I see it every year. Once winter begins to creep in people get out the oats – whether it’s for themselves or their flock.
Although we all know that chickens absolutely love oats in every way shape or form, there is often controversy around if baby chicks can eat rolled oats.
Here we break down if it’s safe to feed baby chicks rolled oats, from what age, and how to ensure they are getting a balanced diet.
Can You Feed Baby Chicks Rolled Oats?
When you’re raising baby chicks the first thing to always keep in mind is that this is a very critical point in their life. During the first 8 weeks of your chicken’s life, it will experience so much growth and development and will need a very protein and nutrient-rich diet to grow healthily.
For this reason, it’s always recommended to keep your chicks on a chick starter for up to 95-100% of their daily diet for the first 8-12 weeks of their age. This doesn’t mean other foods aren’t healthy too, but chick starter caters to every need of a baby chick, so is often the safest way to go.
Nonetheless, you can feed baby chicks rolled oats as a treat, and it will provide them with a big energy boost, as oats have plenty of protein and essential fatty acids for growth. Although, it’s recommended to only start feeding your baby chick small amounts of rolled oats from 4 weeks of age or older.
However, this shouldn’t be a substitute to their normal chick starter feed, but can be used as a supplement to give your chickens some diversity in what they eat!
As your chicks grow into pullets and laying hens, you can crush their eggshells in oats and milk for a boost of calcium and protein that your chickens will absolutely rage for.
How To Feed Oats To Baby Chicks
Oats are a great filler meal or bolster to a baby chick’s normal diet from about 4-8 weeks old. However, you don’t want to go overboard. Here are some quick and simple steps to feeding your baby chicks oats:
- Ensure your chicks have been eating normal, healthy amounts of their chick starter feed before considering feeding them other foods.
- Prepare a separate container of oats, no more than about a teaspoon per baby chick (they don’t need much!).
- Optionally, you can add some milk to loosen up the oats, and add other chick-safe healthy table snacks.
- Once your chicks have finished with the oats, take away the container (or feed it to your adult chooks) – you don’t want to leave oats out too long as they will oxidize and risk gathering bacteria, etc.
Nutritional Benefits Of Rolled Oats For Baby Chicks?
Baby chicks require a hefty 18-21% protein intake during their early stage of development. This is why it’s so important to keep them on chick starter, which caters to this requirement plus contains adequate calcium, fat, fiber, and carbohydrate.
However, for an odd meal or treat, rolled oats can in fact offer your baby chicks some important nutrients that are essential for their healthy development.
This is because rolled oats actually contain roughly 17% protein, and contain B vitamins and a handful of helpful minerals – which caters to much of the same that rolled oats do.
Just remember, everything should be given in moderation, and the key to a healthy and happy chook is their diet!
Can Chickens Eat Any Types Of Oats
Often you’ll see a few different types of oats on the shelves at any store, and to me, they all look the same. So, are there any differences to be aware of when feeding different types of oats to your chooks?
Well, the nutritional value between each type of oats hardly differs, but the oats a processed in different ways.
Rolled oats (these are also referred to as old-fashioned or whole oats) are steamed and flattened out. These are the most common types of oats used in cooking or porridge etc.
Instant oats cook faster, but they’ve been processed longer and have a slightly softer texture.
So long as there are not any additives, additional sugars, or preservatives, then any type of oat will be safe for your chickens to consume in moderation.
Are Oats Harmful To Baby Chicks
Although oats do have many nutritional benefits for baby chicks, they should never be used as a substitute or replacement for their normal feed. This is because oats do have some nutritional downsides in poultry.
One thing to watch for when you’re feeding chicks oats is their digestion. Oats contain beta-glucans that are anti-nutritional factors.
Beta-glucans are a double-edged sword. On the upside, they can act as immunomodulators and dietary supplements. On the downside, they increase viscosity and lead to increased gel formation in the gut, which affects digestion and makes it less likely for nutrients to be absorbed fully.
Can you feed baby chicks rolled oats? Yes, but in moderation. Rolled oats can provide a boost of vitamins and fatty acids needed for growth phases.
Rolled oats are also compatible with most table scraps, grains, seeds, and filler meals. However, you might need to watch out for any digestive issues in your chooks.
But, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the key to caring for backyard chickens is making sure that they are getting all their main dietary needs before giving them any homemade snacks – particularly for younger chicks!