Total Noob Chicken Parent - How concerned for "lethargy" should I be in baby chicks? - Possible Impa


7 Years
Mar 21, 2016
Maine, USA
My Coop
My Coop
Hello! We are first time chicken parents and brand new at the job, though we studied everything we could before we jumped in :)

We got six chicks (of three different heritage breeds) directly from a reputable hatchery, immunized for MD after hatching (per our extension office recommendations) and delivered to us in just a few hours.

They have plenty of fresh food and water at all times and we closely monitor the brooder temperature to make sure they are happy. We also watch them constantly - not because we're unusually diligent, but because we live in a very small house and the only place we could keep the incubator is in our living room! And they are so unbelievably cute and entertaining... we can't help but spend every spare moment (and some not spare ones, admittedly) admiring them. Every noise and movement teaches us something about them in particular and chicks/chickens in general.

We have not used medicated feed, but opted to expose them to dirt from the future run from the moment they got home. They have a little playpen filled with dirt (replaced every day or every other day) inside the brooder and they have reveled in it more each day that goes by. They started scratching in it on the second day and just yesterday (fourth day) started dust bathing. Adorable!

The two australorp chicks are more reserved then the other breeds (barred plymouth rocks and Rhode Island Reds). But today (fifth day) one of the Australorps is a little more subdued than usual. It COULD be called "lethargic." But we joked since the first morning that she needed a little coffee mug; she's just not a fireball.

Right now she is bright-eyed, alert, eating drinking, napping, scratching, pecking and preening all as normal. I haven't seen her poop specifically, but there are no abnormal poops in the brooder and she doesn't have pasty butt (none of them do). Yet today she is just a little less active and a little more nap prone than she usually is...

Some people treat lethargy as an emergency. Some recommend immediate quarantine.

But she's only five days old and is otherwise normal. Should I be concerned? Can baby chicks have bad nights sleeping? Or just have "off" days? They are growing SO much so quickly. That must take a toll...

Some folks recommend electrolytes, but she's getting the same thing all the other chicks get - and they are as full-tilt as can be! When they're not power napping of course...

We'll keep a close eye on her going forward and will quarantine her if needed. But I'm thinking a chill down day might be all she needs to be back to her "normal" albeit laid back self.

Just curious what other BYC folks think. Thanks!
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Oh my gosh I have the same chickens and am worried about one today as well. Same as you. Chicks are two weeks old.
I have seven all together in a plastic tub. Should I make more room for them at this point?
We're only at five days, so I can't guess what the coming weeks will bring!

We have six chicks in one tote, 26" x 16". There's plenty of room at this age, but I highly doubt it will be enough room in a few days or a week. We have two identical totes (one was for quarantine)... I think we will likely have to make a chicken moat to connect them so they have more room during the day! But even with them much bigger I'm sure they will fit in the single tote for sleeping at night.
Welcome! As Kelly said, growing takes energy, and they do sleep a lot. Make sure your chicks have plenty of space, and a temperature gradient in their brooder; warm at one end under the light, and much cooler at the other end. NOT warm everywhere! Also, try not to isolate a chick, as it causes huge stress, and isn't going to help, unless there's really no other choice. Mary
We maintain both a temperature gradient and some shading for even more choices in temperature/light balance for the girls.

We have added a little "rooster booster" to the waterer figuring that can't hurt.

Agreed I will definitely quarantine if needed. But it seems like doing so at this point would be an overreaction to what might be nothing more than a tired chick! I do not want to cause undue stress.

She has participated in a limited fashion the today's barrage of "keep away" games. I'm hoping the other girls will tire themselves out to the point where they want to sleep as much as her :) Then maybe tomorrow she will be back to normal?
It's a warning sign but what you can do about it is limited. Rooster booster is a brand with different products but if it is their electrolytes, vitamins and probiotics mix you are talking about, yes, that is a good idea. Having nutri drench on hand is a good idea, too, in case the chick gets worse. Don't isolate unless the chick gets bothered, stepped on or pecked by the others because that is stressful as Folly's place said.
Keep an eye on her, maybe feed her a few tiny raisin pieces (great chick tonic) and hope for the best! I am keeping my fingers crossed!
Stephanie, thank you for the advice! Yes on the Rooster Boost (Vit/Min/Lacto) mix. We have raisins, and will try that if she does not improve (she is still eating crumbles currently). We have never fed them anything but starter crumbles. So no we have not given them any grit. Is grit needed with starter crumbles? There has been dirt in the brooder since the first day and the do peck at it a lot. I would guess they could get some grit from that. If grit is needed the other five chicks show no sign of inability to digest. I can certainly track some down if needed. I had not heard of nutri drench or seen it in stores. I will look into it, but it's not something I can get right away.

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