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How to Prevent Poultry Early Mortality



One of the discouraging factors in poultry business is early moralities in birds or chickens. One gets confused to lose 3 of 10 acquired birds within a day or two. One will be imagining what could happen in the next four to five days. What is early mortality? What are its effects and preventive measures? There are about eight causes and preventive measures of early mortality in birds as discussed below:

Antibiotic Injection

Early chick mortality is resulted from E.coli and staphylococcal infections. This can be prevented by given Gentamicin at day old. Most hatcheries give vaccination against Marek’s disease to their chicks at day old.

Temperature Management

Temperature regulation is essential for chicks, specifically in their first 3 weeks. Chicks will need warmth till about 4 weeks. Heat may be required or not after 4 weeks depending on the environmental conditions.

High brooding temperature can cause dehydration when about 10% out of the 70% of water in the chicks’ body is lost, this can lead to death. It can also lead to Pasty Butt, when faeces blocked the vent to disallow egestion and lead to death if not quickly attended to.

Low temperature causes Brooding Pneumonia (Chilling). When the chicks are chilled, their lungs turned blue and they will die. It can also enhance failure in the digestive system.

High and Low brooding temperature can be controlled by having a steady heat source, pay attention to the litter temperature and chicks’ behaviour. Temperature can also be monitored using Max-Min thermometer.

Air Quality

Toxic gases like carbon monoxide, ammonia and too much of carbon dioxide can cause poultry mortality. Good air quality can be achieved by ventilation and circulation of air. Brooding house should not be completely sealed in the name of warmth, leave holes at the upper part for air circulation. Keep the litter dry to prevent ammonia build up.

Water And Feed Quality

Pathogenic and toxic contaminants in feed and water can cause mortality in chicks. Drinking water with excess salt can also cause death. This is regulated by monitoring the feed and water quality through certain preliminary tests. One can also add toxin binder to the feed.


Birds require period of darkness after 7 days to avoid metabolic diseases and leg problems. Chicks should be exposed to blackout training in case of sudden darkness, so that chicks will not die from pile up of litter if blackout occurs.


Overcrowding in poultry enhances easy spread of pathogenic organisms and can lead to death from suffocation or stampede when frightened. A matured broiler needs at least a space of 1 foot square and 2 foot square for layers.

Medication And Vaccination

Routine multivitamins, probiotics and disease control using drugs are classified as poultry medication. Give multivitamins when chicks are stressed to boost their immune system. Probiotics encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Probiotics can even be given during antibiotic treatment. Vaccination deals with immunizing the birds against diseases through injection or drinking water.


In the absence of brooder ring, chicks are in danger of stampede at any of the four corners of the pen when frightened and a lot of chicks can die in that way. This can be prevented by blocking the corners of the house with wire mesh or cardboards.

In conclusion, it is normal for some chicks to die during the first 3 weeks. About 3% of the chicks may die before 3 weeks and 1% after 3 weeks. However, one can be expecting something higher at laying period (for layers). Hope you have understood the causes and preventions of early mortality in poultry.

Read also on Disease Control and Biosecurity in Broiler Chickens