Young chickens dying...Sherlock Holmes, where are you?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by babsbag, Dec 19, 2012.

  1. babsbag

    babsbag Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 12, 2010
    Anderson, CA
    I have been raising chickens for about 4 years and I thought I had this all figured out but I need to get some input from some other minds on this one. I have had many many chicks raised here by broodies, by incubation, and by purchase and I have never had this kind of mortality.

    I am not sure when a chick becomes a chicken, but these birds are about 3-4 months old. They were hatched and raised by three broody hens. I captured moms and the chicks to "keep them safe", but this isn't working well.

    These chickens are living in a 10 x 10 covered dog run, they now have a heat lamp just to be sure, but still losing the young chickens. I know it is not predators as they have an electric fence around them and no sign of any damage on the dead birds. Sometimes they are dead on the ground, and sometimes in the cage they sleep in. There are now only about 6 young chickens left in this pen, but about 8 mature chickens live in there as well.

    Over the last 12 weeks I have lost probably 10 out of 16 chicks. The first 4 were young, less than a month and I figured it was them getting beat up or stepped on by a grown chicken, or maybe just bad genetics. At first they were with thier mom and she was keeping them warm at night so I know it wasn't cold. I brought the last 2 of those 4 inside as they didn't look well, but lost them anyways.

    When I started losing chicks from another hen I started to get worried, and then from yet another hen. It would be one or two a day and then none for a week and then another, no pattern, and only the young ones.

    My first thought was coccidia so I treated for that in the water for 5 days, two different times. Still lost birds.

    Next thought was the bird that was growing up to be a big rooster, so I moved him out into the goat pen.

    Next thought was too cold, even though CA isn't really cold and the birds are way beyond fully feathered and have a cage with a perch that they get in and on. So DH gave them a heat lamp. They also had their moms to keep them warm, even though they were big birds.

    Next thought was mites or lice as I found one on a chick that is in the house with wry neck. So I treated the entire pen, birds and ground with poultry dust.

    I had 3 young chickens living in my house as a last ditch effort to stop this dying streak. One of them developed wry neck so I have been treating that and it is getting better. The other two seemed fine and I decided that they needed to go back to the coop. They were in there 2 days and I found one dead tonight. This morning it was fine.I have been watching this group closely for tell tale signs and I usually I see nothing. The one with wry neck was a little "off" before the neck thing started, but other than that I have no clues.

    What the heck.

    I just moved 12 more chicks into that pen out of desperation tonight. They are 6 weeks old and fully feathered. This weekend I am moving all the adult chickens out (it was supposed to be a temp. breeding pen and now it is a nursery).

    I had to move chicks out of the garage as tomorrow I will need thier pen and heat lamp for some unexpected arrivals. I had a broody desert her eggs and they are hatching in my incubator right now. My other incubator has eggs set for the New year day hatch, and my Eco-Glow warmer is in getting repaired. I was not counting on these chicks from the broody.

    I also have to move the wry neck chick out of the guest bathtub. Luckily Christmas guests will only be my 2 sons and they are the ones that started my chicken addiction.

    Any ideas, thoughts, suggestions? I am all ears.
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Ugh, how distressing. I'm so sorry you are going through this.

    I certainly don't know what it is -- but judging from the lack of replies, I'd say you haven't found anyone yet who has an idea either, unfortunately.

    In California, UC Davis has a vet school that will do a free necropsy. I think you can even ship the body to them. This might be your best solution, hopefully to learn for certain what is going on. They will also put a live bird down to do it.
  3. Gallina8

    Gallina8 Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 20, 2012
  4. babsbag

    babsbag Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 12, 2010
    Anderson, CA
    I think the necropsy may be in order right after Christmas. I only live a few hours from thUC Davis and have used them before.
    I will look at those sites and see if I can find anything. Thank you,

    Since I moved the 6 week old chicks into that pen I have lost 3 of them..2 today. [​IMG] They looked fine last night and ate well. This morning they were fluffed, and obviously sick. I moved them and put them under a heat lamp, and gave them Tylan just in case. By tonight they were dead.

    The pen they are in is a dog run wrapped in a tarp, but I raise the tarp on nice days so they get some sun. The ventilation is fine. I covered the floor of the coop with some fresh straw so any dirt that might have been "infected" is now 12" under straw. They have fresh water, on an automatic waterer and I am feeding layer feed and med. chick starter. Fresh bags of feed and the feed is dry so I can rule out bad feed. A bag lasts me less than a week so no time for mold to grow anyways.

    They have a heat lamp as well if they need it. It has been down in the 30's at night, but I was losing birds way before it started getting cold so I can't point at that. I have moved three back into another cage as they looked a little under the weather this morning but look fine tonight.

