Do I need to give my shipped chicks vitamins and electrolytes when they arrive?

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We don't generally think it is a good idea to offer anything but plain, clean water unless your chicks are exceedingly stressed.

When chicks are put into their brooder for the first time after shipping, they are understandably thirsty and will sometimes drink more and recover faster if their water is fresh and tastes good. If you have much experience medicating animals, you probably know that medicating animals via drinking water is convenient, but can be problematic. If it is hot, and they drink too much and increase the dose they are getting, sometimes getting too much! On the other hand, if the medication makes the water taste bad, they may not drink very much and so don't get enough medication (or water!). Medicating via drinking water is so inexact that we don't recommend healthy chicks to be routinely medicated "just in case." Some people even suggest sugar water as a matter of course for shipped chicks, but excess sugar can give them diarrhea: not good!

Worse, most electrolyte formulas are designed for large commercial operations. For instance, the package instructions may direct you to dissolve the entire package in two gallons of water to create a "stock solution." Then, you must meter the dose at one ounce of the stock solution per gallon. However, we hear from people every year who didn't read the instructions carefully and poisoned their birds by offering them the stock solution, so concentrated the birds are poisoned and die very painfully. Symptoms include staggering, falling and sometimes even foaming at the mouth.

The bottom line is that unless your babies are showing actual signs of distress, it's best to offer plain, clean water.