Baby Chick behavior

by meredith
(Columbia, SC)

Question

Baby Chick behavior: I am also new raising chickens and we love it. However a few days ago, I noticed our little yellow chick (a Red Star named Redneck)started a strange "twitch" of her head at seemingly random times, but pretty frequently.

Almost like a nervous tic or something. The only other strange thing going on then was that she was also having a few more loose stools....but I made sure their temp was good, environment clean, and the kids left them alone. The loose stools resolved.

The tic behavior, however, continues, and today after the neighbor children came to meet "the girls," I notice one of our black Silkiest doing it too.

So.....is it actually a nervous twitch? Anything I can do, or should do? We love these girls, Lila, Weezy, Georgia and Redneck, and want them to be as healthy as possible!

Answer
The head twitching could be in response to a packed crop. Chickens will sometimes flick their head, almost like they are trying to swallow something dry.

Brooder temp could be a bit warm and they aren’t getting enough to drink. You might offer them soaked feed for a day and see if you notice a difference.

Adding a tsp of raw cider vinegar to a cup of their water can help balance digestion. You didn’t say how old these chicks are, but you could also offer some chopped greens and some grated apple to raise the fiber content of their diet and help them process food better.

A little live culture yogurt mixed with soaked feed can help give good digestive bacteria. Day old chicks need 95 – 100 F in the brooder, each week, as they feather more and grow, you can reduce the brooder temp by 5 – 10 degrees, if they continue being active with good appetites.

If this is a twitch with another cause, I would suspect the possibility of disease, internal or external parasites, though rare in such little ones, probably still in a brooder and not exposed to much.

My first line of defense in chicken health is to offer vitamins. Sometimes one vitamin out of balance can cause all kinds of problems. I hate to give medications, if vitamins might fix a problem.

Now that you have two chicks doing this, there is definitely something a miss in their lives. I think you will just need to continue monitoring and get the help of a veterinarian if they don’t improve.

One more thought….chicks, all birds really, are very sensitive to deodorizing sprays, even scented candles.

If these chicks are in the house and someone is using a product to mask chick odor, this could cause respiratory distress and even death.

I had a friend that sprayed Fabreeze in her kitchen and within 2 hours her beloved parakeets were dead. She called me horrified and sad and after a few minutes, finding out what changed in the kitchen recently, I was sure Fabreeze had killed her birds.

She had sprayed the kitchen curtains, just like she had seen on TV.) The product says it’s safe for animals, but it’s not, especially small birds.

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age of the chicks with a nervous tic
by: Meredith

So sorry I forgot to say! They are 9 days old. While I haven't watched them a whole lot over the past 24 hrs since I wrote the original post, I did just stand a watch them for a couple of minutes and only saw 2 birds do the head shake - each only once.

Now, I cannot remember if the nervous tic/ excessive head shake started the day I gave them chick grit, but I had read a book to start it so I did.

Yesterday, I discontinued the grit, just in case that was the culprit.
So, could maybe grit have gotten into their crop? Hmmm...and the crop is the top part of the beak....does it act as a sinus cavity or something?

I know there may not be much to add to the previous answer, but, if you do have any other thoughts you'd like to add, I would love to hear them. We just love our baby birds! Thank you, :) M

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BABY CHICK BEHAVIOR
by: SHARON

Answer: Grit is good for chickens. Since they don't have teeth, they can't chew food. Grit in their diet mixes with food in the crop and actually works in the digestive tract of a chicken to "chew" food for them.

They can also absorb some minerals from the grit as it passes through and out. Grit should be the right size for the size of the chicken. Smaller sand size is best for chicks

The crop is a kind of stomach for chickens. It's a pouch that that temporarily holds all food and liquids chickens swallow. It's located just to the right bottom of the neck and at the top right of the chest.

It's good to observe their behavior, especially any unusual behavior of your chickens. You can learn a lot and notice problems before they get serious.

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