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Slightly losing my mind - new broiler chicks are dying off at an alarming rate...

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Last year, I ordered my first batch of Cornish Cross Broilers from Purely Poultry. Over the first two months, I had a much higher failure rate than expected (anticipated 5%, had 18%). I noted that they shipped from Iowa. When I ordered a second batch a few months later, a Missouri hatchery shipped them, and I had a massive, whopping 0% failures. Before ordering my chicks for this year, I discussed my concern with PP and requested to be informed what dates would be the Missouri hatchery. They made the case that "(*&@ happens" and that they cannot tell me when the next shipment will be from Missouri, but to just make an order and see what happens. 

 

Last week Monday (4/4/2016) my Purely Poultry order of 40 Cornish Cross Broiler chicks shipped out from the hatchery in Iowa. I received them Wednesday morning (4/6/2016), all alive and kicking. The chicks were placed in a newly made brooder, with new, fresh waterers and feeders. They had brand new heat sources, and enough room to move away from the heat source if they got too hot. Brand new starter chick feed (unmedicated). The evening of the 7th, I found four dead chicks. No puffy eyes, no prolapsed vent, no blood in the stool, no discharges or any other signs of disease that I could identify. As of this morning, 4/12/2016, I'm up to 12 dead chicks, nearly all of which have shown no direct signs of illness that I can make out. Only one had a bit of stool stuck to its backside, but it wasn't covering the vent. 

 

Now, as a sanity check, I considered that they got some kind of disease, that they were carriers of some disease and they're all dying off. I have 21, 3 week old, home-hatched New Hampshire chicks in a separate, isolated brooder (only air is shared). I also have 11 older (6 weeks) New Hampshire chicks in yet-another brooder. They're all the same design. All same materials. So in terms of environment control, I believe this is very tight. Lastly, in yet another similar brooder, I have my ducklings. The only ones who are seemingly lethargic, and ill, are these CC broilers. Not one of my other chicks nor ducklings are showing any signs of sickness. I'm very strict on the biosecurity in terms of washing, keeping dedicated food storage (no cross contaminating), manure handling (I have a system for very efficiently handling waste, even though it requires more frequent management) that does not cross from one brooder to another (tray system with cleaning/sanitizing sessions which get the trays dry and free of cleaner residues), etc, to the exception of the air (which is well ventilated, but ultimately shared). 

I did some digging, and it appears (i.e. is NOT confirmed) that the source of these chicks is Welp Inc. in Iowa. Doing digging on them, most people do alright it seems. So my suspicion that it's a bad breeding stock has taken some damage to its credibility (but I haven't ruled it out). 

 

So I'm at a loss (pardon the pun). Does anyone have suggestions on what to be looking for and/or to do? 

It's now at a sick game of "how many will be dead when I get home tonight?" It's somewhat demoralizing. 


Edited by FormulaXFD - 4/12/16 at 10:15am
post #2 of 10

There is a good chance that Welp and the Missouri hatchery get their broiler eggs from the same source--so I don't think I would associate your poor luck with the birds.  I would think that there is something in the shipping length or route if others have had better survival rate than you.

 

You don't have your location listed--any chance you are at a high elevation?  If the hatcheries do have different broiler strains then one might be more suited to your local conditions. 

 

If you know you do better with the Missouri sourced birds than the Iowa birds--why not order directly from the hatchery in Missouri? I personally don't have any problems with Purely Poultry; however if you insist on having your birds from a particular source, order from that source.

usually have between 20 and 50 chickens
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usually have between 20 and 50 chickens
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post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

I'm in New Hampshire. The thing is my Peking Ducklings shipped from California without issue, and again, all were alive and peeping Wednesday morning. I believe my elevation is about 200ft above sea level. 
As to the egg source, you might be right and thus why PP was indifferent. As of right now, I can only speculate the broilers from Missouri are coming from Cackle Hatchery. 


Edited by FormulaXFD - 4/12/16 at 4:58pm
post #4 of 10

May I ask why you opted not to give medicated feed to the chicks for at least the first couple weeks? I feed my chicks medicated for the first couple weeks before shifting to non-medicated. My ducklings are on a non-medicated starter feed.

