Starting Baby Chicks on Pasture
Depending on whether the chicks were hatched in an incubator or by a mother hen, will make all the difference.
When a mother hen hatches the chicks, she will protect the chicks, and assist them in reaching safe shallow water, nutritious forage and teach them to scratch and hunt for animal proteins. When they get cold, the mother hen will place the chicks beneath her wings and warm them up.
When the chicks are hatched in an incubator, you will need to dip each beak into a shallow water source and teach them to drink (keep it shallow or they will drown). Provide a high protein (16-19%) fodder and keep the baby chicks under proper heat until they are fully feathered. Keep the brooder warm, dry and clean at all times. Check on them regularly and enjoy your baby chicks.
**It is never a good idea to start hatchery/incubator type day old baby chicks on pasture. It is never a good idea to start genetically engineered (production breeds) poultry breeds on pasture.
Day-old foraging is only a good idea when the mother hen is present otherwise these practices are considered abusive, neglectful and cruelty to animals.
Chicken tractors built for day-old chicks that contain an artificial heat source do not keep the birds warm (98-100 degrees (F) )enough. The ground is far too cold for them in the spring, autumn and winter and they also need a draft-free environment.
Heritage poultry breeds perform very well on open ranges, foraging systems and pasture based systems. This does not mean that they will thrive on air. There must be a viable fodder source to help them develop healthy bones, a strong immune system and an exceptional central nervous system.
Remember chickens are omnivores and NOT vegetarians. This means they require a balanced diet comprised of animal proteins (worms, maggots, grubs, insects etc.). Birds are not a pasture-based animal, they do not have a rumen and cannot utilize grasses as a viable nutritious and digestible fodder. Keep in mind that pastures do NOT contain enough insects to properly maintain a birds nutritious needs. Always provide enough animal proteins and animal fats for your birds. Vegetables, kitchen scraps, fruit trimmings and similar are great for fiber and energy and they will enjoy these treats as part of their daily diet too.
Never feed your birds:
Fish Meal / Fish Manure
High Nitrogen by-products
Your birds will lay eggs longer and live a longer more productive, healthy life if you allow your birds to be birds, as nature intended.