I'll admit straight off that I am beyond frustrated here... I have won two separate auctions over on Rare Breed Auctions for two different breeds of chicks, both from Greenfire Farms. Needless to say, the price was significantly reduced from the standard on the Greenfire site. I only mention this as a potential factor.
The first was about a month ago or so for ten Niederrheiners. I'm in Arkansas, Greenfire is in Florida. They shipped out on a Monday, arrived on Wednesday or Thursday morning (can't seem to find the tracking info to confirm). They shipped twelve, so as to have two extras. All chicks were alive on delivery, but they seemed VERY small compared to every other chick I've seen (RIRs, Plymouth Barred Rock, Marans, Cream Legbars, Olive Eggers, Swedish Flower Hens, Bielefelders, Barbezieux, etc - just indicating here that I've raised some chicks...). GroGel was included in the shipment, and many of the chicks had blue-green staining on their feet and feathers from this. Within a few days, they started dropping. They never seemed to thrive, didn't see them aggressively going for food or water, just weak chicks. As of today, I have a total of three that have survived. These three seem to be in good shape, but I would like to see them a bit larger at this point.
Flash forward to this week to the second auction win, this time for ten Twentse. Same shipping timetable. Chicks were VERY loud in the box, so I was much more excited to open up the box and see them. Well, my optimism was immediately extinguished when I clipped the tie-wraps... They shipped thirteen, so as to have three extras. Three dead upon arrival - one trampled to death, two apparently 'drowned' in the included GroGel cups (heads still in the cups). Three more covered in GroGel and trampled to the point they were not moving and barely breathing. The other seven seemed OK, but many had blue-green spots on them from GroGel. I rushed home from the Post Office, about a 25-minute drive, and put the 'survivors' in the brooder I had prepared for them (two lamps, pine shavings, 20% non-medicated chick starter and water). The three that were in rough shape, I brought them inside and got them washed off and back up to temp using warm water. They started to perk back up enough for me to shift them to the bathroom to put under a hair dryer. Unbelievably, they looked like they might just make it, albeit HEAVILY stained from GroGel contact (one of them was about half blue-green, feather down really absorbs that GroGel...). Into the brooder they went with the rest. I have had them for about 36 hours now and have lost two more with an additional chick currently circling the drain. There are some pine shavings in the water (I clean this out every time I see this happen, of course) which would indicate to me they are actively scratching around by the waterer and drinking water. Feed, on the other hand, barely shows any signs of activity.
Now I have raised a lot of chicks this year; hundreds, in fact. The losses would be on VERY rare occasions. One chick drowned in a waterer, one chick got stuck in a feeder near a heat lamp, one I recall was weak from the start and eventually died several weeks later (although I just knew it wouldn't make it, I gave it the opportunity). I have raised ten different breeds of chicks this year. I have used a variety of different bedding material - pine shavings, hay, grass clippings. I have consistently used 20% non-medicated chick starter from Powell's Feed. Water is changed at least daily, but usually two or three times daily. I check on my chicks, on average, four times a day. Until they start to get feathers, I run two separate lamps - one closer to the brooder floor than the other. I can provide any other details upon request. I want to be completely transparent here as this is a problem I really want to solve.
So...I guess I have a few questions here...
1. What is your experience with Greenfire Farms chicks? Out of two separate shipments, I have two absolutely abysmal survival rates - and Shipment Number Two is still in flux.
2. What is your opinion/experience with GroGel? It seems like this stuff might as well be rat poison as every chick that ended up contacting it eventually died. My three surviving Niederrheiners were, maybe not coincidentally, completely clean with no blue-green staining at all. It seems that, in theory, this is a great thing for chicks - nourishment and hydration that doesn't 'spill'. However... Why is it dyed at all? Why is it placed in a shipping box in such a manner that small chicks can (and do) walk through it, getting it stuck to them? In the future, I plan to specifically request that it NOT be used. I'll just take my chances. After all, for day-old chicks, they should still be absorbing their internal yolk sacs for up to 72 hours anyway.
3. What the heck can I do to increase my survival rate here? I have basically resigned myself to the same rate of loss for these Twentse chicks over the next week or two, but it just kills me. You go from beyond excited to win an auction for rare chicks at an awesome discount only to have that crushed on an epic scale by death after death so quickly.
Thanks for any help or guidance or stories you can share.