As a poultry keeper, you will experience the death of your baby chicks. Some will die one by one, others suddenly with no warning, and in some cases many at the same time. In this article we look at why this might happen and what you can do to mitigate it.
They are so cute!. That is what my kids say each time I bring in or hatch new chicks. They want to hold and cuddle them.
They are adorable and their death can negatively affect you. When I was a new poultry keeper, I lost 40 baby chicks to coccidiosis. They died one by one, overnight and early in the morning.
I gave up. For a while. It took me 8 months to bring in new baby chicks.
The good news is you can do something to eliminate or reduce the mortality rate in baby chicks.
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Why do Baby Chicks Die so Easily
There are several reasons why baby chicks will die. This ranges from natural causes like their genetics to external factors like injuries, low temperatures, and high temperatures. Other factors include diseases, parasites, starvation, and dehydration.
Let us look at the reasons why baby chicks die so easily.
Chicks can be hatched malformed due to genetic factors or environmental factors.. This can lead to their death. Chicks dying from genetic weaknesses are common in eggs hatched from home,
where the breeding flocks are not selected well. Inbreeding can lead to genetically weak chicks. These might not survive the first few days and if they do they might have health issues in the future.
Eggs hatched in commercial hatcheries are carefully selected from strong breeding stock. In case there are malformed chicks, they are culled so as not to allow their weaknesses to be passed down in the lineage
If you want a healthy flock, it is important to identify genetic malformations early. If genetically malformed chicks are allowed to reach maturity, chances are high that they will not be productive. Allowing them to breed will pass on the genetic weaknesses to the next generation.
Identifying malformed chicks is done by observation. Observe for signs like crooked (wry) necks, crooked toes, intestines outside the abdomen, missing eyes, crosse beak, parrot beak, and short upper beak.
The only remedy to malformed chicks is culling.
One of the reasons chicks from the hatchery die is because of physical injuries during transportation. These injuries range from external ones that are easily noticeable to internal ones that cannot be noticed.
Injuries can also occur in backyard flocks where the mother hen is not gentle with newly hatched chicks. If the new hatch is housed in the same coop with a mature flock, the new chicks might get attacked by the older chickens. The reasons for being attached might be pecking orders or inadequate feeding and watering stations. Chicks might also be caught in a fight between mature chickens.
It is important to purchase your chicks from hatcheries that are known to transport chicks well. If possible purchase from your local feed store so that you do not need to transport the chicks over long distances.
Do not mix new baby chicks with mature chickens. Separate them in a different enclosure until they are big enough to join the main flock.
Chicks that have been hatched at the hatchery or incubator need some source of heat. Naturally, the mother hen provides this heat by covering her baby chicks with her feathers and body.
Chickens are warm-blooded. Their bodies need to maintain a new constant temperature range for the bodies to function at optimal levels. Baby chicks cannot control their body temperatures until they are about 3 weeks old and their feathers have grown.
If exposed to cold, the chicks will die because their organs will not function normally. They will also not feed or drink as they should. Malnourishment and related issues might lead to death within the first few days.
The ideal temperature for the brooder should be between 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and should be reduced by 8 degrees Fahrenheit each week. Heat for baby chicks can be provided by the use of heat lamps or heating pads.