The present study was conducted to test the hypothesis that dietary supplementation with a nano chitosan–zinc complex (CP–Zn, 100 mg/kg Zn) could alleviate weaning stress in piglets challenged with enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli K88 by improving growth performance and intestinal antioxidant capacity. The in vivo effects of CP–Zn on growth performance variables (including gastrointestinal digestion and absorption functions and the levels of key proteins related to muscle growth) and the antioxidant capacity of the small intestine (SI) were evaluated in seventy-two weaned piglets. The porcine jejunal epithelial cell line IPEC-J2 was used to further investigate the antioxidant mechanism of CP–Zn in vitro. The results showed that CP–Zn supplementation increased the jejunal villus height and decreased the diarrhoea rate in weaned piglets. CP–Zn supplementation also improved growth performance (average daily gain and average daily feed intake), increased the activity of carbohydrate digestion-related enzymes (amylase, maltase, sucrase and lactase) and the mRNA expression levels of nutrient transporters (Na+-dependent glucose transporter 1, glucose transporter type 2, peptide transporter 1 and excitatory amino acid carrier 1) in the jejunum and up-regulated the expression levels of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway-related proteins (insulin receptor substrate 1, phospho-mTOR and phospho-p70S6K) in muscle. In addition, CP–Zn supplementation increased glutathione content, enhanced total superoxide dismutase (T-SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-px) activity, and reduced malondialdehyde (MDA) content in the jejunum. Furthermore, CP–Zn decreased the content of MDA and reactive oxygen species, enhanced the activity of T-SOD and GSH-px and up-regulated the expression levels of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) pathway-related proteins (Nrf2, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 and haeme oxygenase 1) in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated IPEC-J2 cells. Collectively, these findings indicate that CP–Zn supplementation can improve growth performance and the antioxidant capacity of the SI in piglets, thus alleviating weaning stress.