I would 1)check temperatures, 2)check to make sure they're accessing the water appropriately, 3)move the chicks to a medicated feed, 4)keep a close eye on vent area to make sure pasty butt is avoided.

Last year I brooded 2 sets of chicks with only 1 death and the one who died VERY obviously had something neurologically wrong with her.

This year I bought 6 chicks and no loss (4 are almost 6wks 2 are almost 4wks) and 2 ducklings (pekin). All are doing well. The 4 older chicks had issues with pasty butt initially. 

Other than that not sure what's going on unless you were given chicks that were late hatch or sick.

If you have chicks that look sick I'd get them on medicated feed and I'd consider buying some save a chick, probiotics to add into the water, and some antibiotics in case of emergency.

post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

From all I've read, you only opt for medicated feed when you're doing the more industrialized chicken farming, where the birds are cramped and waste accumulates. Otherwise you're stalling out their immunity buildup.

 

As I mentioned in the beginning, the temperatures are spot on at 99F with 0.5ºF uncertainty. The birds have plenty of room to get away from the direct heat as well. I have watched them both eat and drink without issue as well. I can switch to the medicated, as at this rate it won't hurt anything though I expect this entire flock to perish at the going rate. Also as mentioned before, only one chick had any stool stuck to its backside, but their vent was clear. 

As of last night, I'm up to a loss of 14 chicks. Going at a rate of 2 per day, in 13 days this whole flock will be a loss. 

 

Anyone know of a vet in southern New Hampshire who works on Chickens? Might be worth getting an investigation.

post #6 of 10

I figure the medicated feed is worth a try. Any time I get chicks, whether from a hatchery or private breeder I put them on medicated for a couple weeks as precaution. Not everyone does it, but I do just in case there was some sort of contamination that may have occurred. I hope you're able to figure it out soon. No help on the vet because I'm in NC. Hope you can find one that can help.

post #7 of 10

I doubt medicated or non-medicated feed has much to do with broiler issues.

 

Have you checked over in the meatbird forum? 

 

I had a similar experience and won't bother with them again.  I'm happy to let the dual purpose cockerels grow a few more weeks and eat them.


Edited by popsicle - 4/14/16 at 8:52am
usually have between 20 and 50 chickens
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usually have between 20 and 50 chickens
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post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by FormulaXFD View Post
 

From all I've read, you only opt for medicated feed when you're doing the more industrialized chicken farming, where the birds are cramped and waste accumulates. Otherwise you're stalling out their immunity buildup.

 

As I mentioned in the beginning, the temperatures are spot on at 99F with 0.5ºF uncertainty. The birds have plenty of room to get away from the direct heat as well. I have watched them both eat and drink without issue as well. I can switch to the medicated, as at this rate it won't hurt anything though I expect this entire flock to perish at the going rate. Also as mentioned before, only one chick had any stool stuck to its backside, but their vent was clear. 

As of last night, I'm up to a loss of 14 chicks. Going at a rate of 2 per day, in 13 days this whole flock will be a loss. 

 

Anyone know of a vet in southern New Hampshire who works on Chickens? Might be worth getting an investigation.

There has been the occasional thread in the Meat Bird forum with experiences similar to yours. Several healthy batches raised successfully to butchering age, then a disaster. I think most thought it was just a bad batch.

 

There ius an avian vet in Littleton MA. However cost is high- $200 for an appointment only, no testing included. You could try calling your state tester to see if he/she has any advice.

post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the follow up! 

I actually spoke to a farmer friend of mine in PA, who actually had a 100% failure last year from the same hatchery. At $200 for just the privilege, I may as well let these ones die off and order from Cackle. :|

Still, thanks again for the mention!

post #10 of 10

Honestly, at the rate they're dying off I would contact the hatchery. They should be willing to help, that's absurd. I know when we buy chicks it's a risk we take that we may lose SOME, but all of them, that's absurd!

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