Page 593 - WSAVA2018
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Examination of the chick
As with any other medical case, a good history of the chick is an essential key in the diagnostic workup. Factors to consider stem from the earlier discussion on determinants of a chick’s health. They include:
· The parents - their genetics, diet, maturity and health status.
· Incubation – was it artificial or natural? The hatchability of fertile eggs is a key indicator of incubation performance, and hopefully it can be found in the aviculturist’s records.
· Hatching: if the eggs were artificially incubated, were there any problems with hatch?
· How is the nursery managed regarding hygiene, biosecurity, and the source of eggs and/or chicks?
· What type of food is been fed, how is it pre- pared, what volume is fed and how frequently?
· If there are any siblings or other chicks, have there been any problems or deaths within the group?
· What records does the aviculturist keep? Details on hatch dates, hatch weights, growth rates, mortalities, medications, and previous medical problems are valuable sources of information, but are sadly lacking in many cases.
Physical examination
The chick should be weighed and its weight compared with the expected weight for that age, found in growth charts (if available). All chicks will gain weight each day – it is the rate of weight gain that is more important than the actual weight. This can be monitored by expressing the chick’s weight as a percentage of the expected weight for that age. If a problem exists, improvement can be seen as a gain in percentage of expected weight, rather than actual weight gain. (Figure 2)
Your Singapore, the Tropical Garden City
It is important to be aware that chicks sleep and rest in what seems to be ‘awkward’ positions. (For example, conure and macaw chicks often sleep on their on their backs.) These positions change as the chick moves; one should look for postures that do not change with movement.
The positioning and conformation of the limbs and the spine should be checked. Common conformational abnormalities include a kinked (or ‘wry’) neck, scoliosis, kyphosis, tibiotarsal or femoral rotation, and anteroflexion of the toes.
Body condition
The toes and elbows in a well-nourished, healthy
chick should be ‘plump’. Thin toes and elbows are
a good indicator in neonatal chicks of dehydration, malnourishment or disease. Palpation of the pectoral muscles is helpful; the soft keel bone at this age should be well fleshed with soft (but poorly developed) pectoral muscles.
Restlessness could indicate incorrect environmental temperature or stress (e.g. excessive lighting). Failure to elicit a feeding response can be an indication of disease, hypothermia or weakness.
Pallor of the skin can indicate hypothermia, anaemia or illness. Erythematous skin can indicate hyperthermia or illness. Heavily wrinkled skin indicates dehydration.
The normal crop should have some food in it at most times. It should not be over-distended, nor should it have significant amounts of air or gas in it. Rhythmic contractions of the crop should be visible in neonatal chicks, and the crop should nearly empty in 4–6 hours in all chicks.
The size of the head should not be excessively large in relation to body size. The beak should have a normal conformation. There should be no sinus swellings. The nares should be open and symmetrical.
The eyes should be symmetrical and healthy in appearance. They begin to open at 10–28 days and take several days to open completely. Most Australian and African parrots hatch with their ears open. The ears of Eclectus and South American species should be open within 2–3 weeks after hatching.
 Figure 2. Using growth charts

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