Baby chicks are fed what is referred to as “starter” feed, which comes in “crumble” or “mash” form. We’re using crumbles, as that’s what the feed store has. It looks more or less like grated cardboard. Am guessing it tastes pretty much like that, too, or its apparent near-cousin, Grape Nuts, which was featured in a recent Wall Street Journal article http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124381591156970663.html. But I digress.
Experienced chicken owners (ranchers? farmers? czars?) recommend keeping the chicks on starter until about 16 weeks or when the first egg is laid, at which point they are put on “layer” feed. Many people, however, choose to give their chicks “treats” after a few weeks, ranging from yogurt and oatmeal to live crickets and mealworms. Too many treats can upset the nutritional balance provided by the starter food, so it’s not clear when and what I will give our chicks. Right now, they’re just happy playing “Queen of the Food Bowl”; whomever sits in it longest wins.
As soon as the chicks start eating food other than starter, they will need grit, which is composed of gravel, calcium carbonate and sorbolite clay. They need grit to digest food because it turns out that saying about the scarcity of hens’ teeth is true. Food is stored in a “crop”, which is a pouch in the neck of a chicken and ground up for digestion by the grit.