Win a copy of Straw Bale Building Details this week in the Straw Bale House forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
  • Anne Miller
  • Mike Jay
  • Jocelyn Campbell
stewards:
  • Devaka Cooray
  • Burra Maluca
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
  • Dave Burton
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Mike Barkley
  • Shawn Klassen-Koop
  • Pearl Sutton

Higher than expected chick deaths - what can I do to stop that?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 159
Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
10
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I ordered 100 Freedom Ranger broilers this year.  Got 103, and upon arrival all were alive and vigorous.  Last year I ordered 50 and got 52.  Wound up keeping last year's in the brooder to 4.5 weeks because of really cold/wet weather at the 3-3.5 week mark that I'd wanted to put them on pasture.  Only lost 1 last year in the brooder at 1-2 weeks old.  This year I wasn't too surprised or worried when I found one dead around the same age.  It had been looking poor the night before.  The next day I found another one dead that I think had actually died first, but was buried in the wood shavings enough to not be spotted right away.  OK, 2 dead chicks with 103 is comparable to 1 dead chick out of 52.  So I wasn't overly concerned.  Broiler chicks (or any chicks) don't have a 100% survival rate in the best of conditions.  Then I found another one dead in the evening feeding/watering time.  That was unfortunate, but I figured if that's it, that's OK.  The next morning was another dead chick.  That one looked red in one eye, and maybe around the vent.  I had Corid on hand, so I figured best to do a course of treatment in case it was coccidiosis.  Started that on Sunday, and have been keeping them on fresh water twice a day (which I was anyway) and adding the Corid plus a little electrolyte powder.  This morning I found another dead chick.  That one looked otherwise fine, was a good size, had some food but not too much in its crop, no apparent trauma.  I'm almost afraid to go in there tonight.

They're 3 weeks old now.  They're feathered out well enough I think that I'm going to move them out onto grass as soon as it stops freezing over night (which should have been 2 weeks ago but mother nature didn't get the memo on last frost day).  Other than coccidiosis what should I be looking out for?  They were all vaccinated for Marek's.  Or is this a normal amount of mortality to expect from Freedom Rangers (and I just got lucky last year)?
 
pioneer
Posts: 743
Location: 4b
110
bee building dog forest garden trees
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would verify that the temperature is good and that they aren't getting any drafts.  I haven't lost a chick since I started feeding them fermented food, but I'm also very careful to keep them warm, dry, and draft free.  At 3 weeks old, mine are kept at 80 degrees.  I start them with an brooder that has a large area that is 95-100 that they can move in and out of as they like.  I lower the temp by 5 degrees or so a week until they are at least a month old.  I don't let them get wet.  If you move them onto grass when the temps are wet and cold, I would expect sick and dying chicks.

I don't vaccinate chicks and I've never had coccidiosis.  I think keeping them warm, dry, not overcrowded, and on fermented food takes care of the rest.  Fermented food also saves you money.
 
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: Ontario, Canada
94
homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I second the fermented feed.  I've never hatched out chickens, but I've hatched a couple hundred or so Coturnix quail and only lost two.  The first one was one I helped out of the shell after several hours and it just wasn't strong enough, while the second somehow got under the feeder and got crushed.  

I ran an experiment with 28% non-gmo turkey starter crumbles, both fermented and not.  I found that fermenting the feed resulted in using 40% less feed to reach maturity.  It also resulted in zero waste as there was no picking through the feed; they just gobbled it down.  

Apple cider vinegar with the live bacteria in the water is also something I've used with chickens and rabbits with excellent results.
 
Trace Oswald
pioneer
Posts: 743
Location: 4b
110
bee building dog forest garden trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Timothy Markus wrote:

Apple cider vinegar with the live bacteria in the water is also something I've used with chickens and rabbits with excellent results.



Forgot to mention, I do that as well.  I only use about a teaspoon each time I fill the waterer, but they drink it really well.  
 
Andrew Mayflower
Posts: 159
Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
10
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Been toying with fermenting feed, but it is extra work and potential mess.  One thing at a time.  Next year I'm hoping to be organized enough to ferment the feed.  If I can cut the feed bill by 40% that is also, of course, a huge savings with 100 broilers.

No more deaths since I posted up at least.  I have today and tomorrow still to run with the Corid treatment.  Thankfully they still have 6 more weeks once that is done until slaughter day which should be plenty of time to clear it from their systems.  There's no withdrawal period for it anyway, but that will still be a good separation.
 
Timothy Markus
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: Ontario, Canada
94
homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I like simple, so I use a bucket system.  To get the first batch going I filled a bucket half with water, poured in enough feed to fill it up to within 3" of the top, then added some live ACV and also some left-over yeast from beer.  After two days it was ready to go, so I started using it.  When I started to get low, about a 1/4 of the bucket, I put water and feed into a second bucket, then added a scoop of the fermented feed.  Rinse and repeat.  The extra work, for me, was in feeding every day, instead of filling up a feeder but, after they were mature, I was collecting eggs every day anyway, so I didn't have to make any extra trips.  I never got around to making a feeder for it, but I think you could.  Flies are definitely attracted to it, and some would get trapped in the open bucket, but I just figured that was a bonus.  

One thing that I haven't explored yet is fermenting whole grains.  They can keep for decades if kept dry and cool; processed feed loses its nutrition pretty quickly.  I've got a mill or two, and chickens have crops to handle whole grain, but you could further reduce your feed bill by buying bulk whole grain and just fermenting it whole.  It would probably take more than a couple of days to get going, but you'd save even more money.  I think that any grains I'd ever feed other livestock would be best fermented in order to make them very digestible.  I've seen whole grains pass right through cows and pigs, but I'd bet you wouldn't find any if they were fermented first.

