8 of 12 new chicks suddenly dead - unknown cause

Jaylee52

In the Brooder
Mar 17, 2018
26
23
49
First time chicken raisers and we have an emergency on our hands. This is long because I am trying to give any and all info that could be helpful. Thank you in advance for help!

We bought 6 chicks (2 Ameracaunas, 2 silver laced Wyandottes, 2 gold laced wyandottes) 3 days ago from Feed Store A on the day their new chick order came in.

The next day (which was 2 days ago) we got 6 more chicks from a competitor feed store across town because they had different breeds available (2 Cuckoo Marans, 2 Olive Eggers, 1 Welsummer, 1 Salmon Faverolle). These chicks had just arrived at the store that morning.

So, all chicks should be under a week old. For their first two days they all looked like they were playing nicely and doing great. When we'd come into the coop, some would be all around the brooder exploring and some under the heat lamp. So I don't think they were too hot or too cold.

I had to work all day today. My husband last checked on them at 11am Pacific Time. I got home from work at 6pm Pacific time and checked on them first thing. 7 of the 12 were dead and 1 was on the verge of death. Just 4 were acting normal and healthy. The four that survived are the Faverolle, the Welsummer, one of the two olive eggers (who was a runt and the smallest of all the chicks), and one of the two silver laced wyandottes.

Several of the dead ones had no visible problems other than being dead (no blood, no pasty butt). A few of the others had a little blood on them, but not at their vents, at their mouth. The dead ones were in all different parts of the brooder, both away from and right under the heat lamp. I have seen a couple of the chicks stumble on to their backs and have trouble righting themselves, but the only two I have seen do this are among the survivors (the faverolle and the olive egger).

We have them in a large galvanized horse trough with 2-3 inches of pine shavings in the bottom. We have a chicken waterer in there, sitting on bricks to keep pine shavings from falling in. The waterer has plenty of fresh water in it. We have a chick feeder that's the long skinny tray with the lid with lots of holes in it. It is filled with non-medicated chick crumbs. We have red tinted 2 heat lamps next to one another and two thermometers. The whole brooder set-up is inside our walk-in coop which has a window at human thigh-to-waist height (with hardware cloth over it to keep predators out), a window with a glass pane in the north wall (just lets in light, not air), and ventilation holes all around the perimeter of the coop up at human head height.

I moved them into a paper shopping bag with fresh bedding while we removed the dead birds (including the dying one) and all of the bedding. We didn't sanitize the trough since it's near dark and I thought the time out of their brooder might be more dangerous for them if I were to sanitize and dry it. We put in fresh bedding. We added a spoonful of apple cider vinegar to the waterer. We refilled the tray with fresh chick crumbs. And, we left the lid off the tray just in case they hadn't figured out how to eat from it. We had showed them their water and food when we first got them by dipping their beaks in them, but had never seen them on the food as much as at the waterer or under the heat lamp.

Idea 1: When we did this, the remaining chicks went immediately to the food and ate intensely. I wonder if they all had been confused by the chick feeder and starved?

Idea 2: We watched them and saw all four remaining chicks peck at the thermometer I have in there. The temperature reading strip in middle is red. Could they have hurt themselves doing this?

Idea 3: They got chilled? It's been in the 30's here at night and the 50's in the day. Maybe there are drafts coming in from the front window of the coop or the door from when we come in and out? Also, they spilled some water from the waterer before we had it sitting on bricks, but we removed as many of the wet shavings as we could and buried the rest under fresh, dry shavings.

Idea 4: Do we need more lighting? The coop doesn't get much daylight since the only small windows face north and east. The only lighting in there are the two red-tinted heat lamps.

Idea 5: Could it be some kind of disease? They are from feed stores and their chick feed is non-medicated
 

HuskerHens18

Crowing
Mar 11, 2018
2,158
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Chickenlandia
Oh my gosh that sounds so heartbreaking! I am sorry for your loss..
Was the thermometer reading 95-90° at the time of their deaths?
The blood on the few concerns me a lot, could they have been crushed by something/eachother?
I lost some chicks to coccidia, but the blood was on their vents, not mouths.
How are your current survivors doing now? If you buy new chicks DONT introduce them yet incase current ones do have a disease. I hope some more experienced people can help you, I'm sorry. :(
 

Jaylee52

In the Brooder
Mar 17, 2018
26
23
49
My first question would be what type of bulb is in your lamp? Teflon coated bulbs are deadly, they generally are labeled shatter proof.

