Skip to Content

This Is Why Baby Chickens Lay On Their Side

Raising baby chicks can be a challenging and worrying time for chicken owners. There are many things that these little creatures do that may seem weird and can bring about immense worry for their owners. There are many situations that can occur and go wrong that we end up wondering about the smallest of things. Is there a reason for the strange behavior of them laying on their sides? Well, this is why your baby chick is lying on its side.

Baby chicks can tip over when they fall asleep like they’re laying on their side. Laying on their side can be a sign of illness or nutrient deficiency if there are accompanying symptoms. If no other symptoms or issues exist, then a side-lying chick is just sleeping in a weird position.

When baby chicks lay on their side, it could be an indication of a disease such as Coccidiosis, which can be deadly to the baby chicks. However, it could also be natural, like a vitamin E deficiency that can be treated easily, or the young chick could have just fallen asleep in a weird position.

Image of baby chicks at the open area.

Baby chicks are very fragile and should be treated with great care and attention. Some of the diseases that can cause them to lay on their side can kill the baby chick quickly. Let us go through some signs and symptoms you should watch for to ensure the health of your baby chicks.

Why Baby Chicks Lay On Their Side

Most baby chicks who lay on their side are simply exhausted little creatures who fell asleep – and then fell over. Growing up is a lot of work. Think of it like a small child who got tired from playing on the playset – and then they fell asleep in a weird position.

I’ve read a ton of stories about this happening – and I’ve seen tired chicks wobble as they go to lay down. Most of our chicks have managed to lay down in their normal, sleeping-while-sitting-on-their-legs position. But one or two have taken a nap laying down.

The reason for the baby chicks laying on their side could also be natural and dependent on the age of your chicks. If your chicks are older, they may be trying to sunbathe; if they are younger, they may just be sleeping.

However, there are some times when a baby chick who lays on its side may not be doing so well. However, in these abnormal cases, there’s almost always other symptoms or problems that come with the side-laying sleeping.

The reasons that your baby chick may lay in its side can range from being natural and common to severe and sometimes rare. The baby chick may lay on its side due to illness, both severe and life-threatening to just a common cold. 

No matter the illness’s severity, the baby chick will need help to recover as a less severe illness can develop quite quickly to very severe in baby chicks as they are very fragile and can succumb to an illness in a matter of hours or days.

Another reason can be a vitamin deficiency due to lack of good quality feed or not enough variety of food if you are not using feed for your baby chicks. 

Now that we know what could be going on when the baby chicks are lying on their side, let us go through a few of these reasons more in-depth to understand what we can do to help our baby chicks and get them healthy again.

2 Diseases That May Cause Chicks To Lay On Their Side

There are a few diseases that baby chicks can develop that can be life-threatening to them and should be treated, either at the vet or if you are capable of doing it yourself, as soon as you are able to. 

One of the following diseases can be very dangerous to baby chicks and should be treated with immediate effect. The other is not too dangerous but should be treated to ensure the health of your chicks.

Chronic Respiratory Disease In Baby Chicks

Chronic Respiratory Disease is not generally fatal, but it can remain in the baby chick’s system for life. This disease can cause health problems to re-occur in the future and can also make your chickens susceptible to other diseases in the future.

For these reasons, it is essential to identify the causes of this disease early so you can take various precautions which can prevent it before your baby chick’s health is compromised. 

There are multiple circumstances that can cause Chronic Respiratory Disease in baby chicks. These include extreme temperatures, dust or fine residue, new animals being introduced, poor ventilation, and moist litter.

If there is an instant change in the temperature of the brood box, this can affect your baby chicks, especially if the temperature is bitterly cold. As we mentioned, chicks are very fragile, so they need time to acclimatize to changes in temperature, or this will be a shock to their system. This can help cause Chronic Respiratory Disease. Or it can at least make it easier for your chick to catch CRD from another source.

Dust or fine residue in the brood box can irritate the baby chicks’ airways, causing this respiratory disease. Make sure you change their bedding regularly and be careful when pouring feed into the brood box.

Moist litter is a perfect place for disease to breed and can grow mold too. Poor ventilation that allows cold drafts into the brood box can cause Chronic Respiratory Disease in your baby chicks. Introducing new chicks to each other is a stressful experience for them. When chicks are stressed, they are more susceptible to diseases.

There are a few symptoms you should be on the lookout for in your baby chicks to ensure that they do not have this disease. These include coughing, nasal discharge, sneezing, and loss of appetite. This can loss of appetite can cause your baby chicks to become weak; this may cause them to lay on their side and in other strange positions.

