My chicks are weak, cold, and lethargic. What now?
Chicks are actually tough little things and can usually withstand the rigors of mail travel without any major issues in their first couple days after hatching. But if a postal delivery is delayed because of extreme weather or if temperatures drop lower than predicted during the shipping period, your chicks may arrive tired, chilled, and weakened. There are some things you can do to help them out.
Warm them up: Warmth is number one – immediately put them into the warm brooder under a heat lamp. If you know there has been a shipping delay, get the brooder set up and heated up beforehand so all is ready and you can get the chicks immediately into the warmth without wasting any time.
While the temperature under the lamp should be 95 degrees F, it is okay to increase this temperature up to 103 degrees for the first few hours for cold chicks. After 2-3 hours, reduce the temperature to the 95 degrees. The chicks should gather into a little group cuddled together under the lamp. Keep an eye on them as you may have to place the chicks directly under the light, depending on how weak they may be.
Be observant and adjust brooder temperature as needed. Remember, the chicks will tell you if they are too hot or too cold, but you have to be observant. If the chicks huddle together under the lamp and do not seem inclined to peck about, they are probably too cold. You may need a second light or you may have to raise the general room temperature. If the chicks are gathered as far out of the heat from the light as possible, then the light is probably too hot. Keep a close eye on the chicks while they are in the brooder. Their temperature requirements will change weekly. Chicks will often also make a loud peeping noise when they are uncomfortable.
Hydration: As your chicks start to get warmed up in the first hour or so make sure each chick gets a drink of water. If one is too weak or not interested, gently pick her up and carefully dip the tip of the beak into the water. This usually will get a chick interested in drinking. You know the chick has actually swallowed the water when she tilts her head back on her own. Warm water is best at this critical stage.
Sweet energy boost: You can also add some honey or sugar to their water for encouragement and for a little energy boost. I usually heat enough water to fill the mason jar I use with my chick waterers. It is a quart size. I add 1 teaspoon of honey or sugar to the warm water so it dissolves, then pour it into the jar for the chicks. The sweet taste is attractive to the chicks, and honey has a lot of great healthy benefits too. Only do this for 8 hours, then use plain water.
Electrolyte Boost: Electrolytes are another way to give stressed chicks a little boost on the second day after you receive them. There are many products available for chicks. Just follow the label instructions. You can also give them a mineral boost using a tea made with Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) herb. I just add about 1 tablespoon of dried nettle to warm water, let it seep as you would normally for tea, and then add it to the chicks’ waterer.
Egg Yolk: Adding some hard-boiled or scrambled eggs to their regular chick starter feed can also help give your chicks an extra boost of protein, nutrients, and healthy fats.
Regularly examine chicks for “Pasty Butt.” One thing to watch for in chicks, and especially in chicks that have been stressed, is “Pasty Butt.” Chicks may sometimes produce loose stool, which gets caught on their fluffy feathers and builds up so it blocks the vent. This can happen very quickly and it can be deadly. Check your chicks at least once a day by picking them up. If you see poop starting to build up on their behinds, clean if off as soon as possible. (It is also much easier and faster to clean the earlier you catch it.) Clean the chick by wetting a tissue in warm water, and hold it over the area for a couple seconds to a minute or so depending on how much stool needs to be soaked off. Gently pull and rewet and pull again until the feathers are clean. Try to keep the chicks as dry as possible during this process. I try to hold a dry tissue around the chick to soak up some of the water dripping, but the chick will still end up wet. It is very important that after you are done with the cleaning of the pasty butt, you dry the chick off as thoroughly as possible and get the chick back under the heat light.
A second brooder: If only one or just a couple are weak and the rest are jostling the weaker ones too much, consider setting up another brooder just for the weaker ones so they don’t get stepped on and overly harassed.
It is always upsetting and sad when your chicks aren’t thriving and active. The above tips work very well in most situations. Hopefully this will be helpful to you, and your chicks will recover and be happy, healthy, and active in a short time.
My chicks are a few days old. The 1 chick is very weak. She is trying to drink the water, I know this because she is lifting her head after drinking. She can’t walk or move. What should I do?
I’m so sorry to hear you have such a weak baby. It sounds like she’s trying very hard to thrive. Can you please call or email us so we can get more information from you to assist you in caring for the little darling? Our number is 920-472-4068 and our email is email@example.com
This season I’ve become the call person for weak chicks at my local TSC.
The 1st week was awful, still too cold here in S.E. Wisconsin.
Some of course didn’t make it. I’ve tried everything listed here and then some. Are there any other suggestions? Thanks Jaq
Hi my chick is just 3 days old and yesterday it was all fine and joyful but today it just sat down it don’t move or dont even eat something I took her into the sun and after that she was normal again and now after the sun was gone like it was not even sunset my chick started to do those things again and it also shivers now tell me how can I save my little baby
It’s very important that your chick stay very warm (95 degrees) for the beginning of his life. You can drop this temp down slowly as he/she grows (by 5 degrees per week) until the temperature she needs to be matches the temperature of the ambient air. I’m sure that the sunlight warmed her up and then as it started to cool, she got cold again. Even putting her in your pocket will help. Ha ha. Please do call us if you need further assistance. Thanks and have a great day!
Hello I’m messaging this to regard a top hat chick she was very energetic earlier and was eating and drinking but is now acting very weak and won’t walk around or socialize with the other chicks she still peeps though and I know she’s warm enough what do I do?!?
Try some elecrolytes in her water, and some smashed boiled egg yolk for feed (it’ll be great for all of them so don’t worry about separating it). Additionally, try some vitamins as sickly birds are very often vitamin deficient. Let us know how she does! ~Shannon
Thank you so much for your tips. It took me about 2 hrs using your tips and my chick perked up! Thanks for sharing.
