What am I doing wrong?


In the Brooder
8 Years
May 30, 2011
New to the forum and obviously new to meat birds. I am suffering amazing mortality. Started with 22 chicks. One never survived the trip home. one caught head in the wire. Lost two more within days in the brooder. Moved them to a pasture pen around 3-4 weeks with a lamp on for the first week. One squished moving the tractor. And now at 6-7 weeks I'm losing them 1 or 2 at a time about every couple days. As soon as I can see they're off, I isolate them put them back under a lamp and try some mollases water, but that just seems to prolong the agony. They mostly are heavy breathing and don't want to lift their heads. Some of them I just find in the morning bluish and stretched out on their backs. I move their pen religiously every morning. I'm feeding gamebird feed free choice. fresh water every day. Admittedly, it is an amazingly cold, wet spring (even tried to snow a little this wknd.). I've raised lots of chickens in the past, mostly DP egglayers, I've never seen anything like this. This started as an experiment and was considering setting up to be able to offer pastured poultry in addition to my grassfed beef and lamb, but am down to eleven at the moment and the whole thing feels like a fiasco. The gamebird feed is 27% is that too high? Is pnuemonia like this, or is this heart failure? If its raining I put dry hay in the covered portion, and try to keep the covered portion free of drafts around the bottom. Is this just part of the learning curve? Are there hatcheries that are known to have a hardier variety of cornish X? These were just picked up at the feed store. Was gearing up to start another batch of 50, but starting to feel like I don't have a clue what I'm doing. Any help would be appreciated. I'm including a pic of the pen, it doesn't seem all that different from others I've seen. (Or maybe not, can't figure out how to include photo)
Sounds like heart failure to me. If they are 6 - 7 weeks and you have been giving them unrestricted feed they are probably ready to butcher right now. Do you know what they weigh right now? I think 27% protein it too high but I am just a beginner myself. I give mine 22% with a 12 on 12 off schedule.
ok then you can't blame the accidents on the birds, but the ones you are loosing now are CHF - get them butchered NOW. They shouldn't be going down at 6 weeks but yours are - I don't know if you over fed, over heated, over excercised, under watered, under vitamined . . . but they are dropping so save what you can.
Ah I just saw gamebird feed 27% - yes too high. Butcher now.
I haven't given any vitamins, and it's free choice feed and water. I figured pasture would be their vitamins. I wonder is it too late to reduce the protein level of the feed. I guess I'll start butchering what I can now. Alot of these guys aren't yet fully feathered out. I did butcher one that was having leg problems, it weighed 1.7 lbs dressed, the plan was to grow them out to roaster size, is that too much of a crap shoot. I was thinking maybe they were stressed by the weather (upper thirties,lower forties at nite sometimes with rain. Are there hardier varieties of CX, or is it better to order from a hatchery than what a person picks up at a random feed store? Honestly, I'm trying to pay attention to these guys, don't like watching anything suffer.
the cold doesn't affect these birds too much and not fully feathered is a standard state as well.
It is your free choice 27% protein that is doing them in, that's not to blame on the chickens either. Read the stickies at the top of this page - all of them - all the way through.
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I have been raising broilers for over 5 years. It sounds like they needed medicated for Air Sac. This spreads fast, and these birds are very sensitive to heat, cold, too much wind...and so on. Im so sorry you are battling this.
Well, luckily the cold and too much wind doesn't effect mine at all. As a matter of fact we was pretty chilly today and I opened up the pop door thinking that I would get a little air moving in there and 15 of my 19 were out in it and I had to pack them all back in to get them back into the coop. The top net isn't quite finished on the run yet and we have hawks circling so I stay out with them. They love being outside when it's cooler and the wind doesn't do anything except make them run and play.

I agree with Katy....to much free choice protein. I would butcher ASAP and cut your losses. I am new to meat birds and I have read tons of info on them!!! Almost to the point of being paranoid.
Mine really are doing awesome!! Don't give up!!

BTW...mine have had broiler booster vitamins in the water since I got them.
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Yes this. Cold doesn't stress them much, heat does. It's been cold here (40's-50's during the day and 30's-40's at night) up until like yesterday and mine have been oustide in a tractor since 3 weeks with absolutely no supplemental heat and I have had no losses at all. I agree that it's the 27% free choice food that's the problem, and you should read the Meatie 101 sticky at the top of the page.
So far today what's left is looking perky, although more wind and rain tonight. I'm changing the feed to a broiler finisher till I can arrange time for butcher. Are all Cornish X chicks virtually the same bird, or are there varieties or suppliers that are known to be more hardy? Right now if I'm going to continue this project, I'm starting to think I'm going to have to leave CX to the pros. Starting to look at Welps Slow Broiler or Cornish Roaster from Mcmurray.

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