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Medicated vs. Non-Medicated Chick Feed


As if there weren’t enough variations of chick feed on the market, there is one more option to consider: medicated or nonmedicated? Medicated chick feeds help boost chicks’ immunity to one organism: coccidia.

Coccidia are a parasitic protozoan widely found in the soil, and its oocysts, which are similar to eggs, often find their way into a chick’s digestive tract. Here the intestinal parasites can cause a disease called coccidiosis.

Symptoms include bloody droppings, poor appetite, and lack of normal growth. Chicks may fluff up their feathers and appear hunched over. Coccidiosis spreads quickly from bird to bird and is also associated with a high rate of death.

Most medicated chick feeds contain amprolium, a medication that helps limit the number of coccidia in a chick’s digestive system, allowing the chick to develop immunity to the parasite. Medicated feeds with amprolium do not contain antibiotics and are not intended for other diseases.

Also, medicated feeds are designed to prevent cases of coccidiosis, not to cure existing infections: By the time chicks actually contract the disease, medicated feed will not help them. If your birds do get sick, they should be treated with a water-based coccidiostat (like Corid), carefully following instructions on the package. Be careful not to overmedicate with coccidiostats because they can cause severe vitamin deficiencies in your birds.

Vaccine for Coccidiosis

Many chicks receive a coccidiosis vaccine at hatcheries. Find out if your chicks have been vaccinated for coccidiosis. If so, there is no need to give them medicated feed.

Track Eggs with the Flockstar app


For those real chicken nerds out there, you can now track egg stats on your phone.

Create a profile for each of your chickens, including photos, hatch date, and breed. Then Use the Flockstar app to record when (and from whom) you get your eggs! The app will convert your data to average number of eggs per day, total laid, and other information. You can include photos and notes and also log when you’ve got a broken egg.

You can read more about the app online or download it from the App Store or Google Play.

How to Feed Your New Chicks


Winter is finally over here in the Midwest, and it’s that time of year when our thoughts naturally turn to those little balls of yellow fuzz arriving at feed stores everywhere. For those of you raising chicks, here are some tips for choosing the right chick feed to sustain the new additions to your flock.

Chick Feeds

Chicks require their own special feed, different from the layer feed typically eaten by mature laying hens. However, not all chick feeds are the same. Some companies provide separate starter feeds and grower feeds, designed for chicks at various stages of development. But others offer a combined starter-grower feed.

As with any feed, follow the instructions on the label. If you feed starter, eventually you will switch your chicks to grower feed. But if you are using a combined starter-grower feed, you can keep feeding them the same feed until they are ready to switch to a layer ration.

NOTE: Any feed that is labeled as chick starter or grower (or starter-grower) will contain the correct amount of calcium, protein, and other nutrients to meet your growing chick’s needs. For instance, chick starter-grower feed is 20% protein, compared to 16% to 18% in layer feeds. It is important to provide this specially formulated feed. It will support healthy growth, and layer feed can kill chicks.

Other Added Ingredients in Chick Feed

  • Probiotics and Yeast Cultures: Chicks are born without gut microflora (gut bacteria and other important micro-organisms necessary for digestive system health). If your chicks are hand raised (rather than hen raised), they will benefit from supplemental microflora in their feed. See my recent post on this subject: Gut Health: It’s Not Just for Humans Anymore.
  • Medicated Feed: Some chick feed is labeled Medicated Chick Feed. For more information, see my post Medicated vs. Non-Medicated Chick Feed.

Feeding and Watering Tips

If your chicks come through the mail from a hatchery, you may have to dip their beaks in the water dish so they know how to drink. Gently put their beak in a teaspoon of water or in a shallow dish of water. Then watch to make sure their throats move, indicating they’ve swallowed the water.

Once your chicks have learned to drink, it is time for solid food:

Chicks may not catch on right away that the crumbles you are spreading in the brooder are food. Simply tap your finger on the feed, showing the chicks where the food is. You are imitating a mother hen, who uses her beak to guide her chicks to the tasty morsels.

