Sudden death after home made grit

yokel

In the Brooder
Jul 17, 2021
8
42
39
Blackpool, Northwest UK
Found a large cage in the local small ads for very little money. I think it was once a parrot cage, it's about a metre wide by half a metre deep by a metre and a half tall.

Set it up inside in the house, with an electric blanket designed for pets covering half the bottom, and a 250W infra red heat lamp hanging from the top.

The heated mat produces only very gentle warmth and the IR lamp is high enough to again, keep the heat only very gentle.

Made an enclosed shelter out of a shoebox with a tom & jerry style hole for a door, sat on the heat pad.

Provided only chick crumb as food, and a low dish of water. Few branches for climbing / perches.

Brought the remaining chick in, it seemed happy and lively for a good few days but then, just like the other 2, it suddenly dropped dead with very little warning. I guess from my first inkling that it wasn't totally well, to finding it dead, was no more than maybe 4 hours. Delayed effect of layer pellets? (when I lost the sheep, it was very delayed) or, maybe separation anxiety from mum?

So my first attempt at raising chicks has been very sad.

I think I've learnt a great deal regards what to do and what not to do though, if there's anything positive.

Part way through, I began to worry about maintaining genetic diversity in the flock and realised I couldn't just keep breeding endlessly from the same small pool of birds. So whilst I like allowing broody to hatch the eggs, I think in future I'll look into providing her with maybe purebreed fertilised eggs sourced from outside (tips welcome) and then bring them on inside in the chick cage in the house, shortly after hatching, before they've had too much chance to bond with mum.
 

yokel

In the Brooder
Jul 17, 2021
8
42
39
Blackpool, Northwest UK
I thought it might fare better inside, where it can be kept a more stable temperature (no electricity in the coop) & it's easier to confine it to just chick crumb, check it's not being smothered etc. Thought it would also be helpful to the broody to get back to unlimited adult feed because she was getting so thin.

No, the cage seemed spotless so nothing more than the briefest wipe with plain water.

From a standing start I've got so used to the adult chickens being so tough, that I guess I've failed to appreciate the chicks are so delicate.
 

BigBlueHen53

We will get through this... together!
Premium Feather Member
Mar 5, 2019
20,076
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SE Missouri, USA
I am sorry for your losses but I can't speak to the causes. I also won't address the feed issues and will state at the outset that I am no authority in anything. Having said that however, I will express my opinion that no human can improve on the job a broody mother hen can do in raising chicks; they've been doing it successfully for millennia. Her body is perfectly designed to maintain both the proper heat and humidity required by baby chicks. They can leave her protection whenever they wish, and return to her when they feel chilled. She teaches them what, when, and how much to eat. If there is danger she protects them. She socializes them into the flock. There is just no substitute for a good broody hen. Better luck going forward!
 

JacinLarkwell

Crossing the Road
Mar 19, 2020
16,157
33,866
861
South-Eastern Montana
Thinking about it now having read everyone's comments so far, I'm tempted to blame the layer mix they had access to. A while back I had 2 sheep die from anaemia, and I eventually traced it to the fact they had broken into the chickens bulk layer pellet bin and eaten a load. Apparently it's extremely high in copper & is notorious for overloading the liver in sheep..
Sheep are extremely sensitive to copper. They really cannot eat any pellets besides specialized sheep feed in large amounts.

As for layer feed, I feed layer crumble to 2 of my mixed flocks that almost constantly have chicks in the group as well. I have had maybe one problem chick with it, and that one I'm still not 100% certain was caused by feed
 

_Moon_

Songster
Aug 12, 2021
215
1,821
201
Ur mom's house
Had 3 very healthy chicks all around 3 weeks old in an old rabbit hutch with the broody.. been feeding and watering them daily but ceased giving them exclusively chick crumb about a week ago, they've been foraging about in there over the last week on a mixed diet of full corn, remainder of the crumb, crushed bread, assorted wild bird seed, bits of layer mix etc.

The other day I thought, they need some grit in their diet. I have a pile of several tons of crushed shell from the food industry - whelk, clam, mussel etc shells - so I took some and washed it thoroughly before pulverising it in a pestle and mortar. By the time I'd finished it was pretty fine - not quite sand but pretty fine-gritty. Put it on offer in a shallow tin dish. I figured the calcium out the shells would only be a good thing.

