Friday, April 21, 2017

6 Most common problems in chicks

Chick season is upon us and just about everyone I know has hatched or bought new chicks for their flocks! By now your baby chicks are running around their brooder happily doing their cute little chick things. Nothing can make the fun come to a halt faster then a sick chick can though....and I have spent more then my fair share of time worrying about the little feather balls! 

It can be pretty upsetting when you don't know what's wrong with your chick. Luckily there aren't too many illnesses chicks can get so it's usually pretty easy to figure out what's wrong.

illness in chicks

First of all relax, most chick issues are not your fault! Many are caused by genetics or nutritional deficiencies in the breeding stock.

The first thing you need to do when you notice a sick chick is to make sure they have everything they need in their brooder. (here's a list of brooder necessities) You'll want to make sure chicks are not too hot or too cold. If your chicks are a week old the brooder temperature should be around 95° at chick level, right under their heat source. You'll want to decrease this temperature by 5° a week as they grow. 

Make sure their water is clean and not contaminated with food, bedding or chick poo. Make sure the food is dry and free from chick droppings also.

Here 6 are the most common chick illnesses...
Pasty butt: when diarrhea like poop clogs up the chicks vent and prevents her from pooping its called pasty butt. This can be fatal. Clean the chicks butt off under warm water. Do not pick off the dry poop clump as you will definitely pull out the feathers and might cause her delicate bum skin to tear. Soak it off gently. Dry, then apply olive oil to vent and bum to prevent poop from sticking. (do not use Vaseline) Check that the brooder is an appropriate temperature. You should add probiotics to the chicks feed or give small amounts of plain yogurt with active cultures. Keep watch the next few days as it often takes a few days to go away.

Coccidiosis: a parasitic infection of the digestive tract. Contagious. Can be fatal. Often indicated by reddish or bloody poop. Many people give medicated chick starter to avoid this problem. If you choose to not feed medicated feed (I don't) add a little ACV to the chicks water to help prevent coccidiosis. If you suspect your chick has coccidiosis separate the affected chicks into a different brooder. Give chicks plain yogurt with active cultures along with their chick feed and ACV in their water.

Shipping stress:You can add Sav-A-Chick to the chicks water when you first get them to give them an electrolyte and vitamin boost. Or add a little sugar or molasses to their water when you first get the chicks to give them a little calorie boost. Don't ever give chicks honey as it can contain botulism spores which can be fatal to small chicks.Make sure they're warm and comfortable and don't handle them much in the first few days till they get used to their new home.

Spraddle leg or Splay leg: When one or both legs slip out to the sides making a chick unable to stand or walk correctly. Click here for my complete instructions on helping chicks with spraddle leg.   

Crossbeak aka scissorbeak: when the top and bottom beak do not line up properly. It can be anywhere from a mild misalignment to a severe deformity. Gently filing the edges with a nail file can help slightly. You'll want to give feed in a deep dish and the chick will learn to scoop their food instead of peck it. Feeding mash might help. With extreme deformity culling might be the kindest option. Do not breed the chick once it reaches adulthood. Crossbeak can be hereditary. 

Wry neck or stargazing: when the neck bends to the side so the head is beside the body instead of straight up or the neck bends back so the chick is looking upwards (sometimes causing the chick to walk backwards) Read here to see how I treat wry neck.

Failure to thrive: sometimes no matter what you do a chick just doesn't thrive. Make sure she's not being picked on or kept out of the warm areas of the brooder and can access the feed and water. Feed her the mashed yolk of a boiled egg and add a little plain yogurt to it. If she's being picked on and you have to separate her put another chick in with her to keep her company, it might help her perk up faster.

Sometimes no matter what we do a chick just doesn't make it. In these cases I try to learn from each one and move on. Thankfully the majority of the time all the chicks do just fine and grow up to be happy & healthy. Then one day a year later I'm waking through the yard and start wondering "where did all these chickens come from?" 😉


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  1. We have been thinking about trying our hand at chicks. Thanks for the great information! It will help, if we ever get some! Visiting from the Homesteader Blog Hop!

  2. Thanks for this article! I've lost two chicks in the past three years---Pasty butt and the other one...I just have no clue. After reading this list (which was pretty eye-opening for me--about all the possible conditions chicks can have), I think it was probably just failure to thrive for my other baby. It's hard not to take chicks' deaths personally...

    1. Awww, that's sad...but it's not uncommon. Don't be hard on yourself! Sometimes they just don't do well, especially if they were shipped. I had one with pasty butt for almost 3 weeks! Every time I got him cleared up, he got it again. He finally just died and I felt so horrible, but I think he just wasn't a healthy chick to begin with. It's sad but it happens.

      Have a great week!

  3. Great list. This sort of information isn't shared enough with new chicken keepers. Great work!

    1. Thanks! I'm so glad that you found this list to be useful!


  4. Thanks for all these great tips. Also you have to war and clean their bums all their time until it clears up.

    1. Yes! You do, because some of them have it for a few days. Good point!

      Thanks for stopping by!



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