Coccidiosis In Baby Chicks

Coccidiosis is the number one killer disease for baby chicks, according to some chicken owners and forums. This is a common disease that can be deadly to your baby chicks. Coccidiosis is an intestinal disease that is caused by a parasite that attaches to the intestinal lining in the baby chicks. 

Once this parasite attaches itself to the lining, it damages the intestinal tract of the baby chick as part of its normal lifecycle. This damage then prevents the chick from absorbing the nutrients from its food that are vital to the chick’s survival.

All chickens carry various strains of this parasite, but not all of the chickens become infected; some may just be carriers of the disease. You need to be careful as Coccidiosis can also be carried and spread by clothing and other equipment that we use around the baby chicks. These are most usually things like pails and shovels used to move soiled litter.

Young chicks, usually under six months, are highly susceptible to this disease as they have not had the time it takes to develop natural immunity. Older chickens are usually less susceptible to it, though they may be asymptomatic carriers.

Symptoms of this disease can develop very quickly, within as little as 4 to 8 days. The symptoms can appear suddenly or gradually, however with this disease, it is not uncommon for the chicks to appear fine one day and then the next day be severely ill or even dead.

The symptoms of this disease include blood or mucus in the droppings, diarrhea, weakness, weight loss, decreased growth rate, decreased food and water consumption, ruffled feathers, and blood at the chick’s vent. With these symptoms, the chick will not feel good and may lay down, ending up on its side as it’s too weak to keep itself up. 

Other Reasons Why Baby Chicks Lay On Their Side

As mentioned earlier, there are other reasons as to why your baby chick may lay on its side apart from illness. These reasons can be natural, or they can be treated easily. 

If your chick is lying on its side, it could be a sign of Encephalomalacia – a vitamin E deficiency. This is known in the chicken world as crazy chick disease. A deficiency in vitamin E can cause neurological damage over time. 

Signs of a vitamin E deficiency include walking in circles, suddenly losing balance, head shaking, and tremors. This can lead the baby chick to eventually have convulsions and paralysis, which will lead to the death of the chick.

If your chick is starting to lay on its side, then the deficiency is quite far along and will need help from the vet. You will probably need to use a dropper to administer vitamin E drops to your chick at regular intervals. To avoid this from happening, ensure your chicks have a nutrient-filled diet with lots of variety. From my research, having access to some pasture and free forage time should prevent this particular kind of deficiency.

Another reason your chick may be laying on its side could be that it just fell asleep and fell over like that. Young chickens are much like human babies when it comes to sleep. They can fall asleep in just about any location and as quickly as it takes you to blink. This means that the baby chicks can end up in various weird positions when they fall asleep, from laying down properly to laying on their side to even falling asleep while standing. 

Final Thoughts on Chicks Laying on their Sides

There are many reasons why your baby chick may be lying on its side. These can be illnesses or natural. Odds are, your chick just got exhausted and fell asleep in a weird position. But watch for other potential problems or symptoms. That way, you’ll be able to catch anything problematic early.

Just keep an eye on your baby chick to ensure that it does not happen often and to ensure that the baby chick does not have any other symptoms of a disease that could be deadly to the chick. Include good, nutritious food in their diets and keep the brood box clean, and they should be fine.

Cite this article as: “This Is Why Baby Chickens Lay On Their Side.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 10 March 2021, backyardhomesteadhq.com/this-is-why-baby-chickens-lay-on-their-side/.

Resources

It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders. 🙂

  • 5 Signs Your Chickens Might Have the Flu. www.backyardchickencoops.com.au/blogs/learning-centre/5-signs-your-chickens-might-have-the-flu.
  • “All about Encephalomalacia Disease.” My Pet Chicken, www.mypetchicken.com/backyard-chickens/chicken-help/All-about-Encephalomalacia-disease-H376.aspx.
  • “Coccidiosis & Your Chickens – What You Need to Know.” Freedom Ranger Blog, 15 Nov. 2019, www.freedomrangerhatchery.com/blog/coccidiosis-your-chickens-what-you-need-to-know/.
  • “Common Problems With Baby Chickens And How To Overcome Them.” Backyard Chicken Coops, www.backyardchickencoops.com.au/blogs/learning-centre/common-problems-with-baby-chickens-and-how-to-overcome-them.
  • Pitesky, Maurice. “Coccidiosis In Chickens … Transmission, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” AcreageLife Magazine – Country Living at Its Finest, www.acreagelife.com/hobby-farming/coccidiosis-in-chickens-transmission-diagnosis-and-treatment.