Is chick death normal, or did I Screw up??? Advice????


10 Years
May 26, 2009
I ahve had 3 chick deaths in the last 2 days!

Heres the deal-

I have 8 eight-day-old chicks, and then added 15 one day old chicks, some silkies and frizzles, the older ones are ee's and BO's. The first chick to pass was a super small Silkie, we noticed it was smaller than the rest, but I thought it was moving and eating ok so we left it in with the rest.Then today I found 1 of the larger day olds that was a frizzle obviously flattened by the other chicks dead in the pen, and the last to pass was another frizzle, but when I saw it, it was laying on its' side, eyes closed and kinda gasping in a weird way. I have all the stuff required, proper heat with thermometer to check temps, daily fresh water (all beaks dipped to make double sure they could find water) food at both ends (medicated chick starter),they are in a big, 100 gallon horse watering trough for space, newspaper with shavings and straw on top.....

So anyone have any ideas as to COD? I figure the tiny one was just too small, and the flat one may have got squashed, but the last one was fine last night, but today I found it on the floor of its home gasping and then it died in my hand when I picked it up to examine it

Do they need more space maybe? They're tiny and only use half the space right now as it is. The bigger, older ones are not harrassing the newbies- I watched them for a long time to be sure. Is it normal to lose a few chicks when you have this many? Anybody have any advice on the why or how to prevent more deaths?
The 100 gallon tank I found was 55" x 31". That gives just under 12 square feet total area. That's about right for your number of chicks for the first 3 or 4 weeks, then they'll need something bigger. I had 28 chicks in a 3' x 5' brooder, which is the equivalent size for your number of chicks.

It is not unusual to have chicks die, especially the first few days. Some are just not strong enough to make it. And it sounds like you are doing some things right as you did not have any of your first group to die.

Yuo said the bigger ones are not picking on the little ones. I'll assume you are right. Some people have trouble with that age difference but most people don't. It depends on the individual personality of the bigger birds. Heck, some people have trouble with chicks the same age.

Are you checking for pasty butt? It does not sound like Coccidiosis.

Are you sure the brooder is not too hot? I keep the heat source in one corner and keep that corner up to temperature but leave some cooler areas so they can find their comfort zone. They can handle being a bit cool better than being too hot. Do you have a way to confirm your thermometer is close to accurate? Sometimes they can be off by several degrees.

Is their craw stuffed tight? Some people have reported chicks eating the shavings and dying. That is very rare. For three to die of that would be extremely unusual. I really don't think that is it but just throwing out possibilities. I put some sand in a small yogurt cup and attached that to the side of the brooder so they would have grit in case they ate something they would have trouble digesting, but I did not do that until I had them three days. I think that helps get their digestive system working the way it is supposed to and may help with pasty butt. At the age yours are, I don't think that is the problem.

I had one that, even though I dipped its beak in the water when I first got it, was just standing around giving the distress cheep the next day. When I dipped it's beek in the water again, it stopped that distress cheeping and started drinking heavily. The distress cheeping is a loud, sad, steady cheeping. If you heard it, you would recognize it for what it is.

Probably not much help to you. Other than a failure to thrive, my main guesses are pasty butt or the heat too high.
I'd be a little concerned about mixing 8-day-old standards with 1-day-old banties. Even if the older ones are not picking on the little ones, they may just be too big, too unaware of the relative size difference and/or too rambunctious for the little ones. Is there any way you can separate them?
I'd make sure their butts are clean and no pasty butt. Really it sounds like your doing everything perfect. Remember this is part of mother nature so there is always going to be some loss,it's just the way it's meant to be. Only the strongest will survive. You didn't screw up. Will
A quote to remember... "When you have livestock, you're going to have deadstock" We do our best to maintain everything to give them the best chance of survival possible, but some have internal issues that we can't see and won't make it. So's always hard....
Thanks everyone! No more deaths today..... I do have one small frizzle who had a pretty bad case of pasty butt with 2 more showing early signs of it- so i washed and dryed them and have them seperated with us in the main house to keep a closer eye on them. I hope its nothing contageous

I will be moving the thermometer to a couple different spots to check ambient temps in diff areas though. I think they may have gotten a chill the first day and were all huddled together for warmth when the first chick that died got flattened/smothered. The others showed no signs of pasty butt, or tight crop.....or anything wrong for that matter, just dead and dying. Very sad....

Love the idea of grit w/yogurt- I will be trying that tonight. Thanks again, you guys are great!!!!
Sometimes, for whatever reason, the chicks will all bunch up and huddle together really tight.
It could be from fear, could be from temps, could just be . . .

When this happens with 2 batches of chicks, especially really small fragile chicks, the bigger chicks end up smooshing/smothering the smaller ones.
They dont mean to do it.

Especially since you said its happening at night, they prolly getting just a bit too cold and huddling together more for warmth.
The poor little chicks that died just prolly fell asleep at the bottom of the pile.

It happens, sorry.
A couple of thoughts. As you have 8 day olds and 1 day olds together you may want to put two feeders and waterers in w/ them. You may not notice it but the guys on the lower end of the pecking order may not be getting to eat or drink. Also I would put sugar in the drinking water. Also I put the thermometer at their level. You may want to put two heat sources in the brooder too. Even in chicks there is a pecking order that you can't see. If you see a chick stressing seperate it immediately w/ it's own food and water. A cardboard box is good for this. If it's large enough fill a plastic laundry detergent bottle w/ hot water (not to hot) for warmth. It's ok if it's dark sometimes they just need to get some sleep. I had two chicks like this and they bounced back after a couple of days. I put them back in w/ the group and they were fine.

You don't mention where you got your birds. While chicks can live for 3 days w/o food or water, if they are shipped but not "immediately" shipped they may be older than 3 days and weaker.

All the best


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