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Chickens keep falling over dead had 14 dead today

post #1 of 7
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Hello this is my first post but have been reading here for quite some time learning about this addiction. My wife and I have just built our dream home in Texas and moved in in August. The last 5 months has been trial and alot of error in raising animals especially chickens. We have a 30x20 coop its open on the east side with carpet hanging down to block wind and enclosed on the other 3 sides with a roof. I started out with 14 red sexlinks that were laying in August. Slowly I've lost 7 for no apparent reason. They are free ranging today dead in the morning. 2 weeks ago I got a good deal on 51 month old rir chicks. I kept them in a cage for a week in the garage and wife said no longer. So I let them go in the coop and crossed my fingers. All was well till today I had 13 dead chicks and 1 dead hen. No feathers gone no blood nothing looked suspicious just dead. I had been feeding them a 3 part mixture of grower laying crumbles and scratch with no problems. Now last Saturday and Sunday we got hit hard with sideways rain and then Mon night it dropped into the high 20s. The coop was damp in spots but dry in most of it. I didn't have a heat lamp on them but there was straw covering the floor. I clean the coop out weekly and put down fresh straw. Basically I don't want to keep throwing money at buying birds so they die. What am I doing wrong and how can I stop the problem.
post #2 of 7

Sudden, unexplained death of poultry, especially in the numbers you've experience, could be due to pesticide exposure. Even though you may not have used any insecticide lately, the recent rain could have re-constituted some that was applied weeks ago. Chickens would rather drink out of puddles than their waterers, and if one discovers a likely puddle, it isn't long before many are drinking from it.

 

Since you haven't lived there long, I would wash down the coop well, and confine the rest of the flock in the coop until you can thoroughly treat your grounds with a pesticide neutralizer.

 

It would be to your advantage to have a necropsy done if possible. That way, there's no guessing. You'll know what killed them.

post #3 of 7
As far as your older birds I would ask how old they are, sex links aren't long lived birds sometimes. I would also make sure they aren't eating moldy feed.

Your chicks are too young to be in such a cold wet exposed area, they should still be in a draft free place with heat, and they are too young to be on wet ground, they get chilled easily, and that many chicks will pile and suffocate each other. You also need to be concerned with cocidiosis, they need time to slowly build immunity to whatever is in your soil.
Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
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Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
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post #4 of 7

I agree you've got something going on. Here are my ideas:

If my math is right, you've got close to 60 birds now in a 600 foot enclosure which will be approaching the limit for that enclosure (10 square feet per bird for ranging when mature). Be aware you will deal with more issues of health management the more numbers you try to maintain especially in a closed, limited environment. You may have to accept some loss.

 

You began with 14 RSL who were laying in August, and you've had them for 5 months, so these were mature birds (now at least 1 year old?). You loss 7 over that time. That means you  introduced mature birds to a new environment. Birds often have latent illness which can be triggered with stress caused by a move, and possibly you had a viral or bacterial outbreak, or more likely coccidiosis lurking in the RSL's (slowing working through) as they became infected by your soil (coccidia live in all soil, and there are different strains, each farm is unique even across town or neighborhood).

 

The other thought, if they were completely healthy looking and then dead the next morning, is there is something in your free range that is toxic to them. Do a plant check in your environment, or toxic pesticides as the other poster mentioned.

 

If no toxins, then I am back to Coccidiosis as a real potential since being a new owner you might not be picking up on subtle signs of infection before it reaches crisis. Birds can go down very quickly with Coccidiosis. Coccdiosis does not always produce bloody poo but can first present as fluffed, rumpled, a bit lethargic, but still foraging, then suddenly dead in 2 days. I always put newly transitioned birds onto medicated feed for at least 2 weeks, better a month to help them transition and prevent coccidiosis. (Amprolium medicated feed is fine for eggs....there is no withdrawal) .

 

Next you added smaller, younger chicks, so you've got mixed ages of very young (month old) with older, possibly sick. Not a good idea even with totally healthy birds. Those ages are too mixed. Your babies haven't built up strong immune systems yet, and they are likely being hazed and even more stressed by the older birds. Industry standard is to not introduce pullets to an established flock until 12 weeks of age up to 24 (to help prevent Marek's and other disease outbreaks, which is sadly, another thought). Your chicks could also have brought in something anew to the flock, viral or bacterial, or new strain of coccidia. As your instincts told you, one week of isolation was not enough!

 

Further, feeding layer feed to baby chicks is way too much calcium for babies! You will shut their kidneys down with that! The babies would be best on medicated chick start, and separate, or a mixed age flock needs to be on a flock raiser with calcite grit or oyster shell free feed for the older, laying hens.

