7 Signs a Baby Chick Is Dying

Raising baby chickens can be an endearing activity, whether raising baby chicks in an urban homesteading setting or on a family farm. However, young baby chicks are vulnerable and can quickly die because of illnesses and dehydration.

It’s essential to recognize the signs of a dying chick to help you increase your chances of saving its life. The earlier you realize that your baby chick is dying, the faster you will take action to save the bird.

Overview of Sick and Dying Chicks

Signs Possible Health Issues Action to Take
Slow Growth Malabsorption syndrome, poor nutrition, inadequate feed, high stock density Check for factors contributing to slow growth, provide appropriate feed and nutrition, address high stock density
Standing Still Bacterial illnesses, Marek’s disease, pain Diagnose underlying health issues, provide appropriate treatment
Eyes Half Closed Marek’s disease, coccidiosis, eye infections, inflammation Remove from flock, isolate from healthy chicks, provide appropriate treatment
Wings Held Low Heat exhaustion, severe health problems, pale faces, exhaustion, lethargy Provide immediate treatment, seek veterinary care if necessary
Too Much Sleeping Weakness, pain, dehydration, heat stress, bacterial infections Find out underlying causes, provide appropriate treatment
Constant Chirping Illness, extreme pain Investigate cause of chirping, provide appropriate treatment
Laying on Its Side Illness, dying slowly Isolate from flock, provide appropriate treatment and care

Signs of Sick and Dying Chicks

Baby chicks are susceptible to several illnesses which can kill them, especially in their first stages of growth. For instance, baby chicks can be prone to coccidiosis, Marek’s disease, and Rot Gut. Most of these baby chick diseases have similar signs.

Because baby chicks aren’t as hardy as adult birds, there are chances of many baby chicks dying prematurely. Recognizing the symptoms of sick and dying chicks can give you the best opportunity to save your chicks. These are the seven common signs of a sick and dying baby chick.

– Slow Growth

Baby chicks are incredible animals and can grow quickly compared to most meat animals like pigs and cows. The typical broiler baby chicks take approximately 47 days to achieve a whopping six pounds. Today’s baby chicks grow pretty fast, thanks to selective breeding.

Ideally, your baby chicks should grow fast in the first couple of months if you accord them attentive care. If your baby chicks seem to have a slower growth rate than usual, there could be a problem. The baby chicks aren’t getting enough nutrition or could be ill.

Slow growth can be a sign your chicks could be dying within weeks. Baby chicks and young chicks suffer from slow growth due to malabsorption syndrome, a transmissible baby chick disease that kills countless baby chicks throughout the country.

Several factors impact baby chicks’ growth, ultimately exposing the chicks to the risk of dying. For instance, high stock density can contribute to slow growth in baby chicks because the baby chicks can’t get minimum space for playing and feeding.

Furthermore, high stock density makes it impossible for chicks to get adequate nutrition, ultimately exposing them to slow growth. Poor nutrition and inadequate feed can contribute to stunted growth in baby chicks of all breeds. Stunted growth is a warning shot your baby chicks may soon die.

It’s thus imperative to check on the factors contributing to slow growth in your baby chicks and address them before your little birds start dying.

If your baby chicks, for example, are having slow growth due to poor nutrition and inadequate feed, you should ensure they get the appropriate food ration and also switch to a more nutritious starter feed. Ideally, baby chicks require a higher protein intake than adult birds. Poultry experts recommend a starter feed with a minimum of 20% protein for baby chicks.

Vitamins can also help boost your baby chicks’ growth and help boost their immunity. For instance, vitamin D deficiency can cause stunted growth in young chicks and baby chicks. Besides contributing to slow growth, a vitamin D deficiency can cause problems such as poor bone development and deformity in baby chicks.

– Standing Still

A dying or sick baby chick tends to stand still because it’s too weak to move around. Standing still is also a sign of an unhealthy baby chick. Ideally, baby chicks should be eager to move about as they explore their new world.

Although baby chicks only move a little more than adult chickens, they should only stand still for a short time. Healthy baby chicks should be moving around most of the time because they have energy and show no signs of weakness.

Apart from standing still, a sick baby chick has trouble keeping balance. Some bacterial illnesses and Marek’s disease can make your baby chicks stand still or make them have trouble keeping balance. You should diagnose such diseases early to save the baby chicks from dying.

Standing still can also mean your baby chicks could feel pain, which is why they are inactive and less eager to explore their home. Furthermore, sick baby chicks are lethargic, so they resort to standing still instead of walking like healthy baby chicks. A sick baby chick will move quite slowly and stand still occasionally.

– Eyes Half Closed

Most dying baby chicks usually have half-closed eyes. Keeping eyes half closed is an apparent sign your chicken could soon succumb to an illness or dehydration. Healthy chicks will keep their eyes fully open. If your baby chickens have half-closed eyes, it shows they could be having a severe health problem, such as Marek’s disease.

Coccidiosis can also make baby chicks keep their eyes half closed. Although eye infections and inflammation of the eyes can make baby chicks keep their eyes half closed, half-closed eyes in baby chicks can be an indication of a severe underlying health problem.

