Emergency! Chicks piling up and squashing each other


10 Years
Nov 14, 2009
Kingman Arizona
I got some Cornish Cross chicks on Thursday. They are three days old today. All are eating and drinking as only Cornish Cross can. There's about 150 of them, I'm using a horse stall (10 by 12 or so) as a brooder. 50 are mine, the others are being picked up by different families on Sunday. Last night I put enough heat lamps in to make the stall nice and toasty, and spread them around so there was plenty of room for them all to sleep, and also to get away from the lights if they wanted. This morning I found the whole bunch of them piled 4 or 5 deep under one heat lamp, even though it was warm all over, (this was late morning, nearly 11, so the sun was out and it was in the upper 70s not counting the lamps, under them it was high 90s.) even though there was plenty of room to spread out to the others. Eleven chicks were dead at the bottom of the pile, squashed into chicky pancakes. I tried putting them into boxes, about 25 per box, with lights over them, but they would either just jump out of the boxes or still pile up. Tonight, I added a four foot long aquarium light fixture with old towels sort of tented over it to make them a cozy tent to snuggle into, the light is 160 watts and puts off a good deal of heat, enough to burn me if I touch the bulbs after they're on a few hours. They're a little more spread out, but they are still 2-3 chicks deep and I don't want any more to get squished to death!

Why would they be piling up so much even if it is warm enough? Any ideas how to keep them from doing this? They are even doing it some during the day, and it's 100 degrees in there in the afternoon, some are running around eating and some are piling, I go out every couple of hours and break them up to rescue the ones on the bottom, who come out looking a little dazed. I don't want to end up with no chicks for myself or having to refund customers and lose a lot of money on dead chicks.
Any chance there is a draft they are trying to get away from? It might be something that is only noticeable at chick level.

Also, remember that a thermometer laying under the heat lamp won't necessarily give an accurate temperature. I find that they give a warmer temperature sometimes after sitting under the heat. If this is the case, even though the thermometer shows 95 degrees it may be cooler.

Usually piling means they are cold. I'd lower a couple of heat lamps and see if that helps.
I've got thermometers in various places around the brooder to see what the temperature is under the lamps as well as away. There's no draft down at their level, I've slept in that stall many times with goats in labor. It's quite cozy, the floor is wood and the walls are wood with no cracks, and the whole thing is bedded down with about three or four inches of straw.

If they were only piling at night, I'd think it was simply from being too cold and I needed to add more heat...but they are doing it during the day also, when it is an even 100 degrees all over in there. Also, the ones not in the pile are running around fine and not shivering or acting cold.
And there are enough lamps that they could sleep under them without piling so thick. They are as low as they can safely go without catching anything on fire or burning little chick heads.
I know this sounds all wrong, but maybe they're too warm. I've had that problem. Didn't lose any, but they kept piling up so gave them lots of room with no lamp and they started moving around and laying out singly.
Is it possible that something is frightening them?
Try to play a radio with some pleasant music, I play music for my chicks and they seem to be less likely to pile up.
Good luck!
The music is a good idea, I'll do that. I've done that before with chicks and they really seem to like it. I heard the coyotes howling a little bit ago, so they might be frightened, I did not think of that! They also seem to be spreading out a little more in their towel-tent, maybe it feels more comfortable to have something soft draped around and over them.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom