Wild chicks first venturing out of the nest will be following mama around eating bugs, grass & herb tips, fallen fruits, bulbs & tubers, worms, whatever they happen to find. Chicks this age should be getting a gnarly wild diet while the gut is developing so that they develop a full healthy gut. This is Natural Farming. How does Nature do it? That should be the whole of the discussion but let me illustrate my point with a story.
Chicks raised on commercial feed (grain) grow much shorter underdeveloped digestive tract. That means they have poor digestion no matter what you feed them. I have seen young roosters starve to death literally sitting on top of a pile of unlimited food. They had been fed a diet of commercial feed their entire life. They were unable to digest the real, whole food at their feet. I see commercial grain as the same thing as feeding a fast food diet.
Master Cho talks about feeding chicks brown rice and chopped bamboo leaves the first 3 days of life. When I was in Hawaii and ordered chicks, they were sent by air and were 3 days old when I got them. If I fed chicks that were more than 3 days old bamboo and brown rice most of them died.
A chick gets three days of nutrition supplied by the nutrients in the egg yolk. That is how they can ship chick from the Mainland to Hawaii without needing to feed them. They can survive the first 3 days without food. If their gut is primed with wild food, in Master Cho’s case hard to digest whole rice & bamboo leaves, then it primes the gut system that life is hard and the chick grows a full healthy gut system, able to digest almost anything edible. Later in life if that is the only food available they will be fine because they have developed a gut that can digest that kind of food.
The same thing happens with plants. If you plant a seedling in soft fluffy soil with all the nutrients it needs, it doesn’t need to develop a strong healthy root system. Why bother to spend effort and resources when life is easy?
Master Cho says he puts an uncooked brown rice grain in a newborn’s mouth every day. Why does he do that? A newborn can only digest mothers milk, not whole grains. He does it to prime the growing baby’s body that this world will be full of rice and you need to grow to be able to digest the food that you will be eating, and here, for you, it’s rice.
That is the purpose of feeding brown rice and bamboo to chicks from day 1-3. Life is hard. Get ready. On day 4, after they have depleted the nutrition of the yolk, they need nutritious feed, as they would naturally find in Nature as mentioned above.
Many KNF sources suggest 30% commercial grain feed. That is like saying that you feed your children good healthy organic food, except that you let them have McDonalds for one meal every day. How healthy are your kids going to be? How healthy are your chickens going to be? A lot depends on what you feed them early in life. It seems to be a better choice to develop a gut that can fully and properly digest food, rather than spend labor and resources to make food more digestible for chickens. Try to feed them a diet that is as natural as possible. Let your chicks grow a natural, healthy gut. What are you going to feed them? Watch newly hatched chicks that can freely roam. What are they eating? Nature has the answers.