Hi there everybody, I don't post but have been lurking here a good while. I've found I can find out most things about chickens right here.
Sadly, I have combed through a lot of internet data and I still can't come to a conclusion on two of my unwell birds. I would love to hear thoughts of everyone here. Here is my situation:
I am still pretty new at chickens but the More-Hens Disease or Chicken Math has gotten me pretty bad so I have several groups of chickens of different ages, my younger birds are separated by gender into “grow out” pens while my more mature birds are in their own coop. The sad situation I have now is that two of my young cockerels are not able to walk properly. I separated them from the group the moment I noticed the abnormal behavior. For the first bird this was Thursday morning, for the other, it was this morning. I spend a fair amount of time with them as I feed them at daybreak, a treat in the afternoon, and then scratch for warmth around 4pm. I also enter their coops to scrape droppings boards right before I put them back up for the evening. I always look to see if everyone is moving and acting “normal” for their individual personality. The sick birds are from my grow out coop, it is a divided coop with wire running the length to make it into two halves so birds can see each other, for ease when separating females from males when they leave the indoor brooder. I normally have only pine shavings for litter but have recently added straw in attempt to cut down on dust – I am wondering if this problem is Aspergillosis? I noticed last week that the young males coop had a large area of wet litter under their waterer on change day (I deep litter full size coops but remove grow out birds litter once a week). I immediately thought “Oh no, mold!” but then there were no problems. Its been a week and a half since the wet litter chunk I pulled out (it was the size of a dinner plate so quite a bit of wet straw and wood chip).
However, none of the birds in the grow out are vaccinated for Marek's. They are Icelandics. I hatched them and being a newb listened to other's tell me Marek's wasn't common here and I shouldn't worry about it. There are also 3 birds in with them who are 2 weeks older than them, 2 Marans and a Lemon Cuckoo Orp. When the first bird was standing weird, I thought maybe the Marans boys had hurt him while working out pecking order because they are huge (one of the Icees is crowing already and he is extra spunky/assertive so he initiates a lot of arguments). The two sick birds are Icelandics and the first one kind of shuffles around, can't stand the right way, stands exactly like a penguin. He eats well if I hold boiled yolk, or regular feed up to him and will drink if I hold it up too, but will not try to get to food or drink on his own. His poo looks normal, no diarrhea or odd color, normal amount of urate/white stuff. He is very sweet but has always been low on the peck order so I was not surprised he felt a little thin when I picked him up and brought him in for quarantine. He seems to be losing weight even this past few days though. Very thin, but eating. He has a hard time catching his breath after he moves a lot and it kills me to see that but it goes away in just a few seconds. I was unsure what to do other than electrolytes and making sure he eats and drinks. If I have to cull him I will but was hoping it could resolve. I have some medicines on hand but upon reading about Marek's and Aspergillosis I thought IF it was either of those the antibiotics would be useless as one was a virus and the other made toxins?
The other bird I have quarantined today is different. He can't seem to get up on his legs but if I help him he can walk a few steps and will for a boiled egg. But then he lays back down, on litter, not on a perch (which is unusual for him also) and doesn't move. He is on my back porch with a gentle (50 watt) heat lamp and a small animal warmer pad inside a large plastic dog crate/kennel. The first bird is in one of my spare bedrooms in a box (easier to feed and water him by hand all day).
Neither has the splayed leg thing that happens with Marek's. And the other 8 males in the grow out are fine. I moved the females 2 weeks ago because I got another full size coop – none of them look sick and their droppings board reveals everything is business as usual. My 6 original birds ARE vaccinated for Marek's as they are hatchery birds. Also I have 4 Legbars (one who came to me with all kinds of problems from the beginning, she was hand fed and brooded with a later group because she would not even grow into her feathers the first month and a half) who ARE vaccinated. The rest of the females I hatched out and are not vaccinated.
Here is the info a little better organized:
What type of bird , age and weight (does the chicken seem or feel lighter or thinner than the others.)
-two 7 week old, Icelandic males, the first is definitely thinner than most, the second, not any difference in weight from the healthy bird
What is the behavior, exactly.
-not walking around as normal, would not come for treats and upon further watching the first stands like a penguin and kind of hobbles very short distances; the second can't get up on those darned legs but can will walk for a treat if I help him stand on them
3. How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms?
-the first bird has been this way 3 days, the second bird since this morning
4. Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms?
-these are the only two birds acting this way, the others are all wildly active as usual
5. Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma.
- No. I turned both birds on their backs and felt slowly wings, legs, keel, no signs of parasites, broken parts, bleeding or anything else.
6. What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation.
- A moldy piece in litter a week and a half ago and lack of vaccination.
7. What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all.
- Birds are on Scratch N Peck 50% Grower/50% Starter (we are in transition now to Grower). Also have one of these a day: oatmeal with a little Brewers yeast on top, some type of cos lettuce, berries, grapes, melon, hard boiled egg. Get a tiny bit cracked corn and hard red wheat on cold days.
8. How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? Etc.
- Poo is normal color and solid except it seems like they are large droppings, maybe he is holding it or its not moving through because of decreased body movement???
9. What has been the treatment you have administered so far?
-Quarantine in warm small area within a few inches of food and water. Sav A Chick Electrolyte in water. Laid towel for him to lay on since keel is so prominent. Brought mini perch inside kennel for other bird who is sick but not as thin.
10. What is your intent as far as treatment? For example, do you want to treat completely yourself, or do you need help in stabilizing the bird til you can get to a vet?
-I need to treat myself – the two vets in my town “don't do much with chickens”.
11. If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help.
-I grabbed a quick shot of the first bird who is looking penguin-ish. The other doesn't look like anything he's just sitting down and not moving.
12. Describe the housing/bedding in use
-Pine litter with some straw on raised coop inside covered run. Run has litter floor also. Heated and unheated roost areas.
Would you all weigh in on the following?
Do I have to euthanize these two? Do they have any chance of making it?
Could it be something other than Marek's or Aspergillosis?
Am I going to lose all of my birds? My heart will shatter into a million pieces I am sure :(
If Marek's, at what point do I end their suffering? I know if they survive they will be carriers of Marek's (I have no plans to breed or sell just home use birds) but if I cull – isn't it pointless because Marek's is on your soil ever after?
Same question regarding Aspergillosis. Only, is there a way to get rid of it in the coop/run/etc?
Is this correct...if its Marek's I can expect it to rip through my entire flock in all the coops but if its Aspergillosis it should only be whatever birds were exposed to mold spore in their specific coop (the young males)?
I have 6 babies in the inside brooder only 6 days old right now. I hatched them, they are not vaccinated, and its too late for vaccine. So when they are old enough to go to a grow out, they will get Marek's too and die (if Marek's)?
I have had to euthanize a bird before but it was isolated incident, bad hatchery stock. The thought of losing most of them is horrible.
I don't want to euthanize a bird that could recover even if it is uncomfortable now, as long as it will get better. Also, I do not want any being dependent upon me to go through undue suffering no matter how much suffering that causes me. I'll do whatever should be done but I am having a hard time knowing what is the right thing. And, I am scared of what the final outcome is going to be overall, yet I need to align my expectations with the most likely scenario so my heart doesn't break anymore than necessary.