Sometimes people call VJP Poultry and tell me that their newborn chicks aren’t doing well. Together, we try to trouble shoot and figure out exactly what is causing these chicks to fail. Careful chick management is important to the health of your newborns. I will try to highlight some of these things that could be effecting your chicks and give you some tips on how to improve your system.
Newborns need to be kept very warm. Sometimes people go too far. If you keep your brooder at too high of temperature dehydration and vent pasting can occur. Chicks that are panting and are trying to escape to the edge of their brooders are telling you that it is too warm for them. On the other hand, keeping the brooder at too low a temperature can cause chilling and smothering as the chicks crowd together to stay warm. My tip would be to set up your brooder and heat lamp ahead of time before the chicks arrive. Take the temperature of different areas in the brooder. Make sure that there is enough room so that the chicks do not have to constantly be under the hottest part of the brooder. Keep the brooder away from drafts and chilly spots like basement floors.
Ventilation is also important. Fresh air must be available and be able to move throughout the brooder. Holes placed in the sides of a tub brooder can help keep air moving.
Poisoning of chicks can occur from using contaminated feed. Feed that is old can have mold or fungus growing in it. Always use fresh feed. Be careful if you are using fermented feed. Don’t give treats right away, let them get used to their chick starter first. If you do add any treats, make sure that you area also giving them grit to help them grind it up in their crops.
Injuries can occur, especially if newborns are handled too much. Their legs muscles can easily be stretched too far if the try to walk on slippery surfaces. Traction is needed. A tip would be to keep a sticky shelf liner mat under the pine shavings. This will help legs to become stronger. Bumps or pecks to the head can result in death especially if you have chicks with head vaults. Baby chicks can be jumpers so be aware if young children are holding the chicks.
Make sure that there is plenty of floor space in the your brooder. Overcrowding causes dampness in the litter which leads to Coccidiosis – the number one parasite killer in chicks. Less feeder and waterer space causes starvation and dehydration in young chicks. Make sure that your chick is eating and drinking. You may have to dip its head in the water to show it how. Electrolytes or sugar in the water can help a chick that appears to be fading and losing weight. Vitamin supplements in the water are good too.
Clean your brooder and keep it dry. Sometimes waterers can spill. Damp shavings can harbor micro organisms that can cause infections. I clean and sanitize my brooders once a week. Wash feeders and waterers.
Keep your chicks clean as well. Inspect their bottoms for pasting up and carefully remove and built up poo. I inspect their feet also and remove and poo build up on the bottoms of their feet.
Watch out for predators. Dogs, cats and other pets can harm your chicks. Make sure your brooder is constructed safe and that it has a screen or lid on top of it. Keeps pets out of the chick brooder area.
These were just a few suggestions on how to improve the odds that your chick will survive its infancy. The younger the chick, the more fragile it is and the more care that is needed to be taken. Have fun and enjoy your newborn silkie chicks.