Chicks think food is to play


10 Years
Sep 9, 2009
Lake Butler (Union County)
my few days old chicks still haven't learned that the food is not for bathing in! They don't eat the food that we put in the brooder box, instead they play with it, sleep in it, and get it all over the place. I dont' have any HENS to teach them the way, so it's only me. What do I do to teach them that it's food?! to EAT?!
Chicks don't need to eat the first couple days. They will eat or drink very little. They will start pecking at random things on the bottom of the brooder including each others feet and may end up eating lots of shavings. I lay papertowels over the shavings, sprinkle the food directly on it, and leave them for a day. Then when I have time the next day I start tapping the food on the paper towels with my finger. They'll rush to see what you are doing and end up grabbing some food. Once one gets it your job is over. Do it again with the water until someone figures it out. After they are pecking up food on the paper towels (within hours usually) I leave it all in the feeder and take the paper towels out the next day if they are getting dirty. If they aren't getting too dirty they do no harm to leave them.

All chickens of all ages will make a mess out of feed. I usually don't start out putting the jar on the feeder base. Otherwise I just end up with a jar full of chick starter spread across the brooder. Some people just fill their brooder with a bag of chick starter so they don't have to worry about it. You do have to make sure water doesn't get spilled on it though or it may mold and make sick chicks when they eat it. Since water gets spilled nearly as easy as feed that may be difficult. Within a week they'll start filling the feeder and waterer up with shavings and within a few weeks they'll be big enough to knock them over. I started using hamster and rabbit water bottles in place of normal chicken waterers for that reason. I also put the feeders up on bricks as soon as they are big enough to reach that high.
Im using newspaper on the bottom of the brooder. The brooder box right now is a regular cardboard box since hubby didn't have a chance to finish fixing the real brooder, an old rabbit hutch (needs a new wire bottom to it. Hubby put my male rabbit outside one day and something broke the bottom of the hutch and killed my JACKSON!!!!

I clean the box EVERYDAY, changing the newspaper and making sure everything is cleaned up, just like my rabbits cages.

Guess I will start putting the food on the floor of the box.
Newspaper is too slick to use without bedding on top of it. You risk having chicks with splayed legs that will need lots of time and extra care to fix. You need something more textured which is why most use shavings (not cedar), some use sand, and a few use chick starter. The first 2 often have paper towels over them for a few days until the chicks learn what is food but many don't do that and don't have any problems.
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Okay, that's probably why one of my chick's legs are sticking out behind her/him. That's new information for me. Hubby is going to Tractor Supplies tomorrow to pick up feed for the donkey and some stuff for the chicks and I will add wood chips to his list.
Since my chicks hate me and try to jump out of the brooder if I put my hand in....... I used a long chopstick to poke around in the food, they came running and started pecking at the food. Had to do the same for the water but it took a few times before they got it.
How bad is the splay leg on the chick? There is a way to fix it.

It's not bad, it just sides out behind her. the other leg is fine but the right leg is a little bit behind, not out to the side. It's walking around full length.

Another one I just found out, can't believe I didn't realize before. But it won't stand up. It walks around but in a lay down position and both feet are crippled up. Im trying to get a bootie put on her but it's not as easy as everyone makes it out to be, her poor feet is bad enough that the bandaid will not hold it into position, it'll just pop back to where it is. If I can't get a boot put on her, Im going to take her to a farm store down the road and ask them for HELP! I don't know what to do to help her stand up. She gets around just fine but her legs are curled up pretty bad.

I just lost my ONLY EE hatcher this morning and it had a curled up foot as well but only one but it wasn't getting around. The EE chick had that problem since hatching, I was watching the entire hatch progress, she hatched out in a very odd way that is hard to explain but nothing like the others.

I had 12 that hatched and now Im down to 8 living. I dont' want to loose anymore! And all that I have lost all had problems with their legs. I wonder if it must be the hen's problem that is causing their disfunctional legs.
It could be genetic but it can also be caused by spikes in incubator temp or humidity problems during hatching. If they were hatching weird I'd lean towards incubation problem and the newspaper probably makes minor leg problems worse. I've had lots of curled toes in quail if the humidity doesn't stay high enough during hatching. It also happens in chickens just not as often it seems. For ones shuffling around on their legs and the upper joint odds are they won't make it. I've tried and they usually have a deformity or broken leg. Probably 4 times now counting both chicks and quail I've tried to help one like that and while it may survive for weeks one day they just die. Chicks will often recover from minor leg problems they hatched with like a leg sticking out a little at an odd angle or moderately curled toes after a few days on a surface with good traction. More severe splayed leg or curled toes can require some help. Major problems like shuffling around on the joint and being unable to stand up usually won't improve even with help.

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