can baby chickens eat game bird starter

Can Baby Chickens Thrive on Game Bird Starter Feed?

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I just got a new batch of cute little peeps delivered last Thursday and was super pumped to raise them up.

Now, I know the regular chick starter feed they give ya at the farm store is quality stuff.

But I had my heart set on raising these little dudes like the gamebirds I enjoy hunting, like bobwhite quail or ring-necked pheasants.

So I figured I’d get them accustomed to a gamebird diet early.

Plus, the bag of quail starter crumbles they had at the feed store just looked so much more appetizing than plain old chick starter.

I thought getting them used to the tastier gamebird grub might help encourage those natural instincts to come out as they grew.

Boy was I in for a surprise…

Turns out baby chickens really can’t handle the high-protein, high-fat gamebird diet like adults birds can.

Their little bodies need the balanced nutrition of chick starter when they’re small.

I learned that the hard way – and it almost gave me a heart attack!

But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me set the scene first.

Things Started Getting Weird…

can baby chickens eat game bird starter

It was a gorgeous Saturday morning so I figured it’d be a great day to get the chicks acquainted with their new digs outside the brooder.

I carefully carried their coop tub outside and set it down in the grass so they could explore. Then I scattered a nice layer of that tasty-looking quail starter feed all around, figuring they’d go crazy for it.

At first they seemed interested, pecking curiously at the smaller crumbles. But it wasn’t long before I noticed something wasn’t right with a few of them.

One plump little chick in particular, who I’d named Marigold, started acting sluggish and unsteady on her feet. Usually she was the most energetic one!

Then out of nowhere, she just collapsed over on her side with a pathetic peep. I swooped in worried as all get-out, thinking she was a goner for sure.

But when I picked her up, much to my relief she was still breathing okay, if a little heavily. Still, it had me freaked. Then another chick did the same darn thing!

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By now two of them were splayed out and lethargic while the others kept stuffing their crops full of that gamebird feed. A terrible thought started to creep in – had I done something wrong with their diet?

That’s when it hit me. Maybe that richer, more heavy fare was too much for their tiny chick stomachs so soon. But it couldn’t be, could it? I had to find out for sure…

The Culprit Was Revealed

can baby chickens eat game bird starter

With those poor peeps knocked out and the others still eating, I knew I had to act fast if I wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on.

First things first, I scooped up the fallen chicks real gentle and carried them inside so they could rest comfortably on a soft towel.

Then I got on my phone and started searching like mad – “can baby chickens eat gamebird starter feed” – hoping to find some answers pronto.

Much to my shocked discovery, everywhere I looked it was stating the same thing – gamebird starter is too rich for baby chicks.

With its higher protein, fat and calorie content, it can cause all kinds of digestive issues for their developing systems like crop impaction or upset tummies.

Even worse, that heavy load could lead to nutrient deficiencies since their baby bodies aren’t processing it all adequately yet.

I felt like the world’s biggest dummy. How did I not realize their nutritional needs are so different at this age?

No wonder those poor peeps were crashing – their innocent chick crops just weren’t equipped to handle all that dense gamebird chow, especially not right after hatching.

It was then I knew for sure I’d majorly screwed up. But thankfully, it wasn’t too late to make things right…

Game Bird Starter for Chicks:  :  Moral of the Story

can baby chickens eat game bird starter

Let me just say, trying to warm up impacted crops on baby chickens is not for the faint of heart.

I spent the next hour very gingerly massaging their little crops, giving them tiny sips of lukewarm water and keeping them wrapped in that towel.

It was touch and go for a bit, but finally after what seemed like forever, I saw one of them let out a big “poop” right in the towel. The impact must’ve been broken!

Within minutes the other one did the same and they both started perking up again. Whew, I was sweating bullets the whole time hoping it wasn’t too late.

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The ordeal was enough to teach me a hard lesson real fast – stick to chick starter for babies, no matter how enticing the alternatives look.

Their growing bodies need that balanced nutrition tailored just for them. Lesson learned the $20 feed mistake! At least now I can pass on my screw up to help you avoid the same worry.

