Hello there, I was wondering if it is at all possible, and if so, any good tips on raising chickens from day one without feed? Or since they wouldn't have their mother would they not be able to digest what they can forage?
I think chicks without a mother need feed. They have high protein needs and wont necessarily find what they need without help. I have about 15 baby chicks running around that I don't feed because I didn't know they existed for a while, but they do have a momma to teach and protect them.
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Chicks are pretty much programmed to peck at anything edible and inedible. Even if it is "inedible" to us, like small rocks, they need it in their crop to help grind up pieces of edible stuff.
If it's bug-sized and they can swallow it, chickens will eat it. If it's too big to swallow, they will shake it and break it into smaller, swallowable pieces.
I would suggest putting bread and vegetables through the food processor or blender until it is finely ground up. The chicks will quickly learn what tastes good and what doesn't. Chickens have much more latitude for "what tastes good" than humans do. The only thing I have tried on chickens that they decided doesn't taste good are ginkgo fruits. And that's probably because the ginkgo fruit is high in butyric acid, the compound that makes rancid butter rancid.
If you grind up things that are good protein sources, peanuts, cooked beans, meat, that should meet their nutritional needs. If you cook meat until it falls apart, then let it dry out in a frying pan until it turns to meat floss, that makes excellent high protein chicken feed.
Whenever I'm digging in the garden, chickens are right there scratching in the dirt. Also, in the chicken pen, we have several rocks and boards that I turn over about once a day to reveal tasty soil inhabitants like worms, grubs, and bugs that they immediately go after. They also love sprouts of all kinds. So you can get by without purchased feed during most of the year, or all, if your winters aren't "wintery".