My Broiler Chicks are Dying, HELP!! : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

WE have 27 three week old broiler chicks that are slowly dying off. We are now down to 20 chicks. We have given them Terramycin but that hasn't helped. There is no blood in their stools. Heat or lack of heat is not a problem as far as we can tell. A few of the chicks are up and walking around but the majority just lie down and if they do try to get up they just flop and can't seem to walk. Their legs seem "lame" or weak or something. This is our first try at broiler chicks and we are doing everything we should be doing, or so we thought. Overall, none of the chicks look "right" but we don't know what to do. Any help would be appreciated before the rest of them die.

-- The Eight Smiths (, April 04, 2001


Well, I'm sure someone else may give you better answers later; but if you haven't already, I would call my county extension agent and the place where I bought them, and maybe even a vet. I hate to see this happen on your first try. The only things I can think of are these: is there a possiblility that you have them too hot? Or is the area where they are drafty at all? Did you mix the Terramycin with their drinking water like it says to do? How are they eating? If this is a Cornish cross (super fast growing type) are you taking their food away from them every night so they won't eat too much and die? That is all I can think of right now. Maybe it will help. Cynthia

-- Cynthia Speer (, April 04, 2001.

What is the percent of protein in your feed? Broilers grow so fast they need very high protein to prevent weak legs. Our local feed store carries 24% broiler starter. Sometimes still have leg problems.Be sure and keep them dry and free from drafts.

-- jd-tx (, April 04, 2001.

Just finished reading Joel Salatin's Pastured Poultry Profits and he mentions on pp. 205-206 a problem he had with chicks that became crippled and losses were high. He said the chicks' toes would "curl under; this would throw them off balance, and then they would rock back on their hocks to move around. As it advanced, the paralysis would affect the entire leg until finally they would be dragging both legs behind them as they flapped their wings to move around." He says they were still bright eyed and that their appetite for food and water was good. Consulting the Merck Veterinary Manual on chickens he noticed "curled toe disease" which was caused by a riboflavin or Vitamin B12 deficiency fit the symptoms he'd seen. He looked up foods rich in B12 in another reference, greens and organ meats, including liver. He fed the chicks ragweed seeds and chopped beef liver which they greedily ate and he said that all but 2 of the batch survived. He'd lost 30% of a previous batch of chicks. He says now they incorporate brewers' yeast in their ration.

Anyway, I hope this helps and would appreciate your letting me know if it works for you. I plan to raise a bunch of broiler chicks later this spring. Good luck.

-- marilyn (, April 04, 2001.

Are you being a good mommy and wiping their little butts all the time? They can get plugged up. We lost several because of this until someone told us to do it.

-- Cher (, April 04, 2001.

Feeding them cottage cheese or clabbered milk might help.

-- Barbara Fischer (, April 04, 2001.

Believe it or not that broilers.They need high protein and need to be very warm .Cottage cheese and milk is good.Also add greens .

-- Patty {NY State} (, April 04, 2001.

Sounds like you didn't give them the vitamins & electrolytes they need in their water. Get some from your feed store. Hope it's not too late!

-- Jean (, April 05, 2001.

I had the same problem with my cornish cross the first time I raised them. What kind of heat lamp are you using?....if you're using a white bulb change to a red one. Or make sure you take their food away in the evening. Otherwise they literally eat themselves to death and grow too fast for their legs to support the weight. Like others have said you need a broiler starter feed with high protein. Hope everything turns out ok for you.

-- Kent in WA (, April 05, 2001.

Most of this has been covered already, but I'll recap what we do. First, broilers should be on a high protein meat builder type of feed. We let them run themselves out of food each night about 7:00 or so but make sure they have water available. This helps to keep them from outgrowing what their legs can take. Offer them grit free choice at about day 3. Otherwise, we don't treat our broilers any differently than our other chicks. We allow ours to range and grow out a bit more slowly but it seems to help with the leg problems. Broilers do tend to sit around more so if you have room, make them work a bit for their food by setting it away from where they rest or adding scratch grains for them to forage for. I have also noticed that broilers seem to get hotter than other birds. By week three they should be at about 75-80 degrees. I hope something helps. It isn't any fun to lose birds.

-- Trisha-MN (, April 05, 2001.

Dear Eight Smiths: How are your chicks doing? I'm hoping some of all the great info. you got has helped. Please let us all know if you have time. Cynthia

-- Cynthia Speer (, April 06, 2001.

Hi all, the first corish x's we raised, we fed too much and we were told by the place we bought them from, that they were having heart attacks. I was out there one day and one chick just killed over dead. Slow down your feeding , we were keeping the feeders full all the time and we wre killing them, they just sat there and ate and died. Call the place you got them from and ask how much food per chick at this age, they should have a formula of some kind to go by. So much feed- per chic -per day. Good luck, they are so much better than store bought.

-- Mary in Idaho (, April 07, 2001.

Hi, I had the same problem these past few weeks with my Cornish X Rocks that I purchased from Murray McMurray. I lost 12 out of 50! I was so upset. I called Murray three times. McMurray's answer was that they got too stressed during shipping. I finally decided that there was too much activity where I had them and moved them to a more quiet area. This stopped the deaths. Like you, I had them warm enough, no drafts, plenty of water, etc. Those big birds are subject to heart attacks and I've had some grown ones that did keel over and die for no reason.

So, my suggestion is to move them to a quiet place and see if that works.


-- Mary in East TN (, April 07, 2001.

Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions and help you all have given me! We never did figure what was causing the problem, but the remaining 16 chicks are doing well. Only 2 more have died since I first posted. We did give them the terramycin for 3 days and that seems to have done the trick. Would have liked to not give the antibiotic, but I guess it was better to do so than to lose all the chicks. The best we can figure out is that one or may may have had an infection, we didn't have good enough ventilation, or they got too hot. We thought we were doing everything "right" but obviously something was wrong that we lost 9 of the original 27. Hopefully the rest will make it!

-- eightsmiths (, April 10, 2001.

I know this won't help this time, but if at all possible buy your chicks from somewhere you can pick them up and not have them shipped. We have ridgeway hatchery a few hours away from us. We have found that we have much better survival rates if we pick up the chick on the day they are hatched. We got 30 three weeks ago and all are doing great. One question, someone suggested using a red light instead of white. What difference does it make? Joanie

-- Joanie (, April 11, 2001.

Chickens are attracted to the color red, so if they start pecking each other and draw blood then you risk losing a chick if you don't catch it in time. Under a red light they will see black and that lessens the chance of pecking. The red light will appear black at night and the chicks won't be up all night eating. How they know chickens see red light as black is a mystery to me, but I do know they calm right down as soon as it gets dark and stay that way till morning. The first time I raised cornish cross I used a white light and often times would check on them when I got home from work at 11pm-3am and they were always plopped down by the feeders munching away. I haven't had any problems with cornish cross or others since switching to a red light.

-- Kent in WA (, April 11, 2001.

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