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Rooster w/ botulism symptoms now in week 6. Any advice?

post #1 of 2
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Hello. The day after Christmas I moved my roosters into my greenhouse to protect them from some bitter cold weather here in Minnesota that lasted through January.  On Feb 1st, I noticed one of the roosters, Jasper, losing his balance and falling over.  He had a bloody broken nail (which I thought was the problem) which I trimmed and treated with anti-bacterial and corn starch.  I moved all my roosters out of the greenhouse back into their coop because the cold snap was over.  I observed Jasper continuing to fall over frequently with tremors and clutching his feet.  He would stand up within a few seconds, but these episodes are happening at least once an hour.  I also observed a second rooster occasionally walking like he was drunk, and losing his balance.  I thought maybe they had scaly mites, so I treated them.  But I do not think they have scaly mites because their feet do not match the photos I've seen.  But I've continued to treat them.  After some investigation of the symptoms I've come to the conclusion they were exposed to the botulism toxin.  In the greenhouse the roosters had access to some annual flowers and houseplants that I'm storing until spring.  Unfortunately, because of the extremely wet fall, many of the plants were dead and dying and rotting because they were too wet.  The roosters dug in the soil and ate some of the leaves and possible the roots of the rotting plants.  I didn't think it was harmful, because they could do that all spring, summer and fall when they are outside. But the greenhouse was very humid and cool and not a good environment for plants or animals.


From everything I've read, it sounds like botulism and if they survive the first 48 hours they are suppose to recover.  It has been six weeks, and they are not better.  Does anyone think this could be anything other than botulism?  Will they recover if it is? Is there something else I should be doing to help them recover?  Just some info: the roosters are 3 years old, and they eat an "all flock" feed.  Not a layer feed.  Thanks for any thoughts!  I'm really worried.  Mark

post #2 of 2

I really doubt that botulism is the problem. It causes paralysis of both legs pretty soon after eating the toxin found in decaying animal carcasses, maggots, and vegetation. That paralysis then spreads to the wings and the neck, and soon after they can't breathe and die. I would look at possibly Mareks disease, a vitamin deficiency, or aflatoxin poisoning from eating moldy feed or mold spores. Lead poisoning is another possible cause. Start some poultry vitamins in their water that include vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin E. Have you added any new birds to your flock around the time you moved them into the greenhouse? Chickens who have been vaccinated for Mareks or immune to it that have been in an environment or flock with Mareks will be carriers all of their life. They won't show symptoms but are infectious to other birds. Here are some links about Mareks to read:



Aflatoxicosis is one of the most common intoxications in modern poultry production systems. Certain species of Aspergillus and Penicillium can produce aflatoxins in feedstuffs. The production of aflatoxins can occur either in the field where the crops are grown or during storage. Acute aflatoxicosis is characterized by inappetence, ataxia, convulsions, opisthotonos, depression, and death. A gross lesion often seen with acute aflatoxicosis is an enlarged yellow liver. All poultry are susceptible to aflatoxicosis; however, ducks and turkeys are particularly sensitive.



Clostridium botulinum bacteria produce several exotoxins that are among the most potent toxins known. In ducks and geese, botulism outbreaks commonly occur in the summer months in the vicinity of poorly aerated ponds and lakes. The waterfowl ingest the toxin by eating dead invertebrates from the margins of these lakes or eating maggots on the carcasses of ducks that have already succumbed to the intoxication. In pheasant and broiler flocks, where the timely removal of dead birds has not been practiced, carcasses can also become a source of toxin. The classic clinical sign of botulism intoxication in poultry is paralysis of the muscles of the neck or “limberneck.” The toxin also causes paralysis affecting the legs, wings, and eyelids. Diagnosis of botulism is often based on exclusion of other possible causes, although intestinal contents and blood can be collected for botulism toxin analysis (mouse inoculation assay), which is available at several USA diagnostic laboratories.

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