Semi-large flock with problems: Paranoid new momma with questions


In the Brooder
May 4, 2015
Western ND
Disclaimer: I have been combing the forum looking for advice. I've just gotten so frustrated I decided to start my own thread. I've officially been a chicken owner for 11 days. I'm starting to think I'm the problem.

The chicks were hatched April 24, shipped April 26, and delivered April 27; 30 cornish x and 30 random layers aka "discount special" from the hatchery. All were vaccinated for Marek's and coccidiosis. Since arrival, I've lost 4 to unknown causes, about 3 or 4 days after their arrival. Today I lost two. The first had been doing badly for two days. I'm thinking she was a light brahma. She couldn't walk or stand, it was almost as if her legs were totally paralyzed. She was breathing pretty heavily and there was an occasional clicking sound, but I couldn't tell if it was her breathing or beak. She would eat and drink but you would have to put it right in front of her. Her poops were good right up to the end. I couldn't get her to the vet until this morning. The vet here could only guess it was a respiratory illness. She gave me tetroxy hca 280 powder and recommended I dose the whole flock. The chick and I made it home ok and I got her back into the "hospital" wing. She passed away less than an hour later. Side note: she was about a third of the size of her sisters of the same breed.

The second to pass today was a CX. I noticed this one not doing so well this morning. She just laid under the heat lamp and barely flinched while her brothers and sisters ran amuck. She was breathing normally, just no interest in moving about. She had no trouble walking, but I would have to prod her a little. I was able to get her to drink some water but she wasn't interested in food. I tried to give her some poly vi sol via dropper and she was having none of that either. A little while later I got her to drink some more water but that was it. I went back armed with a gruel of crumbles (Purina Flock Raiser), mashed hard boiled egg and some filtered water. She had no interest in the egg alone so I mixed it all up. I tried it cold, then warm. After a lot of messy resistance, I gave up. She fought me the whole time so I figured she still had a little spunk left in her. I went to the house and started researching tube feeding. About 30 minutes later my brother called from the barn to tell me she had passed away.
This whole escapade has been very frustrating. I've been keeping a closer eye on the whole flock, hoping I can spot the issues before they get this bad. Side note=her crop was full this morning when I first noticed her acting strangely. Later this evening it felt soft when I was attempting to feed her the gruel.

So here's my next problem, I've got what appears to be a mostly healthy CX with a bum knee. When he lies down it sort of sticks out to the side because the joint doesn't bend properly. It looks like he has a peg leg when he walks. The joint looks slightly larger than the other. Fortunately he can still get around fairly well, he's been eating a drinking. I haven't had a chance to see him poop. Is there any way to fix this?

By the way, the whole flock is together in the horse barn (no horses have ever been in it). They have about a 8'x10' space in an insulated but well ventilated building. It has a concrete floor, then a layer of gardening fabric covered by wood shavings. They have 4 250 watt red heat lamps adjusted to various heights. The building is insulated but not heated. The ambient temp fluctuates between 40-60 degrees depending on the time of day but the temp is between 80-90 under the lamps. I've had Quick Chick in their water since day one, and probiotics for the first 5 days because of some pasty butts. I started with a bag of organic chick starter from the hatchery, but now they all eat the flock raiser because it's what I can get in town. None of them will eat eggs. I tried putting it on top of the crumble and they peck around it. I have not seen any unusual poops. The whole brooder gets a full cleaning once a week. All the feeders and waters are rinsed daily and sanitized once a week. Since discovering the sick baby two nights ago, I've checked on them every 2-3 hours.

Other than the few that have passed for no apparent reason, and the two mentioned above, the flock looks and sounds good. The layers tear the place up, running all over. I have not noticed any more pasty butts, no respiratory distress and no injuries. Is there anything in the above that sounds like I'm missing something? Is this just nature's way or can I do more to help them? Is it okay that I have so many breeds housed together? Should I dose the whole flock with tetroxy in the off chance there's a bug going around? Should I offer fresh water along with the water containing electrolytes? Now my mom is Googing avian flu because of all the outbreaks in the news lately. I have no clue how they could have been exposed to that...??? They've never been outside.

I read so many books and online articles to prepare before starting this adventure. I thought I was ready. I had no idea it would be so challenging and heart breaking! Any help, advice or words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated.

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