The leading causes of early chick mortality and 14 ways to reduce mortality

Chicks are very fragile, especially during the first week of their life. Therefore, it is important to have good care to keep your flock healthy. Also, regardless of the type of chickens offered/purchased and the intensity of management, early chick mortality cannot be avoided. 1 to 5% mortality is normal in poultry farms; However, anything above this number should be taken seriously. 

A high rate of death indicates that something is not right in the flock and requires immediate help from the owner of the poultry farm with appropriate measures to stop another huge losses.

Many factors cause early bird mortality, including genetics, management, disease and nutrition. Here in this article, we discuss the causes of early chicken mortality and ways to reduce chicken mortality.

What causes early chicks mortality? 

There are many causes of chick death. However, the most common are:

  •   Genetic factors. 
  • Management causes.
  • Nutritional causes. 
  • Disease causes.

Let us slowly consider the four causes of mortality. 

1. Genetic causes:

 There are 21 lethal gene mutations in birds. Most of the lethal genes cause chicks to die during incubation. However, congenital loco causes the chicks to die within a week of hatching.

2. Management causes

 Another major cause of early chick mortality is poor management. Good care is important to keep pets healthy and alive. Chicks raised in poorly managed poultry will not be able to express their full genetic potential. Some management errors are included.


 High brooding temperatures:

High brooding temperatures are dangerous for your flock. High temperatures cause the chicks to dehydrate, causing them to consume more water than food. Due to the reduction in their food intake, their growth is greatly affected, leading to their death. In addition, it also causes pasted vent (that is, feces drawn to the side of the vent block the ventilation, ultimately leading to the death of the chicks due to the inability to expel the waste from the inside body).

 Low brooding temperature:

 Low temperature causes cold and prolonged exposure to cold can have a direct effect on the immune system of the flock, making the birds more susceptible to infection. Additionally, flocks huddle together when it's very cold to keep warm. Huddling causes suffocation in the flock, thus leading to chicks mortality.


 The death rate from poisoning is also high in the first chicks. However, this depends on the type, dose and duration of exposure. Death by poisoning can be sudden and frightening. The cause of poisoning can be from feed, too much salt, herbicides, insects, antibiotics,and disinfectants etc.

 Litter contamination:

 Another important cause of chicken mortality is litter contamination. Some farmers use sawdust, which can harm chickens. Chicks can mistake sawdust for feed and do this, they eat it well, causing intestinal effects and eventually death.


Starvation is another cause of chicks mortality because chicks do not have fat storage to meet their body needs during starvation, causing death. 


It is important to handle chicks carefully when vaccinating, sexing, dubbing, de-beaking, transportation from brooding farm to rearing farm, etc, otherwise, it may cause injury and possibly death.

 Inadequate feeders and drinkers: 

Improper feeding and drinking equipment can also lead to mortality. Inadequate feeders and drinkers affect flocks’ performance. It also leads to feed wastage and water spillage that results in the wet litter, which is a suitable condition for disease outbreak. Less feeder and drinker, on the other hand, cause starvation, ultimately leading to death.

 High relative humidity: 

high humidity causes dampness of litter material in the brooding house, which helps the growth of microorganisms, a condition that causes disease. 


 Poorly constructed chicken houses are also a cause of chick mortality. Predators, such as rats, dogs, cats, etc., can easily find their way into the brooder and attack the chicks. 

3. Nutritional causes


Water is one of the most essential element for maintaining the health and performance of birds. Not only does it work as a carrier for feed and metabolic end products, but it helps maintain body temperature in hot weather. In addition, water balances for minor mineral deficiencies such as Na, Cal, K, etc. Poor water  leads to high mortality.

 Lack of fat-soluble vitamins:

 Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins. These vitamins are important for the normal growth, development and production of chicks. A high deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins can lead to death. In comparison, a minor deficiency of these vitamins causes stunted growth, lacrimation, rickets, ruff feathers, exudative diathesis, anemia, etc. 

Water-soluble vitamins deficiency: 

Vitamin C and B complex are water-soluble vitamins. Water soluble vitamins are an important part of poultry feed. They are important for metabolism, reproduction, growth and development of chicks. Severe deficiency of these vitamins can lead to death; However, a minor deficiency causes poor feathering, poor growth, weight loss, dermatitis,nervous signs and anemia, etc. in chicks.

4.  Diseases:

 Young chicks are susceptible to infection and diseases due to lack of immunity during the first six weeks. It is very important to maintain biosecurity measures; Failure to do so increases the risk of infection. Pullorum is an infectious disease characterized by ruffled feathers, shortness of breath, white diarrhea, chirping and death.

 Chicken anaemia virus infection:

 Chicken Anaemia Virus infection or CAV is an acute viral disease found worldwide. It can infect chickens of all ages; However, it is detected in young chickens. CAV affects the chicken's immune system, making it more susceptible to other diseases. However, mortality is often a secondary cause of disease.


Salmonellosis is a group that spreads quickly, severe diseases of high body temperature, omphalitis, hepatitis and septicemia, large spleen, arthritis, and death. It affects all ages.


