Which treats can baby chicks eat?

Every year when we raise chicks I start to feel bad for them. It must be boring eating the same feed every single day! Unfortunately for them, chick feed is formulated to be nutritionally complete. So they don't need anything else. I still like to give them occasional treat and lots of special attention. When feeding chicks treats though, you need to be careful that you give them healthy snacks most of the time.

Oh, and grit.

Young chick eating a bug

While chickens love treats like bread, it's really not that good for them. If you think about it, white bread isn't all that good for us either which brings me to the first rule of chick treats: If it's not good for you, it's not good for them. Just like when feeding adult chickens treats, things that shouldn't be given to chicks include alcohol, caffeine, lots of salt and spoiled foods.

Treats for chicks


Let's start with the basics of chick treats:

  • It has to be small bits or easy to tear from...like soft fruit.
  • Chocolate is bad for most animals. Period.
  • Caffeine is another no-no. Anything containing coffee, tea or chocolate should not be given to chicks. This includes Matcha which is a powdered form of green tea and is often added to desserts.
  • Alcohol. Desserts soaked in liqueurs are probably the biggest hazard, but anything containing alcohol that has not been burned off in the cooking process should be avoided for all poultry.
  • Salt. Anything excessively salty can be bad for a chicks developing system. If you can, rinse the item off. Although salty items like processed meats or cheeses should just be avoided.

Obviously the best treats for chicks are going to be healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. You really don't want to give them unhealthy foods at this stage in their development. Since their feed should be at least 90% of their diet that leaves very little room for treats. 

Luckily they haven't developed a taste for treats yet, so anything you give them will be treated with a weary eye, but should eventually be accepted. Of course they might run screaming from it at first! lol Chicks are funny!

Grit for chicks

Chicks do not need grit if you are only feeding them chick feed. If you've ever had chick feed get into the waterer, you'll notice that it feels sandy as you wash it out. That actually is tiny bits of grit, which is enough if they are only eating the chick feed. Once you add some treats to their diet you should offer them some extra grit. 

I like to buy the 50 pound tubes of contractors sand at home depot to use as grit for my chickens. It costs less than $5 and has all different sized pebbles and sand in it. The same sand can be used for chicks. I like to sift out the finer stuff for them. I just use a kitchen strainer. Place the sand in a small bowl for the chicks to peck at if they wish.

My chicks favorite treats


Vegetables

Fresh or frozen only. Canned peas and corn are salty and chicks don't seem to like them as much. Carrots are best if they're cooked or shredded. Small pieces of cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, sweet peppers etc.

Lettuce:

All kinds, but keep in mind that many types of lettuce (like iceberg) have very little nutritional value. Rip the lettuce into small pieces and see if your chicks like it! They also like fodder, so if you're growing it for the chickens anyway, make sure to share it with the babies, just give it to them early when it's still short. Or cut the tops off the fodder and just offer that to the chicks in a small dish.

Bananas: 

Cut ripe bananas into thin slices. The chicks will peck at them, pulling off small pieces.  

Mealworms

Dried mealworms are crispy and easy for chicks to break apart. They also love small worms if you happen to come across any while gardening...though they may run away from it at first. Eventually one will grab it and run away from the others to enjoy his treat which will prompt the rest to run after it trying to steal the treat! It's really funny! 

You can even grow your own mealworms at home to reduce costs! Give the chicks small ones, the larger sized might be too big.

Berries & grapes

While these are a great treat for chicks, I often cut them into smaller pieces before giving it to them. The first time chicks see a whole grape or blueberry they probably won't realize it's food and they'll just ignore it. Cut it in pieces so they can get a bite of the inside. Softer strawberries, blackberries and raspberries can be left whole or cut in half because they can pull pieces off.

Melon

Cantaloupe and honeydew are best when they're on the mushy side. They also love watermelon, though they probably will only eat the inside pieces and not close to the rind! They'll eat the rind when they're adults, but for now the softest parts are best. They are babies after all. 

Weeds

If your chicks don't free range they would love a few bits of weeds tossed into their brooder! Check out this list of weeds chickens and ducks love. If they are allowed outside though, they will find and eat these on their own.

Produce ends from  the kitchen

Strawberry tops, tomato ends, thin slices of cucumber, the insides of squashes, pumpkins and melons are all treats that chicks can have. Watch not to give them large seeds from inside squash or pumpkin. Don't give them anything that's too big for them to swallow, because they don't have teeth and haven't mastered the art of tearing their food yet.

Scrambled eggs

Just like adult chickens, baby chicks love scrambled eggs and it's good for them. Don't worry, they won't become egg eaters if you make the scrambled eggs to eat. They don't even know what eggs are yet!

Chicken and chicks eating a watermelon


If you happen to keep chicks in the coop with adult chickens, they will enjoy these treats too! You just may need to keep the adults away for a bit while the chicks try their new treats!

Is this your first time raising chicks? Check out How to Raise Baby Chicks for Beginners and get all your questions answered.

~L

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