Do Chickens Breastfeed

Do Chickens Breastfeed? (How Hens Care for Chicks)

Watching a mother hen care for her young is one of the cutest and most fascinating and enjoyable things. But have you ever wondered how they feed their chicks? Do chickens breastfeed or nurse chicks?

Nope, chickens do not breastfeed their young. Chickens do not produce milk, they don’t have milk ducts, nipples, or any way to physically or anatomically produce and feed their offspring milk.

Why Do Chickens Have Breasts If They Don’t Breastfeed?

If you thought chickens breastfeed their young, don’t worry you’re not alone. It’s not that crazy of a question. After all, we eat chicken breasts, don’t we?

A chicken’s breasts are very different to that of mammals though. They don’t have breast tissue like a female mammal or any of the internal parts that produce milk.

They are more like a male mammals chests, in that they are basically pectoral muscles. Hence why we eat them.

A general rule of thumb is that if an animal comes from an egg, it doesn’t develop teats or produce milk.

How Do Mother Hens Feed Their Chicks?

How Do Mother Hens Feed Their Chicks

Basically, mother hens do their motherly duty of teaching their young how to eat by showing them – and helping a little.

They will make a specific clucking noise to get the attention of their young when they’re showing them something important.

They’ll then pick up food and place it in front of their chicks and eat some. It’s really as simple as that.

You’re probably wondering why they don’t physically feed their young like a lot of birds do. There are two reasons for this;

One is that chicks are able to fend for themselves within days of hatching, unlike a lot of birds that take weeks to get mobile.

The other is that chicken broods can be quite large, often in the double figures. It would be exhausting for a hen to physically drop food into each of their mouths several times a day.

What Do Baby Chicks Eat?

In the wild, baby chicks will eat just about any bugs or insects they can find or their mother brings them.

Ants, grasshoppers, flies, worms, any small, easy to catch insects like that make for a nutritional snack. They will also need little bits of scratch or grass to help digest the food.

While it’s important that backyard chicks also get some live grub, it’s advisable to have some starter feed on hand too.

Starter feed is specially formulated to provide all the important nutrition chicks need to grow up strong and healthy.

There’s nothing wrong with giving your chicks some good feed, and giving their mom a helping hand at the same time!

Can Chickens Drink Milk?

Chickens and chicks can drink milk, but it’s not recommended. They aren’t lactose intolerant like some animals, but they can only tolerate small amounts of milk.

Dairy products, in general, are treats for chickens. The protein and calcium content is great for them, but overall milk and similar dairy products should only be given to them as occasional treats.

Related Can chickens drink milk? Read this for a more detailed look at whether milk is good for chickens or not.

In Summary

Chickens do not breastfeed their young. Birds are very different from mammals in a number of ways, and one of which is that they do not nurse their young.

Instead, a chick spends around 21 days developing in the egg absorbing nutrients from the yolk. When they hatch, their mom shows them how to find and eat insects or you can give them a starter feed.


Difference between mammals and birds –

Image credits – Header image by Michael Anfang, in-body image by K Kannan on Unsplash

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