I don't know what to call this type of bulb. I attached a picture. What do you mean "Teflon coated bulbs are deadly" - deadly how? Too hot? Not hot enough? Burns out? Both bulbs were on.

Also, the bulbs in this picture are in their new position, I lowered one because I am most worried about chill.
 

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Jaylee52

In the Brooder
Mar 17, 2018
26
23
49
Oh my gosh that sounds so heartbreaking! I am sorry for your loss..
Was the thermometer reading 95-90° at the time of their deaths?
The blood on the few concerns me a lot, could they have been crushed by something/eachother?
I lost some chicks to coccidia, but the blood was on their vents, not mouths.
How are your current survivors doing now? If you buy new chicks DONT introduce them yet incase current ones do have a disease. I hope some more experienced people can help you, I'm sorry. :(

So, I had two cheap, plastic thermometers in there. The one lying on the pine shavings directly under the overlap area of the two bulbs measured 100 F. The other one, up against the edge of the tub, just on the outside edge of the bulbs' glow measured 85 F. About 2/3 of the bin wasn't under any heat from the bulbs. So, there was about 1/3 of the bin between 85-100 F and plenty of room for all chicks in that area and plenty for room for them to not be in that area. When we would quietly open the door to the coop to check on them, we'd find them scattered all over the brooder, both under the heat, outside it but close to it, and far away from it. When scared by us arriving or picking them up to check for pasty butt, they would generally all run to that hottest area.
 

azygous

Enabler
11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
24,642
36,319
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Colorado Rockies
Here are the possibilities:
1. Teflon coated heat bulbs give off a gas deadly to birds.
2. The wet bedding went moldy releasing deadly toxins.
3. Contaminated water supply
4. Petroleum distillate contamination (pesticides, W-D40, kerosene, motor oil, hydraulic fluid, paint thinner, etc.)

This is so tragic. I'm so, so sad for you having had this happen when you should be enjoying your new babies. Many years ago, here on BYC there was a thread just like yours. Tragic loss of many chicks. A year later, the OP updated their thread. It turned out their water supply was contaminated, killing the chicks. It wasn't discovered until much later and they had to move out of their home.
 

RodNTN

Hatchaolic
6 Years
May 22, 2013
7,064
9,708
587
The Volunteer State
My Coop
My Coop
Something similar to this happened to my chicks a few years ago, except for the part about the blood.

Are your chicks outside in a coop? My chicks were dying because they were in a brooder outside, and when we moved them into the house the dying came to a stop.

Just a thought :hmm

I think the main cause of death is the Teflon coated bulb :(
 

HuskerHens18

Crowing
Mar 11, 2018
2,158
4,965
397
Chickenlandia
So, I had two cheap, plastic thermometers in there. The one lying on the pine shavings directly under the overlap area of the two bulbs measured 100 F. The other one, up against the edge of the tub, just on the outside edge of the bulbs' glow measured 85 F. About 2/3 of the bin wasn't under any heat from the bulbs. So, there was about 1/3 of the bin between 85-100 F and plenty of room for all chicks in that area and plenty for room for them to not be in that area. When we would quietly open the door to the coop to check on them, we'd find them scattered all over the brooder, both under the heat, outside it but close to it, and far away from it. When scared by us arriving or picking them up to check for pasty butt, they would generally all run to that hottest area.
Well, it doesn't sound like they got chilled. If they were cold they'd be piling on top of each other in the 100°F area all the time. That's so weird, it might just be a freak thing. I've had experiences where you don't find out what happened, but it never happens again. Chicks are so delicate that even something slightly wrong can kill them. It is a possibility they starved, but that's the only thing that would somewhat make sense to me. It could have been anything, honestly.
 

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