Are your chicks Dying? Learn causes & how to reduce it

Can you raise all your one-day-old chicks to maturity without losing any?  Chicken farming in Kenya has many challenges. One of the most frustrating as a beginner or existing farmer, is death of your young chicks.

By understanding the causes of why your chicks are falling sick, stressed or dying, you can control them to reduce and/or eliminate losses as a poultry farmer. The major causes are;

  • Cold temperature
  • Chicken pests and diseases
  • Poor feeding and water supply
  • Improper housing
  • Poor hygiene

How can you avoid chicken losses? The best methods to cope with chicken losses are to copy nature. You can imitate how the wild birds and fowls hatch, care and nurture their chicks to maturity. The following are suggestions you can consider to avoid losing chicks in large numbers. They are discussed in detail as follows

Keep them warm

Your baby chicks develop adult feathers in 8 weeks. Generally, their brooding hen can keep them warm. However, as a commercial farmer with many chicks, you must provide them with an alternative heat source.

Chick’s ageBrood Temperature
1st Week92 – 95°F
2-3 Weeks85 – 90°F
3-5 Weeks80 – 85°F
5-8 Weeks70 – 80°F
8 Weeks +Room temperature
Baby Chicks temperature chart

The above chart has the recommended baby chicks temperature. Most successful chicken farmers opt to use a chicken heat lamps. But, the electricity expenses for heat lamps are high and can cause fire. Other alternatives to heat lamps are Heated chick pads, Reptile heat lamps, Chicken coop heaters and the Chicken brooder heat plates.

Incase of poor access to on-grid electricity or supply interruptions, you can keep your baby chicks warm without electricity using cold brooders, hot water bottles and kerosene lamps.

Vaccinate them against diseases and Infections

Chicken diseases like the Newcastle Disease can easily wipe your chicken population .  While the improved indigenous (kienyeji) chicken varieties have a natural immune, hybrid layers and exotic broilers are more susceptible. To reduce your losses, follow a chicken vaccination schedule from day one as shown above.

The common chicken diseases in the region are Marek, Newcastle and infectious bronchitis. Others are Gumboro, fowl pox and fowl typhoid. Besides, you will need to deworm your chicken.

Pests Control

Pests infestations can make your baby chicks sick and kill them at time. Common chicken pests are worms, lice and red mites. Below are how to control them.

Chicken lice

Chicken lice give them white marks under their chicken wings, breasts, feathers and around the vent. Other signs are feather loss, pale wattles restlessness and anemia. You can control chicken lice by applying lice powder, provide dust baths and keep the coop clean by applying diatomaceous earth, mite spray and garlic juices.

Red mites

Red mites feed on your chicks at night. It causes them skin irritation, stress and anaemia. During the day they hide in cracks. They range in colour from a very light grey, almost translucent to a light brown, black and blood-red colour after a feed.

To control poultry mites by applying paint paraffin in cracks and crevices, use pressure washers to wash out mites and provide dust baths to get rid of mites and lice in a natural way. Other control methods are using diatom, poultry shield and other organic pest control products like peppermint and neem oil.

Provide quality feed

chicken  feeding program inforgraphic

Another cause your baby chicks are dying can be hunger or poor feeding. You are either feeding them less than the daily chick feed required per day, or giving them low-quality chick mash from a counterfeit feed supplier.

The figure above is a layers chicken feeding program. It shows you the recommended feeding rate for each chicken per day. You can see a broilers chicken feeding program here

Commercial chicken feeds can be costly. You can make some at home using corn, supplements or sunflower seeds etc. Besides, you can rear them using the free-range method. You will release them to scavenge on the compound and provide them feed from time to time.

Give then clean water

chicken drinking water from automatic nipples

You may be losing your baby chicks is poor access quality or clean water. Without water, they will dehydrate and die. If the waterers are not raised up, they will poop into it or kick beddings and food into it contaminating it.

How can you ensure baby chicks has access to clean water? There are two best methods for properly watering your chicks.

  • Ground waterers. Put water in a bowl and leave it to chicks. Because chicks may drown in it, buy some clean pebbles that are used in terrariums. Besides the watering bowls, you can buy baby chick waters with a heavy base made of glass or plastic.
  • Hanging water bottles. You can use normal bottles and cover them with brooder bottle caps. These nipple outlets allow water to drip out. They are cheap, easy to fit and besides, they keep the water clean.

Provide proper Housing

Your chicken house can reduce or cause you losses. A proper chick cage will provide safety from weather elements like rain and extreme temperature. A good house will provide security from thieves and pests like stray pets that may attack your chicken.

While considering the best type of chicken housing, there are two major factors to check into spacing, ventilation and elevation.

Reduce Congestion

the chicken house must be spacious enough. The larger is better that you chicken are never congested. In warmer areas, and as your chicks mature, allow them more space. Give a minimum of 2-3 square foot per bird inside the coop. Congested birds will suffer from overheating, cannibalism, stress and infections.

Give ample Ventilation

Chicken loves good ventilation. It keeps the houses cool and the flesh flow of air keeps the air clean. Every 10 square feet of chicken coop floor space requires 1 square foot of ventilation. For large commercial chicken houses, you can install box fans and coolers to ensure good ventilation and air circulation.

Consider good Elevation

Good chicken coops are raised at least one foot off the ground. A raised house allows for air circulation and prevent flooding if you are in a flood prone region. The final benefit of a raised chicken house is keeping burrowing pests like rats and mice from nesting.

Observe hygiene & biosecurity Measures

Finally poor hygiene is another challenge for chicken farmer. When left unclean, the chick poop may transmit bacteria and virus causing your chicken illnesses. The decomposing material may produce poisonous ammonia gas that can inflame the fragile baby chicks’ lungs.

Make sure you clean water dishes, waterers and bottle nipples daily using warm water and an approved poultry sanitizer. Observe the same for feeders. The brooder should be cleaned often to remove soiled and damp beddings in the chicken house.

Conclusion on how to avoid losing your chicks

In conclusion, you can reduce most losses by following the suggestions in this article. Another effective risk transfer method is applying for chicken insurance. If one is not available, look for livestock and pet insurance policies that may cover losses. The received compensation can help you to bounce back much faster than using your own savings

Do you have additional tips for raising happy and healthy chicken? Let us know in the comments below.

Samuel S.K.

S.K is the founder and senior agribusiness development consultant at Agcenture. He can be reached at info@agcenture.com

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