Good news so far. The hunching and wilted looking red pullet youngster below is looking much better today. I've ended up setting the lamp up and also moving them all to a bigger brooder, and the difference is amazing. Best of all -- no bloody poop! Not a single one. And that was without treating them with a coccidiocide.
I've given them plain commercial chick grower plus a little soy meal to increase the protein to chick starter levels. I've also put kefir in the drinking water, at about 30%.
I also threw a handful of adult pen soil into the brooder, as I set it up on a completely new floor (two wardrobe doors lying together).
I'll see how they go, but they're looking good so far, all things considered.
A quick trip for chaff has turned into a chick rescue.
On the side of the feed store driveway was a hutch swarming with chicks from 1-3 weeks in age. There was no lamp above the unit, and the nest area was just sheet metal with no insulation, so one chick was already dying. The cage was also very soiled.
I could see a few signs of mild cocci (pale faces), but no bloody droppings were visible.
These are commercial blacks and ISA browns, with either some leghorn x or perhaps male ISA browns in the mix. They were apparently hatched in local kindergartens where hatching eggs has become very popular. The chicks have been either donated or sold (probably donated) to the local feed store by whoever runs the hatching business, and are unsexed. I feel there's a good chance they haven't come into contact with anything nasty except the cocci (which is everywhere), and so I picked out 6 of the healthiest looking to take home.
However after setting them up in the brooder, I felt guilty about the remaining ones having fewer live bodies to help them keep warm, so I went back and bought the rest. The woman in charge let me have the lot for a low price; I don't think she wanted to set up a brooder lamp and she was obviously upset about the dying one. Thus I've ended up with 20 chicks, some of which will be males, and some of which are looking a little pale.
I do need extra layers for next year, so this wasn't entirely an impulse purchase. Roosters are also welcome here as I'm often looking for healthy layer types (nobody likes to raise them to adulthood, so they can be scarce as hens' teeth when wanted). If too many turn out to be roosters, the extras will become table birds after a decent life on healthy food and a respectful humane death. I'm comfortable with all that.
But the stress of moving has upset them, and I'm now seeing bloody droppings. So it's not an ideal purchase, but it's a fact that I've made worse ones. (I remember, for instance, remote-buying 6 brahma chicks from Mudgee that were meant to be 12 weeks old and show quality. When they arrived they were 5 weeks old at the most, wrong-combed, and had respiratory disease.) These birds do have a couple of things in their favour: they were hatched at kindergartens and most likely won't have been exposed to too many other birds; they will have come from commercial eggs so will most likely be MG (mycoplasma gallisepticum) free; and the girls will be good productive birds when they mature.
For now I've got them in the mesh brooder under the enclosed carport, and the nestbox is thoroughly hay-stuffed and has the little 5w heat-pad turned on. If the chicks don't seem to know how to go inside to warm up I'll set up a lamp, but they seemed willing to use the nestbox compartment at the feed store. I'd say they were only beginning to chill because there was no insulation and it was just sheet metal. Not great on a cold day!
So there it is... Twenty chicks, and a bag of chaff.