If you’ve owned backyard chickens you’ll know how easy it is to run a strictly zero-waste household, where safe table scraps and leftovers are simply mixed up and fed as a meal or as a healthy treat.
But, if you’re new to raising baby chicks you may be wondering, at what age can baby chicks eat table scraps?
Well, the general rule of thumb is to wait until the chicks are at least 3 months old, but there are some exceptions. Here’s whether baby chicks can eat table scraps, what table scraps are safe at each age, and what foods you should avoid.
Can You Feed Baby Chicks Table Scraps?
Feeding your chickens table scraps can be a great way to introduce various new vitamins and minerals to your flock, bolstering their immune systems, health, and wellbeing.
But, the younger the chick the more selective their diet should be. This is because their nutrition needs are much more demanding in these vital growth parts of their life.
For this reason, you should generally wait around three months before you start introducing baby chicks to any form of table scraps.
In most cases, supplementing their chick starter feed with some other foods won’t harm them, and there are even some healthy alternatives that are completely safe! But, given this crucial part of their life, you want to allow them as much chick starter as possible as it’s specially designed to fulfill all of their nutritional needs.
So you can feed baby chicks table scraps, but you should either wait until they’re three months old or be selective on what you’re giving them, making sure it’s meeting their specific dietary requirements.
When Can You Feed Baby Chicks Other Foods
Baby chicks are particularly vulnerable creatures and require nurturing for them to grow up big and strong. So, it’s our duty to ensure they get sufficient nutrition to get them there.
There’s no denying that healthy table scraps, like leafy greens, root vegetables, fruits, and seeds do have incredible nutritional benefits. But, baby chicks have a much more demanding dietary requirement of between 18-21% protein, calcium, fat, fiber, and other minerals or even medicated feed.
So, to be safe it’s recommended to wait until 3 months before providing your chooks with table scraps. By this time your chickens will be shedding their baby fluff and becoming pullets.
Younger chicks can be fed certain other foods though, and they are even considered healthy. From 4 weeks old you can begin feeding your chickens small pieces of leafy greens, some grains, rolled oats, or certain seeds.
But, generally, these foods alone don’t hold enough nutritional value to cover all of your baby chick’s needs, which is why chick starter feed or chick grower feed should always be given a priority.
Safe Table Scraps For Baby Chicks (4+ Weeks Old)
It’s highly recommended to feed your baby chicks their chick starter as their primary source of food for the first 4 weeks of age.
From 4 weeks old your baby chicks will be able to eat leafy greens, like alfalfa or spinach, some grains like whole wheat, barley, or oats, or certain seeds for protein like sunflower seeds or flax seeds.
But from this age, till they’re at least 12 weeks old, table scraps and other foods should generally be fed sparingly, only as a very rare treat, or to supplement their regular grower feed or starter feed.
Safe Table Scraps For Pullets (12+ Weeks Old)
When your baby chicks are at least 12 weeks old, they are considered to be pullets. At this age, they are still growing and developing, but it’s much less rapid. So, from 12 weeks old your chickens will be able to start having a wider range of foods and table scraps.
But, at all times your chicken’s main feed, whether it’s a seed mix or layer pellets, should constitute at least 90% of your chicken’s diet. The other 10%, can be made up of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and other safe and healthy table scraps.
So, before you throw away any leftovers in the fridge or pantry, consider if it could be healthy for your chickens to eat. These include foods such as:
- Root vegetables, like parsnips or radishes, or at this age you can feed your baby chicks carrots.
- Seeds, as they are often considered superfoods, like chia seeds
- Protein, small amounts of cooked meats are perfectly safe and healthy for your chickens to consume, such as hamburger meat, hot dog meat, etc, so long as it’s not processed.
- Leafy greens
- Fruits, avoiding too much citrus or sugar however
- Whole grains, including whole-grain bread in moderation
- Dairy, such as milk (but not cheeses until they are a bit older).
- Eggs, like scrambled eggs or their eggshells for added calcium.
What Table Scraps To Avoid Feeding Baby Chicks Or Chickens
Like with all animals, there are certain foods that chickens should just not consume. Whether they are actually toxic, or simply unhealthy for your chickens.
In general, try to avoid feeding your chickens any:
- Apple Seeds Or Pits
- Uncooked Potato
- Processed Foods
- Overly Salty Or Oily Leftovers
- Overly Sugary Treats
- Some Plants, Like Nightshade’s
- Raw Kidney Beans
The younger your baby chicks are, the more you should rely on their specially formulated chick starter or grower feeds, as they are designed to cover all the nutritional needs of your chicks!
But, as they slowly grow older, you are able to begin feeding them a wider variety of foods, introducing various nutrients and vitamins in differing amounts than they are used to, for vitality and immunity boosts!
Always make a conscious effort to feed your chickens only healthy table scraps and treats. After all, what goes in comes out in their lovely eggs!