Last week was rough…
I went from excitedly running around preparing for our new chick shipment, to staying up late working like a mad woman trying to bring some of the chicks back from death’s door.
Last week reminded me how quickly things can change on the homestead… And how thin is the veil which separates life from death.
All the chicks survived the ride in the mail, which was a pleasant surprise. Everyone looked perky and healthy when I put them all in the brooder. (We got 30 meat birds and 15 Silver Laced Wyandotte layers.)
We checked on them several times that afternoon and all was well, so we headed inside to eat supper and start our evening routine. I headed back outside to check them again a little while later, and found five of the layer chicks trampled and completely dead, and five more almost dead. (We realized, too late, the smaller, weaker layer chicks were no match for the more boisterous meat chicks, which is why they were easily trampled. We won’t combine the two varieties in the brooder at the beginning ever again…)
Talk about feeling like a big fat failure.
I wanted to just sit and cry right then and there, but I pulled myself together, scooped up the five chicks that were still barely clinging to life, and ran them into the house.
They were pretty non-responsive, wet, and lying flat… I was almost positive they were goners, but I couldn’t stand the thought of not trying something at least… So I popped towels into the dryer and started working to warm them up right away.
I’ve never really given electrolytes to my chicks before, but after watching sugar-water bring a very sick kitten back to life several months ago, I figured it was definitely worth a try with these chicks.
Sure enough, my hastily-throw together DIY chick electrolyte solution, combined with warm towels, brought all five of them back from the almost-dead– even the one who almost completely non-responsive when I first found her. I was amazed how quickly it worked after I started dripping it on their tiny beaks with a medicine dropper. I truly thought it was too late for all of them. However, within an hour of the homemade electrolytes and warm towels, they were all up walking around again. I was completely amazed.
Ever since mentioning the homemade chicken electrolytes on Facebook, I’ve had a number of you ask for the homemade electrolyte recipe I used. While I wouldn’t necessarily give this to healthy chicks, I will forever-and-always keep the recipe handy for future chick emergencies.
Homemade Electrolyte Recipe for Chicks
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 teaspoons molasses OR 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon potassium chloride* (optional)
*This is an optional ingredient, and I didn’t personally use it because I didn’t have any. The easiest way to buy potassium chloride is by purchasing a salt substitute at the grocery store.
Mix all the ingredients together and stir until completely combined.
Administer to sick, stressed, or ailing chicks with a medicine dropper. If they aren’t opening their beaks, you can drip it on the outside of their beaks and sometimes they will open then.
As far as exact amounts go, I have no idea. I gave my sick chicks a few drops every 10 minutes or so until they started really perking up. Just play it by ear.
If I had a larger chicken who was dehydrated or overheated, I would offer this solution as their drinking water for a short period of time. However, I have no plans to give this to my healthy chickens, as it’s just not needed unless there is an issue.
The Rest of the Story….
As much as I’d like to say this story had a happy ending, it didn’t. All five ailing chicks perked up, made it through the night and the next day with flying colors. However on the third day, four of them died with little warning. I still have no idea why– I don’t know if it was residual stress, or possibly leftover internal injuries from their trauma. Chicks are so fragile sometimes… It was a learning experience, but definitely a disappointing one. You win some and you lose some in this homesteading gig…
It’s really sad to read that they did not survive even after so much of care. You win some times and lose sometimes but what matters the most is what you have learnt. Thanks for sharing!
I have found some breeds of chickens just don’t do as well as others
Since potassium is an electrolyte why not just use cream of tartar? Cream of tartar is used by humans as an electrolyte.
Jill Winger says
That might work! I didn’t think of that.
Kathryn Guillaum says
At this moment we are trying our darnest to save a newborn kitten. I thought for sure he would not make it. I mixed up this brew and will see if it works on him. Cream of Tartar, huh? Thank you Ladies!! I’ll let you know.
Right now, it’s Sunday, June 24, 2018
What happened with the kitty???
We give our chicks a probiotic we get from the feed store(probably available on line). It has changed dramatically how everyone does in regard to stress. It goes in their water for a few days. Use it for turkey poults as well.
We almost lost a batch of chicks once after bringing them home. They seemed lifeless but we wanted to try something. We just used a dropper with sugar water which helped perk them up and then put some sugar in their water for a day. We weren’t sure if they would make it but they did and are now adults and doing well ?
Jill Winger says
Yay– a happy ending!
Kathryn Guillaum says
I was thinking that I was lucky to have the molasses……I use a lot of it to make my own brown sugar. I’ll remember the sugar water too…..we don’t have a resident vet here on this island. I am so greatful……Thank YOU all. I just cannot give up on this little guy….just can’t.