My babies are 5 days old. One is very weak and lethargic, dipping it’s beak in electrolyte water still not active. What type of vitamin can I give it? I’m not sure this one will make it. Any help or advice?thank you
I’m hatching from an incubator. The first hatched yesterday afternoon. It is doing very well. 4 more have hatched since, with the last one hatching tonight. There are 24 left. So far the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th are doing well. They’re perky and fluffy. That one seemed to take a lot longer to hatch, struggled more. It’s been working since this morning. Naturally, it’s weak and exhausted. The others seemed more active after their hatch. This one is smaller , perking up then crashes, gets walked on by the other four inside the incubator. Can I take the others out as long as no others are pipping? Also, humidity shot up to 78-79 degrees . I think it’s normal? I wonder if the others are hurting this last one.
Taking care of chickens is hard work, but I love chickens that give me joy when raising chickens. Thank you for sharing some of the things that worked for you.
My baby chicks shell dried on her I was told it would get it off and it didnt. Now the baby is very weak. I used warm water with a warm wash to get the shell off. What else can i do
Dee, we are so glad you were successful! If you have any questions or concerns along the way, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always here to help.
We are so glad you are loving raising your chickens! If you ever have any questions, we’re always here to help! Have a great day!
Hi my baby chick is 4 days old and she was all fine for the first half of the day, but after that, he wouldn’t wank,drink or eat. But I live in a house not a farm and it’s alone. When I dipped its beak in water, it really tried swallowing it, I know this because it tilted it’s heat up. Please reply quickly, I don’t know what to do
My chick was fine when i put her/him back in the broader. Its very weak today and can barely move on its own, but it can chirp a little. When i dip its beak in the water it drinks, and im trying my best. But i cant see any changes.
Hi I have a chick. Im not sure how old guessing around 1 week? It barely haves fur. Shes not responding much. I hear her now and then chirping. I gave her sugary waterand egg yoke raw. She won’t even open her eyes.😔 Now I have her in a box over a lamp. What do you think I should do?
My chick was perky until an hour ago, she won’t walk around and keeps panting. What would you suggest?
I am so sorry your seeing this issue with your chick. I would start by checking your brooder temp under the warm end and make sure your floor temperature is not over 98-99 Farenheit. From there, try adding a little poultry electrolyte in with your chicks water. I use a brand called SAV-A-CHICK that you can find at most local feed and big fleet farm stores. If you can’t find it locally, you can also use a liquid vitamin b6 (niacin) and add a drop or two to a small glass of water. Try dipping your chicks beak and see if she will drink. If not, you can use an eye dropper to give her 1-2 drops at a time and just massage the throat gently with her beak upwards to make sure she swallows it. Try a few drops every 30 minutes or so for the first two hours and see if you notice any improvement. Try not to let her lay on her side or back in the brooder. You can prop your chick upright by wrapping a hand towel around her to keep her in place. If you notice further issues with her legs, lethargy or lack of motion after a few hours, I would recommend calling a local avian veterinary for further advise.
I got a new set of chicks friday this afternoon one is extremely lethargic have tried all the above tricks and nothings seeming to help, checked it’s bottom no. Poop stuck on.
It’s to the point it won’t open it’s eyes , stretched out sort of like it’s sleeping but a little more extreme…. any other ideas?!
Sherrell did u get an answer for your problem I have 2 the exact way yours were. What do I do?
I am so sorry to hear your chick is not doing well. I would recommend starting with a poultry electrolyte if you have not already added that to their water. Try dipping its beak once or twice every 10-15 minutes or so for the first hour. It’s hard to get them back up and moving when they are that lethargic but if the electrolyte helps you should see some improvement within that first hour or two.
I don’t see Sherell’s response but please let me know if I can help with your problem?
I know this because it tilted it’s heat up. Thank you so much.
Hello. Looking for advice. One of my baby chicks, they are about a month old, was fine last night. This morning my son came running in saying looked like she was dead. I went running out. She was laying on her side. 1 leg stretched out and back arched. She was mouth breathing and cold. I wrapped her in a towel and put her in correct positioning to not allow her to arch backwards or lay on her side and provided extra warmth via heating pad. She is no longer mouth breathing, but still lethargic and won’t open her eyes, and if moved will try to arch backwards. I just saw about dipping her beak into water every 10-15 minutes. Is there anything else I can do to try and save her?? Anyone that can offer advice to help me I greatly appreciate it! We love our chicks.
Looking for any help to save my baby chick. Found her cold and lethargic, and mouth breathing this morning. Brought her in the house, wrapped her up in a hand towel in a perched position, and added extra warmth of heating pad on my lap. Saw other comments to dip beak in water every 15 minutes. Did that once, she began opening her beak a bit wider than before and seemed to become a bit fiesty for a few seconds after. Then snuggled in an seemed as if she was settling in for sleep. She had stopped mouth breathing and it was on an off. What else can I do?
My chick is lethargic she always sit on my lap whenever she sees me though she eats properly and drink water if necessary i don’t no what to do she is one month old and she is sneezing and always sleeply she is not active please reply me as soon as possible please
I always suggest a good vitamin supplement like Nutri-Drench when you can’t pinpoint the issue. I’ve seen it work wonders!
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My babies are almost 5 weeks old and they are very lethargic and can’t stand on there feet and can’t seem to walk well. We bathed them to remove some waste from their bottoms and gave them some honey water. Any other advise I’ve already lost two to whatever is going on thank you