Friday, April 18, 2014

Troubleshooting Breeding Season Part 5 - Early Chick Death

How exciting to have new baby chicks hatch! The second egg looks like it needs a helping hand to careful breaking the shell away from the chick. Often, the chick can do it by its self but if humidity is low drying occurs and the chick is trapped inside and dies. Sometimes I add a small drop of water when the drying is excessive so that I do not accidentally damage the chick.

Squashed chick

Building excellent nests that are not wide on the bottom and not excessively deep is critical to hatching and chick survival.  Nervous hens will sit so sit that without protection, the chick may get on its side and be smashed. I like to inspect and correct the nest before sitting the hen but at times I have to correct it again when the chicks hatch so that it is not so wide that the chicks are venerable to harm. Sometimes I have another hens nest that failed to hatch who built a great nest. I can substitute her nest for the faulty wide one. I also often add a plastic egg or two to help protect the chicks from getting trapped in the bottom of the nest.

Chick Death  0 - 5 days, Hen OK

1. Hen Not Feeding.  Even if the hen isn't feeding, the chick lives on the absorbed egg yolk during its first few hours. During the second day, chicks that are not being fed well may die. These chicks have lots of visible bare skin where well fed ones are covered in baby fuzz. The most often the hen does not feed is meddling. The most basic instinct is to protect her chick from predators so when you meddle the hen sits tight and does not feed!

2. Delay in offering food in the morning - As soon as the light comes on in the morning be up and ready to add fresh food and then leave and let them have their privacy. Sleeping in and delaying offering fresh food will result in numerous chick losses, especially the newly hatched ones.

3. Hatching Over Several Days. When eggs are left under the hen as she lays them, the chicks may hatch over several days, thus giving a big size advantage to the first chicks hatched. More chicks are successfully raised when the eggs are removed daily and one plastic egg put in the nest on the first day only. Store the eggs with the small end up to help protect the membrane on the large end from drying out as this is where the pipping chick must break through during the hatching process.

4. Water is a common source of problems. Any time someone has early chick death, I always inquire about the water. It should not have come through any in home water treatment such as a water softener and this throws the electrolyte balance off and all chicks turn red from dehydration and die but adults seem OK.

Likewise, water should not be from a garden hose or a holding tank. if you have a problem with early chick death, I recommend you buy some distilled water (not spring water) but actually pure water and rule out water as the source of the problem.

5. Black Spot at this age is likely due to Circovirus. Circovirus can be confirmed in chicks 1 to 5 days old by seeing a black spot on the right side of their abdomen. Should they be nursed along with hand feeding, they will remain carriers for life. Not all chicks in a nest may show the black spot but others that survive that nest are likely carriers.

6. Ghostly White Chicks. Even though the chicks are initially being fed, their color is pale and paler and then death. This is due to mites and kills all young chicks and any weaker older birds. They even cause red spots on people. The easiest way to treat this is with Hot Spot Flying Insect pest strips but this must be handled carefully as it is toxic. Search my canary blog for more information on treating mites.

Chick Death 5 - 10 days, Hen Effected

1. Sweating Hens who get their breast soiled are not actually sweating but getting fecal material all over them.  This is usually due to feeding too rich of diet and the more the hen feeds the more likely you see this problem. Usually first appearing when the chicks are just banded. The skin color becomes increasingly more red as dehydration sets in.

Clean the nest and replace nesting material as needed. Drop the protein in the diet and offer some oatmeal and dry nestling. Check the vents for a thin lacquer like seal and wash and remove the seal and make sure the vent is open.

2. Pungent Odor - If the cage smells, begin treating immediately with KD powder and if the smell persists treat for E. coli with antibiotics.

First Aid: If a chick dies, immediately begin treating the parents water with Dr. Rob Marshall's KD powder. KD powder is effective against a broad range of organisms such as E. coli, Strep, Thrush, fungus and viruses. KD acidifies the water the parents drink and thus also the contents of their crop. Young in the nest are at a higher risk because the regurgitated food may have stayed in the parents crop for a prolonged time before being fed and any contaminate present can multiple in the parents warm crop environment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Great articles and I also am a strong believer in Dr. Marshall's products and KDCleaner. keep up the good work..