When you get baby chicks, you’ll notice quickly, they’re very messy with their feed. In this article, we talk about the best chicken feeders for no waste – and they’re all easy for baby chicks to use!
We all want our chickens to group up healthy and strong, and the best time to start them off right is when they emerge straight from the incubator. The trick is knowing how to feed your baby chicks so they stay healthy.
This probably prompts you to ask “What feeders should I use for my baby chicks?”
The answer to this question is going to depend largely on what age your chicks are. The feeders used for day-olds might not be the same feeder that you’ll use when they’re 12 or 16 weeks old.
As they grow, chicks have different needs. We’re going to talk about the different feeder options for each of age group:
- Day olds
- 4 weeks to 8 weeks
- 8 weeks to 16 weeks
- You always want to use a feeder your chicks can reach
- I use something small and easy for them to find when they’re a day old.
- I’m not a fan of long feeders because they’re harder to open and I have to teach chicks how to use them.
- Mason jar feeders are okay, and a good way to keep your feed supply clean.
When they’re day-olds through the first week of their life, you’ll be concerned about whether they are getting enough food and whether they have 24-hour access to food.
They are really confused and fragile when they first come out of the incubator. They need certain temperatures, so it’s really important to make sure that they have consistent access to chick starter and that it’s easy to find.
There’s no evidence to support this, and this is just my own observation, but the first 24 hours of chick life is like newborn humans: they can’t see very well for the first couple of days.
I think baby chicks have the same issue because while finding the feeder is instinctual, I’ve noticed that they’re very confused, especially in the first few hours after hatching through the first 48 hours. I’ve noticed that sometimes they can struggle a little bit finding the feeder, so I like to make sure that the feeders are really easy to find.
I use low bowls or low pie plates. They don’t have much of a lip and they’re easy to find. We have even flipped lids to yogurts upside down (this works great for day old quail too).
What I use also depends on the number of chicks I have. If we have a lot of chicks, we might use something that’s bigger or if we have three to five chicks, we’ll use yogurt containers for the first 48 hours.
You could also use mason jar feeders. Those are really good because they act as automatic feeders.
You can also use those long red feeders. I found for the first couple of days of life that they sometimes can’t find food in these very easily. They have to be shown how to use it.
My chicks hatch, then for through day two, I’ll use yogurt containers. Day three and on, I’ll use the red automatic feeder. Or if we have a lot of chicks, I’ll use the pie plate, which is really easy to fill.
If you read any book, they’re going to tell you to use the long red plastic feeders. I use them, but I don’t like these so much because they are a little bit tougher to open. Pie plates and yogurt tops are easier to clean and you don’t have to try to open them.
These will work for the first four weeks.
Four Weeks to 8 Weeks
For this age range, I tend to go for pie plates because again, they’re easy to clean; they’re cheap. After probably about week five or six, store-bought automatic feeders are harder for them to get food out of. The holes in these feeders accommodate baby chicks, but don’t as they become chickens.
As they get older, your chicks will wander around and forage food themselves. They tend to ignore automatic feeders anyways. Pie plates let them browse easily and they are easier for me to fill up.
Eight Weeks and On
By the time that your chickens are eight weeks old, they are largely looking for their own food sources anyways. So, baby chick feeders are not really necessary.
I really like this automatic feeder from Duncan’s Feeders – just be sure to install it low enough that your chicks can reach it. It’s durable, looks good, is easy to clean, and so easy to fill up.
This is just practical advice that I’ve learned over the years, and this is just my opinion about the best chicken feeders for no waste for baby chicks.
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.