Hi all! Nice to finally join, hope for some comments on potential diagnosis.
Now for the chicken sickness background.
I had chooks as a girl and me and hubby decided to have some in our garden nearly 2 years ago. So we spent one summer building a chicken tractor (moveable coop) that we discovered we could fit in our garden exactly 12 times, for rotating vege cropping. Got 6 chooks for it, young pullets, 4 bantam/silkie or bantam/Sussex (the equivalent of chicken mongrel mutts), and 2 Plymouth Rock/Sussex cross. The person we got them from said they were almost ready to lay, two might be laying already, and the others should be the right age in a few weeks except the Rocks as bigger birds might take longer. Waited and waited and WAITED and they didn't lay, till more than 12 weeks later, first month of winter, and not either of the two she said were older!
So about 6 months ago, one of the two Rocks got listless and not interested in eating. She would stand around with her tail drooping. Wasn't laying. If we gave them a new sort of leftover food, she would be interested and eat some (such as rice soaked in meat sauce, bacon rinds, diced banana skin, diced apple cores, chopped up left over spaghetti etc) , but she wouldn't eat anything a second day - as if she was having pain in eating and would only eat things she didn't recognise. We first thought it might be egg-bound as we thought some symptoms matched. Visits to the local vet were completely inconclusive; took an xray and wasn't egg-bound. We had her isolated and were feeding her egg and finely minced catfood and chicken mash/crumble. Vet gave a course of antibiotics, and worming. No change, eating less and less, her comb paled, even more lethargic. Her plumage was healthy and glossy the whole time. Second vet consulted, didn't have much idea, we were told it might be cancer. Eventually she stopped eating at all and we decided to put her down.
This summer we bought a taller coop (can go in) and built a fenced over yard (chickenwire enclosure) for them. We got 2 more chickens, two big red hyline/orpington cross pullets.
Now, last week, another chook (bantam/sussex) "Prima" started with the same symptoms as the Rock. Prima and the first batch are now 2 years old. Listless, standing a bit stiffly in a corner with eyes closed, tail drooping. Her comb fell over! Hasn't been eating as much (weight 1.7 kg at vet visit, starting to feel underweight). The vet said he was impressed with how good her plumage looked cause he usually gets to see ratty looking hens. Didn't feel any problems and he said she was 'quite easy to feel and massage'. Prima was behaving IMHO far too docile and seemed happy to sit quietly and get head scratching behind the comb (my chooks are not tame, a couple will eat from hand if I don't move, but not this one). Runny droppings and not many (this is from one night when we looked and she was sitting on the nest at night instead of on the roost with the others, in the morning that nest had dribbly white-topped poo in) (Another hen on the other nest that night but she is broody). We discovered at vet that she has lice, but vet didn't know what the problem might be - gave antibiotics. Finished course 2 days ago. No eggs that we can tell.
She got a little bit better (a little more active, but not much) and hasn't gotten worse, but not better, and again not interested in normal food. Think she is getting lighter. When looking at how to treat the lice discovered a picture of scaly leg mites - and 2 in the coop probably have this, worse luck. Just thought it was a breed thing as the two Rocks had scabby layered looking feet not any bantams, think one of the Reds has it too. Got a special oily spray for it at the stock feed shop, will have to go out at night to put it on.
Any thoughts on these symptoms of Prima or comments on things to check for would be appreciated.
Just this morning when feeding hubby discovered one of the Bantam/silkie crosses named "Moppy" for her pullet afro (which receded as her comb grew) sitting on the ground and not moving to get to the food. He thought she might be trying to lay an egg on the ground. Not looking too happy. When hubby and I went in the coop with scraps to check on her and Prima, Moppy flopped around on the ground not able to walk properly. Cue panic, especially when she flopped into and sat down in the box of vegetable oil I'd put in for them to walk in to help suffocate the scaly leg mites (something I saw on this site). She got totally soaked in oil. Took her to the emergency vet since she suddenly couldn't walk - vet was not happy at having to bath her and said it was a stupid idea to put oil down like that. Her poo is just a little wetter than normal, but a vaguely unusual orangish brown, though the vet either didn't notice or didn't seem at all perturbed at the colour. The vet said she couldn't feel any broken bones or problems with the legs and she might just not be using them from weakness; left leg weaker than other, can sit upright but was listing a bit. Vet gave her a force-fed tube down the throat mixture of some nutritious glop. The vet was in a bit of a hurry because of having to take the time to bath the chicken twice; instructed me to keep her inside, in a box, sitting on towels, and with a towel as a donut so she's not resting on her keel as hard to breathe. Said to bring her back on Tuesday (3 days) for an xray to check for leg fractures, and mentioned that if it was Marek's there would be no hope.
So Moppy's here in a cardboard box sitting still as slumped down in the towel, a bit damp, when I put my hand in under her I could feel her shivering, so I turned the fan heater up a bit. Hasn't made any sound, hasn't showed any interest in the jellymeat and slivered kiwifruit I put in there for her.
Any thoughts or comments on Moppy's situation would also be appreciated. Any suggestions on what it might be? How likely is it for a 2yr old to get Mareks all of a sudden? What about the rest of the chickens? Does what Prima and our previous Rock had sound like Mareks of a different form?
Fingers crossed for both our sick girls.