My newly hatched chicks just all died within 12 hrs and I'm trying to figure out why! I'll start with a little history of my flock because it might give some clues, but if you want to skip to the actual symptoms of the chicks, skip the following passage.
I started keeping chickens last summer and have had a lovely flock of three young hens and a rooster. This spring I decided we needed more hens to keep up with our appetite for eggs, so I bought five supposedly young hens, two day-old chicks and six eggs from a seller a few hours away. My husband picked them all up on his way from work but since the seller had an appointment and it was late that day the whole pick-up was brief, my husband got the hens, chicks and eggs in their respective boxes and I didn't see them until they arrived late that night.
The hens, Brown Lohmans, looked healthy, but were horribly pecked - their butts were bare and one's head looked like a vultures - no feathers anywhere. I called the seller about it and she claims they look like that because it was winter, but I'm suspecting they might be rescued battery hens? And possibly older than the "nine months" the seller told me they were (is there a way to tell the age of chickens, by the way?). Anyway, in the last four weeks they have been free-ranging and recovered well, their butts are covered in quills and tiny brown feathers and we get the occasional egg (but still for from what I bought them for).
The chicks I got from the same seller have grown up under a red lamp in a big cardboard box and are thriving, they spend the days outside in their little coop now and are only indoors at night.
The six eggs I gave to a hen who fortunately happened to have gone broody that day my husband bought them. It was a perfect arrangement, the hen sat on them faithfully in a separate section of the main chicken house. Two days ago, on May 6th, two of the chicks had hatched during the night, then on May 7th yet another one had hatched. During the day the hen brought them out of the nest to the feed bowl, they pecked some food and move around very happily. That same day they also went outside with their mother into a little separate run. I checked the remaining three eggs, but one had not developed and two, even though they looked ready to hatch when I candled them, showed no signs of life, no cheeping or anything.
That evening the chicks and the mother went back inside and last time I checked them last night they were happy and looking good.
This morning when I checked on them I noticed one of the first hatched chicks dead. I thought it had been squashed by the hen (a first-time mother) and removed it. The second first-hatched chick looked a bit listless, but moved normally, as did the other one. I went out for the morning and when I returned around noon, both chicks were dying, they had flopped over to their backs. I picked them up and dipped their beaks into water in case they were dehydrated (shouldn't have been, as they of course have free access to water) and they drank, but when I put them down, they moved in strange twisty motions and couldn't walk properly. They crawled back under the hen and when I checked another twenty minutes later they were dead.
A friend of mine who has chickens in the next village had the exact same problem with her chicks last year, same age, same symptoms. They were also hatched by a hen inside a section of the main coop. She hatched a second brood in a section outside last summer and they did fine.
Now I'm wondering - what went wrong here? Could this be some disease that the eggs had already, did they pick something up from my hens, is the coop safe for another batch? Does anyone know what it was and how I can do it better next time? I'm so upset that my first batch of chicks died so horribly! Help!