I also found that, in addition to reducing the amount you need to feed, the birds were healthier overall.  I've never experienced any pecking issues that I could attribute to improper nutrition.  Also, the quail poop smelled much, much less than with the same feed that wasn't fermented, a big plus when you brood them in your basement.
 
Andrew Mayflower
Posts: 159
Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't free-choice feed my broilers.  I feed them twice daily as I don't want them gorging themselves all day long and growing too fast.  Also, once on pasture I want to encourage them to forage.  Longer term I'm going to put up semi-permanent fencing to create a fixed set of paddocks for the broilers with movable internal dividers for rotation.  That area would be planted with forage crops (similar idea to this though maybe not exactly that).  I doubt that alone would be sufficient for their caloric needs, but I like the idea of having them self harvest a significant percentage of their food.  

Anyway, I suppose it's not a huge extra deal to ferment their feed.  I probably won't be starting that this week or next week though as DW will have to take care of them while I head off to a church men's retreat (this weekend) and (weather permitting) to the coast for halibut fishing (next weekend).  She really would object to having to mess with fermenting the feed.  She doesn't really want to help with caring for the broilers at all, which is fine, but that means that when I do have to have her help it has to be in a way she's OK with for those couple of days.
 
Andrew Mayflower
Posts: 159
Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Gah!  Lost another!  Please look at the pictures in the link below and let me know if you see anything that tells you much.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/7VZxV2wG79Gi2tWE7
 
Trace Oswald
pioneer
Posts: 743
Location: 4b
110
bee building dog forest garden trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Did you check the temperature and check for drafts?  Are they dry?
 
Andrew Mayflower
Posts: 159
Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
They're dry.  I'd even just put a new layer of wood chips down last night.  No drafts, but even if there were they're feathered out enough it shouldn't matter that much.
 
Trace Oswald
pioneer
Posts: 743
Location: 4b
110
bee building dog forest garden trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
And they are at 80 degrees?  The most common cause of chick deaths, I believe, is keeping them too hot so they dehydrate, or keeping them too cold.  It's also one of the easiest factors to control.  They just need a large area of the correct temperature, and the ability to move in and out of that area freely.  
 
steward
Posts: 4095
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
1200
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
6% mortality?

Seems like the easiest way to deal with those kinds of odds is to change expectations.

That's 94% survival!!!

 
Trace Oswald
pioneer
Posts: 743
Location: 4b
110
bee building dog forest garden trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It really is a matter of expectations.  I lose far less than that, but I also don't raise as many.  The most I have raised in one year was 40, but my biggest loss in any one year was 2 chicks, and most years I don't lose any.  
 
Trace Oswald
pioneer
Posts: 743
Location: 4b
110
bee building dog forest garden trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here is a pretty good article discussing mortality rates among broilers.  The study is approximately 10 years old.

Poultry Site
 
Timothy Markus
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: Ontario, Canada
94
homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I just had a thought, and they don't come often, so I figured I'd record it for posterity.

One possibility is that they're piling due to scares.  I've been told by several people who raise cornish that they need to keep them in groups of 70-80 or you start to get suffocation when they're startled and all pile into a corner.  Do you think this might be a possibility?  You could try to split the space in half and see if that stops it.

I think Joseph's got a point, 6% isn't bad, though I think we all have a similar mindset in that we'd like to try to get to 0 mortality.
 
Posts: 339
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
75
cat chicken fish forest garden homestead hugelkultur cooking transportation trees urban woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A few things to also consider:

1. What is the source of the wood shavings, what type of wood, and how much dust is in it? Natural, untreated wood with very low dust component is best.
2. The crowding issue seems a real possibility. Humidity, temperature and ventilation is critical and tricky to balance if there’s large variable numbers of chicks e.g. there’s a tipping point you’ll need to work out.
3. Hygiene – how regularly do you disinfect the trays, not just swap out the wood shavings.

I purchased my last lot of day old chicks from a poultry club breeder and he took me on a tour of his yard – he had about 8 or more separate pure breeds, from day olds up to mature show/breeding birds, all separated by age and bred in their own enclosures – obviously he’s on acreage. His two antique brooders are composed of several galvanised steel trays in a modular unit with water nipples, very sparsely sprinkled with fine wood shavings containing near zero dust. He just hand sprinkles food onto the trays and the chicks help themselves.

Each tray holds one hatching from the incubator, so all chicks are the same age. He keeps them in the brooders until they are fully feathered then puts them out into sheds, typically avoiding the extremes of summer and winter.

He feeds them Medicated Chick Starter, places a few drops of Apple Cider Vinegar in their water, and, a concoction of molasses/iodine/water premixed in a bottle – only one drop to their drinking water a week. He’s never had issue with any diseases and his birds are beautifully plumed, robust and spirited.

I didn’t discuss the mortality rate – just figured that statistically there would always be weak ones at some point, but again, it’s dependant on breeding and hygiene.

As Joseph noted - 94% survival rate is pretty good.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
steward
Posts: 4095
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
1200
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Survival rate for chicks on my farm, raised by broody hens, is about 85%.

 
Andrew Mayflower
Posts: 159
Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Finally was able to get them moved out onto grass yesterday.  Overall lost 7, so given I got 3 extras to start with, I've got 96 left.  

So far so good with them being out on grass.  Should have had them out there at least several days sooner, but schedules made that impossible.

Ravens are now my primary concern.  Last year they killed 3 of the 51 that made it out of the brooder (received 52 in the shipment).  Rather than the frustration of bird netting I'm trying stringing blue flagging tape over their area.  With the way it flutters in the breeze my hope is that will disrupt the raven's vision enough that they won't want to chance flying into the chicken area.  Fingers crossed.
 
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work - Edison. Tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/wiki/bootcamp
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!