Why My Baby Chicks are Dying One by One?

Raising chicks comes with its share of challenges. Top among them is the sudden deaths of these baby chickens. This can be confusing and frustrating if you do not know how to go about it.

Normally, chicks die in large numbers when subjected to extreme environmental conditions such as cold or hot weather. Injuries and poultry diseases are other causes of mass deaths in chicks.

However, it is considered perfectly normal to lose about 5% of your clutch. That is why chickens hatch many eggs at once to increase the survival chances of their little chicks. Read on to find more reasons why your baby chickens are dying one by one.

Causes of Premature Death in Baby Chicks

There are many causes of early death in chicks. Some of these causes can be avoided while others are inevitable. Regardless of that, you need to find out why your chicks are dying in large numbers. This piece of information will help prevent some causes, particularly poultry diseases, parasites, and infections.

Cause of Premature Death Description
Trauma Baby chicks can get injured or trampled to death due to accidents and overcrowding. Overcrowding can also lead to cases of suffocation, which can cause death. Cannibalism may occur if chicks are left to starve for too long.
Temperature Baby chicks are sensitive to temperature changes. Too much heat or cold can be dangerous and can cause death within a few hours. The ideal temperature range for baby chicks is 90°F to 95°F during their first week.
Suffocation Baby chicks held in confined spaces may suffocate or be squashed to death. Overcrowding can cause weaker chicks to struggle to breathe and eventually die due to lack of oxygen.
Parasites Dangerous parasites like gapeworms can latch onto baby chick’s airways and cause suffocation. Contaminated places can expose them to these parasites.
Bacterial Infection Bacterial infections like Mushy Chick Disease can be fatal and are caused by unsanitary hatching conditions. Symptoms include swelling or wounds around the naval region, foul smell, lethargy, depression, and anorexia.
Viral Infection Baby chicks can die from various viral infections, such as avian encephalomyelitis, avian influenza, infectious bronchitis, Marek disease, New Castle, Colibacillosis, mycoplasmosis, and salmonellosis. Good management or biosecurity practices can protect them from viral infections.
Food Poisoning Baby chicks can get affected by food poisoning when fed on spoilt or expired food. Always check the quality of your chicken feed before feeding it to your baby chicks to avoid cases of food poisoning.
Dehydration Lack of clean and fresh water can cause dehydration and death in baby chicks, especially during hot summer months. Symptoms include staying quiet and still, ruffling feathers, panting, or opening and closing wings severally.
Poor Diet Lack of a balanced diet can make baby chicks sick, stunted, and more susceptible to illnesses. It can lead to deaths among your chicks. Provide them with a nutritionally balanced diet.
Pasty Butt A chick’s vent may get encrusted with droppings, making it difficult for them to excrete fecal matter. It’s caused by diarrhea resulting from stress, dehydration, illness, poor diet, and fluctuating temperatures. Check your baby chicks regularly to identify and control pasty butt problems.

To make you better understand why your young birds are dying, we are going to discuss the most common causes in the sections below:

1. Trauma

One of the causes of chicks dying one by one is trauma. Typically, trauma results from accidents and overcrowding. Baby chicks such as those kept in large quantities are likely to be at risk of getting trampled to death.

Overcrowding among your birds can quickly turn water dishes and waterers into drowning hazards for your little birds. Make sure to provide your young birds with shallow or raised water containers to avoid such accidents.

If you allow too many chicks to live in one place or occupy a small space, they are likely to injure each other. This is the reason you may have come across baby chicks that look as though they have been squashed. Overcrowding can also lead to cases of suffocation, which can ultimately cause the death of your little chicks.

On the worst side, if your baby chicks are left to starve for too long, they might turn to each other in what is described as cannibalism. You can avoid this problem by giving them enough food and water before getting them outside their coops. Alternatively, you can keep them happy and busy with a few greens.

Ensure that every injured chick is treated quickly to prevent cases of cannibalism among them.

