Why Do Baby Chicks Die? Understanding the Heartbreaking Truth Behind Their Short Lives

Every spring, many families eagerly bring home a handful of fluffy, chirping baby chicks. These tiny creatures are bundles of joy, and watching them grow and thrive is a rewarding experience. However, it is not uncommon for some baby chicks to suddenly die, leaving their owners devastated and unsure of what went wrong. The sad reality is that mortality rates among newly hatched chicks can range from 5-10%, with some breeds having even higher rates. In this article, we’ll dive into the various reasons why baby chicks may die and what you can do to prevent it from happening in your flock. Whether you are a seasoned chicken owner or considering adding these feathered friends to your family, understanding the reasons behind this unfortunate occurrence is crucial knowledge for any poultry enthusiast. So let’s explore the question on every chicken owner’s mind: why do baby chicks die?

Reasons Behind High Mortality Rate in Baby Chicks

Baby chicks are a fragile and vulnerable stage in poultry production. Despite the efforts of farmers to provide optimum care for their young chicks, it is not uncommon for mortality rates to be higher than desired. This can be particularly frustrating and concerning for farmers as it directly affects their production and profits.

There are several reasons that can contribute to the high mortality rate in baby chicks. Some of the most common factors include genetic issues, management practices, environmental conditions, and diseases. Understanding these factors is crucial in developing strategies to reduce mortality rates and ensure the healthy growth of baby chicks.

Genetic Issues

Genetics plays a significant role in determining the health and well-being of baby chicks. Breeding programs are aimed at producing stronger and more resistant chickens; however, at times, there may still be underlying genetic defects that can affect the survival rate of baby chicks.

One common genetic issue is known as “failure-to-thrive,” where some chick embryos fail to develop correctly or hatch from the incubation process. These chicks usually die within a few days after hatching due to internal abnormalities or weak immune systems.

Another genetic problem that can affect baby chick mortality is called “false layer syndrome.” This happens when some hens lay infertile eggs with no embryo inside, resulting in deteriorating egg quality over time. These eggs have a higher chance of developing bacteria which can cause diseases in baby chicks.

Management Practices

Inexperienced or inadequate management practices can also contribute to high death rates among baby chicks. Lack of knowledge about proper care for young chicks can result in mistakes such as improper handling, providing insufficient food or water, wrong temperature settings, etc.

One common mistake seen with new farmers is overcrowding their brooding area by keeping too many chicks together. This leads to poor air quality, increased levels of ammonia, and a higher likelihood of chicks pecking and injuring each other.

Similarly, inadequate ventilation can also cause respiratory problems and increase the risk of bacterial infections in baby chicks. It is essential to maintain a clean and well-ventilated environment for healthy chick growth.

Environmental Conditions

The environment in which baby chicks are raised is critical for their survival. Chicks that are hatched outside of their natural habitat require specific environmental conditions to thrive. The temperature, humidity levels, and lighting all need to be carefully monitored and adjusted to mimic the natural conditions of a hen’s nest.

Maintaining the ideal temperature in the brooding area is critical. If the temperature is too high, it can lead to overheating and dehydration, while low temperatures can cause chilling and stunted growth. Additionally, high humidity levels can promote the growth of harmful bacteria, so it’s essential to keep it at an optimal level.

Another crucial factor is the provision of clean bedding materials. Dirty or damp bedding can harbor bacteria and spread diseases among baby chicks. It’s essential to frequently change bedding materials and ensure a clean environment for healthy chick development.


Diseases are one of the leading causes of death in baby chicks. Chicks have weak immune systems at birth, making them more susceptible to various diseases. Some common diseases seen in baby chicks include bacterial infections like coccidiosis and salmonellosis, viral infections like Marek’s disease, and parasitic infections like roundworms.

It’s crucial to follow strict biosecurity measures to prevent disease outbreaks among baby chicks. This includes maintaining a clean environment, providing proper nutrition, and preventing contact with wild birds or contaminated tools or equipment.

