Hatchery Chicks dying - 2 - 3 per day

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Then I Will, Jun 9, 2017.

  1. Then I Will

    Then I Will Chillin' With My Peeps

    215
    152
    151
    Jan 13, 2012
    Annville, Pennsylvania
    Purchased 15 Black Sumatras from Murray McMurray.
    They arrived Wednesday the 7th. When I opened the box, most were on tiptoe smashed against one another in the corner. One was already dead.
    It took them some hours to come off their tiptoes. I wondered if they would forever walk oddly. I dipped each bird's beak into the water as I set it in the brooding area. As soon as they were placed under the heat lamp they were provided with their grogel on a paper plate and chick starter was sprinkled under the lamp and also provided in a tray away from the heat lamp. Most began pecking everything, the newspaper under them, the walls of the box, the food. Others sat with their necks craned skyward cheeping.
    6 hours later, I provided electrolytes in the water. Unfortunately, when I checked on them during that time period, one had drowned in the water dish and another had curled up in the corner and died. Every eight hours, another one followed. I began noticing a couple that weren't eating or drinking and pecked the food infront of them with my finger like mama hen does. I dipped their beaks in the water repeatedly, some would drink. Some would act like it was poison. None of the weak comprehended what grogel or chick starter was for.
    By the end of the day, I supplied grit, lightly sprinkled on the food, and continued putting just a sprinkle of starter under the lamp for the weaker ones to continue "learning." I took an eye dropper and force fed some electrolyte water to a weak one, hoping to buy it extra time to try to live.

    At this point, the weak ones did not even seem to be trying. They would stare skyward, peeping pitifully while my "healthy" birds ran circles around them, pigged out on starter and grogel, and pushed them over. That night, another dropped. Next morning, another cold body. They weren't all likely smothered or too cold, because sometimes they were laying just outside of the middle of the heat lamp where any cold chick would have huddled. They also seemed to be comfortable, because during naps the group would lay in piles or two or three with beaks resting on the back of the next one. Never all piled over each other.

    I called McMurray at the 48 hours mark and reported 7 deaths. Four hours after I made the call, numbers 8 and 9 were falling into comas under the heat lamp and having spastic breathing and bubbles in their spittle. (Congestive heart failure?) I was tempted to remove the dying bird early, but always let it die as comfortably as possible in the warmth of the lamp.

    Friday morning the 9th, I expected to have find only one more dead and that would be the last of the weak ones...
    There were three cold bodies stretched out under the lamp. All with empty crops. No poop at the vent in any of the deaths. Seemingly dead from dehydration and starvation. Strange, because I had checked their crops the other day and most had a little ball of food in there.

    I ordered 15 more from Meyer hatchery, and am tempted to call McMurray back and report the other deaths whether they give me a credit/refund or nothing at all. It's been extremely disheartening watching so many die after following the books to the letter. I think it is worth noting that McMurray has all bad reviews on their Sumatras, but Meyer has all positive reviews on their Sumatras and is more confident in their live bird guarantee on their polices page.

    Has anyone else had a bad experience like this with hatchery chicks where deaths are quite inexpiable? Also, since Sumatras are smaller than standard breeds, should they be brooded differently?

    Thanks for reading through,
    Laurisa

    Aside- The Meyer hatchery batch is arriving Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday, making them a week different in age with any survivor I happen to have at that time. I plan on brooding them in a separate box due to temp differences, but may integrate them if they outnumber the remaining from the first batch.
     
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

    18,905
    6,318
    526
    Nov 7, 2012
    CENTRAL MAINE
    Sounds like this batch of chicks had a rough shipment. How long were they in transit? For future reference: I always have poultry nutridrench available. It is the most important "medical supply" I have. When I start chicks, I give them home made electrolytes, and if shipped or stressed, I add extra sugar. They also get PND for the first 2 weeks. If I had weak chicks, as you did, I would try to get a drop of PND into each beak. Not force it in through the front, but drip or wipe it on the side of the beak so it can wick in. Blooie uses a Q-tip dipped in PND. The chicks may bite down on it, and get a good dose, or she can use the Q-tip to wipe along the side of the beak. Even my home hatched chicks, which are large and robust, get PND. It gets them off to a great start.
     
  3. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

    18,905
    6,318
    526
    Nov 7, 2012
    CENTRAL MAINE
    As for brooding your next batch of chicks, you may find it just as easy to brood them together, after the first batch settles down, and survivors are doing well, and after the second batch is well started on food and water, and they are running around well. How many total do you expect to have? Have you looked into heating pad brooding? So much more natural for the chicks, and much safer, also much less likely to overheat chicks or brooder. The chicks can self regulate their heat exposure, and will wean themselves off the heat when they are ready to do so. It's easy to brood up to 20 chicks under one Sunbeam XPress XL pad (12 x 24")
     
  4. Then I Will

    Then I Will Chillin' With My Peeps

    215
    152
    151
    Jan 13, 2012
    Annville, Pennsylvania
    Thanks for the reply Lazy Gardener,

    I wanted to go the heating plate brooder way but it's way too expensive for the small flock I'm trying to raise. I would have to count on reselling it to get any money back out of it as I don't intend to order hatchery chicks again unless absolutely desperate for a breed that I cannot obtain locally. Those things cost upwards of $70!!! Whereas an extra heat lamp is about $8 not including the bulb. The heat lamp I am currently using is borrowed from the in-laws who offered it.
    I have 15 more on the way and will be sure to have nutri-drench on hand this time.
    They did have a rough shipment. I have a video of my opening the box and looking back on it I can clearly see how stressed most of them were. As I said, most didn't come off their tiptoes until the next day. I think they were being crushed by their mates for balance.

