can baby chicks have dog food

Can Baby Chicks Benefit from Including Dog Food in Their Diet?



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You ain’t gonna believe this, but the other day I decided to try feeding my new batch of baby chicks some leftover dog food just to see what would happen.

I figured those peepers were so hungry they’d gobble up just about anything, even Fido’s favorite kibble.

Boy was I in for a surprise! But I’m getting ahead of myself – let me set the scene for you first.

I just got my first ever flock of chicks a few weeks back and was thrilled to watch them grow.

But between you and me, keeping those little peepers fed was becoming a full time job! They were chasing me around the coop begging for more feed every 5 seconds it seemed.

That’s when I got the bright idea to try mixing in some dog food to stretch their feed a little further.

Turns out baby chicks can – and will! – eat dog food if given the chance.

But there’s a bit more to the story, so keep reading to find out if canine chow is really the best choice for your chickens.

How I Learned the Hard Way If Chicks Will Chow Down on Canine Chow

can baby chicks have dog food

Now normally I wouldn’t try such a crazy experiment without any research. But I was at my wit’s end! So I grabbed the half-empty bag of Rusty’s favorite steak-flavored kibble and tossed a big scoop in their feeder. Then I sat back expecting a kerfuffle, but ready for a good laugh.

At first the chicks just stared at the strange new nuggets in confusion, used to their mushy starter. A few pecked at it tentatively but walked away scratched their heads. Then little Maggie – always the boldest – gave one a taste. And the look on her face was priceless! She glanced around like “hey, this ain’t half bad!” and dived back in.

Before I knew it, the whole flock was swarming the feeder tossing kibble every which way in their frenzy. They were gobbling so fast I thought they might choke! I’ve never seen them chow down with such gusto. It was hilarious but also slightly worrisome watching them inhale a food not meant for chicks.

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After their feeding frenzy died down, I started to worry if all that protein was OK for them. So I gave ol’ Rusty his dinner and did some research to see what the experts said…

Turns out while chicks will indeed chomp chow if given the chance, dog food alone may not be the balanced diet they need long-term for health and growth. There’s more to the story, so keep reading to learn the real deal on canine chow for chicks!

Digging into Whether Dog Grub Meets Their Nutritional Needs

can baby chicks have dog food

The next day after the chick’s crazy kibble kerfuffle, I got online to find out what the homesteading holy rollers said about using dog food for poultry. And it seemed opinions were pretty mixed!

Some folks swore by it as a cheap and easy addition to their feed to bulk it up. Said their chicks grew just as big and strong pecking the occasional kibble. While others warned it could lead to weak bones, immunity issues, and poor feathering long-term.

So I did some digging into canine and chick nutrition to see what the differences were. Turns out while dog food has protein, fats and calories, it’s often missing key minerals like calcium baby birds need to build strong bones and shells.

Vitamins like niacin, riboflavin and biotin play big roles in feather growth, immune function and more too. And chick starter is carefully formulated with the perfect amino acid profile to support rapid development through their gangly adolescent phases.

Dog food on the other hand is designed more for adult canines. The minerals and vitamins simply aren’t in the proportions growing chicks require. So while an occasional kibble may not hurt, making it their steady diet could lead to weak, sickly pullets down the line.

The bottom line is baby poultry have very specific nutritional requirements dog chow just doesn’t meet. Starter feeds with balanced vitamin and mineral recipes are still the safest bet for healthy hatch-to-harvest flock members.

So In the End, Dog Food May Be an Occasional Treat But Not Their Main Grub

can baby chicks have dog food

After all my research, it seems clear commercial chick starter or a home-mixed starter recipe is the way to go for baby peepers’ primary feed source if you want happy, hearty pullets.

Dog food alone won’t cut it nutritionally long-term no matter how much they act like they love it in the moment! The occasional kibble probably won’t do harm in moderation. But for day-to-day rations, aim to give em what they need to thrive according to their species.

