When do Baby Chickens Start Eating and Drinking?

Proper feeding of baby chickens, either ones who were hatched by a brooding hen or in an incubator, is important to their growth and development. They need the proper amount of certain vitamins, minerals, proteins, and etc., in order to grow to their full potential. In this article, we’ll talk about how soon they should start eating and more!


five breeds of baby chicks

Raising healthy chickens, be it hens or babies, for your flock on your farm, or even in your backyard chicken’s roost, starts with not just being a mother hen, but understanding their early developmental needs. An integral aspect of this is knowing when and how baby chickens or chicks, begin to eat and drink. This knowledge involves understanding their natural behaviors, their need to forage, and what their nutritional requirements are at each stage. A healthy, balanced diet inclusive of a grower blend and a crumble formula could help them grow into adults laying protein-rich, delicious eggs.

The First Few Hours

Upon hatching, baby chicks, exhibit instinctive behaviors crucial for their survival. They receive their first dose of nurturing warmth from the mother hen or a heat source, like a heat lamp in a coop. While still in this temperature-controlled environment, they may not immediately require an external source of food or water, as they rely on their incubator-earned immunity for nourishment.

Absorption of Yolk Sac Nutrients

Newly hatched chicks, both male and female, carry a yolk sac, a nutrient-rich reserve replete with vitamins and minerals, absorbed just before hatching and during the time they are nestled under the warmth of the mother hen or the selected heat source. This sac provides essential nutrients offering not just sustenance but also energy in the initial hours after birth.

Initial Period of Hydration

While chicks are absorbing nutrients from the yolk sac, their own natural energy source, they also start hydrating. This initial phase of hydration is critical for their overall health and helps prepare them to scratch and forage through their feed and for their transition to external food and water sources, adjusted to their size and age.

Transition to Feed and Water

chicks drinking water

Signs Indicating Readiness to Eat and Drink:

As baby chicks absorb the yolk sac, they exhibit signs of readiness to eat and drink. Observable cues include increased activity, pecking—or ‘peck’—behavior, and a general curiosity about their surroundings, instinctive traits often observed in backyard chickens.

Introduction of Chick Starter Feed

Around 24 to 48 hours after the hatch, introduce a chick starter feed, often available in the form of mash or crumble and available at your local farm supply store or where pet food is sold. This specially formulated ingredient is essential for the early growth and development of baby chicks, even when they are roaming around and foraging on pasture.

Importance of Providing Fresh Water

Simultaneously, provide fresh, clean water in a chick-friendly waterer. Water is essential to support their digestion, metabolism, and overall health. While setting up the waterer, ensure it’s shallow to prevent accidents and easily accessible for the tiny beaks.

Ideal Feed and Water Set-Up

Choosing Appropriate Feeders and Waterers

Opt for chick-sized feeders and waterers to accommodate the small size of the baby chicks. This set-up not only ensures easy access for them but also minimizes waste and spillage, keeping energy levels and health conditions of the baby birds in check, an important note for anyone looking after backyard chickens or other birds. This means you will have to check their water several times a day as they will likely tip it over.

Placement within the Brooder

Strategically place feeders and waterers for your hatchling within the brooder, near the heat source. Create a layout that encourages natural pecking behavior and foraging while providing enough space for the entire flock to access food and water as they rummage through their feed. Be sure to monitor the feeder to ensure a continuous supply of their nutrient-dense crumbles.

Monitoring Feed, Water Consumption, and Arrival Process

Uighur boy holding chick

Upon the arrival of your new chicks, regularly monitor feed and water consumption by your flock. This is important to ensure the continued health and vitality of your backyard chickens. It’s essential to adjust quantities of chicken feed and water as needed to make sure that chicks have consistent access to these essential resources. In their nesting area, they should be kept warm under a heat lamp and comfortable in a brooder box during this critical arrival process.

Frequency of Feeding, Drinking, and Types of Meals

baby chick having dinner at restaurant

One important step in establishing the health and wellbeing of various chicken breeds and species is to determine an early feeding schedule. Providing crumbles, a type of chicken feed resembling crushed pellets, at least three to four times daily is recommended. Having said that, we are busy people here. It’s usually the kids that are tasked with caring for the chicks, so we fill the feeders before school and before dinner that night. If we notice that the feeders are empty when we go to fill them, then we increase the amount of food we put in them. This schedule helps maintain a consistent protein, vitamin, and mineral intake for optimal growth. Experienced farmers have long favored this regimen as it aligns with the rules of successful chick rearing.

Monitoring Growth and Adjusting Feeding Patterns

Monitor the growth of the baby chicks and tailor their feeding patterns accordingly. Growing chicks embody a vibrant flurry of activity, with feathers swiftly sprouting. To cater to their increasing nutritional needs, which correspondingly impact egg production as hens, you may need to include an extra treat of mealworms in their feed. However, you should not start giving them additional foods or treats until after they are at least two weeks old.

Potential Challenges and Troubleshooting

exhausted, lethargic chicken

Be attentive to potential challenges and problems such as overeating, under-consumption, or water spillage. Prompt troubleshooting of these issues is fundamental to ensure the well-being of the chicks as the success of backyard chicken rearing depends on it.

Gradual Transition to Adult Feeding

Introduction of Grit, Supplements, and Dish Rules

As chicks mature into adults, you should introduce them to grit, an ingredient that helps aid in the digestion of more complex feeds. Consider incorporating supplements if required to guarantee a well-rounded diet, ensuring their health and safeguarding against potential diseases.

Monitoring Dietary Changes

Monitor the chicks as they transition to a broader diet suitable for a potential adult chicken or hen. This broader diet includes the introduction of grain and other foods.

Common Concerns and Solutions

You should promptly address common concerns such as overeating or dehydration. Adjust feeding and watering practices as needed, and seek veterinary advice if these problems persist.

Recognizing Signs of Illness or Stress

Be vigilant for signs of illness or stress among the chicks. Changes in behavior, reduced activity, or abnormal droppings may signal underlying issues requiring attention.


In summary, understanding the timing, practices and process surrounding the introduction of food and water to baby chicks is fundamental to their well-being. By providing the right resources at the right time and being attentive to their development, caretakers set the stage for healthy, thriving chickens. From the initial absorption of the yolk sac to the gradual introduction of grain and transition to adult feeding, every stage is crucial for the successful rearing of these young feathered companions. With the correct nutrition and care, your flock will soon be ready to lay the perfect eggs, a feat that makes the farming experience worth the effort. Happy chicken keeping!

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