Help, sick chicks

Jessie Rou

6 Years
May 1, 2013
I'm new here and joined because I was hoping to get some answers. Thank you for taking time to help. Background: I've kept about 12 chickens for 3-4 years now. Always bought hatchery chicks and never had a sick bird.

This year I decided to buy from locals instead of a hatchery. I went to a swap show and picked up 28 chicks all between a few days to a couple of weeks old, bought from several different folks.

After being inside for about a week, I moved the chicks to an outside brooder. The brooder is 6 inches off the gound, 2x6 wood box, wood bottom lined with newspaper and pine shavings that I clean 2-3 times a week. It has a door, and is inside of a 10x10 pin, so on sunny days I started letting the chicks out. The brooder pin and my hen's pin is close, but they cannot come into contact with one another.

Witin a few days of moving the chicks out, all my hens got severe diarrhea. Other than that, everything was fine, except one hen. She sat down and wouldn't move, even when i picked her up to check her out. Her lower belly was large, swollen, and squishy. Sometimes I would get a whif of a sour smell coming from her, but it wasn't her crop that's swollen. My husband put her down.

Then I noticed some sneezing and wheezing with a few of the chicks. One started wheezing to where it sounded like 'huh' everytime it breathed in. It died.

Then this morning I had a chick that was fine yesterday, lively and eating and drinking, starting to fall over. I brought it inside, and since it's laid on it's side, head back and shaking, but ever getting up to eat or drink. It's really not looking good. I noticed what looked like a little blood in it's poop, but it's not runny, looks normal other than the color.

I also have some chicks that aren't as lively as usual. One in particular is closing it's eyes most of the time. When the eyes are open they look reddish in and around the eye area. It will still eat and drink some.

What's wrong with my birds? Did I buy a lot of sick chicks? What should I do to treat them, or should I just cull the sick ones? Or cull all of them and start all over with hatchery chicks again? I've got a good bit of money invested in these chicks so far, and I thought I was doing better by buying local this time.


Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Feb 5, 2009
South Georgia
I'm afraid you have brought a disease onto your property. Honestly, I would cull the chicks, since they have all been exposed to each other at this point. Some of these diseases (see link) improve with treatment, or at least some cases do, but they never recover completely and they are always carriers. Some are even passed in the egg, if ou ever choose to hatch any of our own.

Some people keep the birds and treat them. If you do this, you need to keep a closed flock. That means, no eggs for hatching and no live bbirds should ever leave your property.

I'm so sorry. This is always heartbreaking to hear.


10 Years
Mar 24, 2009
California, central valley
It sounds like you could have more then one thing going on. If you are hearing sneezing and wheezing then these chicks have come down with a respiratory disease, perhaps brought it with them. If you have other's that are lethargic and showing bloody stools then you may also have a case of coccidiosis going. This would be extremely common for new birds brought in, especially bought from several different sources.

Whether the older hens diarrhea has anything to do with the new chicks, I don't know, especially if they are separate. The hen with the bloated abdomen sounds like ascites and has probably been brewing for some time. That can be caused by several different problems including reproductive tract/egg laying issues, heart/circulatory problems, or other major organ disease or failure.

Back to the chicks. You said their pen is close to the older hens but not in contact. That won't help in terms of quarantine/bio security in case these chicks have a disease. Poultry diseases spread very, very easily and are airborne. So your hens will have already been exposed to anything these chicks are carrying.

At this point, unless you want to depopulate completely and start over, all you can do is start treating sick birds. I'd start with Corid to clean up cocci. As far as those showing symptoms of respiratory disease? That's your call. At this point all your birds have been exposed so to cull only the ones showing symptoms won't really solve the problem. The sick ones will need antibiotic's to help them recover since they often develop pneumonia. Tylan 50 is a good one. If you decide to cull the entire flock check into how long the different diseases remain in the soil, some can stick around for a while.

Buying chicks locally is not necessarily doing better then buying hatchery chicks. Especially if buying at a swap from multiple breeders. You don't know anything about them or how their birds are kept etc. Personally I stay away from buying from places like that just for that reason. It's far to easy to bring home something nasty.

Good luck with your birds, hope you are able to get things sorted out.

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