    Dec 16, 2012
    I have 7 chicks coming, my very first post and I've given the impression I can't do simple math. See, this is why I need exact proportions spelled out for me.
  3. my sunwolf

    my sunwolf Songster

    Apr 22, 2012
    Southwest Virginia
    My Coop
    Hi and Welcome to BYC!!

    There doesn't have to be a science to it if you don't want there to be... Harvey Ussery's book pretty much changed my life, I would HIGHLY recommend it. He feeds his chicks from pretty early on, and gives them fresh dandelion greens with dirt attached, scrambled eggs, insects. I start giving mine treats at 3 days, but some people don't give treats until 4 weeks. It depends on your philosophies about raising chicks! I would give 2 or 3 meal worms or crickets to each chick per day. Watch their crops, and if they seem to bulge too much, don't give any more.

    They have "treat blocks" that you can buy for chicks that have seeds stuck together into a block. They love to peck at that. I find that a big clump of grass, with dirt still attached, will keep them entertained for a LONG time. I put mine in a bowl so they don't get it all over the brooder, but some people just drop it straight on the brooder floor.

    My favorite chick treat of all time is oatmeal... you can leave it whole or process it into dust, just be sure to include grit with the whole stuff so they can properly digest it (I sprinkle grit over the food for the first 3 days, then have it free choice).

    Just take it easy, it sounds like you have the basics down. After that, it should be fun. Or not, if you prefer. [​IMG]
  4. Kassaundra

    Kassaundra Sonic screwdrivers are cool!

    Sep 1, 2010
    You can give treats very early days old, but if you are feeding treats always allow for access to grit for the very young chicks small grit. I always have my chicks brood on sand so that takes care of the grit. I love giving them insects meal worms or baby dubias (I raise both) if I have chicks in the summer I go in the yard/garden and get dirt insects (worms grubs beetles pill bugs) and put them in dirt and put the dirt in the brooder and show them to dig through the dirt, or get grass insects (hopper and crickets) and some grass and do the same thing.
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I hand raise chicks periodically in groups of 4 so as to have young trainable birds each fall. Staple food is still a quality chick starter and that is offered free-choice. Insects (mealworms usually) are offered by hand even to day old chicks. I might give each bird a couple mealworms during each training bout. Training bouts can number 4 or more per day but need to be two hours or more apart to keep chicks excited. As chicks get larger and mature into juveniles (head covered in feathers), more mealworms are applied per bout. At some point larger insects can also be used. To enrich environment I add structures chicks can fly up to and begin to reward them for flying to me when theirr specific name is called. By 14 days post-hatch chicks will fly 2 feet up to lip of brooder for a mealworm and a couple days later will fly from brooder to my arm which can then be 4 feet away horizontally. Chicks also not allowed to have second mealworm until they land back down in brooder and come back up when called. By the time they are approaching four weeks of age they will fly 25 feet horizontally when called. See below links for more details on mealworm use.

    I also make so they have access to tender young greens by the time they are four weeks old. Think sprouted oats. They help start cecal digestion and provide good vitamins.

    Chicks also allowed to explore house following me like they would hen. They are rewared to come when called. They also get used to being around dogs later which helps simulate people, especially kids.
  6. Wonderwell

    Wonderwell Hatching

    Dec 16, 2012
    Thanks so much to all of you for your prompt responses.
    I will definitely have fun, and will train a few tricks- great videos.
    The only real problem is waiting till April, I wish I could get started next week.
  7. Try not to 'overthink' the whole chicken thing - best way to start is as you've already done - you've researched and studied it from all angles. Harvey's
    book is excellent and reading all the posts you can here at BYC has helped me more than anything.

    I've been raising chickens for three years now and - like you - was a total chicken newbie and now am a bonified chicken addict!