Make sure your chicks always have ready access to their feed. Chicks need constant access to food to support their growth!

Use chick feeders designed especially for them: a shallow dish with a lid, with circular holes cut in the top. The lid helps keep droppings and bedding out of the feed. It also prevents the chicks from attempting to dust themselves or walk through the feed. Keep feeding dishes and water dishes clean.

Feeder with holes in the lid, designed for chicks. Note the shallow water dish (left).

Your chicks should always have access to fresh, clean water in a shallow dish. This prevents them from getting wet, which can lead to health problems. Be prepared to clean the water dishes several times a day to ensure clean water for your flock.

Chicks and Treats

I’m pretty conservative on feeding treats, especially to chicks. If you absolutely want to give them treats, wait until they are around 6 weeks old and introduce live mealworms or crickets, grapes, tomatoes, or fresh kitchen scraps. Make sure the foods are small enough to prevent them from choking. Offer them these foods for only 15 minutes per day, and be sure to clear out what they don’t eat. About 90% of their diet should be formulated feed, to ensure they get the nutrients they need. Remember what your mother said about too many treats! It applies to chicks as well. If you feed your chicks treats, such as scratch grains, you should also provide them with some fine grit (usually made from finely ground granite) in a separate feeder. This will help them digest their food.

Remember, chicks grow up fast: By the time your new birds are 16 weeks old, they can graduate to a layer diet.

Home to Roost Classes with Chicago Botanic Garden Start April 20!


I will be teaching three online classes for the Chicago Botanic Garden this spring, including my Basic Chicken Keeping Class, my Coop Class, and a new class for 2021: Duck Keeping 101! (UPDATE 4/15/21: Unfortunately, Duck Keeping has been canceled due to circumstances beyond our control. )

Register now for these classes at the links below. Please note that all registrations must be submitted online 2 days before your class starts.

Basic Chicken Keeping Concepts: Online — April 20, 6-8 pm
Considering getting chickens, or already have your own birds? Learn tips and tricks on how to raise chicks, care for adult birds, prevent common problems, and keep your neighbors happy.

Chicken Coop Basics: Online — April 27, 6-8 pm
Discover all you need to know about building a safe and comfortable home for your hens. Learn the basic needs of backyard birds, the essential components of a coop, important construction tips, and different coop styles. Use what you learn to construct your own coop or evaluate an existing design.

Special Offer

While supplies last, we are pleased to offer a free copy of GRIT Backyard Chickens magazine to everyone who signs up for a class!

GRIT Backyard Chickens magazine provides helpful information on topics such as choosing the right chicken breed, nutrition, preventing frostbite, and shoring up your coop against predators. The latest issue includes several articles authored by Home to Roost: Reasons to keep backyard chickens, the importance of gut health, and how to boost egg production.

Chicken_Magazine
Sign up for a chicken class presented by Home to Roost and Chicago Botanic Garden and get a free copy of GRIT Backyard Chickens Magazine!

Gut Health: It’s Not Just for Humans Anymore


We have all seen the ads for probiotic supplements, designed to support the “good bacteria” in human digestive systems. As it turns out, gut health is also important for chickens. A healthy gut, teeming with good bacteria and other micro-organisms, helps the birds absorb nutrients from their food and contributes to the development of a chicken’s immune system. In fact, commercial chicken farmers are turning to probiotics, rather than antibiotics, to maintain a healthy flock.

Probiotics, Yeast, and Other Microflora

Chicks are born without gut bacteria. They usually get their gut bacteria from their mother, because they (accidentally!) ingest some of her droppings and absorb the good bacteria, yeast, and other beneficial microorganisms (called microflora). These tiny organisms aid in digestion and protect the gut from harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli.

However, chicks that are raised by themselves in an incubator, with no mother hen present, miss this early opportunity to colonize their digestive systems with healthy micro-organisms.

