Chicks arrived alive, now 3 are in chick heaven!?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by AtomicChicken, Jun 25, 2011.

  1. AtomicChicken

    AtomicChicken Out Of The Brooder

    May 7, 2011
    Highlands Ranch, CO
    Did I cook my babies?

    New to "backyard chicken raising" I placed an order for 4 hens: 2 Australorps and 2 bantam buff brahmas in April, as my wife said she always wanted to have chickens and we learned that we could have them in our "upscale" town. I then proceeded to read the thousands of posts on this forum and others, designed a coop and run, passed it off to our "architectural review committee" and got approval for the coop "aesthetics". Then we anxiously awaited their arrival, which occurred yesterday at 9 am after my wife picked them up at the post office. They were day old chickens that shipped from Ohio on Monday.

    Brooder is a 2' x 3' wire cage that is 2' tall that was used by my golden retriever when she was in heat. Since she passed away last year at 13, I figured it would be good to use it as temporary 4-5 week housing. So it has a great plastic floor which I placed a light layer of pine shavings in and then lined those with paper towels. A heat lamp (250W) was placed in the center (2.5' above the floor) with some cardboard baffles to restrict light/heat flow. Temperature readings in the center were 90 - 97 degrees at chicken height, with the outer edges reading anywhere from low - mid 80s the further out you get from the center.

    When the chicks arrived, we checked them for pasty vents, dipped their beaks in the waterer to give them a drink, and let the go off to play. We also showed them where the food was and I even scattered some feed on the paper towels for them to scratch and eat.

    At 9 AM they were all active, although the smaller of the two brahmas (the runt) was the most lethargic of the bunch. All of them had fun pecking each other with the only remaining chick (an australorp) being the dominant pecker. Up until about 2 to 3 PM they would eat, move about the cage, scratch, drink and peck each other. It was quite entertaining to just watch them move about, peck each other and listen to their chirping. Between 2 and 3 PM we noticed the runt (the smallest buff brahma) was spending alot of time "sleeping" under the light. A saw her sleeping on her back and thought she was dead. But I picked her up, put her on her feet and she kind of stumbled forward to rest and resume her sleeping. At this point the other three are still fairly active, but all of them spend most of the time under the light so I assume its not too hot for them. Occasionally I move them to the outer edges where the temperature is lower and they migrate toward the center.

    At 3 PM I became concerned enough that I decided to mix some electrolytes in their water in case the runt was needing more energy. Well throughout the evening she became less and less active, getting to the point that she would roll onto her back, her neck would tilt to the side, and she couldn't right herself. From about 5 PM (obviously too late) we started taking her out and manually giving her water with an eyedropper. But she passed away at 9 PM.

    Then today, same temperatures and all, the less active of the two australorps passes away in pretty much the same exact way a little after 7 PM. Her activity slowed way down, she began to just "sleep", finally died in my wife's hand as we were giving her her hourly water and crushed feed mix. We started doing this earlier in the day about 3 pm (again probably too late).

    And then the "tough" brahma died the same exact way tonight after 10 PM. Earlier today we talked to a local breeder, and they suggested that we turn off the lamp for awhile....and when we did, the activity picked up, but then so did their chirping and they began clumping together, rather than spread out as they had been. They are in the house and when the heat lamp was off, the temperature dropped to about 80 in the coop. They were all quite talkative during this.

    But the temperature is spot on according to everything I've read about raising chicks. So, could it be that I have a red heat lamp? Does this make it "seem hotter" to the chicks than say a white incandescent? Did I cook them or were they just stressed from the trip? Their breathing never seemed to really pick up as I would assume it would if they were "panting". But we did notice that they were sleeping most of the time with their wings spread out. So apparently they were too hot but just didn't want to move out of the heat? Are they lazy?

    The remaining australorp (who appeared to be the strongest from the minute we saw them and who was the queen pecker) Is doing quite well. Eating, drinking, walking and chirping very frequently. Sometimes its the uncomfortable chirp but mostly its the faster, quieter, more pleasant chirp they do.

    I obviously need to get the remaining chick a companion or two and we have found a local breeder who carries the buff brahmas that my wife likes so that will reduce travel stress. But with a 36 hour survival rate of 25% I'm reluctant. I assume I did something wrong but I don't know what.

    Anyway, your advice and thoughts on what I should do better before I kill the next batch would be appreciated.

    Last edited: Jun 25, 2011
  2. MuckyPuppy

    MuckyPuppy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 11, 2011
    I'm sorry you lost your chicks! [​IMG] I personally can't help you but hope that someone with more knowledge will be a long shortly. [​IMG]
  3. jenkassai

    jenkassai Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 28, 2011
    Oh I'm so sorry to hear that. I don't have enough experience to help either [​IMG] I'm sure someone here can give you some tips / guidance. One thing I would do though is call the hatchery and tell them what happened, maybe they had a bad hatch??
  4. geebs

    geebs Lovin' the Lowriders!