So if you want your peeps to grow up happy and healthy, just keep it simple – chick starter for the first 6 weeks. They’ll grow into strapping adults before you know it, I promise.

Chick Starter Nutrition Meets Baby Needs

can baby chickens eat game bird starter

Chick starter is specially formulated to provide balanced nutrition for growing chicks.

It contains the right amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals necessary at this life stage.

Chicks need protein to support rapid feather and tissue growth but too much strains their developing digestive system.

Fat is also limited since excess can interfere with calcium absorption and bone strength.

Fiber level is low and easy to digest, avoiding issues like compaction risk.

By 6 weeks their systems mature to process higher fat and protein diets like layer or breeder feeds.

But for those vital first weeks, nothing beats the gentle nutrition in commercial chick starter.

Signs of Digestive Distress in Baby Chicks

Lethargy, lack of appetite and crouched posture can indicate problems.

Fluffed or ruffled feathers and lack of activity are aussi red flags.

Diarrhea, vomiting or regurgitation show the gut isn’t properly digesting and absorbing nutrients.

Swelling or bloating of the crops means food isn’t moving through like it should.

Weight loss or failure to gain can result from digestive issues depriving them of nutrition.

Breathing may quicken or sounds raspy if a chick is stressed or in discomfort.

Seek vet care if signs persist after changing feed as potential infection could be present.

How to Address Crop Impaction in Baby Chicks

Gently massaging the crop area several times a day helps loosen and stimulate contents.

Warm water via eyedropper can soften thickened contents for easier passing.

Avoid forceful massaging that could further irritate or tear tissues.

Keep impacted chicks warm and hydrated to avoid lethargy worsening their condition.

Try dribbling honey or light molasses into the beak for energy if crop remains plugged.

Adding an electrolyte solution aids digestion repair and rehydration during treatment.

With prompt attention, most mild cases resolve within a day allowing chick to recover.

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Storing and Feeding Chick Starter Properly

Buy starter in small batches to ensure freshness until chicks are 6 weeks old.

Store dry feed in tight containers away from heat, moisture and rodents.

Once opened, use within 3 months as vitamin potency starts degrading over time.

Scatter feed on trays rather than piles to prevent waste from spillage.

Optimize growth by always keeping feed readily available for constant access.

Wash feeders daily to remove droppings and spillover that could harbor illness.

Introduce fresh feed as needed around the clock for their rapid growth phase.

Transitioning From Starter to Grower Feed

Wait until no younger than 6 weeks to move birds off starter onto grower.

Abruptly changing diets can upset delicate young crops still maturing.

For the smoothest switch, start offering small amounts of grower mixed with starter.

Slowly increase the ratio over a week until starter is fully replaced.

Watch chicks don’t abandon starter for solely the new feed too quickly.

Grower feeds support continued growth with higher calcium and protein levels.

By gradually transitioning, you ease their systems into the nutrient profile change.

Preventing Disease Transmission In Cooped Chicks

Thoroughly clean and disinfect brooders, feeders and waterers between batches.

Scrape away dried feces and debris where germs could persist on surfaces.

Scrub with diluted bleach, letting air dry completely before new chicks arrive.

Quarantine any store-bought additions away from your flock for 2 weeks.

Monitor newcomers daily for illness signs that could spread among your birds.

Keep older poultry separate from young, vulnerable chicks at higher risk of disease.

Strict hygiene in coop areas is key to protecting chick health as immunity develops.

Dealing With Common Chick Ailments

Coccidiosis causes diarrhea treated with electrolytes and anti-parasitic drugs.

Marek’s disease presenting splayed legs or paralysis needs prompt vaccination.

Respiratory illnesses are minimized limiting drafts, keeping coops clean and dry.

To check for lice or mites, part downy fluffs around the vent when chicks sleep.

Worms could be causing potbellies – dewormers added to water cure within days.

Bumblefoot results from injury inducing staph infection needing antibiotic creams.

Consult an agricultural vet for diagnosing sick birds and catching issues early.

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