Why are my chicks dying?

Asked February 14, 2015, 3:16 PM EST

I got 50 Golden Buffs pullets a few days ago and just today I am getting multiple deaths in the brooder. It started overnight (second night) and I had 3 die (I blame this for a heat lamp that went out overnight). But today alone I have had 3 more deaths. I put them separate from the others so that they might have a better chance but that didn't change anything. What am I doing wrong? I showed them water and they know where the food is. I have 2 heat lamps on them. I am also bedding with straw. Is that a concern?


3 Responses

I will make some assumptions that may or may not be correct. Let me know if I am wrong. I assume these were day-old chicks when you got them (now 3 or 4 days old), and I'll guess that they came in the mail (?).

Since the weather has been pretty cold, they may have been stressed during shipping. I'm not surprised that a few might be weak and wouldn't do well. With the heat lamp going out, they may have gotten cold again, which would be an added stress. They might also have piled up when they got cold, which can suffocate the chicks at the bottom of the pile. Added together, these stresses could certainly explain the dead chicks.

I think the most important thing to do is to monitor them and make sure the surviving chicks are eating and drinking. If they are not, you might try to dip their beaks in water again. You could try to put sugar or electrolytes in their water, too. The benefit of adding sugar is debatable, but in this case, I think the extra boost of energy might be helpful. Make sure they stay warm. It's usually good to have the heat source offset to one side of their enclosure, so they can get closer or farther away from the heat, as they desire. A temperature of about 95 degrees F at chick level is suggested for the first week.

If they continue to die, there may be a disease problem. To get a firm diagnosis, you'd need to contact your state veterinary diagnostic lab, or an avian veterinarian.

I don't think the straw should be a problem. Straw can sometimes have problems with mold, but I don't think that is causing the deaths at this point.

Good luck with them!

I picked up the chicks from Eagle Nest Hatchery (a few miles away). And I believe this is a disease problem and because I am up to 40% mortality rate. They go from healthy to death rather quickly. I just noticed today that they have fecal matter sticking them. I will look into a veterinarian advice.

The fecal material sticking to their vent area is very common after chicks have been cold-stressed. However, it might be good to check with a veterinarian, since that's pretty high mortality. You might also check with the hatchery, to see if they have had any other reports of problems.