Judy G says
I just whipped up a batch of this and ran it out to my ailing adult chicken. She’s out there gobbling it up as if this is exactly what she needed. I hope it brings her back to good health.
Jill Winger says
I hope it helps her Judy!
Sue Hunsaker says
Please do write something on hoe how to draw blood to preg test a milk cow.
We live 75 miles round trip from vet and sometimes they still don’t get it right….also address of you lab. Thank you…Know this space was for chickens,but could not find a place for cow!
Thank for all your great information
Sue from Arizona
Jill Winger says
Thanks Sue! And yes, I’m planning on writing up that article soon!
Bethany Mason says
Just read this and wondered if you knew that cows that are currently giving milk can be preg tested by a sample of their milk. We are able to mail it into a lab in our state.
Karen packer says
I use just molasses in their drinking water for a day or two…..that seems to work well…….also I only have one brooder house so I brood both broilers and layers together, except I order my layers about two weeks before I get my broilers…..that way the layers get a jump on growing before the broilers come…….works for me!
Not sure if you have experience with silver laced wyandottes prior but we tried to raise some and even as hens they were not hardy, we lost all in the first year. Our local chicken supplier won’t stock them anymore because they were so fragile. Hoping we just got a bad shipment and yours are hardier!
Jill Winger says
Uh-oh…. that’s not what I wanted to hear! Fingers crossed!
I have a baby rooster that I am trying to get to eat. I’m hoping this helps. Thank you so much for the information! Cross your fingers it works for my little guy! This is our first time getting chickens and I will be crushed if one doesn’t make it!
Devorah Tucker-Fick says
We have some SLW hens, and our big dominant rooster (top dog of three in our flock) is also SLW. We haven’t had any issues with them at all. The only problem we have noticed is that they are always flying over our fence and we have to chase them down before our dogs get to them. They are kind of the stinkers. We also have buffs who are great mothers, but the roosters have been aggressive so we have had to eat the three we had, sexs links which are really hardy and great layers, and brahmas. Of all of them, the brahmas lay the smallest eggs, but they seem to have the best temperament.
Can I ask why the checks are sent via mail?
Jill Winger says
The hatchery is a long ways away and we wanted a breed our local feed store doesn’t offer.
Sorry meant chicks.
We made the mistake of putting baby turkeys in with our chicks, they trampled them. Baby ducks did the same thing another time. Lesson learned, the hard and heartbreaking way…
Jill Winger says
Oh no… what a bummer!
Glenda Daniel Varela says
I just got a new shipment of chickens and one is very lethargic. This time I have no comercial chick electrolytes and due to COVID 19 we won’t go out of the house so I just mixed your recipe and gave her a few drops. I hope this will perk her up. She is a 55 flowery hen!
How is your chick doing ? Did the electrolyte work?
Hi, I was wondering where you get your chicks from?
Jill Winger says
We got them from meyerhatchery.com this time
Thanks for sharing!<3
Now I know much more about that…
Fruitful Kitchen says
I hope this recipe will help my sick chicks. Thank you for sharing
Mary Ann S. says
Since I’ve retired I no longer have chickens (moved to the mountains and they would be bear bait), but I do have finches. Would this work for little birds also?
Linda S says
This mix works for all, including people! I keep the ingredients on hand all the time.
Jill, sorry to hear. I just dealt with the same thing except it was 6 week old piglets. We thought we had the one in good shape, but for whatever reason she did not make it through the second night, and the next night we lost another. We did did the electrolytes and warmth too. I will always wonder could I have done more…did i miss something… guess that’s our lot in life. it’s kind of ironic, many folks have this glorious vision of homesteading, but its not all peaches n cream. Makes me just that much more determined to get better at animal husbandry.
W. I. says
Chicks are sucrose (table sugar) intolerant. Try Karo syrup (glucose) in your recipe and that should work better next time.
Kate Barnett says
Thank you so much for shareing this! Ot saved my chick’s life!
I’m a fan of using food for electrolytes and trace minerals. Celery has a significant amount of potassium in it, is used as a salt substitute because it contributes electrolytes. I’m 2 weeks into my first batch of chicks. Have been slowly introducing herbs I dried from last year’s garden in their feed. They go nuts over thyme. I just started crumbling a little dried celery and parsley leaf into their organic store-bought chick crumbles. They get excited about that too. I may regret this if they ever get loose in my herb beds, but it doesn’t appear to be hurting them, at least. Our soil has warmed up enough that grass, weeds and bugs are reappearing. They get a big, wild salad every day with whatever bugs wander by, seem far more excited about that than the plain crumbles. A friend who has kept chickens for years says I am over-thinking this. Maybe, but we have had some great laughs watching them chase each other over tent caterpillars and bits of grass roots. Our weeds are tough! It is nice to know my little buddies wil be well trained when they deploy in a couple of days.
