Unexplained Loss of Baby Chicks, Explained

One Common Cause of Death, and Why

At one time or another it’s inevitable you’ll lose one or more of your new baby chicks. Mail order chicks, or chicks kept in stressful conditions are most at risk. We usually blame it one one thing or another, but the most common reason is often overlooked… and can be avoided.

Once dehydration is ruled out, and the chick showed no other signs of trouble before it died, the problem is often caused by pasting up, which is just a fancy name for a poopy bum.

This is simply a condition where the baby chick’s poop gets stuck on the downy feathers outside their vent and prevents them from pooping. It’s often a fatal condition, so it’s very important to check all the chickie bums for at least the first two weeks of life.

Tending to Pasting Up

If there’s fecal matter stuck to the chicks vent, use a warm wet cloth and soak it off. Sometimes if a chick has a chronic problem with pasting up it’s better to pull off the poop when it’s dry. This way it takes all the downy feathers with it, preventing another impaction.

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Preparing for Baby Chicks

A Detailed Check List of Everything You’ll Need

Before you bring home your baby chicks prepare an area to keep them. Maybe a garage, shed, or anyplace where the chicks are protected from inclement weather or drafts.
The Basics
A Brooder
This is simply a container worthy of containing the chicks for the first 4-6 weeks. The sides should be about 12 to 15 inches high, the taller the brooder is, the less likely you’re going to have a problem with chicks escaping when they become more active. Brooder Ideas
Thermometer
This is important to monitor the temperature in the brooder. Any outdoor type that is easy to read is sufficient.
Brooder Lamp (and something dependable to hang it from)
The hanging type will allow you better control of temperature. You’ll want the ease of lowering or raising the lamp for more or less heat. Most feed stores carry both brooder lamp and bulb. Although the bulb color of choice by chicken keepers is a controversial one, I prefer, and recommend the RED bulb.

*Today it is better advised to use Radiant Heat.

Feeder & Drinker
Choose both that are made for chicks, they are designed not only for their convenience, but safety too.
Bedding
Shavings are usually the bedding of choice after a week or two.
Feed
Most commonly called Chick Starter feed. They’re going to be on this food for the next 5-6 months or their point of lay, so don’t be afraid to buy a 50lb bag. It won’t be the last bag you buy!

The Extras to Make Caring for your Chicks Easier…

Paper Towels
Many chicken keepers like to use paper towels for the bottom of the brooder the first week or two.  I don’t, and all is fine… your choice.
Medium Trash Can (2)
A convenient way to make cleaning less of a chore. Keep it handy by the brooder.
It’s nice to keep your feed in one too, bagged feed can be a big mess to clean up if it falls over.
Bucket
To dump out the drinker waste, rather than refilling the whole waterer ten times a day.
An extra small brooder box in case you have to isolate or doctor a chick.

It’s a little work but there is reward…

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Fecal Impaction and Baby Chicks

Avoiding Fecal Impaction, Also known as Pasting up

You can’t always see if there’s a problem just by glancing over the chicks, so pick each chick up check for fecal matter. It’s always good practice to handle your chicks anyway, so this is a good way to socialize and take care of them at the same time.
If you find a chick with a poopy wad, use warm water and a cloth to gently clean it off, if it’s hard and stuck like glue use a drop or two of soap. Soap seems to soften the fecal matter and allows you to work it out.
It’s absolutely vital to check all your little chick’s bums for fecal matter every day or you will  surely have a much bigger problem, such as a treatment for an impaction, or worse, death.

Danger Signs of Impaction
Young chicks commonly suffer from fecal impaction, and if left untreated they will die. The warning signs are listlessness, stumbling, and sometimes a swollen abdomen. Most likely your ailing chick has a dirty bum with caked on fecal matter hindering the ability to poop.

What to Do
Soak the chick in a warm sitz bath for at least 5 minutes and gently remove all the fecal matter using a few drops of soap to help soften.  After treatment, keep chick isolated so you’re sure the little guy poops.  Remember, chicks chill easily and it’s important to provide an adequate heat source as soon as possible after the sitz bath.

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