One of the last things a chick does prior to hatch is absorb the egg yolk into its body through its belly button. The yolk is Mother Nature’s protein drink- it nourishes a chick for 2-3 days after absorption. The reason this is important in nature is because a clutch of eggs can take several days to hatch and the first chicks to hatch must sustain themselves until the hen is ready to venture out with them to find food. It is possible to ship baby chicks through the mail due to the nutrition provided by the yolk, however, chicks can still arrive at their destination dehydrated for various reasons.
Upon arrival, it’s helpful to quickly, gently dip each chick’s beak into the water to encourage them to drink. If chicks had a rough trip and look wilted, a vitamin/electrolytesolution can give them an energy boost and help re-hydrate them. A sports drink such as Gatorade will suffice in a pinch, but it’s better to use the vitamins & electrolytes in the water.
Pasty butt, aka:pasted vent or pasting-up is a condition where loose droppings stick to the down surrounding a chick’s vent. Pasty butt can be caused by stress from shipping, being overheated, too cold or from something they have eaten. The vent should not be confused with the chick’s belly button. The vent is the area on a chick where droppings and eggs exit the body. The belly button is not the same as the vent. Day old chicks may have their belly
button area crusted over a bit and this scab should NOT be removed as it is a remnant of hatching, which will dry up and fall off on its own. Pulling it off can harm the chick, risk infection and even cause disembowelment. When droppings build up and form a blockage around a chick’s vent, chicks can die if it is not removed.
Spraddle leg, also known as splay leg or splayed leg is a deformity of the legs, characterized by feet pointing to the side, instead of forward. Spraddle leg makes walking difficult, if not impossible and can be permanent if left uncorrected. One cause of spraddle leg is slick floors that result in chicks losing their footing. The legs twist out from the hip and remain in that position unless corrected.
Other causes are:
temperature fluctuations during incubation; a difficult hatch that makes legs weak; a leg or
foot injury; brooder overcrowding; or a vitamin deficiency.
Chicks arriving with spraddle leg will be obvious and should be treated immediately. The sooner it’s addressed, the sooner the bones can heal in the proper position.
Upon discovery, the legs should be hobbled (bound together in a particular way) and physical therapy provided until the chick can stand on its own. Much more about hobbling and therapy on my blog here.
Scissor beak, aka: crossed beak or crooked beak, is a condition characterized by the top and bottom beak halves failing to align properly. It can be caused by genetics or the inability to maintain the beak’s length and shape by normal honing on rocks or other hard
surfaces. Scissor beak is not an automatic bid for euthanasia; most chickens with scissor beak can live normal, happy lives with a few minor accommodations. Scissor beak in new chicks can be very subtle as with my Easter Egger, Ethel. It ordinarily worsens over time.
There is no at-home fix for scissor beak, the only treatment is surgical and I have only heard of one instance in which it was performed. Baby chicks with scissor beak may have difficulty eating or sometimes other flock members will prevent them from accessing the feed. If that is the case, the chicken will need to be put in a safe place where only she can access the feed.
Coccidiosis is the most common cause of death in baby chicks. Coccidiosis (aka: cocci) is acommon intestinal disease, caused by several species of parasites that thrive in warm, wet conditions such as a brooder and is transmitted in droppings. The most common symptoms of cocci in chicks are: diarrhea, blood and/or mucous in droppings, lethargy, listlessness, pale skin color, loss of appetite and failure thrive/grow. Cocci can very quickly
wipe out many chicks in the same brooder.