2. Temperature

Even though the temperature is a requirement for baby chicks to stay healthy, too much of it can be dangerous. Baby chicks are sensitive to changes in temperatures within their surrounding. When it is too hot or too cold, they will feel uncomfortable.

Temperature changes can possibly kill them in just a few hours. The best temperature range for your baby chicks is 90℉ to 95℉ during their first seven days (a week) after hatching.

When they are a few days old, baby chicks usually have few feathers. This means they can feel cold when subjected to colder conditions in their environment. This is why they huddle closely together when it is cold. If subjected to long durations of cold, the weaker ones may die in the process. You can keep them warm by adjusting the temperatures inside the brooder.

When it is hotter than normal, your chicks will become uncomfortable as well. Some will start drinking too much water to keep themselves well-hydrated. However, too much water can flush out important minerals and other nutrients from their bodies.

Apart from that, excessive drinking of water when it is too hot will make your chicks pant abnormally. They may even squash together in a bid to escape the increasing heat. Keep them comfortable by reducing the temperature in their brooder.

3. Suffocation

Another common cause of your baby chicks’ death is suffocation. This happens more often when your chicks are held in confined spaces. Due to their large numbers, they will suffocate or be squashed to death.

Bear in mind that baby chicks are still too weak to withstand certain conditions. So, when overcrowded, they will struggle to breathe. The weaker ones among them may not withstand such difficult conditions for too long. They will eventually die due to a lack of enough oxygen.

You can prevent incidents of suffocation by keeping your baby chicks in well-ventilated places. Make sure each chick has enough space to move around comfortably.

4. Parasites

Parasites are known to kill baby chicks if left unchecked for too long. Also, allowing your chicks to live in contaminated places can expose them to dangerous parasites like the gapeworm and many others.

Gapeworms are particularly nasty parasites known to cause deaths in baby chicks. This type of parasite latches itself on the baby chick’s airways, causing suffocation.

Chicks with gapeworm are likely to have overall poor health conditions. Such chicks will look weak, shaky, and nod their heads most of the time. Some may start to cough, pant, or even struggle to breathe.

Once you suspect that your baby chicks have gapeworms, you should consult your local veterinarian for treatment advice. After the treatment, your baby chickens may need to be transferred to another different location. This is due to the fact that gapeworms can thrive in the soil for a period of about four years.

5. Bacterial Infection

Bacterial infections among your baby chicks can be fatal. A common infection caused by bacteria is known as Mushy Chick Disease. It is simply a yolk sack infection. Mushy Chick Disease is caused mainly by unsanitary hatching conditions in the nesting boxes.  It happens often when bacteria find their way into the baby chick’s body through the naval just before it heals.

Common signs and symptoms of Mushy Chich Disease include swelling or wounds around the naval region. The affected chicks may have a foul smell, look lethargic, depressed, and anorexic.

If you suspect that one of your baby chicks has a bacterial infection, isolate it from the rest. Place the infected chick in a warm, ventilated, and comfortable place. Consult your local vet for further advice.

Sadly, bacterial or fungal infections are not easy to treat, especially in baby chicks. Their prognosis is not always that good. So, the most effective way to control this type of infection among your baby chicks is to maintain good hygiene throughout.

6. Viral Infection

Your baby chicks can also die from viral infections. Common viral infections in baby chicks include avian encephalomyelitis avian influenza, fowl pox, infectious bronchitis, Marek disease, New Castle, Colibacillosis, mycoplasmosis, and salmonellosis among others.

In particular, avian encephalomyelitis affects baby chicks aged from one to three weeks old. The avian influenza is usually transmitted vertically through eggs. Vaccination of chicks aged eight weeks is the most effective way of controlling avian influenza among your backyard flock of chickens.

Infectious bronchitis affects the respiratory system of young chicks, causing deaths or permanent damage to the oviducts (for chicks that survive this viral infection). In general, good management or biosecurity practices can protect your chickens against viral infections.

