problem with Rhode Island Reds


In the Brooder
May 6, 2015
We're newer to chickens in St. Louis. We did research before starting and got four 8-week old chickens from Fenton Feed in early September 2015. (2) chickens were Rhode Island Reds (RIR) and 1 was a Orpington and one was a Barred Rock.
Within a month, we put one RIR chicken down for a possible disease - walking on foot upside down. In late October, we put a second RIR chicken down for a growth in its head and eye disforming. (previously posted an image about this)
We bought 2 more RIRs from Fenton Feed and added them to the brood and they all did well together. One day in mid- December we noticed one RIR was moving slower and not eating much. We found her stiff dead on Christmas morning. :(
Now, this week, we noticed our last RIR is limping and sitting more. She doesn't run around the yard the way she used to and the others continue to.

We thought Reds were a good breed that might be healthier than others. We've cleaned out our coop a couple times after each disease was found to see if something was setting in the coop.

Any thoughts or help?
Anyone in St. Louis purchase chickens from Fenton Feed?
We've read that there will be dead/ disease among chickens and you should maybe purchase more chicks than you want but buying them all 8+ weeks old and only having problems with the Reds is suspicious to us.

Thanks in advance!


Premium Feather Member
11 Years
Mar 21, 2011
New Mexico, USA
My Coop
My Coop
I am sorry you are having so much trouble.
I know how discouraging illness in the flock is. I have been there too.

It's not necessarily that Rhode Island Reds are not a healthy breed. But that many hatchery birds in general are not the healthiest of birds over all. These birds are over bred, they can have genetic issues that continue on down through many generations, they can have weaker immune systems from being over bred, the conditions in some hatcheries may not be up to par.

Not that all hatcheries sell poor or sick birds. But you do take your chances from hatchery stock. Generally your feed store will order their chicks from the nearest hatchery or from the hatchery in their state. So generally, all feed stores in your county will get their chicks from the same hatchery.

Heritage bred birds are going to be the most healthy of birds. They are not over bred and are usually bred in very controlled environments. Sandhill Preservation Hatchery is a classic example of good stock and healthy birds.

Even mutts that breed in chicken yards, hatched under broodies can be fairly healthy. They are hatched on your grounds, from birds that have developed immunity to your area and are raised with a broody.

I have always gotten my birds from feed stores. I have definitely had my share of the health issues in my flock. Each breed had their own set of problems over the years. But I have enjoyed them and they live a good life at my place.

Your best defense is a good offense when it comes to chickens. Keep your facilities and clean as possible. Give your birds as MUCH room as you can afford and more. I am a big fan of probiotics. 70% of immune system is in the gut. This is where many pathogens take hold as well. So if you keep good oxygenated bacteria in the gut and the immune system beefed up, you have less health problems in your birds.

Get them outside in all weather and keep them wormed. Very important! Worms devastate a flock, killing them over time.

Keep them on a good diet, put out several feeding and watering stations so there is no competition for food or water (higher ranking birds are known to run off the lower in the order birds, thus weakening their systems) and watch for bullying in the flock. Bullies wear down the lower ranking birds which causes all kinds of health issues.

Keep in mind, not all chicks do make it to adulthood, but most of them should. If you are seeing a high rate of deaths in chicks, either the strain has issues, or something is a miss in your facilities.

If you continue to see deaths in your flock, it never hurts to have a necropsy from a vet done on a freshly dead bird to see just what is running through your flock. Immediately refrigerate (not freeze) a freshly dead bird in a plastic bag while you make an appointment with your vet.

And speaking of vets, it never hurts to take a bird in to one if they are knowledgeable on chickens or avian medicine. Most are not avian specialists, but some are.

As for the one that is limping, inspect the feet pads, feel for heat in the pad or leg and on up to the hip. She could have bumblefoot developing in the pad, she could have sprained a muscle or pulled a tendon somewhere in the leg.

Keep us posted! :)


Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
7 Years
Jul 16, 2015
They may have a problem with their breeding of their RIR, most of those problems seem to be either genetic, bad incubation, or deficiency, since your others are fine I would suspect the breeding, I would get other breeds, or get your chicks from another source. I hardly ever lose a chick past the first few days from shipping stress, loses are not normal. The chick with the abscess and eye problems sounds like it was possibly fowl pox, which was quite common this year and is from mosquitoes.

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