Put Fresh Chicken Manure in Brooder


9 Years
Jul 6, 2010
Hi There,

I just had a friend over to show his daughter my newly arrived chicks. They are in the brooder and are all less than 2 weeks old.

He asked me why I did not put some of the hens manure in with the chicks. Why would I do that?

He says that he has been told that the hens manure will act as an antibiotic for the baby chicks.

Has anybody out there ever heard of this?

That may work in a fish tank (seeding with gravel from an older established tank) but not in the world of chickens. The idea is to keep things as clean as possible. All you could possibly do by introducing manure of hens to your chick brooder is introduce disease!
He might be talking about coccidiosis, maybe? When chicks are hatched in early spring and raised by their mamas, they can gain an immunity to the coccidia through exposure to the dirt. . . I think I am explaining that correctly, but I might not be. . . I've never heard of doing that, though. Sounds like some old-timer advice.
I wouldn't do it. ETA: Don't get me wrong, not all Old-timer advice is bad or wrong. Maybe I should have said "out-dated" advice.
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that to me sounds ridiculous...chicks are at their most vulnerable state at this age. a clean brooder with fresh food and water is a must.

Reminds me of when I was told that I had to take my hens off layer feed because an egg had a blood spot in it.
I *think* the premise behind this is to introduce the chicks to small amounts of the cocci so they can build an immunity to it. I believe that chicks raised with Mama hens get this kind of exposure because I've rarely had to treat any hen-raised chicks for it. I *think* this is the way the cocci vaccine works, that it gives the chicks a tiny dose of it so they can build their immunity to it. That's why you don't feed vaccinated chicks the medicated chick starter, it nullifies the vaccine.

Like so much of the old-time methods, there's some truth & wisdom behind it. Perhaps folks did this practice before there were vaccines & medications for cocci.

I will often keep my new hatchery chicks in bottomless cages out in the grass during the day, they come into contact with dirt & grass that many other chickens have walked over. I don't intentionally put them in contact with fresh manure, but perhaps I could. I also will put pans of dirt from the yard into the brooder box for them to take dust baths in, and pull clumps of weeds/grass with the dirt & roots intact and put it in the box for them to peck at.

They shouldn't be allowed to wallow in their or anyone else's manure, or have dirty food & water containers, but they needn't have a completely sterile environment either.
I'm sure that would be the reason.
To the OP - if your chicks are on medicated starter, I see nothing wrong with doing what your friend suggested.
The typical medication used in medicated chick starter is not a true antibiotic, it's a coccidiostat aka an antiprotozoal agent. It inhibits but does not completely halt the reproduction of cocci in the chicks digestive system, giving the chicks immune system time to develop an immunity against coccidia. Simply put, this means the medication(s) prevent the chick from being overwhelmed and dying from coccidiosis while their bodies build the necessary immunities.
For the medication(s) to be effective, the chicks immune system has to be exposed. A body can't develop an immunity to something it's never been exposed to. For my brooder raised chicks, I feed them the medicated and then I get them outside on the ground (that I assume is teeming wth the coccidia since I have other birds) as soon as possible, usually at 2 weeks. My broody raised chicks are unmedicated feed and are living with the adult birds, which means they are gradually being exposed to it in the droppings in the adult birds.
It's very much like a human being given a vaccine against the flu or what-have-you. We are given a small amount of the disease we need an immunity to, so to speak, so that our immune system can begin forming antibodies against it.
So, as outrageous as it seems, it's not a bad idea to get your medicated fed chicks exposed to that which they need to build an immunity to.

ETA: You don't need to dump a ton of manure in with your chicks, but a little or getting them out on the ground on nice days, can't hurt.
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In old farming circles, the chicks are kept with the mother, and they are exposed to coccidiosis through the chicken droppings in their run. The chicks peck at the manure and ingest it. The stronger chicks develop a tolerance to coxi, while the weaker ones don't and end up going to chickie heaven.

If you had your chicks vaccinated for coxi (some hatcheries do this), you don't have to do this. If you have your chicks on medicated starter, then you're also set. If you don't have your chicks on medicated starter and you didn't have them vaccinated, then my advice would be to put them on starter rather than introduce chicken poop into their diets. Yes, both the starter and the poop will help build a chick's tolerance to coxi, but the starter is by far MUCH cleaner than bringing in poop (not to mention whatever else you're bringing in with the poop). Just my two cents!
Thanks for all your advice. I'll run these suggestions by my friend and see what he thinks.

In the mean time, since my chicks are on medicated feed, I think I'll just keep the brooder clean.

See you in the coop!
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