A must-have for all chicken owners is the Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow. Order your copy today at Meyer Hatchery - Chicken Health Handbook.
Like humans, birds will grow and mature at different rates. This is not always a cause for alarm but if you do notice a dramatic difference in the size of your chicks compared to others of the same breed, here are a few things to consider.
Start your birds off right by feeding a high-quality poultry feed formulated especially for the poultry type you are brooding. All birds will absorb and process nutrients a bit differently. Some will require more of something while others may be ok with less. Nutrient deficiencies can lead to many issues such as delayed or stunted growth, weak immune systems, failure to thrive, and in some cases death.
If the space in which you are brooding is drafty, too cold, or too warm this can cause chicks to be weak and not thrive. When the temperature is not ideal for their age, their bodies spend so much energy trying to regulate their body temperatures which can compromise their immune systems. Temperature will also affect how they eat and drink, putting them at risk for poor growth rates, nutritional deficiency, and in some cases death.
Stressed poultry is something you want to avoid. Many things can contribute to stress such as too much handling, noise, overcrowding, temperature issues, bullying, mixing poultry types, etc. The less stressed your birds are, the healthier they will be.
If your brooder is too small or crowded this can lead to bullying amongst your birds. Make adjustments to your brooder if need be and keep a close eye on any chicks that seem to be a bit smaller than their brooder mates. Bullying can interfere with birds eating and drinking making it so that they are easily dehydrated and or nutrient deficient. A smaller chick may need to be brooded separately with some less aggressive brooder friends in order for it to successfully grow and mature in a healthy way.
Coccidiosis can lead to damage to the intestinal tract which may lead to permanently stunted growth. It’s important to keep your brooder clean and dry and feed medicated chick starter to your young chicks if coccidia is an issue where you live. Even though the entire group of chicks will likely have coccidia if one has it, it’s possible that only some of the chicks may suffer long-term growth issues from it.
Good husbandry and quality nutrition are essential facets of poultry management. Keep your brooder clean and dry, feed high-quality feed specifically formulated for the poultry type you are brooding, and addressing any behavioral issues promptly will reduce the chances of failure to thrive from happening. It's also important to note when working with live animals is that there are times when mother nature has other plans and loss may occur despite your best efforts.