The Reality of Raising Chicks

It’s pretty easy to spontaneously buy baby chicks. They’re so little and fluffy and sweetly chirp. They hop around on one another and cuddle together and are so funny to watch. They’re so flighty, I’ve had plenty just jump into my cart beyond my control. What was I supposed to do, tell those little fluffy butts no?

But the truth of the matter is, I had no idea what I was doing when those first little chicks came home. I felt like a new mom all over again like, “Y’all really trusting me with this living thing? It’s mine now? Well, what do I do?” And I truly spent every waking hour researching. I read everything I could get my hands on, googled endlessly, made a Pinterest board, took so many screenshots my phone’s memory became full… I got a crash course in chicken.

I by no way, shape, or form, consider myself an expert. Just a girl who has tried to prepare herself for any possible scenario of chicken catastrophe. And the first lesson that was thrust upon me was coccidiosis. You would think a year later, 4 batches of chicks under my belt, this wouldn’t be something that still rears it’s ugly head, or rather runny butt, but here I am fighting the good fight again.

Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection that mostly affects young chicks. Some signs are runny, or even bloody, poop, refusal to eat or drink, ruffled feathers, appearing huddled, pale, and eventually death. Other than keeping an eye on their droppings, all the signs and symptoms are actually kind of hard to catch, especially for a new chicken parent. Chicks are light yellow, and their skin is practically translucent, especially in fresh chicks. They huddle together, sleep often, and if they are all of the same breed they are often hard to tell apart. And unfortunately, it often takes a death or two before you realize there is truly a problem.

I know that sounds a bit irresponsible; that there needs to be death before you notice anything is wrong. But it is a sad reality of raising baby chicks. When they come from the hatchery, or to a feed store, they live side by side with hundreds of other chicks, are taken care of in shifts by different employees, and just intended as a half-way house until they reach you. There is no way to really prevent the exposure; all chickens are carriers of some form of the coccidiosis organism.

Check out my journey with our 50 baby chicks, and talk more about Coccidiosis and our plan of treatment, in our new video.

In the video I talked about our immediate plan of treatment, but there’s actually a lot of things to do before and after suffering the loss of chicks due to Coccidiosis.

The best thing you can do for a chick is defense against the disease. Excellent hygiene, keeping their waterers and feeders clean, as well as their brooder, is of key importance. Getting a waterer that the chicks cannot easily make dirty with bedding or feces is a great idea to limit contamination. We actually made our own DIY chick waterer. Another thing you can do is to add electrolytes, probiotics, and vitamins to their water. There are individual packets of these that you can find at your local feed store, but our preferred way is adding a scoop of Hydro Hen to every gallon of water.

If you order chicks from a hatchery, you are usually given the option to have them vaccinated for Coccidiosis. If you choose this option, giving them medicated feed crumble is not necessary, however if you’re unsure if the chicks received this, or declined the option, giving feed that is medicated with Amprolium can be beneficial to keeping the coccidiosis at bay.

We had already been doing all the above when Coccidiosis still wiped out 9 of our flock. So we decided it was time to add Corid to their water. Dosing can be confusing, because the medicine we bought from Tractor Supply is labeled as use for bovine, and their instructed dosing is intended for a trough of water, gallons and gallons, compared to the 1-3 gallons of most typical poultry waterers. There is no Corid, also known as Amprolium that is specifically designed for poultry. So we scaled the dosing down, and found that 2 tablespoons to 1 gallon of water works for our chickens.

It’s also been found that vitamins B12 and K, in particular, are beneficial to chickens fighting Coccidiosis. Our favorite is the supplement containing both, made by the brand Rooster Booster, as an excellent choice that our chickens actually want to consume.

This is the part of having chickens that can certainly be disheartening; losing chicks even after fighting to keep them healthy, but eventually you find the right combination and routine, and with time learn the signs to keep your flock healthy and thriving. Don’t give up when you lose a few, but rather continue to learn more, and make it your mission to prevent losses in the future.

I know sometimes it’s hard. But you can do this! You can raise the flock you dream of, whether their to be pets or to be processed. Even if you’ve never even kept a goldfish alive. Even if you don’t know the first thing about poultry or disease or medicine. You can do this! And there’s tons of resources out there to help. If you have any Coccidiosis suggestions or tips, comment below!

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