Hi Jill! I’ve had chickens for years and we’ve always got then as chicks every year. This year I decided to try incubating. Tomorrow is hatch day, but I already have a few pips tonight! I’ve very excited, of course. I know chicks done require food or water right away, but I plan to offer this as soon as they dry off and get moved into the brooder. I already put the dry ingredients into the waterer, so all I need to do in the morning is as the wet ingredients. Thanks for sharing this! I found it after I couldn’t find a chick electrolyte mix at Tractor Supply, but your recipe is so simple I’m sure I’ll continue to use it.
Jill Winger says
Hope you have a super successful hatch Aubrey!
I am wondering, maybe they would have lived, if you continued giving them solution for a while longer or simply put that into their water. Some people do that all the time with small chicks.
Linda S says
Darn it, Jill, do you HAVE to be so honest. I would rather just pretend the chicks survived & are already laying golden eggs! Haha Yes, farming can be very sad sometimes.
I have raised hundreds of chicks bought from the local feed store, however for the first time I ordered pearl guineas from a hatchery. They arrived in great shape, put them all in under a warming light and thought it would be great. Day two and a sneaky cat got in and found a way to grab and kill 3 of them! I had seven left and hoped they weren’t too stressed by the attack. However, 4 more died of poopy butt over the next few days. I didn’t even realize that was what was happening until it was too late. They have a pasty smear that clogs their vent and dries and they literally can’t poop. If that isn’t cleared off, you will lose them. Not sure if your solution would have helped, but I will definitely write this down and use it as I have a brooder full of eggs about to hatch. Thank you!
I have a sick rooster that wont crow took him to a vet gave him a shot and some medicine to put in the water but still not good dr. said it was a bacterial virus. can you give me a heads up he said it like sores inside of him by the way
I know this is old, but there are bacterial infections and there are viruses. I’m sure a creature could be compromisedby both at the same time, but there isn’t such a thing that is a “bacterial virus”.
Jill, thanks so much for posting this. We are trying Cornish Cross for the first time this year and seem to be having trouble with heat exhaustion. We have used the electrolytes, as well as moving the chicken tractor to the shadiest side of the field, covering the chicken tractor with our cattle shade structure, and putting frozen containers of water in their water to cool them down. I have made recommendation with links to your site on both my facebook groups as well as my blog, http://www.powellacres.com that will go up today. Hope you don’t mind.
I realize this is long past the comments about overheating, but my “chicken mentor” tells me that chickens cool primarily through their Combs and feet. With that in mind, whenever it gets really hot here, we fill OLD cake pans and ice-cream bucket lids with water for them to walk through. Also if one’s really struggling, cool water on the comb can help too.
HI, I have this recipe filed now…Thank you. Lost a young hen this morning. No out word signs of anything except her comb flopped over and she started getting “slow”…would not eat etc. some on the list said dehydrated as it has been very hot here lately. Would you say this would be ok during my hot spell? No one else exhibits these symptoms. and what about for ducks? Thank you!
Dalles Hayes says
I’m picking up day old chicks from the airport soon and they’ll have been in transit for around 6 hrs, it’ll be 7 hours before I get them under heat and with water. I was thinking to give them electrolytes in their first water as they will all be moderately stressed from transit.
Or should I just give normal water and electrolytes only if any appear to be struggling?
thuoc ga da says
Your advice on raising chickens is very useful, I have learned more knowledge of chicken raising, taking care of chickens is my happiness.
Is this good for breeding birds like (pigeon), to feed to their chick? -thx.
Shelby Stehl says
I’m am thrilled I found this! Thank you for sharing, it worked wonders with a lil guy my boyfriend and I got yesterday. When we got them he had already picked one particular one out as his favorite, and of course as evening came around the little guy wasn’t doing too well. This solution worked wonders and he perked up so well, was eating and drinking on his own, and even had some zoomies in him before I left last night! Thank you again 🙂
Will try this with some prayer we have a sick chick here. My kids and I are trying our best to keep it alive
Chyna Balasinovitch says
I have a chick that hatched 2 days ago and is struggling to stand up, i am very worried about it, the chicks are also infested with mites and I’m trying my best to deal with that to, would you have any advice on both of those subjects?
This is now my go-to recipe. I got a chick from a swap- they had no water source in 90 degree heat, so by the time I got it home it was unresponsive. I ran to get NuSalt at the store and mixed this up. It took about FIVE minutes for that chick to perk back up! I will always use this recipe and keep some mixed up at hatch day when I’m incubating too- THANK YOU