    I am moving the older hens out tomorrow as they just bully the little guys at the feeder even though there is plenty of room. They were actually stepping on them this morning. They are only in there as they were the ones I was gathering eggs from to hatch. I moved the rooster out a month ago so no reason for the hens to be separarte any longer.

    This is heartbreaking. These chicks are ones that I hatched and raised and were supposed to be the beginning of a breeding project. I also have 7 silkie eggs in the incubator due to hatch Jan 1. I am just devastated.
  5. babsbag

    babsbag Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 12, 2010
    Anderson, CA
    So after losing my fourth CA Gray chick in less than 2 weeks I decided to have a necropsy done.

    This is what they found.

    Cocci ( I treated for 5 days 2 times)
    Bacterial egg yolk infection
    And a chick that looked like it starved to death.

    The only thing I can say is that I treated for cocci again, and the rest of the chicks are still with me. I use Corid mixed in their water and have good results in the past. I am not sure why this treatment failed.

    As far as starving, they had plenty of food. But this may be a lesson learned by me in regards to having older birds with the real young ones. Maybe the older ones are just too aggressive and even though there is room at the feeder the big ones just move around and trade places so much that the little ones just don't get what they need. I do believe that chickens will eat and eat and eat, there never seems to be a time I don't see them intereseted in food. Even my free range birds will eat whatever I give them and act like they are starving for it. I feel horrible that I didn't notice this. The older hens have all been moved back to the main coop and I won't make this mistake again.

    The bacterial infection...I have no clue. They were hatched in a sterilzed incubator and moved into a wire cage in my house with clean paper towels as a floor. They were then moved to a bigger cage in my garage with pine shavings when they were about 3- 4 weeks old. I have no idea how or when or where this started. I wish I had sent others in for the necropsy, it would be interesting to know if they were all infected or only this one.

    Here is a part of the actual report. At least it isn't something contagious, but I can't believe I actually lost them to cocci and a food shortage. I feel really really really guilty. I am a better chicken mom than that.

    There were fairly large numbers of coccidia in the intestinal tract but while it is significant I am uncertain whether it was sufficient
    by itself to cause death. In particular, the bird was in poor nutritional condition with no appreciable fat depots seen and so this in
    conjunction with the coccidiosis likely was responsible for death. The bird, also had a small localized nodular yolk sac remnant
    in its abdomen that was infected with bacteria. Because this appeared to be very localized (wall-off) I suspect it was a rather
    incidental finding but I can't rule out that this yolk sac infection also was a significant contributor to the bird 's death (often these
    walled-off yolk remnants, even when infected, are rather incidental). However, yolk sac infections in younger birds are very
    significant causing resulting in death so if you have had mortality in newly hatched birds, then yolk sac infections should be
    considered. In summary then, I believe that nutrition plus intestinal coccidiosis are the primary causes responsible for the
    clinical signs and death of this bird, but would also consider possible bacterial yolk infections may be significant particularly in
    any younger birds that died.
  6. daoustaj

    daoustaj Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 22, 2012
    The chicks dont eat layer do they?
  7. jaburke

    jaburke Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 2, 2011
    Pocola, Ok
    This is the same problem that im having. Chicks die at the age of 2 to 4 mis. Ive treat with every thing over and over. Ive cleanse with lysol Lyme and oxzine. Clean bedding every week.
  8. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress Premium Member

    Sep 6, 2007
    spring hill, florida
    Wow. That's awful. Last summer I lost 3 two month olds , they just dropped dead overnight. I decided to treat for coccidiosis. Then 2 more died. I added Tylan. The deaths stopped. The survivors got treated for another 7 days. The first 3 did not have blood in the stool and looked normal the night before. The other 2 got a gross eye infection (?) and died, (prior to treating). I don't hesitate to pull out the big guns anymore. One of them was treated in my bedroom for 7 days with Penicillin injections. She got better but now has a lazy eye. I have no idea where this stuff comes from.

    You did the right thing with the necropsy.
  9. babsbag

    babsbag Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 12, 2010
    Anderson, CA
    They weren't eating it until I moved them into the big pen and they were fine before I moved them; so YES, they were eating layer for the 5 days before they died. Before that they were on medicated chick starter.

    So why, what is wrong with layer for older chicks? It is crumbles. Am I about to learn something new???? Please enlighten me.
  10. babsbag

    babsbag Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 12, 2010
    Anderson, CA
    I have broody hens all summer long, they live in my orchard and they raise chicks with no problems...they don't even get much supplemental feed and do fine; I just make sure they have access to water. Those chicks are incredibly hardy, and I never check for pasty butt either.

    I take the same eggs and have nothing but problems. Hard to believe a chicken can raise babies better than me.

    I use Tylan quite often. It is my go to drug of choice for any chicken that looks under the weather.

    I will be treating these chicks again for cocci. If it is in my soil and liter what prevents a re-infection? Medicated feed???

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