Chick pile-ups: the silent killer

Looks like the early morning chick-checks will be continuing. I found one of the chicks dead this weekend, apparently suffocated and crushed under the others.

Chick pile-ups happen. If the temp is too cold, the chicks will cram together trying to stay warm. If they cram into a corner, a chick can get trapped on the bottom of the pile and die.

Keeping the hutch properly heated is a system of approximation; I got my approximation wrong this time. We’ve had some flukey Spring weather recently. On the day in question, it felt like full-on Fall and the hutch didn’t stay warm enough. Additionally, the heat lamp was focused at one end of the hutch so the chicks would be able to go to the other end if the temps got too hot; unfortunately, this just encouraged the chicks to pile up in one spot looking for warmth.

To prevent any future chick pile-ups, I’m doing the following:

* Increase the temperature and keep the focus of the heat out of corners. A no-brainer, right? However, pile-ups can also happen if the hutch is too hot. If the heat lamps are too intense and there is no easy way to get out from under them, the chicks might all bunch up into a single corner trying to escape the heat from above.

* “Remove” the corners of hutch by rounding them out. Heck, even if I get my approximation spot on, a chick pile-up could happen for no obvious reason whatsoever. I used a rolled up towel to round out the corners of my hutch. Others have recommended rolled cardboard.

* Keep paying attention. Mainly to make sure my preventative efforts are actually working. Also, I’ve been breaking up the chicks when they seem to be bunching together too tightly.

At 3:15 am this morning, all was well. The chicks were spread out, chirping in their contented fashion, even moving around and eating. But this cold snap is going to be here for a few days; regular checking will continue.

If you think chick-checks like this are crazy, you’ve obviously never had to deal with real livestock issues. Like sheep ready to give birth.

Neither have I, thankfully. I get little enough sleep as it is.

Additional Info:
Will III, O.H. (2007, September). Nothing to Brood About: The Lowdown on Raising Chicks. Retrieved from

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