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Botulism from fermented feed?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

I am currently experiencing an illness in some of my chicks that really has me curious if anyone has experienced the same thing.  I have been fermenting chick starter for about 3 weeks and everything seemed to be going well.  There was no foul odor or visible mold on the feed.  My chicks are 4 weeks old and on Wednesday I noticed one not able to stand up and was very wobbly.  When I would put it on its feed, it would roll to the side or fall backwards.  I was terrified it was Marek's, but the next day she was very much improved, although still seems to have tremors and a little uncoordination.  On Thursday, I found a chick that was hanging its head very low and seemed weak.  I brought it in the house and when it was apparent that it was not able to eat or drink, I syringe fed it every few hours.  It became so weak last evening that it wouldn't even open it's eyes, but I continued to force feed/water it.  I thought for sure it was going to die overnight, but when I checked on it this morning, it was up walking and eating on its own.   Now, there is a third chick with the same floppy/flaccid neck and is very weak.  Their coop is clean, they have clean water, and there is nothing dead around.  They have not been out to free-range.  I don't understand where it is coming from other than the fermented feed.  I stopped feeding it to them when the first chick became ill on Wednesday.  Does anyone know the incubation period for botulism?  I have obsessively gone over and over what could be wrong and the only thing I can think of is there was possibly some mold growing around the sides of the bucket and I stirred it into the feed on accident.  The feed was always submerged. 

post #2 of 3
Quote:
Originally Posted by csgibbs View Post
 

I am currently experiencing an illness in some of my chicks that really has me curious if anyone has experienced the same thing.  I have been fermenting chick starter for about 3 weeks and everything seemed to be going well.  There was no foul odor or visible mold on the feed.  My chicks are 4 weeks old and on Wednesday I noticed one not able to stand up and was very wobbly.  When I would put it on its feed, it would roll to the side or fall backwards.  I was terrified it was Marek's, but the next day she was very much improved, although still seems to have tremors and a little uncoordination.  On Thursday, I found a chick that was hanging its head very low and seemed weak.  I brought it in the house and when it was apparent that it was not able to eat or drink, I syringe fed it every few hours.  It became so weak last evening that it wouldn't even open it's eyes, but I continued to force feed/water it.  I thought for sure it was going to die overnight, but when I checked on it this morning, it was up walking and eating on its own.   Now, there is a third chick with the same floppy/flaccid neck and is very weak.  Their coop is clean, they have clean water, and there is nothing dead around.  They have not been out to free-range.  I don't understand where it is coming from other than the fermented feed.  I stopped feeding it to them when the first chick became ill on Wednesday.  Does anyone know the incubation period for botulism?  I have obsessively gone over and over what could be wrong and the only thing I can think of is there was possibly some mold growing around the sides of the bucket and I stirred it into the feed on accident.  The feed was always submerged. 

 

Botulism is not a mold, nor should it grow in FF under normal circumstances.  I don't think little chicks would recover from botulism in a day, if at all.  It sounds like a vitamin deficiency.  As for submersing the feed....if you are trying to create an anaerobic condition in doing so in an attempt to grow LABs, that's one way of actually making conditions ripe for botulism growth.  You don't need to keep feed submersed to grow good scoby in your FF, so I'd dispense with that if I were you...it's messy and useless to maintain it in that manner. 

Quote:

Clostridium botulinum is an anaerobic, Gram positive, spore-forming rod. Botulinum toxin is one of the most powerful known toxins: about one microgram is lethal to humans when inhaled.[9] It acts by blocking nerve function (neuromuscular blockade) through inhibition of the excitatory neurotransmitter acetylcholine's release from the presynaptic membrane of neuromuscular junctions in the somatic nervous system. This causes paralysis. Advanced botulism can cause respiratory failure by paralysing the muscles of the chest; this can progress to respiratory arrest.[10]

In all cases, illness is caused by the botulinum toxin produced by the bacterium C. botulinum in anaerobic conditions and not by the bacterium itself. 

 

Quote:
 Depending on the quantity of vitamin A passed on from the breeder hen, day-old chicks reared on a vitamin A–deficient diet may show signs within 7 days. However, chicks with a good reserve of maternal vitamin A may not show signs of a deficiency for up to 7 wk. Gross signs in chicks include anorexia, growth retardation, drowsiness, weakness, incoordination, emaciation, and ruffled feathers. If the deficiency is severe, the chicks may become ataxic, which is also seen with vitamin E deficiency (see Vitamin E Deficiency). The yellow pigment in the shanks and beaks is usually lost, and the comb and wattles are pale. A cheesy material may be noted in the eyes, but xerophthalmia is seldom seen because chicks usually die before the eyes become affected. Secondary infection may play a role in many of the deaths noted with acute vitamin A deficiency.
 
Vitamin E deficiency accompanied by sulfur amino acid deficiency results in severe muscular dystrophy in chicks by ~4 wk of age. This condition is characterized by degeneration of the muscle fibers, usually in the breast but sometimes also in the leg muscles. Histologic examination shows Zenker's degeneration, with perivascular infiltration and marked accumulation of infiltrated eosinophils, lymphocytes, and histocytes. Accumulation of these cells in dystrophic tissue results in an increase in lysosomal enzymes, which appear to function in the breakdown and removal of the products of dystrophic degeneration. Initial studies involving the effects of dietary vitamin E on muscular dystrophy show that the addition of selenium at 1–5 mg/kg diet reduced the incidence of muscular dystrophy in chicks receiving a vitamin E–deficient diet that was also low in methionine and cysteine, but did not completely prevent the disease. However, selenium was completely effective in preventing muscular dystrophy in chicks when the diet contained a low level of vitamin E, which alone had been shown to have no effect on the disease. Throughout the past few years, the incidence of “muscular dystrophy–type” lesions in the breast muscle of older (>35 day) broilers has increased. Characteristic parallel white striations on the muscle are similar to those seen in chicks with muscular dystrophy, yet on analysis the diet of these birds seems adequate in vitamin E as well as selenium.

 

 

Not sure why your chicks are having this as I've had no one else report such symptoms with feeding the FF.  It wouldn't be mold stirred into the feed, as it wouldn't be in any quantity sufficient to release mycotoxins enough to sicken chicks.   I stir yeasts and even molds scraped off the side of the bucket into my feed all the time, for chicks and grown birds alike...it's never in quantities that would harm any bird and the organisms within the FF would inhibit the growth of the mold spores within the feed itself.

 

If you are now feeding dry feed, I'd continue with that and see if the symptoms recur or persist.  If they do, you might try giving some vitamins in their water and go from there. 

 
A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.  Proverbs 12:10
 
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A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.  Proverbs 12:10
 
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post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
Thank you. I believe it was some sort of mineral/vitamin deficiency, which is weird because I thought I was feeding them very well. I gave them all Poly-Vi-Sol for a few days and there have been no more occurrences. The sudden onset and recovery was very puzzling.
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