    What is worrying me at the moment is that I have two more who have empty crops and seem to be failing! I'll be picking up nutri-drench at TSC today and seeing if it will help them considering they seemed to have had full crops yesterday and somehow given up today.

    All of the weaklings in the McMurray batch have had balance issues. They fall on their faces and don't struggle to get up. They roll on their backs and lay there crying out. If I hold one on its back in my hands it gives up kicking its legs and just begins to fall asleep. This is probably what all of the 1 star reviewers on McMurray meant about having to nurse every single Sumatra chick.
     
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

    18,905
    6,318
    526
    Nov 7, 2012
    CENTRAL MAINE
    Sounds like they are "starving out". There is a window of time when the chick is using up the yolk. In an optimal situation, they are able to start eating before those reserves are used up. In a starve out situation, they use up all of their reserves, and get to the point that there is no longer enough energy left in their bodies to be able to absorb nutrients form any feed ingested. PND bypasses the gut and goes right to the blood stream, possibly making a difference between life and death.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    33,774
    6,899
    576
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    OhGeez....what a heart breaking trial!
    So sorry you've had to go thru that.
    Sure hope the next batch are hardier.

    A DIY heating pad can be put together for about $50 or less.
    Here's what I made when I wanted, but couldn't afford, a heating plate:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/pseudo-brooder-heater-plate.67729/


    Tho I still use a heat lamp to keep an eye on brand new chicks during the first couple days,
    they go under the heating pad at night.

    Ditto the PND applied with a Qtip...works much better than trying to squirt something into their mouths and possibly drowning them.

    Have you tried using marbles in the chick waterer to deter drowning there?

    Best if luck to you!
     
  7. MTchicknman

    MTchicknman Out Of The Brooder

    50
    33
    48
    May 26, 2017
    We don't use GroGel, Marek vaccine, or anything commercial for our new hatchery chicks.

    My wife makes up the water using 1/8th cup of vinegar/gallon of water, plus a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt. She does it the 'old fashioned' way. We haven't lost a chick over the years yet!

    I think you got a bum order and on top of that your PO treated the chicks terribly. Can you find out whether the nights of shipping were cold or not? I once rode with a mailman (job interview/training) who had a shipment of hatchery chicks, and he didn't bother to turn the heat on high (as long as he was warm, that's all that mattered), despite it being in the 20's that day (March & April in MT are still mostly Winter weather), and then he stuck them in the back of the van, because he didn't like the smell - result; most of them were DOA by the time we got to the town we were delivering them to, 3 or 4 hours later - Just FYI!
    We live in a small town, and the PO calls us as soon as they open up to let us know the chicks are in - we've got a great postmistress.
    IF the McMurray Hatchery has insured the chicks (I doubt it, but you could check .... ) you could go after the PO for your losses, but otherwise it sounds like you're at the mercy of McMurray's.
    Thanks for the warning!
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2017
  8. SunHwaKwon

    SunHwaKwon Overrun With Chickens

    4,534
    1,047
    306
    Jul 19, 2015
    Eastern Shore, MD
    The heating pads only cost about $13 and last much longer than the bulbs do. No need for $70 heat plates.

    Definitely offer electrolytes as soon as they arrive. I use rooster booster electrolyte, vitamin and probiotic mix, personally.

    It does sound like either something happened during shipping. Hopefully this next batch is healthier and less stressed.
     
  9. Then I Will

    Then I Will Chillin' With My Peeps

    215
    152
    151
    Jan 13, 2012
    Annville, Pennsylvania
    Yes, Lazy Gardner,
    I sat for over an hour watching to make sure all 15 were getting the hang of eating and drinking - and it seemed they were, but as they started dropping, it did seem like a starve out. What is more frustrating is, that after giving nutri drench directly and adding it to the water, - and as many times as I've dipped their beaks in to help them drink, they won't go to the water on their own.

    Yes, aart, after the one drowning, I did place small stones in the mason jar dispenser to deter future drownings. The Sumatra chicks are almost bantam chick size and might actually require a quail sized waterer. This is part of the reviewer's beef with McMurray, listing the Sumatra as a standard breed and shipping it with larger chicks. They are actually quite small and should probably be considered a bantam due to their hatch size.

    I like to go the old fashioned route also, MTChicknman. I use Braggs ACV and will introduce the chicks to it soon, but their water is already a cocktail of electrolytes, probios, and nutri-drench. I was called at 5am sharp to come get my chicks, and I don't think they were abused by the postal workers there, but likely just had it rough in the interstate transit (or air if they were flown in.) The nights still get below 55 here sometimes in PA. I had the heat running in the truck when I picked them up.
    So far, McMurray has been very accommodating and professional in their customer service.

    Thanks for the advice, SunHwaKwon. It sounds like a heating pad is comparable in expense to a lamp and bulb!! I would like to give this a try so they can sleep better at night.
     
  10. Then I Will

    Then I Will Chillin' With My Peeps

    215
    152
    151
    Jan 13, 2012
    Annville, Pennsylvania
    Update: Two more Sumatras dead. I coated the beaks with nutri-drench and also gave two to three drops diluted nutri drench by way of an eye dropper. The chicks had their beaks dipped in the water approximately twice an hour, every hour after being given the PND. They never bounced or perked up.
    I'm pretty sad about all of the losses, but I trust that the replacements coming from Meyer hatchery will arrive in much better condition.

    On a happier note, the two Salmon Favorolle pullets and the McMurray surprise chick, along with 5 sumatra chicks are bouncing, preening, stretching, scratching, eating, drinking, and pecking their way along very merrily in the brooder.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by