Many of us who have a homestead or backyard farm are looking to find ways to directly access our food supply.
With chickens, we get a plethora of eggs.
If you keep meat breeds, you get meat as well.
But there are people out there who do sometimes talk about chicken milk.
Chickens do not make milk. Only mammals have the means of lactating and producing milk. Since chickens are not mammals, they have no way of lactating or producing milk. Chickens are birds, and birds do not nurse their young as mammals do, so they do not need to make milk.
While chickens are very useful for egg and meat production, they don’t offer anything like milk.
Let’s look a bit more into whether or not chickens make milk.
Do Chickens Lactate?
Chickens do not lactate.
They do not have nipples or the means of producing milk.
Mammalian milk is produced to feed their young.
It contains high nutrient and fat levels to sustain their young.
However, chickens don’t need to do this as they feed their young differently than mammals.
Most birds do not lactate.
However, there are a few birds known for producing crop milk.
These birds are an exception to the rule of birds not making milk.
Pigeons, flamingos, and emperor penguins produce crop milk to feed their young.
The substance contains high-fat and other nutrients to help their babies grow healthy and strong.
While some birds do lactate, chickens are not one of them.
Lactating is fairly limited to mammalian species, which chickens are not.
While it would be a bonus for backyard chicken keepers to be able to milk their chickens and get yet another product from their birds, it is simply not possible.
Related Reading: Are chickens mammals, birds, or reptiles?
How Do Chickens Feed Their Chicks?
Since chickens do not lactate or breastfeed, you may wonder how they feed their baby chickens.
Mother hens will bring baby chicks food in the form of grubs, small insects, grains, and bits of meat and feed for them to ingest.
Mother hens instinctively know what is good for their baby chicks and will intuitively bring them acceptable food items.
During the first 24-48 hours of life, the baby chick will absorb the yolk and nutrients from inside the shell.
This usually sustains them for up to 48 hours after hatching.
This means they do not require much food during the first day or so of their life.
This early period of life is also important for the baby chickens to observe and learn how to eat by watching their mother.
They will observe how she pecks at and chews food which teaches them how to eat.
After this, the mother will begin to bring food items for their babies, and they will grow accustomed to eating many of the same foods as the rest of the flock.
What Should Chicken Keepers Feed Baby Chicks?
If you are a chicken keeper raising baby chicks without their mother, you may wonder what is best to feed them to help them grow big and strong.
The best thing to give to baby chicks if you are a human feeding them is starter food.
Starter chick feed like this is the perfect way to feed baby chicks and ensure they get all the nutrients and energy they need to grow healthy and strong.
Many starter feeds contain probiotics and antioxidants to help build digestive health and resistance to adverse health conditions.
We recommend keeping your baby chicks on the starter feed until they are eight weeks old.
After this, they can switch over to the standard chicken feed.
Keeping them on a complete chick feed for those first eight weeks will help them get a great and healthy start in life.
Once they switch over to the adult chicken feed, they will likely start foraging and scratching about for extra snacks, which is a fun part of owning backyard chickens.
What Is “Chicken Milk”?
There is a term floating around called “chicken milk.”
This is likely responsible for the confusion and questions around whether or not chickens lactate or produce milk.
Chicken milk, however, is not produced by chickens.
While chicken milk is not incredibly popular, it does exist.
Humans produce chicken milk by boiling and blending chicken breasts until it reaches a milk-like consistency.
You may be wondering why someone would want to do this, as it initially seems quite odd.
It turns out chicken milk was originally developed as an alternative to dairy milk formula for babies.
Some babies are born with allergies to certain foods.
Often this means they cannot digest or tolerate cow milk baby formula.
Some have very severe allergies, and goat milk baby formula and soy formula are also out of the question.
There is some concern about what the baby can eat in these situations.
Chicken allergies are uncommon, so chicken milk was developed as an alternative for baby formula for infants with severe allergies.
Do Any Birds Make Milk?
Most birds do not make milk.
Milk is typical of mammals.
Mammals have breasts and nipples and lactate when they have babies as a form of feeding and nourishing their young.
As we know, chickens and birds hatch from eggs, which is very different from how mammals give birth.
However, there are some birds capable of making milk.
Pigeons, flamingos, and emperor penguins are the most commonly known birds for making milk.
While it is not quite the same process for their milk, these birds produce “crop milk” for their babies.
The substance is produced in the crop of certain birds.
The crop is a pouch located in the bird’s neck above the chest or sternum.
The substance is created to nourish young, but it is not common in many species of birds and does not exist in chickens.