HELP- one month old chicks started dying this weekend

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by THV, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. THV

    THV Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 23, 2009
    Hi backyard chicken folks.
    I'm new to chickens, and the backyard chickens website, so forgive my ignorance.
    I bought 10 baby chicks a month ago, variety of breeds, all layers- from a breeder in Texas. They arrived in good health and have been doing fine. Some have been growing faster than others, but general health seemed OK. They have been living in a guinea pig cage, with a heat lamp for warmth. I've started them at 95 degrees for the first week, and lowered the temp by about 5 degrees per week. I gave them a supplement from the breeder (Grogel) upon arrival, and since then have been feeding them chick starter food from the local feed store, and water. Last Saturday morning I found one dead in the cage, with no apparent signs of distress the night before. It was one of the more robust ones of the bunch. Since then, I've been loosing 1-2 per day and am now down to 3 healthy chicks and 1 that is not doing so well. Symptoms are mainly that they loose their ability to stand up and move around, become very lethargic, and also their feathers are loosing the hairs and have only the quills showing on the half closest to their bodies- more pronounced on some than others- and maybe this is unrelated- just a normal part of developing a coat of feathers? I can't think of anything unusual that they've been exposed to. I was using some natural denim in the bottom of their cage for the first few weeks, and now i just started using a recycled wood pulp product I got at the pet store made for small animals, birds etc. I thought maybe they were having a reaction to something in the fabric.

    Any ideas or suggestions would be welcomed? I decided to order more chicks, and hope to have better luck with the next batch, but would love to have some idea of what I should be doing differently.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2009
  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    How much space do they have and are you sure they aren't eating the new bedding? Regular white pine shavings would be just fine to use.

    Quills are normal part of growing new feathers, but the dying at a month old isn't quite right.

    Have they been exposed to outside soil, extra treats, possible mold in the bag of feed?

    Maybe you can list some more details that might clue in to what's going on. Everything you can think of.

    Were they vaccinated for mericks? I'm not sure what the issue is.
  3. dave_Cash69

    dave_Cash69 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 15, 2009
    youve got me stumped.
  4. THV

    THV Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 23, 2009
    The cage they are in is about 6 square feet, and they have not seemed crowded in there. I have not seen them eat the new bedding. I'm going to order some pine shavings from the pet store. I don't think it's the bedding though, since I changed to this new stuff after they started dying.

    No exposure to outside soil, extra treats? I did give them some plain cooked brown rice that was left over- very small amount, no mold that I see in the bag of feed?

    They were not vaccinated for mericks? Is that something you would recommend for the next batch?

    I have not given then any vitamins or electrolytes, could that be the problem?

    There is not much consistency as to who is dying when. As I mentioned in my original post, the first one to go was one of the healthier ones, and the one that was growing the slowest over the past month started looking sick a day or so ago but hung in there until this morning. Most of the others have taken ill and died within several hours.

    Thanks for your help.
  5. CarlaRiggs

    CarlaRiggs Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'm so sorry to hear that you're chicks are dying... how frustrating for you.
    All I can think is that there is either a virus or bacteria that have infected the chicks. You may want to take a couple of them in and have a necropsy performed. I would be hesitant to order more chicks until you're sure what the problem is. If it's a sickness, it may live on in the area and infect the next chicks, also.
    Is there someone in Berkley U that you can contact with regards to this?

    Good luck! I hope you can discover just what's going down. Please keep us updated, will you?

  6. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    I've never vaccinated and also don't give vits and electrolytes so that shouldn't be a problem unless your area has some sort of illness or disease that is regional. You can try getting shavings at a feed store, it will be about half the cost if not less than that of the pet store.

    Sorry, but still at a loss on why they are dying.

    and WELCOME!!!!
  7. A.J.'s

    A.J.'s Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 11, 2008
    the first thing that jumped out at me and would be the first thing i would investigate would be the shavings. Ive never used them simply because I have seen chicks with their craw or whatever we call the food s torage bag at the neck, filled with things that dont go there.
    Ive never had more than 20 or so chicks to care for before they go outside so its been easy for me to have newspaper on the floor for them. I t ry to get t hem outside as soon as i can, and its easier than you would expect.
    I didnt keep her name, but a lady on this site encouraged putting chicks outside at a very early age. I have an old dog house and i placed a heat bulb in it back in the rear of it and it is in a dog kennel that I have secured so that little ones cant go t hru the holes. This takes away the worry of them eating the litter.
    They peck and peck at anything under their feet and that is my second worry after heat. I dont like to put shavings for them.
    I cant imagine losing them at this age.. by then I have relaxed into the new batch of chicks. Im so sorry to hear about it.
  8. spook

    spook Chillin' With My Peeps

    Here are the diagnostic labs in California, please look up a phone number for one of these, after your next bird dies, take it immidiately to the appointed place. This will diagnose, tell you what treatment or what you should do next.
    If your birds are dying, do yourself a favor and look into who to ask questions and the real situation at hand.

    University of California, Davis
    Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory
    West Health Science Drive
    Davis, CA 95616

    University of California, Fresno
    Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory
    2789 South Orange Avenue
    Fresno, CA 93725

    University of California, San Bernadino
    Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory
    105 W Central Avenue
    San Bernardino, CA 92408
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Any change in their poop color, consistency, smell? Is their crop swollen? I think CarlaRiggs is on the right track. It sounds like a virus or bacterial infection. If it were poisoning, you'd think they would all go at once. Since it is various breeds, it is not a genetic flaw. With the cage, they have plenty of ventilation. If they made it this long and you haven't changed the set-up, it is probably not a draft issue. Are they indoors where access to wild birds is restricted? Any mites or lice? They could be carriers.

    Oh, and the cage is plenty big enough. Sounds like you are taking good care of them.
  10. THV

    THV Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 23, 2009
    thanks so much for all the great advise.
    I've contacted the Animal Health and Food Safety Department @ UC Davis to see what services they offer. I think I will also move the 3 remaining chicks outside in their cage very soon along with their heat lamp. The books I read all indicated that they should not be outdoors until they are 3-4 months old, but I've read quite a few recommendations to the contrary now.
    Thanks again.

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