Sometimes we think we are doing everything right with your poultry, but are experiencing losses anyway. The following is a list of things you may not have considered when brooding and raising poultry that can lead to losses:
- Brooder size: How big is the brooder? I recommend a 4x4 brooder for 15-25 chicks when they first arrive. Smaller orders will need a smaller space at first. If their space is too small, overcrowding could be an issue which causes stress; if it's bigger, they could be wandering too far and chilling. As they grow, you will need to step up your brooder size until they are fully feathered and ready for the great outdoors.
- Good husbandry: Are your chicks living in an environment where their bedding, feeder, and waterer free of excess poop? Chicks eat and poop... a lot! Their waterer needs to be cleaned and filled several times a day. Always dump feeders when you refill them. Also, the older the chicks are, the more often you need to replace, turn, or add additional bedding.
- Multiple flocks or ages on the premises: Did you mix chicks with chicks of different ages or from another hatchery? Is one batch of chick vaccinated and another not?
- Proper biosecurity between birds of different ages on your property--older birds have different levels of natural pathogens or immunities and if hands aren't washed between birds, that can be transmitted between flocks. I recommend always starting with the younger (and if different species, start with the less domesticated) birds first, and working your way up in age when doing your chicken rounds.
- Birds from different sources should be raised separately until 6-8 weeks of age, and then acclimated to each other over time. Because they had different mother's and hatched in different locations, they have different immunities from the get-go and you need to wait until they are mature enough to build up their own resistance to expose them to something they have no immunity to.
- Chilled or weak upon arrival? If your chicks arrive chilled, do not try to save them with food or water until they are warmed up. Warm their environment up to 105 degrees for a few hours to get their internal body temperature where it needs to be. Once they are warm enough, they will access food and water on their own. By forcing food or water into a chick that is chilled, you will be doing more harm than good.
- Brooder location: Your brooder should always be kept in a stable climate controlled environment free of drafts. A barn or unheated garage is not conducive to a stable temperature 24 hours a day. Overnight losses is a telltale sign that your chicks are getting too cold at night when the outside temperatures drop and are pilling to keep warm, smothering the chicks on the bottom.
- What are your chicks eating? Make sure you are feeding your chicks an appropriate protein level feed designed for their age. While supplements are fine, they are not nutritionally complete to be a sole food source.
- Pasty Butt: Check your chicks bottoms! If they have an accumulation of poop, they won't be able to continue to poop because they vent is blocked. If they can't poop, they will die. Pasty butt is easy to treat by gently removing the buildup with a warm washcloth. Pasty butt is a sign of stress -- check your temperature, overcrowding, fluctuations, etc., that could be stressing your chicks out.