Losing a chick a day on average... please HELP!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by StillwaterCreek, Mar 31, 2009.

  1. StillwaterCreek

    StillwaterCreek In the Brooder

    Mar 31, 2009
    Northeast Arkansas
    First, a little background. I'm new to raising chicks and we're just starting out establishing a small family farm. I have 25 Red Stars and 25 Cornish Crosses on order from MMH, due to arrive in mid-May. I thought it might be a good idea to get a few chicks earlier than that in order to get our brooder setup worked out, learn a few things, etc etc before the big batch of chicks arrives. (Based on what has happened since then, boy am I glad I did.)

    So, a week and a half ago I came across a couple nearby selling chicks. We went and bought 15, a mix of Buff Orps, Black Australorps, Light Brahmas, and Americanas. The conditions at this farm were not exactly what I would have liked in terms of cleanliness and organization, but they weren't bad enough to warn me away either. The chicks all seemed to be perky and healthy. We brought them home, got them under a new brooder lamp (thermo said 95 in the center of the brooder), a brand-new waterer with electrolytes and vitamins mixed in, and some non-medicated chick starter in a brand-new feeder.

    The next morning, we awoke to find one of them dead. It was smaller than the others, so we wrote it off to it being a runt or some other unremarkable cause. The rest were very active, playful, and seemed to be eating and drinking well.

    To cut to the chase, we've lost an average of one per day since then. Out of the original 15, only 5 remain, and based on what I've seen, we're about to lose one more.

    One at a time, they go from being healthy, growing and active... to lethargic/stumbling, then they just look like they're sleeping except they don't respond when I come near (as the rest do), then they die.

    I've noticed a little diarrhea, but otherwise nothing that stands out. From what I'm reading online it sounds like it might be coccidiosis, but I don't know enough to be able to tell for sure.

    For their first few days, their brooder was a large cooler (with the lid open, of course) indoors on our back porch, with the heat lamp hanging above. Temps were very consistent, plus they had room to get a cooler spot in the brooder if needed. In the cooler, they were directly on cedar shavings. A few days ago I moved them to a cage-type brooder made out of 1/2" hardware cloth suspended a few inches over a bed of cedar shavings. That way their droppings fall through and they can't peck through the poop.

    I keep the waterer and feeder full, and the ones that are perky seem to eat and drink well. They go from being active to being dead in a matter of a few short hours.

    I tried to get some medicated feed (couldn't find any between several feed stores near here, believe it or not), but without knowing exactly what I'm facing, I'm hesitant to medicate them anyway.

    So... I realize this is a lot of information. Thanks to all who have followed along thus far! Can anyone help? Suggestions on what to do? Is this something I'm doing to them? Were they possibly just sick from the originating farm, or poor quality genetics?

  2. chickensioux

    chickensioux Songster

    Feb 12, 2009
    Western North Carolina
    I'm so sorry you are having troubles. Medicated chick feed and deworming them is all I can think to do. I know it's frustrating and I hope someone else on here will have the answer for you. Good Luck
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2009
  3. SpeckledHills

    SpeckledHills Songster

    May 25, 2008
    If it's coccidiosis, you will probably notice some blood in their droppings.
    The only disease that "medicated chick starter" is ever medicated to treat (as far as I know) is coccidiosis, so identifying your chick's disease wouldn't make any difference as far as needing to choose between different medicated chick starters.
    I bought 3 approx 3 wk old chicks from another breeder one time & one chick had progressively worse coccidiosis symptoms over a few days. We sadly had to put it down when it became apparent that it was struggling and suffering intensely.
    However, the other 2 never showed any symptoms, and I'm quite sure I didn't have any medicated starter at least the first 2-3 days. If it is coccidiosis, some of your chicks may develop an immunity naturally and do alright.
    However, coccidiosis is a difficult disease for chicks to face so I think it's strongly recommended to medicate them if they are exposed. I haven't found any way to obtain a small quantity of anti-coccidiosis medication except by purchasing medicated chick starter.
    Best wishes. And so sorry for your losses. They have to be so hard to be going through. [​IMG]
  4. StillwaterCreek

    StillwaterCreek In the Brooder

    Mar 31, 2009
    Northeast Arkansas
    In some of the diarrhea (and it's difficult to tell who "made" it!) I've noticed a slight reddish tinge that might be blood, but that may just be because I'm looking for it. No obvious blood.

    Thanks so much for the extremely quick responses... Keep 'em coming, please!
  5. ranchhand

    ranchhand Rest in Peace 1956-2011

    Aug 25, 2008
    Quote:The cedar shavings are probably the cause. Cedar can be toxic to chicks. I am so sorry about your loss of so many chicks, but get the rest on pine shavings, paper towels, whatever- but get that cedar out of there.

    Here's a link to a discussion here on BYC- as usual, not everyone agrees, but I think it's your problem.


    Edit to add another link:


    Once again, so sorry for the loss of the chicks.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2009

  6. Ferngully

    Ferngully Songster

    Nov 6, 2008
    N.E. Florida
    I noticed in your post you said you have had them on cedar shavings since you got them.

    Cedar is bad for chickens. I understand it to be toxic to them.

    Pine is the preferred shaving.

    I don't know that this is the problem with your chicks but I would suggest getting your remainder away from these shavings as soon as possible.
  7. pkeeler

    pkeeler Songster

    Jul 20, 2008
    Are you sure you are using cedar shavings? Not pine? I've always heard and read that cedar shavings give off a gas that is toxic to chicks. I always wondered if it could possibly be that lethal. But it would be something to consider changing. Changing out the litter and replacing it with fresh litter would also help with the cocchidosis too.

    How big was this cooler? You really need about 0.5 sf per chick, so unless the cooler was 3x4, it is possible they were so crowded in there that cocci built up. They really do need a wide range of temps too. So, 95 in half the brooder, and 90 in the other half would be too hot. 95-70 would be a better range.

    Change out the cedar for pine or newspaper or anything but cedar chips and see if that helps. If the chicks already have cocchi, it is probably too late for medicated feed. There might be stronger anti-cocchi drugs that can be given orally.
  8. StillwaterCreek

    StillwaterCreek In the Brooder

    Mar 31, 2009
    Northeast Arkansas
    I have only in the last few days read that about cedar, and there is indeed conflicting information out there. I'll get them on pine shavings instead and see what happens.

    What puzzles me though is if you go to any farm store (Tractor Supply, local shops, whatever), they almost invariably have the chicks in stock tanks or other brooders... all sitting directly on cedar shavings!
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2009
  9. william9792

    william9792 Songster

    Nov 23, 2008
    graham, nc
    i am sorry you have lost chicks, but i have been a breeder for about ten years and i would say that the chicks are dieing from eating the cedar shavings, they will be toxic to chicks! what i use is the first week i put in pure pine shavings and then cover it with 5 layers of paper towels, then each day i take a layer of paper towels out till all i have is the pine shavings in there. if i can be of any help just pm william

  10. horsejody

    horsejody Squeaky Wheel

    Feb 11, 2008
    Waterloo, Nebraska
    Quote:That's what I thought too as soon as I read that they were on cedar. Cedar is potentially harmful to any animal. The smaller the animal, the more toxic.

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