6-Week old broilers dying...

Sally_O

In the Brooder
9 Years
Aug 4, 2010
52
6
48
Kentucky
Hopefully someone can help us here... This is our first time with broilers, Cornish Cross.

We have 50 broilers, they are in an 80sf box, being moved twice a day on pasture. Plenty of feed 21% protein starter, non-gmo. Plenty of water. Actually, we soak the feed overnight, then drain. They drink less water and go right at the food.

Last week, we had some weather: temp. dropped abruptly and rainy, and one died, pretty sure it was exposure. I had removed the end panel because they days were so warm and at one point they needed more air flow under the roof... bad timing there.

Last night we had very wet weather, not nearly so cold, in the 50s. The box is on a bit of slope, tiny slope but enough to drain the water. They aren't sitting in puddles and they have a good roof cover.

Today, there are two that are doing poorly. One will be dead here shortly, the other likely before morning. Very distressing.

What could it be? We are mystified.

Here are some observations/thoughts:

1. They eat voraciously. Chow hounds. Is that normal?

2. They poop just as voraciously. We had to start moving the box twice a day because of the poop... The ground is literally flattened by the time we move it.

3. Some of them had diarrhea when we first started wetting the food, but we started draining it better and that stopped. The poop is green with some white just like our layers.

4. They are pretty well feathered. We have nothing to compare this too but they don't look terribly scraggly like they did for so long.

5. They are about 3 pounds now. Is that normal? I thought they'd be heavier and maybe my digital kitchen scale didn't weigh them right. They LOOK like they are about to explode...

Of the 50 we got, 1 died en route to us, one died in the baby brooder, one in the bigger chick brooder -- all 3 looked like they got crowded rather than sick. The one from last week and these two take us down to 44.

Any thoughts or advice, we would dearly appreciate. Thank you.
 

Sally_O

In the Brooder
9 Years
Aug 4, 2010
52
6
48
Kentucky
The one died last night, the other one will die today and there are two more looking poorly. We are going to install an electric fence and open them up to pasture. We'll still have to move the box (that will be the coop) but they will have access to clean grass.

Either the 1.6' per bird formula is wrong or our birds poop more than normal. I'm wondering if they need more protein? Too little protein keeps them hungry so they keep eating, keep pooping...? They aren't starving to death, that's for sure.
 

Sally_O

In the Brooder
9 Years
Aug 4, 2010
52
6
48
Kentucky
They just lay down and die. It looks like they are sleeping at first, then they don't eat, then their heads don't lift up anymore, breathing shallow. They usually die within 24 hours of the first sign of lethargy.

I was in the feed store today and a woman (who admitted she was no expert) said she'd read about the 12 on/12 off feeding schedule to keep chickens from dying of a heart attack brought on by over-eating. I had not hear that before. Is there truth to that?
 
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allieszoo

Chirping
6 Years
Apr 7, 2013
112
6
81
Stanton, KY
Heart attack was my first thought - we feed ours 12 on and 12 off to reduce the risk of them just eating until they pop/keel over.

6 weeks is close to processing time, how/what have you been feeding them?
 

Sally_O

In the Brooder
9 Years
Aug 4, 2010
52
6
48
Kentucky
yeah, they sure do look like they are going to pop! We were planning to process in two weeks but we may do it this weekend.

We feed them when the troughs are empty. We fed starter for most of the time, then fed layer for a week until we realized the huge difference in protein, so now back to starter. We wet the feed which seems to work great. The feed soaked for a few hours, then drained for a few hours so it was peanut-buttery but not wet. Plus we have to haul water from the house so this was a real saver for us not having to constantly fill the water jugs.... I'm not sure how wet feed could hurt but we went back to dry today.

I wish I'd read up on the 12 on/12 off and WHY that might be a good idea. We assumed they wouldn't eat during the night anyway... we'll stop feeding now 'cause they get fed at 6am.

Ready to try anything. It's funny: we know we're going to kill them but we don't want them dying from our ignorance.

The one from this morning died and there is another one in the "hospital" (a dog cage on the porch). She is very alert and drinking water but will not walk. I had to bring the water to her... not sure about her. I have not fed her since this morning. May try a little food now.

Thank you.
 

Natalijaasbj

Songster
7 Years
May 1, 2012
178
14
111
this is THE BREED! they made them so, that because of super fast growing rate their organs fail because the organs can not keep up with this temp of growth. You have to process them quickly. They are usually ready at this time.
 

Sally_O

In the Brooder
9 Years
Aug 4, 2010
52
6
48
Kentucky
We are going to process this weekend. Don't know what I tested. How do you tell them apart at this age? Up close, I mean. The ones who puff up and bump chests are guys, right?
 

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