 

At this point, I would consider putting some Sulmet in the water for a few days (full dose 2 days, half dose 4 days, according to bottle). That would clear up both coccidiosis and the common gram negative bacteria that grows quickly in heavily populated pens. If not that, then at least put Apple Cider Vinegar (raw, with the mother, no metal containers) in the water, a blop in the bucket. That will help acidify their guts to help their immune systems. Probiotics in yogurt is also helpful.

 

I would also expect losses in the young ones as I agree they are likely still too young for ambient outdoor cold temperatures and definitely any wet environment. Many would still be under a heat lamp until 4 weeks, then slowly transitioned until fully feathered at about 6 weeks.

 

Your birds may be dying from ammonia build up if that carpet is preventing air flow. While you do not want cold wind/draft, especially with wet, you must have good air flow as birds produce an alarming amount of ammonia and moisture. With that number of birds now, poo will build up very quickly. Once a week clean out may not be often enough. You may need to rake daily, clean weekly. Mold might be creeping in. Straw here, in Oregon, molds very quickly. It is my least favorite bedding due to that problem. I prefer pine shavings (which some think is harmful due to the oils, but I have used it a lot and never had an issue and it keeps down mold and other yuckies).

 

With those kinds of losses, you've got too many birds in the wrong environment. I think some investigation and deep thinking should set your situation right.

 

Keeping chickens is definitely a learning curve, and you jumped in the pool at the deep end with large numbers. That always multiplies the problems.

 

Keep us posted and good luck.

 

LofMc


Edited by Lady of McCamley - 12/29/15 at 11:56pm
Keeper of 15+ layers, common to specialty types for colorful egg baskets. Brooding Queens: The Queen Mum Silkie and 2 Bantam Cochin handmaids. Preparing to breed my own Olive Eggers! Barnevelder roo with Splash Marans and CL for egg color and color coding :D Former 4H leader, GDB Puppy Raiser, Homeschooler. Current ESL tutor. Proud new grandma. Loving wife to a very tolerant husband.
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Keeper of 15+ layers, common to specialty types for colorful egg baskets. Brooding Queens: The Queen Mum Silkie and 2 Bantam Cochin handmaids. Preparing to breed my own Olive Eggers! Barnevelder roo with Splash Marans and CL for egg color and color coding :D Former 4H leader, GDB Puppy Raiser, Homeschooler. Current ESL tutor. Proud new grandma. Loving wife to a very tolerant husband.
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post #5 of 7

Welcome to BYC,

 

I'm sorry for your losses. You've been given some excellent information on possible causes, I hope that information will help you determine what's going on so your remaining birds are safe.

 

If you haven't already done so, I'd suggest you check out the Learning Center...there are a lot of good articles there that may be of additional assistance:

http://www.backyardchickens.com/atype/1/Learning_Center

 

Good luck to you!

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Check out all 11 new mini contests!

BYC Mini Contests - Win a 2017 Calendar!!

Deadlines for all is Dec. 11, 2016

You can't win if you don't play!

 

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/creative-crafting-with-eggshells

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post #6 of 7
I have to reiterate what has been said about the young chicks they won't survive those outdoor climates at 2 weeks old without supplemental heating and better shelter, they should also be on a high protein low calcium diet and I would suggest medicated feed especially now that they have been introduced to the older birds... Remove the young ones back to the garage and provide some sort of heat for them until they are fully feathered out and have some body mass... If you use a heat lamp make sure it's secure/safe and doesn't burn down the garage a better option would be a passive panel heater or heating pad cave as another member here has done... Once they chicks are older and you introduce them back to the adults, continue chick starter or game bird feed (don't cut with scratch) and give the layers a side of oyster shells until the young birds are grown out... Once they all start laying you can transition to an layer feed, or continue with an all flock and side of oyster shells...

Also is it possible to get a picture of the 'coop' I have a suspicion as did one of the people above that you might not have enough ventilation even with the one side open if you have a carpet hanging... Also the carpet will also hold moisture and promote mold, mildew and bacterial growth you want none of that... You should get rid of the carpet and invest in a better wind shield, either solid plastic or wood panels or a plastic tarp both of those will require you address proper ventilation again, as you still need the ventilation... I suspect you might very well have 'bad air' in the coop causing respiratory issues for the chickens...
post #7 of 7

Welcome to BYC.....Sounds like maybe you leapt before looking carefully enough.

 

Great advice above...but some questions.

 

Chicks were 5 weeks old when put in coop?

How much heat were they under in the garage, did you harden them off the heat before moving them?

 

Equal parts grower/layer/scratch all mixed together?

Were the chicks fed this while in the garage?

Agrees young birds shouldn't be getting that calcium and protein levels probably too low for all of them, especially the chicks.

 

Agrees....pics of housing might help us help you tweak any problems.

.

Might think about necropsy for the dying birds,

find out where it can be done(check with local university and/or state vet) and how to preserve the next corpse.

Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

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Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

Reply
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