So how can chicken keepers ensure their hand-raised (rather than hen-raised) chicks get the microflora they need to develop healthy digestive systems? There are a number of chicken feeds on the market that contain probiotics, yeast, and other fungal components. Check the feed label for yeast culture and other fungal components, as well as probiotics with scientific names such as Lactobacillus acidophilus.

Prebiotics

You’ve also probably seen ads that tout the importance of prebiotics for humans. Prebiotics are the nutritious foodstuffs that support the growth of probiotics in your gut. And, yes, you guessed it, prebiotics are also important for chickens! Fortunately, most chickens love to eat the foods that are considered prebiotic: berries, flaxseed, dandelion greens, wheat bran, lentils, and other favorite chicken treats.

For more information about choosing feeds that contain beneficial microflora, read this illuminating blog post on the Nutrena Poultry blog “Scoop from the Coop.”

Basic Backyard Chicken Keeping — Virtual Event with Tinley Park Public Library, March 24, 2021


Are you new to chicken keeping, or thinking about getting your own birds? Join us for Basic Backyard Chicken Keeping — Online Class with Tinley Park Public Library on Wednesday, March 24 from 6:30pm – 8:30pm!

Registration information is located here.

This class is designed for curious folks who are considering getting chickens, as well as for those who already have their own birds. Learn how to find local laws about chicken keeping, choose and raise chicks, and care for adult birds. This online class is open to all, regardless of location.

NOTE: This class is geared to the Chicagoland area, including predators and climate.

Register Now for Chicken Health Class (Virtual) on April 5, 2021!


What are the common health issues chickens face, and how can you treat them? Better yet, how can you keep your flock healthy? This online class addresses chicken physiology, disease prevention and transmission, as well as chicken first aid. Join us on Monday, Apr 5, 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM for this virtual class presented by Home to Roost and the Chicago Rebuilding Exchange!

Chicken Health Class (Virtual) Monday, Apr 5, 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Registration information is available here.

NOTE: This class is geared to the Chicagoland area, including predators and climate.

Chicken
Learn how to keep your chickens healthy during this online class on April 5!

Basic Backyard Chicken Keeping — Online Class with Wauconda Area Library on March 6!


Are you new to chicken keeping, or thinking about getting your own birds? Join us for Basic Backyard Chicken Keeping — Online Class with Wauconda Area Library on Saturday, March 6, 2021 from 1:00pm – 2:30pm!

Registration information is located here.

This class is designed for curious folks who are considering getting chickens, as well as for those who already have their own birds. Learn how to find local laws about chicken keeping, choose and raise chicks, and care for adult birds. This online class is open to all, regardless of location.

NOTE: This class is geared to the Chicagoland area, including predators and climate.

Japanese Quail make delightful pets — learn more during “Quail: An Overview” on March 3!


“(Coturnix japonica #Japanese Quail)” by Lin Sun-Fong is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0.

We know you all love chickens, but let’s hear it for quail!! Specifically, Japanese quail. These small birds are delightful and easy to care for. Find out more about the birds, their diet, and how to house them during “Quail: An Overview,” an online class presented by Home to Roost LLC and the Chicago Rebuilding Exchange.

Quail: An Overview (online class), $15

Wednesday, March 3, 6:30 pm – 7:15 pm

Registration info is located here.

Japanese quail eggs are small and adorable!
New best friends!

Register Now for “Bird Brains: Flock Psychology” (virtual) on February 22!


How do chickens think? They view the world differently from predatory mammals. Find out more about what goes on inside a chicken’s head and how it can help you understand your birds.

Register now for Bird Brains: Flock Psychology, February 22, 6:30 pm – 7:15 pm

Registration info is available here. This online class is presented by Home to Roost LLC and the Chicago Rebuilding Exchange.

While supplies last, we are pleased to offer a free copy of GRIT Backyard Chickens magazine to everyone who signs up for the class!

GRIT Backyard Chickens magazine provides helpful information on topics such as choosing the right chicken breed, nutrition, preventing frostbite, and shoring up your coop against predators. The latest issue includes several articles authored by Home to Roost: reasons to keep backyard chickens, the importance of gut health, and how to boost egg production.