Farmers should also consult with a veterinarian regularly for preventive measures such as vaccinations against common diseases. Timely detection and treatment of illnesses can significantly reduce mortality rates among baby chicks.

Ways to Reduce Mortality Rates in Baby Chicks

While high mortality rates among baby chicks are common, there are several ways that farmers can reduce these numbers and ensure the healthy growth of their young birds.

Increase Biosecurity Measures

As mentioned earlier, maintaining strict biosecurity measures is crucial in preventing disease outbreaks in baby chicks. This includes everything from cleaning and disinfecting the brooding area regularly to reducing contact with other birds and wild animals. It’s also essential to isolate sick or weak chicks to prevent the spread of diseases to healthy ones.

Provide Optimal Nutrition

Proper nutrition is crucial for the survival and growth of baby chicks. A well-balanced diet that includes essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins is essential. Farmers should consult with a nutritionist or poultry expert to create a specific diet plan for their young chicks.

Additionally, farmers should ensure that there is enough space for all chicks at feeding time to prevent aggression and injuries. Clean water should also be provided at all times, and waterers should be cleaned and refilled frequently.

Monitor Environmental Conditions

Maintaining appropriate environmental conditions is vital for the healthy growth of baby

Reasons for the Mortality of Baby Chicks

Baby chicks are undeniably adorable and their arrival is always greatly anticipated by poultry farmers. However, it can be extremely devastating when these young birds die unexpectedly. It not only results in financial loss but also takes a toll on the emotions of the farmer who has been tirelessly caring for them. The death of baby chicks is not uncommon and can occur for various reasons. In this section, we will discuss the reasons behind the mortality of baby chicks in detail.

1. Genetics

Genetics play a major role in the overall health and lifespan of baby chicks. Just like humans, some chickens may inherit genetic defects or predispositions that make them more susceptible to diseases or health issues. For instance, some breeds are prone to developing respiratory problems while others may have a weaker immune system making them highly vulnerable to infections. Additionally, breeding between related chickens can also result in genetic abnormalities which ultimately lead to death.

2. Brooding Conditions

Brooding refers to the process of providing a warm and comfortable environment for baby chicks until they are mature enough to regulate their own body temperature. If the brooding conditions are not appropriate, it can have detrimental effects on the health of the chicks and may even lead to death.

One common factor contributing to poor brooding conditions is inadequate heat levels. Chicks need a consistent temperature of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit during their first week of life which gradually decreases as they grow older. If they are exposed to low temperatures, they can suffer from cold stress which can weaken their immune system, making them more susceptible to illnesses.

On the other hand, excessive heat can also be harmful as it can cause dehydration and heat strokes in the chicks. It is crucial to regularly monitor and adjust the brooding temperature to ensure it remains at an optimal level throughout the chicks’ development.

3. Nutrition

Proper nutrition is essential for the growth and development of baby chicks. Inadequate or improper nutrition can cause a variety of health issues, ultimately leading to death. The first few days after hatching are crucial as this is when the chicks receive essential nutrients from the yolk sac attached to their belly button. After that, it is crucial to provide them with a complete, balanced starter feed specifically formulated for baby chicks.

Often, inexperienced poultry farmers may make the mistake of feeding adult chicken feed to baby chicks, which lacks important nutrients such as protein and minerals that are necessary for their growth and development. Additionally, if the starter feed is not kept fresh and free from contamination, it can also lead to health problems in young chicks.

4. Infectious Diseases

Like any other living being, baby chicks are also susceptible to infectious diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. Some common illnesses that affect young chicks include coccidiosis, respiratory diseases, Marek’s disease, and salmonellosis.

These diseases can spread quickly and have high mortality rates among young birds if not treated promptly. They usually occur due to poor sanitation practices and overcrowding in the brooder area. Thus, it is crucial to maintain proper hygiene standards and provide adequate space for the chicks to reduce their chances of contracting these diseases.

Preventative Measures to Reduce Mortality of Baby Chicks

It is understandably disheartening when baby chicks die unexpectedly; however, there are various preventive measures that poultry farmers can take to reduce mortality rates among young birds.