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Overall while chicks will indeed devour dog food as we learned, balancing their diets with proper formulated starter is best to keep their bodies and immune systems operating in peak condition through raising.

Choosing the Right Type of Dog Food

If you do plan to occasionally feed dog food to your chicks, it’s important to select the right kind.

High quality dog foods with meat or fish as the first ingredient would be a better option than ones with lots of filler.

Look for ones without dyes, preservatives or unnecessary additives that could harm delicate chick digestive systems.

Steer clear of foods formulated for certain life stages like puppy or senior formulas.

Instead, choose an all-life-stages or adult dog food made with simple, easy-to-digest ingredients.

Plain varieties without extra flavors like steak or bacon are also best to avoid tummy upsets from strong seasonings.

Crumble or kibble textures work well, but avoid gravy or meaty chunks they could choke on.

The occasional handful finely crushed into their starter is a safer way to feed it than full bowls of kibble pieces.

Supplementing With Dog Food

So if you do opt to supplement chick diets with occasional dog food, here’s the safest way:

Start with just a tablespoon or two mixed into their starter per feeding when they’re tiny.

Gradually increase to no more than 1/4 of their total daily feed ration once they’re older at 4-6 weeks.

Always provide proper chick starter as the main part of their diet with adequate nutrients.

Wash any uneaten dog food out of the feeder after 30 minutes so it doesn’t get stale.

Watch that all chicks eat both the starter and supplement – dog food alone isn’t balanced.

Stop supplementation by 8 weeks when switching to a grower/developer feed.

Monitor for signs of illness, weakness or weight loss and consult an expert if needed.

Adjusting For Different Kinds of Poultry

Baby chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys all have differing nutritional profiles when young.

In general, chicken starter is suitable for small amounts of dog food supplementation as well.

However, waterfowl and turkey poults need feed higher in protein and fatty acids for rapid growth.

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Making dog food a bigger part of their diet risks deficiencies without added supplements.

Chicken-based starter crumbles suit ducklings and goslings well for occasional kibble too.

Turkey starter should always be the main feed source with no more than 10% kibble mixed in sparingly.

Monitor weight gain carefully if incorporating any dog food into waterfowl or turkey diets.

Their needs are a bit different, so balance and moderation are extra key with supplements.

Preparing Homemade Chick Food

For those who want complete control without store mixes, homemade chick starter is achievable.

The base should include a protein like cooked eggs, mealworms or boiled chicken liver.

High quality feedstore ingredients like chick crumbles, cracked corn and wheat middlings provide balanced nutrients.

Finely ground oyster shell or limestone grit ensures little beaks get calcium for strong shells and skeletons.

Commercial gamebird or waterfowl feed can substitute chicken starter in a pinch.

Supplement with alfalfa hay, greens and vitamin/mineral premixes for complete nutrition.

Cook a small test batch to assess texture before mixing large amounts.

Feel free to supplement proper homemade ration in moderation just like store mixes.

Common Questions About Dog Food For Chicks

“Is it okay to just feed my chicks what’s left of my dog’s food every day?”

“What if it’s the only food I have on hand right now?”

“Can I transition straight from dog food to layer feed at 16 weeks?”

“How much kibble should I give my flock per day?”

“Is there any flavors or ingredients I should avoid?”

To answers these common concerns – proper chick feed MUST be the main diet with modest dog food supplementation only.

While it can fill them temporarily in a pinch, commercial starter or balanced homemade ration ensures ideal long term health, growth and production.

Signs Your Chicks May Be Missing Nutrients

If supplementing with dog food, watch for potential deficiency symptoms:

Slow or stunted growth compared to peers eating regular starter.

Weak, rickety legs unable to support full body weight.

Soft or thin shells on eggs from pullets over 16 weeks.

Dull, coarse feathers that don’t fully develop.

Increased susceptibility to illness without dog food added.

Loss of appetite, listlessness or diarrhea could indicate issues.

Address problems promptly with balanced diet or veterinary care.

Prevention through modest supplementation beats playing catch-up later.

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