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Help! Why did my baby chick die?

 
Posts: 7
Location: Arkansas Ozarks 6B
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Hi, longtime lurker here and desperation has driven me to make a first post. This forum has been integral to me getting things up and running on the farm and Im so grateful to all the folks here who freely share their knowledge and time! Hopefully someone can give me some insight to what happened. Apologies in advance for length, but I wanna make sure I get any relevant details. (Not sure whats relevant so ill include everything)
I was finally able to grow a garden and get some chickens this year due to my seasonal job in Alaska being cancelled and my dad retiring. (My father has raised chicks before)

I ordered 14 chicks from a big hatchery, vaccinated for mareks, and today they are 7 days old. Past most danger, or so I thought.

Yesterday and this morning all were active and vigorous. This afternoon, one buckeye chick was a little listless, not running around when I walked over like the rest. He was also noticeably smaller than the rest. We sat and watched to make sure he was ok, and within 10 minutes, he was half closing his eyes, not moving from his spot and looking like a sleepy chick but didn't snap out of it like a normal sleepy chick would, and would lay his head on a buddy until the other chick moved, and then would for a second be alert before "dozing" again. We thought to isolate him in a cardboard box inside the brooder so he could rest without the other chicks disturbing him. He laid down and within another maybe 10 minutes, he was laying on his side and panting heavily.
I looked up what to do for a sick/weak/gasping chick and multiple homesteading sites said to give yogurt or molasses mixed with warm water in an eye dropper.  So my dad first gave him plain water in a dropper, and he drank eagerly and rested a few minutes. I then gave him the mix, with some vitamin E oil that was also recommended. The isolation box, upon using the laser thermometer was only about 87 so I warmed a t-shirt by the space heater next to the brooder, wrapped him and continued the dropper regimen. His beak would open and close but other than that he seemed out of it, and when I put him back in the box, he was completely limp. I left for a few minutes and when I came back, he was on his back, and then began thrashing his legs about. At that point, my dad called it and ended his suffering.

Does this sound like anything to anyone? All the other chicks seem okay. I put down fresh straw bedding and sanitized the feeder and am hoping this wasn't contagious.
Could I have made it worse with the dropper stuff? One other factor was he had straw stuck to his leg pretty good with either blood or poop. But when I noticed that, I didn't want to bother him trying to clean him and getting him wet, and couldn't do a post mortem. But there was nothing in the brooder that could have wounded his leg?
It all just happened so fast and it was less than an hour  from the initial "is he sick or sleepy?" to his death. This was incredibly upsetting and I was contemplating getting goats, but reading how kids can be fragile and die quickly, I don't think I could handle losing a baby kid. I just want to understand and make sure I didn't do anything wrong!
Thanks if you made it though all this!
 
pollinator
Posts: 419
Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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I am not a "chicken" person, but rescue sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. Based on your description, and what I have experienced with orphan ducks and quail I doubt it is an illness or something contagious.

What kills my orphans is two things, temperature and aspiration.  Achieving appropriate temperature (not to warm, not too cool) is super tough with an "only". Dropper feeding any bird can be risky - their breathing hole is before their "swallowing" hole. A weak bird is at extreme risk as they literally may be too weak to keep fluids out of their trachea. You need to put the dropper or syringe gently down their throat so it goes directly into the crop, or at the very least ensure it bypasses the trachea.

Was it the equivalent of a runt? Perhaps just a few grams smaller? Perhaps hours or a day younger than the others?  This small disadvantage made it tough to keep up/fight for food, water, warmest spot...started out a bit behind, and slowly, day by day, lost a tiny bit more ground.

I suspect this one was doomed from the beginning, failure to thrive, and nothing you could have done, or did do, would have changed the outcome. Assuming the others all continue to thrive, chalk this up to nature culling the weak.

 
 
Katerina Rhame
Posts: 7
Location: Arkansas Ozarks 6B
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Thank you so much for your response. I suspect you may be right that he wasn't going to make it anyway.

So heres heres my takeaway from this
1. Ill isolate a sick bird with his own food and water but probably not try to dropper feed as I probably just accelerated his death.
2. I can tell my 3 dominiques and 4 Sussexes apart and I would notice if one wasn't eating or drinking enough. The 6 buckeyes are indistinguishable from one another. So I may mark future batches of lookalike chicks with  a drop of paint or something so I may be able to notice an abnormally behaving one early on.
3. This may have been failure to thrive, but I read that all chickens carry coccidiosis and its normal and good that they are exposed to small amounts which is why hatcheries tell you to go 3-5 days in between bedding changes. But a weak chicken can die from coccidiosis that other chickens can handle without issue. In an older thread on chicken deaths, Elle Sagenev said thrashing is associated with coccidiosis, which happened with my chicken although he had no bloody stools or other symptoms.  So I will be sure to keep amprolium on hand to be able to quickly treat any suspected outbreaks.
 
pollinator
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Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
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Yes, unfortunately some percentage of chicks just don't make it.  If you're losing any additional chicks then treating for coccidiosis makes sense.  Otherwise, make sure they are getting enough ventilation, and have have sufficiently clean bedding.  Ammonia can build up and cause respiratory problems leading to excess mortality.  If you keep enough fresh wood (non cedar) chips in the brooder, there's good ventilation, and they have clean water and plenty of food, any deaths are likely just normal mortality.
 
Thanks tiny ad, for helping me escape the terrible comfort of this chair.
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