1. Proper Management

Effective management practices play a vital role in reducing chick mortality rates. This includes providing appropriate brooding temperatures, clean and dry bedding materials, adequate water supply, good ventilation system at all times. Additionally, regularly checking and cleaning the brooder area, feeders, and waterers is also crucial in maintaining good hygiene standards.

2. Proper Nutrition

As mentioned earlier, proper nutrition is essential for the health of baby chicks and can significantly reduce mortality rates. This includes providing a complete and balanced starter feed along with offering grit to help with digestion. Supplementing with vitamins and electrolytes can also boost the chicks’ immune system.

3. Biosecurity Measures

Biosecurity measures are essential in preventing the introduction and spread of diseases in a poultry farm. This includes limiting visitors to the farm, quarantining new birds before introducing them to the flock, disinfecting equipment, and practicing good hygiene when handling birds or entering their living area.

While it may be distressing when baby chicks die unexpectedly, it is important to understand that it is a natural part of raising poultry. However, by understanding and addressing the various factors that contribute to chick mortality, poultry farmers can reduce the chances of losing their young birds. Implementing proper management practices, providing appropriate nutrition, and maintaining good biosecurity measures can go a long way in ensuring healthy and thriving baby chicks on any poultry farm

1) Why do baby chicks die?
There are various reasons why baby chicks may die, including inadequate nutrition, environmental stress, genetic defects, or diseases.

2) What are some common nutritional causes of chick mortality?
Inadequate protein, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies can lead to poor growth and weak immune systems in baby chicks, making them more susceptible to illnesses.

3) How does environmental stress affect the health of baby chicks?
Factors such as extreme temperature changes, overcrowding, and unsanitary living conditions can cause stress in baby chicks and weaken their immune systems, making them more vulnerable to diseases.

4) Are certain breeds of baby chicks more prone to genetic defects?
Yes, some breeds may have a higher likelihood of inheriting genetic defects that can lead to developmental issues or increased risk for diseases.

5) Can diseases from adult chickens be passed on to baby chicks?
Unfortunately, yes. It is important to quarantine any sick or recently purchased adult chickens from the rest of the flock and keep newly hatched chicks separate until they are strong enough to resist potential illnesses.

6) What can I do to reduce the risk of losing baby chicks?
Proper brooding techniques, maintaining a clean and comfortable living environment for the chicks, providing a balanced diet with adequate nutrients and water, and regular monitoring for any signs of illnesses can all help reduce the risk of losing baby chicks.

In conclusion, the death of baby chicks is a common and unfortunate occurrence in the poultry industry. Despite the efforts of breeders and farmers to provide optimal care, there are various factors that can contribute to the deaths of these young birds. From genetic defects and health issues to environmental factors and improper management practices, it is clear that there are many challenges that must be addressed in order to reduce the mortality rates of baby chicks.

One key takeaway from this discussion is the importance of proper breeding and selection practices. As we have seen, genetic defects can have a major impact on the survival of chicks and this highlights the need for responsible breeding practices and thorough evaluation of breeding stock.

Moreover, it is imperative for farmers and poultry keepers to understand how environmental conditions can affect the health and well-being of their baby chicks. By providing a clean, warm, and stress-free environment, we can minimize risks such as infections and diseases that can lead to high mortality rates.

Another crucial aspect that cannot be overlooked is proper management techniques. From feeding schedules to vaccination programs, it is essential for farmers to have a good understanding of these practices in order to ensure the overall health of their flock.

In addition, education and awareness play a critical role in reducing baby chick mortality rates. By educating ourselves about the

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Lian Chikako Chang
Welcome to Littldata! Our mission is to help parents streamline their family logistics with practical tools and insights. Whether you’re managing school schedules, extracurricular activities, or family outings.

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Hi, I’m Lian Chikako Chang. I’m a data researcher and mom living in San Francisco. At Littldata, my goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing calendars, maps, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics.

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