7. Food Poisoning

Chicken food has a specific shelf life depending on the type of food. So, how and where you store it matters a lot. More often than not baby chicks get affected by food poisoning when fed on spoilt or expired food.

Most likely this expired food has molds, parasites, or chemical compounds that are potentially harmful to baby chicks when they feed on it. Always check the quality of your chicken feed before feeding it to your baby chicks to avoid cases of food poisoning.

8. Dehydration

If your baby chicks don’t get enough clean and fresh water, they can dehydrate and probably die. Dehydration is among the top causes of death in baby chicks. In that case, their water source should be reliable to keep them hydrated throughout, especially during hot summer months.

When your baby chick is dehydrated it will stay quiet and still throughout. It may also ruffle its feathers, pant, or open and close the wings severally. Put your dehydrated chick in a cool, dry place and provide it with fresh, clean water to hydrate it. Make sure that your chicks have access to water all the time. Also, check the quality of water to ensure it is not dirty.

9. Poor Diet

Lack of a balanced diet can negatively impact your baby chick’s nutritional needs. In this sense, a poor diet can make them sick and stunted. Worse still, lack of a well-balanced diet can lead to deaths among your chicks. This is because they will become more susceptible to many illnesses.

You can protect your baby chicks from dying by providing them with a nutritionally balanced diet.

10. Pasty Butt

Pasty butt describes a situation where a chick’s vent gets encrusted with its droppings. This problem is more prevalent in newly hatched chicks coming out of hatcheries or incubators. If you don’t attend to this problem immediately, your chicks will have problems excreting fecal matter.

Pasty butt is caused by diarrhea resulting from stress, dehydration, illness, poor diet, and fluctuating temperatures. It mostly affects baby chicks that are shipped from hatcheries to different places. Check your baby chicks regularly to help identify and control pasty butt problems.

How to Keep Your Baby Chicks Alive?

Raising baby chicks can be a fun and rewarding experience. However, it can also be quite challenging, especially for first-time chicken owners. Keeping baby chicks alive requires proper care and attention to their needs. In this article, I will share some tips on how to keep your baby chicks alive.

Create a Clean and Safe Environment

The first step in keeping your baby chicks alive is to create a clean and safe environment for them to live in. Make sure their living space is free from debris, such as droppings and leftover food, and is cleaned regularly. Additionally, ensure that the chicks have enough space to move around and breathe comfortably.

Provide Fresh Water and Food

Providing fresh water and food is crucial for keeping baby chicks alive. Make sure their water and food containers are clean and free from any contaminants. Also, ensure they have access to enough food and water throughout the day. Chicks can quickly become dehydrated, so be sure to monitor their water supply closely.

Adjust Temperature and Lighting

Temperature and lighting are essential factors in keeping baby chicks alive. Chicks require warmth to survive, especially during their first week of life. Make sure the brooding area is well-insulated, and the temperature is between 90℉ to 95℉. As they grow, gradually lower the temperature to about 70℉ to 75℉.

Proper Vaccination

Vaccination is a crucial aspect of keeping your baby chicks alive. Consult with your veterinarian or local hatchery to determine which vaccinations are necessary for your chicks. Vaccination can help prevent diseases like Marek’s disease and avian influenza, which can be fatal to chicks.


When baby chicks are healthy and happy, they become lively, active, and vocal. In case you spot one or several chicks standing still for longer periods than usual or looking quiet, just know that something is not right. This is because baby chicks are usually fragile little birds, so it is very easy for them to die from one or a combination of the causes discussed above.

Baby chicks are sensitive to their surrounding. For that reason, they can die quickly due to conditions such as extreme cold and dehydration. Some may even die from accidents that occur more often in the coops.

Make sure to follow good hygiene practices to prevent poultry diseases and illnesses due to unsanitary living conditions and contamination.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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