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Guidelines for Raising Day-Old Chicks: Mother Hen vs. Incubator Hatch

Raising day-old chicks requires careful consideration of their origin—whether hatched by a mother hen or in an incubator. This guide provides essential insights into the distinct care requirements based on the hatching method.

1. Mother Hen Hatching:

When chicks are hatched by a mother hen, they benefit from her natural instincts and care. The mother hen ensures the chicks have access to safe water sources, nutritious forage, and imparts crucial survival skills like scratching and hunting for animal proteins. Additionally, she provides warmth by sheltering them beneath her wings when needed.

2. Incubator-Hatched Chicks:

In contrast, chicks hatched in an incubator demand more hands-on care. Dip each beak into shallow water to teach them to drink, ensuring it doesn't pose a drowning risk. A high-protein fodder (16-19%) is crucial for their development. Maintain the chicks under proper heat until they are fully feathered and maintain a warm, dry, and clean brooder environment. Regular checks and supervision are essential during this critical stage.

3. Caution Against Pasture Introduction:

Starting hatchery or incubator-hatched day-old chicks on pasture without proper precautions is not advisable. These chicks cannot regulate their body temperature and lack the guidance of a mother hen. They are vulnerable to predators and harsh weather conditions. Day-old foraging should only occur under the watchful eye of a mother hen. The short video below shows fully feathered young birds on pasture.

4. Chicken Tractors for Day-Old Chicks:

For day-old chicks in chicken tractors, an artificial heat source and light are necessary. Ensure a draft-free environment to protect them from the elements. Careful attention to temperature and conditions is crucial for their well-being.

5. Heritage Poultry on Open Ranges:

Heritage poultry breeds excel in open ranges and pasture-based systems. However, it's essential that they are fully feathered and to provide a viable fodder source containing animal proteins (worms, maggots, grubs, insects) for healthy bone development, a robust immune system, and an exceptional central nervous system. Chickens are omnivores, requiring a balanced diet that includes animal proteins and fats.

6. Importance of Animal Proteins:

Chickens are not vegetarians; they need animal proteins for optimal health. Pastures alone lack sufficient insects to meet their nutritional needs. While vegetables, kitchen scraps, and fruit trimmings add variety to their diet, ensure an adequate supply of animal proteins and fats.


Raising day-old chicks demands tailored care based on their hatching method. Understanding the distinct needs of chicks from an incubator versus those hatched by a mother hen is crucial to their well-being. Always prioritize their safety, nutritional requirements, and overall health in your poultry-raising endeavors.

Xenia Stavrinides

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