    Sep 28, 2008
    If it is a trilling noise... I would be cautious and consider Cocci.... You might want to look it up... just in case... It is common.
  5. navychick

    navychick Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 17, 2011
    Gosh, it seems you are doing everything right. I think the birds probably arrived stressed. If you gave them enough room to escape temps that were too high I think they would moved away from the heat to a spot that was comfortably warm enough. Unfortunately for us newbys, raising chickens seems to be more complicated than we EVER could have imagined. Don't give up!
  6. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive True BYC Addict

    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    I am so sorry for your loss. How traumatic to have your first chicks and do everything just right then lose most of them. Seems to me that you did everything exactly as recommended, but your chicks were obviously stressed somehow before they got to you. Did they come from a hatchery or a farm store? They may have gotten too hot or cold while they were being shipped. If your last chick makes it, I would definitely get it some company. In the meantime, a mirror might help make it seem like she has a buddy.
  7. Nicole01

    Nicole01 Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 28, 2011
    So sorry. [​IMG]

    I used a wire dog kennel with the light inside and in the corner. I used a 150watt heat lamp. I covered the entire crate with blankets the first two weeks to prevent drafts. The temp was 90 at one end and 75 at the other. I used sheet rock cut to size inside as a border to keep the chips from escaping out.

    Chicks are very stressed from shipping. It's very normal to lose a couple within the first few days.[​IMG]

    Buying from a local breeder is much easier on the chicks. You might want to get a smaller wattage lamp. 250 is pretty warm or put the lamp outside the kennel. I also use polyvisol infant vitamins without iron in their water along with probios(probiotics) and my chicks are super healthty. My neighbor does not supplement the water and there's a huge difference in the chicks and the way they look. My neighbor notices it as well. However, it's not necessary to treat their water, it's a personal preference.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2011
  8. Oktober

    Oktober Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 6, 2011
    Rhode Island
    That is very unfortunate. I should be getting my first set of chicks in a little over a week so your story strikes right to my heart.

    Please keep us up to date on what you find.

    Best of Luck.

  9. BoltonChicken

    BoltonChicken Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 14, 2011
    Bolton, Mississippi
    Some things stand out in your post, at least in my eyes. You mention that they were pecking each other. This could be from the number of different breeds in there, but it is not really
    that normal of a situation. Yes, there is a pecking order that evolves, but it has never manifested itself with my 5 eight week old buff orpingtons, so it seems unusual if it is a continual situation.
    It could have been caused by them being stressed out from the shipping.
    Sleeping with their wings spread out does sound like overheating, but them clumping together sounds like the were cool. I would tend to err on the side of cool rather than hot. But the deaths
    do not sound heat related, since they died at different times.

    Other thoughts: Something possibly left in the dog cage. Scrub the plastic floor with a bleach solution. Put in new shavings. That should be all you need to do.
    Water: Not probable, but possible, although I doubt it. Were they drinking?
    Food: Same as water. Were you feeding them medicated chick starter? Might help, but lack thereof should not be a problem. Were they eating?
    Disease: Probably. Something from the hatchery. Something picked up in the post office. Who knows?

    Don't beat yourself up about this. It does not sound like anything you did to me, so get that next group in and keep us posted!
  10. AtomicChicken

    AtomicChicken Out Of The Brooder

    May 7, 2011
    Highlands Ranch, CO
    Thanks for your posts.

    They likely came from hatchery, as I got them from place.

    To respond to some of your comments:

    From the first minutes out of their shipping container the dominant (and still alive) australorp would peck at the beaks of the others. Sometimes the others would peck back. Most of the time they had this look, "Why the Heck did you just peck me?!?"

    For the last 18 hours or so, I've left the cage at a high of 88 degrees by closing the baffles so not as much heat gets into the cage. The remaining australorp is active and chirping, but not wanting to eat or drink for the last 12 - 15 hours or so. So I am manually getting her to drink. But at least she is not falling over and sleeping.

    The dog kennel had been put away for over a year and the birds don't come in contact with the plastic base. But I did wash it down with dish soap before putting them in there when they arrived. The only animal that had ever been in there was my Golden Retriever.

    They were drinking tap water that we drink. When I noticed the sluggishness in the first one, I started mixed some poultry and livestock multivitamins/electrolytes into the waterer.

    They tended to stick to the brightest ring of light, which was also the hottest places. But again, when measuring the hottest places (the ring of light from the lamp) the temp never exceeded 96 degrees). And as you got toward the corners of the cage, the temperature would fall off to low to mid 80s.

    All of the ones that died ate, drank, pooped regularly, even up to the hour of death. They just got too weak to eat and drink on their own because they couldn't move to do so.

    Thanks for your replies. What I hoped would be great event has not quite turned out that way yet. But we will keep trying, hopefully without decimating the chicken population.

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