    They will 'teach' you what they want by how they react to certain treats and things you put in their coop to roost on, etc. I have a huge indoor coop
    and run area ( predation is terrible in the n. ga mountains where we live ) as I can't free range them safely. They certainly never seem bored
    to me and I spend lots of my free time sitting in their run area watching chicken TV as they each ( 45 standard size - including 8 roosters - various heritage breeds and easter eggers ) one of them comes up to me, eyeballs me, sometimes gently pecks me - they LOVE - their 'bling' so watch your jewelry,
    walk around behind my chair, roos make sure to mate their favorite hens right in front of where I'm sitting ( I imagine it's to show me how manly and
    'dominant' they are ).

    My flock is positively addicted to pumpkins - large whole ones - put them in the run area and within two hours - totally not a trace of it! I have a hanging
    wire basket in which I put whole cabbages when on sale, squash or whole marigold plants and other grasses and greens - that keeps them busy all day
    as well. Watermelons are another big favorite. Nearly every day I bring them armloads of greens/grasses/weeds/flowers, etc from around our 3 acre property.

    I use large tree limbs that have fallen around our property for roosts and they seem to love them. I also get things from the
    thrift store that they can climb on and I have an old wooden ladder in the coop area they roost on as well as an old porch
    rocker and a bottomless 1930's wicker rocker that the 8 Australorp 'girls' and their handsome young Roo have claimed.

    I used to have parakeets and lovebirds and I am amazed at how similar the chickens are in loving to climb on various things
    and 'play'. I have long boards that I place 'between' things in the coop that I change around and they seem to like that as well.

    You will have so much fun you can't even imagine! I started out just wanting a few pullets and a rooster so we could have farm fresh eggs and crowing
    on our little mountain mini farm. In no time I was so enamored with and in awe of these wonderful inquisitive, spunky, smart, adaptable, gorgeous, personality packed birds that
    I now breed them, sell baby chicks, sell our fertile hatching eggs, sell started and point of lay pullets that I raise from day old and sell my eggs at two local farmers markets.

    I now have the 'main' flock of 45 ( Barred Rocks, Welsummers and Easter Eggers as well as small flock of Black Australorps ( their roo dosen't get along with the other roos so have to be separate ) as well as
    42 chicks I'm 'pre-brooding' for the first 6 weeks in my home who will soon be transferred to their brooder box inside the chicken house. I intend to raise these 'girls' to POL and sell them early Spring as I live near Atlanta and Chattanooga and there is a huge demand starting late March here for POL
    pullets and this year I'LL BE READY!! Also have 25 more day old pullets - all colored egg layers - that will be arriving mid march and will be POL
    for Summer sales.

    Take care and welcome to BYC - enjoy your chickens!

    Mountain View Farms
    Ellijay ~ GA
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2012
  8. Linn Bee

    Linn Bee Songster

    Once my day old chicks have started eating their feed, my grandchildren love to search for spiders in the basement for the chicks. The spiders don't stand a chance at that age even.

    Love, Smart Red
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri

    Something many folks do not capitalize on is hand reared hens as broodies. My game hens as coming off a walk or cock-yard are extremely aggressive in the defense of their brood. This aggression is even directed at me and the hens will not restrict flogging to legs, some will try to put it to my face as well and I am over 6 feet tall. Same hens that are hand raised allow me to pick up them and chicks and hens barely fluff up. Such hens will bring entire brood up on my lap and brood them there or walk off and chicks will stay back with me for a few minutes at a time. You can even train such hen reared chicks and not have to worry about putting them back into a brooder.

    I still have fun with some of my birds trying to see how much mental effort they put into getting food, how they communicate and what sort of behaviors they exhibit when free-range. It is fun to hide food item under something or make to they have to explore odd locations to find treats. What I really have come to enjoy is trying to figure out what goes into decision making when it comes to flying long distances. My games have the potential of flying impressive distances for a chicken and a lot of that flying has little to do with avoiding predators or getting to and from roost. A big part of that deals with food and a rich environment enables exploring that aspect of their lives.
  10. Baymule

    Baymule Songster

    Jul 1, 2010
    Northeast Texas
    You have gotten some very good advice, so I'll just say WELCOME to BYC!!!!!!! Have fun with your chicks!

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