Silkie chicks

by Jarin
(Chilliwack)

Question:

I have Silkie chicks they just hatched and a few of them have closed eyelids. How can I stop this?

Answer:
I can’t tell you how to stop this, but the following has been successfully done with newly hatched chicks of other species. There are a few reasons why this might be happening.

During the incubation of a chick the eyelids form with a “seam”, between the upper and lower lid. The seam is supposed to separate by the time of hatching in all bird species. Sometimes the separation doesn’t happen on time due to genetic oddities, the chick drying out too quickly as it hatches or unstable incubation issues.

The delicate tissues of the eyelids can usually be very gently massaged open with a lubricant, causing this seam to split as it is supposed to.

I would recommend using a veterinary antibiotic eye ointment, as once the lids separate there will be some contact with the eye ball and lubricant.

Something safe for eyes must be used. You could use a cotton swab or cotton ball to apply the ointment, remembering to be quite gentle. Apply some ointment and allow it to lubricate the eyelids.

This may be enough to soften the tissue and the top and bottom lid will part. If not opening, gently run the lubricated swab or cotton ball along the seam line, back and forth.

You will probably see the slit start to open at either end, so just gently continue until enough of the slit is open for the chick to see. The rest should open on its own.

Another reason for the eyelids not to be open could be possible infection, which would be highly unlikely for a newly hatched chick. But, if this is the case, the antibiotic ointment should solve the problem.

If there is gunk in the eyes, make sure to clean it out gently with a cotton ball dipped in warm water, anytime the eyes get “glued” shut, and treat with the eye ointment until it clears up.

Hopefully the chicks are just a day old and are not suffering from lack of food and drink since they can’t see.

There is usually enough liquid and nutrition from the yolk sack to sustain the chicks for 48 hours after hatching. If older than 48 hours, gently dip the tip of their beak in some fruit juice or Gatorade for hydration and quick energy.

Even less likely would be that the chicks’ eyes have failed to develop completely. Worst case would be that they are blind.

If you determine they are blind (very unlikely, and not meant to scare you), there’s possibly been inconsistent or inadequate heat during incubation, or something genetically wrong in this blood line of Silkies, causing poor eye development.

Chicks are very sight oriented. If the eyes are functioning, once opened, they should start to explore their environment looking for food and water.

You might want to help them locate the water source by gently dipping the tip of their beak in the drinker. If normal, they should show immediate signs of interest in what the rest of the chicks are up to.

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