Sudden death of 3/4 day old chick now another one lethargic


7 Years
Apr 15, 2012
Hi, I'm going out of my mind with worry about my silkie chicks which hatched between 2-4 days ago. They have all been doing great, a few needed assisted hatches because of dried out membranes but did well after that.

Today I noticed one of them was walking with it's wings out a little bit which I thought was odd. That same chick deteriorated very quickly and within an hour died in my hands with lots of liquid that looked like spit coming out of it's beak. Now a second chick is standing under the brooder drooping its head

The things I noticed before hand that might be relevant. A few of the chicks had slightly pasty bottoms, none of them were blocked, but I cleaned them up anyway. The sick chick wouldn't sit. It stayed standing with its back and head pressed up against the brooder, even when it couldn't even open its eyes anymore. I'm terrified that I'm going to lose the lot.

My set up is a clear plastic box with a brooder at one end and chick feed mixed with grit and clean water at the other. They are on paper towel which is changed regularly.They are in my living room, so the temp is well controlled and the box is long and thin so plenty of room for air flow. They are on unmedicated chick feed (I can't even find anywhere that sells medicated anyway... I'm in the UK).

Any help is gratefully received, so sad right now.
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Thanks, they have plenty of room to escape the brooder. Should I add pedialyte/dioralyte to the water or apple cider vinegar or anything like that?
The same thing happened to me. I had apparently 5 healthy chicks delivered to me via mail on May 1. I put them in a clear plastic box in my family room - used a thermometer to monitor the temp, but had them on medicated feed. I didn't put grit in there because they weren't eating anything that would require them to have grit yet. I wonder if your lethargic chick is too weak to move away from the heat. Anyway, one of my chicks died 3 days after I got them; I didn't see it acting sick because I was gone a good portion of the day that it happened. I came home and it had already died. Then, later that night, I noticed another one was acting droopy and lethargic, and it was panting. I tried giving it drops of water (with electrolytes) in its beak, but I think I did it the wrong way and it may have aspirated (plus, I think it may have been too late anyway). That chick died the next day in my hand :( I learned later on that you should drop the liquid on the top or near the side of its beak so it can swallow it properly. I would definitely recommend that you get some vitamin drops (without iron) or electrolyte solution and give it to your lethargic chicks. You probably should put the electrolytes in your main waterer so that all your chicks are getting it.

I didn't have anymore chicks die after that. Sometimes I wonder if the plastic bin was giving off fumes (it was a new bin) and maybe that did something to my chicks. I had to move them to a bigger box because I bought a few more chicks to replace the ones I lost. Now they're in a cardboard box.

I hope the rest of your chicks stay healthy. I know exactly how you feel.
Hi Renata,
the fluid from the mouth is unusual, but I'm wondering if this was one of the chicks that couldn't hatch? Often those chicks have something a little wrong with them.

I think the most common causes of early death in the brooder tend to be either brooder conditions, underlying malformation/disease/deficiency (deficiency probably being most common), or possibly infection from the incubator during hatch (omphalitis). Check for anything toxic in the bedding, but also make sure you're not using non-stick pans in the house, as vapours from non stick frying pans etc are a known cause of chick death when they're brooded indoors.

Omphalitis results in a cheeping distressed chick that tends to follow the others for warmth, drinks a lot but doesn't eat. They often stay too close to the heat source, but they can survive and apparently be healthy for quite some time (even weeks) after hatch. When they die (which happens quickly) they tend to go dark in the abdomen, though that could have other causes too.

That's about all I can offer, sorry if it's not helpful. I know losing chicks is extremely upsetting, especially when you seem to be doing everything right.

best of luck,
Erica, I'm pretty sure it was one of the ones that was an assisted hatch. The others seem ok for now, still getting pasty butts, so I'm being really vigilant and cleaning them up. I read that boiled egg was good for that, is that true? I've lowered the brooder a little as they kept standing to push themselves against it and they seem much quieter (but of course that makes me nervous too!). I've left big gaps all around so they can easily escape the heat should they want to.

They currently have chick feed, chick grit, egg and water, and I'm keeping fingers and toes crossed. Thanks so much for all your advice and support so far. I feel so responsible. It doesn't help that one of my broody hens has rejected her chicks, I thought that the first one might have been a mistake (got it in a warm incubator in time to save it) and so let the other one hatch under her and found it icy cold this afternoon. I thought it was dead and gone and felt terrible for not having removed it after what happened last time, but it took a breath when I picked it up so I ran it inside and warmed it up. Thankfully it's now the loudest chick I have ever heard, keeps hitting its beak on the incubator trying to get to me. It's hard not to feel utterly responsible for their outcomes, even if it's beyond your control.

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