Incubating Eggs and Caring for Chicks

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Incubation Procedures 

Taking Care of Chicks

Problems You May Face:


Hydration for Baby Birds:

Lactated Ringers solution–for compacted or sluggish crop. You can use the solution instead of water to mix the formula. Contains electrolytes. Pedialyte also works well. It is readily available in the baby food section of the grocery store. Electrolyte replacement therapy in case baby isn’t doing well.

Setting a Broken Leg, Toes or Wings

Splay-legged Babies:

Splay-legged Chicks

Splay leg is a leg or pelvic socket deformity in chicks.   

Potential causes for this deformity are:

  • Inappropriate Nesting Surface, which means the nest box floor is too slippery (inappropriate nesting material), or there isn’t enough bedding – so a chick cannot get good footing to hold its weight. Therefore, one or both legs will slip out from underneath thus force the leg bone from the hip socket or distort the “knee” out of alignment.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies (of the parents)
  • Trauma (only suspect if occurs suddenly)

If these conditions are not remedied early, the damage will be permanent.

Obviously, nutrition needs to be looked at to see if modifications are necessary. Learn more about bird nutrition.

Some breeders were able to resolve this problem using the following methods:

Younger Chicks:

I myself found a good way to fix a splay-legged baby is to put it in a narrow dish, cozily wrapped up in several layers of tissue. This way the baby is completely comfortable, and after a few days to a week, you will see that the baby’s legs are normal. The important thing is the size of the cup.The cup should be too narrow for the baby to be able to turn around. It should be just a slight bit wider than the width of the body of the baby. If the baby keeps wanting to climb out, then choose a higher cup. This method works well for the youngest chicks.

Older Chicks:

Another excellent option successfully implemented by breeders is to put a band on each leg and tie a piece of cotton string between them. This way the chick still has a lot of mobility, and it doesn’t have to be changed out often.

I have a hatchling about 2 weeks old with splayed legs and I am using the “make-up sponge” technique in hopes of correcting the problem. The only deviation I made is that I also wrapped “florist tape” around the entire sponge to situate the legs in a better, firmer position. The florist tape isn’t sticky but sticks to itself. So now the hips and thighs are in line with the sponge, and the legs are facing forward properly. The only thing protruding is its little feet!! I just did this today, so I’ll change it and massage several times each day and keep my fingers crossed. Right now it’s in the incubator in a very small cup lined with Velux, very warm and cozy and seems comfortable for the very first time in it’s short little life! Bonnie in Florida

Constricted Toe:

This condition can either be caused by low humidity in the brooder or nest box, or by a thread that tied around a toe. Low humidity may cause a ring of a layer of the skin to contract – as it does, it cuts off the circulation of blood to the end of the toe. If the contriction is not removed, it will eventually cause the constricted part of the toe to dry up and fall off. If the constricting skin is visible, it may be softened with some butter or coconut oil, and carefully removed.

Gas-filled Crop / Candida:

Summary: In unfeathered babies, a Candida-infected crop will show signs of cheese-like lesions, and a grayish-white layer covers the crop lining. The often ulcerated and inflamed wall will be thickened and opaque, making the crop puffy and abnormal looking. If you suspect your baby to suffer from this, please go to this website.

Crop Burn

Punctured Crop or Esophagus / Crop Burn:

Crop punctures are often caused by either carelessness or inexperience in tube feeding. The food is pumped into the crop through a tube that has been put down the esophagus and into the crop. If the tube is pushed too far, or if the baby jumps, the tube may be pushed through through the crop membrane and the outer skin to cause a puncture. If this happens, food put into the crop will leak out of the puncture. The only way to correct this problem is to suture the inner and outer layers of the crop and skin; and administer antibiotics to prevent infection.

The same injury to the crop can be caused by crop burn (feeding formula that is fed too hot burns a hole through the skin).

Tell-tale signs will be inflammation and swelling around the puncture wound. The absence of food in the crop after a baby has just been fed would indicate a severe injury. This will require surgical intervention (suturing, etc.), or the baby may not survive.

Saving eggs that were opened prematurely.

by Heike Ewing, Bear’s Den Aviary, “BearsDen” on IRC

The #1 reason you lose eggs that were opened prematurely is them drying out. You can help to prevent that by setting them up as follows:

  • Wet a paper towel in clean water and squeeze it out so that it is damp but not dripping. Place inside a plastic ziploc bag, in one corner. In the other corner put the egg, and place an ordinary drinking straw in the bag so that one end is near the egg and the other end is sticking out. Now zip the bag so that it is closed, except for the straw, and place the entire bag into the brooder at a temperature of 98 – 99 degrees. The straw allows the egg to get air; the damp paper towel inside the bag provides very high humidity which the chick needs until it is ready to leave the egg. (The inside of the bag will quickly fog up.)
  • Remove the egg and check it 2 – 3 x daily, and replace the paper towel daily to prevent mold/ mildew. When the yolk sac is completely absorbed, the chick is ready to emerge from the egg; however it will usually come out on its own if it’s kept humid enough that the membrane doesn’t dry out and cause it to get stuck. If all goes well, you’ll go to check on the egg and find the chick “out” – you may then be able to foster it under other cockatiels (assuming its own parents don’t have any eggs left and won’t accept it) or start feeding it about 12 – 18 hours after it “hatches.” (It needs that time to finish absorbing the yolk sac; feeding it kickstarts the digestive system and if you do that too soon it won’t finish reabsorbing the yolk and the result can be peritonitis, which then kills the chick 2 – 5 days later.)
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