Put them to bed.. all got under mum, 2 under wings and one under the tail.

Left it next day till about 6, came in, 2 dead. it was the 2 I think that went under the broodys wings. Both fast growing cocks I think. The pure yellow 'runty' one that stayed under mums tail at bedtime, is still A-OK.

I'm thinking, the grit I 'made' for them out of seaside shells is responsible. But all comments welcome. V sad :-(
Remove the bread from the mix. I've heard it expands in the crop when any sort of liquid hits it.
 

BigBlueHen53

We will get through this... together!
Premium Feather Member
Mar 5, 2019
20,076
75,666
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SE Missouri, USA
I don't think your chicks were actually getting GRIT. What you were grinding up was essentially oyster shell, which provides calcium, what laying hens need for forming egg shells. All chickens need grit, or crushed granite, which goes into their gizzards and grinds up their food since they don't have teeth. I don't really know where oyster shell (OS) goes, but it doesn't go into their gizzards. Without grit.... their food does them no good at all. They just can't digest it. Those of us who have laying hens typically provide grit and OS in two separate containers from which the chickens can help themselves, taking as much as they need whenever they need it. Non-laying chickens don't take OS. But all chickens eat grit, even very young ones. Of course, chicks have to have a finer-grained grit than their older counterparts, but if they are eating anything other than chick starter, which has grit in it, they need that chick grit available in a separate dish.

I hope this helps. Best wishes going forward.
 

Fallenone05

Songster
6 Years
Oct 7, 2015
653
880
226
SE Oklahoma
If your hen goes broody, let her raise them. The chicks hear her clucking from inside the egg and she hears them cheeping in the egg, and they bond that way well before they hatch. Your hen knows best on temperature for her babies - If they're cold, they go under her. If they're warm, they come out. Mom finds them food when they forage, usually bugs and little grit naturally in the soil and surrounding area.

Your chicken's instincts will raise the babies better than we can.

Your broody hen will not be laying eggs until at or around 5 weeks after the eggs hatch. Your broody hen AND the chicks need to be on chick starter/grower. The extra calcium for her is just building up in her system as she isn't spending it on making eggs, and the extra protein helps her build her system back up after constantly sitting and eating less while on the nest for nearly 3 weeks. That's 8 weeks of not producing eggs, she doesn't really *need* calcium at this point while she's brooding chicks.

I never gave my babies grit when momma broody was taking care of them, and I've seen chicks hork down crickets nearly as big as they were with no ill effect since they found what they needed to digest while ranging in the yard.

I will never forget watching a 3-day old chick eat a cricket that was as wide as its head was and still go back for more.

I incubate my own eggs at times, but I would -much- rather let a broody raise her babies as she teaches them what to eat and shows them the rules of the yard, plus they learn their place in the flock much faster than me introducing chicks to the group.
 

BigBlueHen53

We will get through this... together!
Premium Feather Member
Mar 5, 2019
20,076
75,666
1,237
SE Missouri, USA
If your hen goes broody, let her raise them. The chicks hear her clucking from inside the egg and she hears them cheeping in the egg, and they bond that way well before they hatch. Your hen knows best on temperature for her babies - If they're cold, they go under her. If they're warm, they come out. Mom finds them food when they forage, usually bugs and little grit naturally in the soil and surrounding area.

Your chicken's instincts will raise the babies better than we can.

Your broody hen will not be laying eggs until at or around 5 weeks after the eggs hatch. Your broody hen AND the chicks need to be on chick starter/grower. The extra calcium for her is just building up in her system as she isn't spending it on making eggs, and the extra protein helps her build her system back up after constantly sitting and eating less while on the nest for nearly 3 weeks. That's 8 weeks of not producing eggs, she doesn't really *need* calcium at this point while she's brooding chicks.

I never gave my babies grit when momma broody was taking care of them, and I've seen chicks hork down crickets nearly as big as they were with no ill effect since they found what they needed to digest while ranging in the yard.

I will never forget watching a 3-day old chick eat a cricket that was as wide as its head was and still go back for more.

I incubate my own eggs at times, but I would -much- rather let a broody raise her babies as she teaches them what to eat and shows them the rules of the yard, plus they learn their place in the flock much faster than me introducing chicks to the group.
I changed my response from "Like" to "Informative." Wish I could do both. Good post!
 

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