You should remove any baby chick with half-closed eyes from the flock, particularly if you don’t know the bird’s disease. Some diseases that make chicks have half-closed eyes are transmissible and contagious. That is why it’s sensible to isolate all the chicks with half-closed eyes from the other healthy chicks.

– Wings Held Low

The appearance of a baby chick’s wings can indicate whether the bird is sick or on the verge of dying. A baby chick that keeps holding its wings low could be unhealthy. Baby chicks in extreme danger of heat exhaustion usually keep their wings away from their bodies before dying from heat exhaustion.

Healthy baby chicks usually keep their wings close to their bodies unless they have injuries in one of their wings. Although baby chicks can hold their wings low, especially when they need to beat heat exhaustion, it isn’t normal for baby chicks to keep their wings low for hours.

Thus, your baby chick could have a severe health problem if it keeps its wings low for days. Chances are that such a baby chick can die unexpectedly from a dangerous baby chick disease. Baby chicks holding their wings low also have other signs showing they could be dying.

For instance, they could have pale faces and show symptoms of exhaustion and lethargy. Your immediate intervention can help save a baby chick from dying if you accord it treatment as soon as it starts holding its wings low.

– Too Much Sleeping

Baby chicks can sleep during the day, unlike adult chickens. Baby chicks are less energetic in their formative days after hatching, and that’s why they sleep more than adult chickens. Nonetheless, too much sleeping can imply your baby chicks could be sick and at risk of dying. Healthy baby chicks don’t sleep a lot.

They mostly spend more time chirping and trying to explore their surroundings. If your baby chick is sleeping a lot, the bird could be sick, and it could die depending on the severity of its suffering.

Sick baby chicks sleep a lot because they feel weak and can’t move like other chickens. Or, the ailing baby chicks could opt to sleep too much because of their pain. Apart from sleeping too much, sick baby chicks will also appear unconscious while sleeping.

They won’t blink their eyes or chirp like healthy baby chicks. Coccidiosis and other bacterial infections can make your chicks sleep too much.

Furthermore, dehydration and heat stress can make the chicks sleep much because they feel pretty weak. Extremely sick chicks sleep while appearing motionless. They can stay in this state for a long time and sometimes succumb to death.

– Constant Chirping

Chirping is normal in baby chicks. After all, chirping is the only way to let you know your chicks are alive, active, and healthy. Furthermore, chirping is a form of communication; thus, your baby chicks could be chirping to communicate their need for food or attention.

They could also be expressing joy, or they could be feeling cold. Nonetheless, constant chirping is something chicken raisers need to worry about because it shows their chicks could be sick. Constant chirping could also show that the baby chicks could be in extreme pain.

It’s helpful to find out why your baby chicks are constantly chirping, especially if they exhibit other symptoms of illnesses. Extreme chirping shows that your chicks are about to die.

– Laying on Its Side

There is a problem when your baby chicks lay on their sides. Although baby chicks sleep on their sides during hot weather to keep cool, there could be a serious problem if your chicks lay on their sides for too long. They could be sick, and the birds could be dying slowly.

Can You Save a Dying Chick?

As a farmer who has raised chickens for years, I know how heartbreaking it is to see a baby chick struggling to survive. Unfortunately, baby chicks are fragile creatures and susceptible to various illnesses that can kill them quickly. However, if you act fast and provide the right care, you may be able to save a dying chick.

  • To save a dying chick, the first step is to keep it warm.
  • Using medication and injections can help treat the chick’s illness.
  • Providing nutritious food, electrolytes, and vitamins can boost the chick’s immune system.
  • Isolating the ailing chick from the flock and providing attentive care is crucial.
  • Euthanizing the chick may be necessary in some cases.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution to saving a dying chick.

The first thing to do when you notice a sick chick is to keep it warm. Baby chicks need a warm environment to survive, and ailing chicks are no exception. You can use a heating lamp or a brooder to keep the temperature around 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Next, you should consider using medication and injections to treat the chick’s illness. Antibiotics are often used to treat bacterial infections, while anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce pain and inflammation. It’s crucial to consult a veterinarian before administering any medication to ensure proper dosage and treatment.

Providing nutritious food is also essential for ailing chicks. You can give them high-quality starter feed that contains at least 20% protein to help them recover. Additionally, you can give them electrolytes and vitamins to boost their immune system and promote healing.

It’s also crucial to isolate the ailing chick from the rest of the flock and provide attentive care. A sick chick needs a calm and stress-free environment to recuperate, and being around other chickens can only make things worse. Providing a quiet and comfortable space, and regularly checking on the chick’s condition, can make a significant difference.

In some cases, despite your best efforts, a dying chick may not recover. It’s essential to know when to make the difficult decision to euthanize the chick to prevent further suffering.


Baby chicks are some of the most fragile creatures. They are most likely to succumb to death, unlike their adult counterparts, who are hardy and disease-resistant. That’s why identifying the signs of a sick baby chick can help you save your bird from death.

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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