Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shama Chicks in Holland

Letter dated 10th October 2008
Dear Mister De Souza,

I am presently handrearing two young shamas. They are seven days old now and kept at 32 degrees celcius during the day. They seem fine at this temperature. If the temperature is 34 degrees they start stretching their necks and open their mouth so I think that is too warm?

When I come and check them in the morning they seem a little cold and lethargic. Is this normal?

What temperature should I keep them at night when they are resting????

They are growing well on crickets, mealworms and worms.

Thank you very much for your answer/advice.

Best regards,

(from Holland)


Hi __,

Here in the tropics, the mother will stop brooding the chicks after the third night. When hand-feeding the chicks indoors, I usually provide heat for another 2 days before switching off the brooder temperature.

The night outdoors temperature in Singapore may drop to 23 or 24 degrees celsius. If the chicks are indoors, the temperature will be slightly higher as the doors and windows where the chicks are will be closed. Unless the nights in Holland are colder at this time, you may wish to turn off the brooder temperature.

I hatch my shama eggs at 37.4 degrees celsius and reduce the temperature to 36 degrees 2 days before the eggs are due to hatch. When the newly hatched chicks are placed in the brooder, the temperature is maintained at 35 degrees for a day before it is reduced by 1 degree a day. When the chicks start to feather, the temperature is turned off. I may then continue to keep them in the brooder or transfer them with the nest to a cage.

As you have noted, if the chicks stretch their necks when they are resting, the temperature is too warm. On the other hand, if they are lethargic, the temperature is probably not warm enought.

A temperature of 32 degrees at night should not be too low for 7 days old chicks. I would guess that the temperature in the brooder is not accurate and the actual temperature may be much lower than 32 degrees. I use a mercury thermometer to check the actual temperature in the brooder and you may wish to try this.

Another possibility is that you may be wrong in thinking that the chicks are lethargic in the morning. Hand-fed chicks usually eat less for the first meal of the day and this is normal.

Regarding diet, it is beneficial to provide vertebrates in addition to feeding non-vertebrates such as crickets, mealworms and worms. I feed small guppies and froglets. If these are not available, calcium fortified with vitamin D3 should be added to the food. Otherwise, the bones of the chicks may not develop properly.

I will be happy to answer any other questions you may have.

Best regards,


Letter dated 12th October 2008
Hi David,

I followed your advice on the rearing-temperature and everything is going fine. The chicks are developing the sheaths of their feathers now. I checked the temperature with a good thermomether and it turned out that the temperature in the brooder is 2 degrees lower than shown on the display!.

I keep the chicks by 28 degrees celsius and that is fine for them.

Yesterday I bought small tropical fish for them. They really liked them and it makes a good source of calcium.

I have another question if I may.

Today I changed the bedding of the nest for a towel because they threatened to swallow the cocofibre as I fed them.

I noticed that one chick has a good strong grip in its feet and strong legs. The other one has a week grip and has week legs.

Could this be the result of a deficiency in the food. A vitamin deficiency perhaps???

(I dust the insects I give with a mineral en vitamine powder)

What is your oppinion???

Best regards

I gave the chick with the bad grip in it's feet and that did not stand up calcium and vitamin D3 to help it calcify its bones. My vet told me the chick has shortage of calcium and this gives him painful bones which causes him not wanting to stand.

What is your opinion?



The cause of the chick being unable to use its legs could be due to a deficiency of calcium. As mentioned in my earlier email, mealworms, crickets and worms do not have sufficient calcium in them. If this is the main food of the birds, calcium supplementation will be necessary. Another sign that calcium is lacking in chicks is a condition known as "rubber beak" in which the beak is soft and pliable.

Calcium is also needed to assist the bird to contract its muscles. A lack of calcium could therefore result in the bird not being able to contract its thigh muscles. This could be what is affecting your chick.

Vitamin B is required for the proper functioning of the nerves, so I would give a good vitamin B Complex supplement to the birds. I find that vitamin B supplementation is more necessary when feeding live food then when feeding mainly dry food.

There is of course the possibility that the cause of the problem may be genetic. If so, there is nothing much that can be done. I hope this is not the case.

Best regards,