 14 ways to reduce early chick mortality
If you are experiencing a high mortality rate in your poultry farm, it is alarming and you need to take appropriate action. Failure to do this can cost you your entire investment.

Here are some steps you can take to reduce chicken loss in your poultry farm.
1. Buy chicks only from trusted suppliers
First, buy good quality chicken from reliable suppliers. Most of the time, the problem starts when you buy poor and unhealthy chicks. Many health problems affecting birds are due to genetic defects. Therefore, it is important to buy chicken from a reputable and reliable supplier that feeds healthy breeders. It's also important to know where the eggs come from and the facilities that provide you with the chicks and the history of the birds that lay the eggs.
2. Check health status
No matter how reliable your supplier is, it is a good idea to check the health status of each bird before delivering them to your farm.
3. Gives the flock enough heat
High and low temperatures lead to high chicken mortality. Therefore, it is important to provide your flock with adequate heat. Failure to do this can cause chaos in your poultry farm.

4. Protect your pets from cold weather

 Of course, even in your wildest dreams, you wouldn't want to see your children die of cold. That's why it's important to give them heat during very cold winters. You may want to consider creating a shelter so that your bird is not exposed to extreme cold conditions.
5. Keep drinkers and feeders clean
Being a poultry owner is not an easy task. You must take care of your flock and the things they need to keep them healthy. Keeping bird food, water, or water bowls is very important. So make sure you clean them every morning and discard any remaining water and food. Also, don't fill drinker with chlorinated water.
When disposing leftover water and feed, be sure to do so properly in the storage area. This will help you prevent army ants from invading your farm and killing your chickens.
6. Reduce the risk of suffocating the chicks to death. 

Birds can quickly suffocate and die when they are forced to move to a tight corner or in inadequate temperatures. In extreme cold, they huddle together to keep warm, which can cause them to suffocate or get injured. To avoid this, make sure that the temperature and humidity are at a good level and one in the garden.
The best way to protect your bird from death is to keep the temperature in the middle. With a central light source, you can prevent birds from entering.
Avoid sudden loud noises around the bird. The birds are frightened by the sudden noise and they flock together and suffocate.
Keep predators in your garden. Birds become frightened when they see predators, leading to panicked flocks and suffocation.
7. Protect your farm from disease and illness
Some diseases can be dangerous; they can wipe out your entire flock at once. Although some may not be fatal, they can affect the bird's metabolic rate. Therefore, it is very important that you continue to check your flock regularly. If you notice signs of disease in a bird, immediately isolate it from the flock and contact a veterinarian to prevent further damage to your poultry.

 8. Do not feed your bird with mold feed
moldy feed can be dangerous and kill your flock. Feeding your birds moldy feed can cause serious problems, such as poultry disease. The best way to avoid moldy feed in your garden is to keep them out of the water. Also, do not store food in a storage room with high humidity.
Also, do not buy in bulk. Buy only the number of birds that you will use before the end of their life. And check the expiration date on the list before you buy.

 9. Give your bird water before feeding
Water your bird before feeding; this will prevent your flock from stampeding while struggling to eat. Birds drink water more slowly than they eat their feed. Providing water will divert some birds' attention to the water, reducing the fight for feed.

 10. Protect your farm from predators
It is very important to keep predators away from your farm. However, you cannot guarantee complete protection because some animals come from below or from the roof from below. The best way to keep large predators such as dogs and cats away is to use an electric fence. For flying animals such as hawks, tie a thin line around the area to keep them from flying in and out.
In addition, close all the openings around the farm and continue to check your farm for signs of predators. You can install a strong wire fence around the shelter and always install the predators repellent regularly.
11. Clean dirty poultry pens regularly
It is important to clean your dirty chicken pens regularly. Ammonia begins to build up in the garden when the bed gets wet or when it is left unattended for a long time. This ammonia gas can be dangerous to your bird. When it exceeds 25 ppm, it leads to serious problems such as stress, insufficient feed intake, irritation of the eyes and respiratory diseases such as coryza, bronchitis, etc. 

Therefore, it is important to remove wet or caked litter from pen to prevent your bird from dying from suffocation or other respiratory problems.
12. Feed your bird well
Improper or insufficient feeding can affect the growth and development of your bird. When they are not fed, birds have small bodies and weak immune systems, making them sick more easily. Similarly, overeating can also cause serious problems. This is why it is important to give them enough feed. 

13. Adherence to medication and vaccination schedules

Medication and vaccination are good agricultural practices that can greatly help anyone with a poultry farm. By following medication and vaccinations, you can avoid outbreaks of infectious diseases. Make sure your bird is vaccinated against contagious diseases such as colibacillosis, Newcastle disease (ND), fowl typhoid, chicken anemic disease, Gumboro disease, fowl pox, etc. 

Talk to your veterinarian and get the vaccination and medication schedule for the type of poultry you are raising. You can also keep medicinal products on the farm to reduce chicken mortality. 

14. Have your flock checked by a veterinarian regularly
Have your poultry checked by a veterinarian regularly to make sure they are not showing any signs of infection. Remove recovered birds from the flock, as recovered birds provide a safe haven for disease. This way, you can keep your other birds safe and healthy.  

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