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Hens can't walk

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 

I have a 4-5 month old pullet, who a couple of weeks ago couldn't walk. She was walking on her hocks, her wing on the left side droops, and her left leg is not working well. Every time I try to catch her, she gets up and runs away drunkenly. She's not very agile but she is still fast and will run on the leg. I was assuming Marek's, as she was a yard chicken that was not vaccinated. I have 4 other pullets and a cockerel the same age that show zero symptoms.


Now, I have a silkie hen who cannot walk. She was over 1 year old when I got her last summer, so she's about 2 years old now. 3 days ago she was limping a little. I caught her up to check her feet and saw nothing. Today, she can't even stand. She's still fully alert and moving her head, using her wings to balance herself. She just went downhill... FAST. It wasn't like the pullet, who just couldn't use her one leg one day and then never got worse, the silkie started with a small limp and in 3 days she can't even sit up.


Neither hen has had any change in appetite, no changes in their poop, they have no respiratory symptoms or any other signs of being ill. Neither shows any change in eye color or blindness, no outside lesions. Roosters were still attempting to mate with them before they were separated. We were just about to put the pullet down when the silkie got sick. Today, the pullet is standing more and walking a little bit better, her condition has definitely improved since last week.


Does Marek's affect young, adult chickens? Should we put these two down and just watch the rest of the flock? The silkie is my husband's chicken, he loves her. Short of a vet visit, is there any way I would know if it's Marek's? Will chickens affected by Marek's ever recover? I'm going to keep watching the pullet to see if she continues to get stronger or if she just goes back downhill. If it is... it appears I will be stuck forever with some of the chickens I was planning to trade or sell, since these two are ill all of that is on hold and nothing new is coming in and nothing is going out. I can get a very inexpensive necropsy done here... but I would have to put them down to do it.

post #2 of 46
Thread Starter 
They also aren't doing splits. Both legs are going out in front. The pullet gets around well and especially today she does use that bad leg. The silkie yesterday could grip my fingers with her toes and kick, just wasn't walking very well. The poor silkie can only seem to move backwards.
post #3 of 46

I would separate them so you can monitor their food/water intake. Also add Vitamins to their water or use some vitamin water to make a wet mash out of their feed. Without them being tested, there is really no way to determine exactly what is the problem.  There are several illnesses, neurological disorders and deficiencies that can mimic Marek's, those are listed in the first link provided - it is packed full of information.

post #4 of 46

If you lose either of them I would send their refrigerated not frozen bodies in to the state vet for a necropsy to test for Mareks.

Here are the links to state vets, how to ship, and some other poultry labs that may do them:

post #5 of 46
Thread Starter 
The Georgia Poultry Lab is less than an hour away. They offer free necropsies for private in state chicken owners. I feel this might be the only way I get any answers. They also do very low cost blood tests for in state residents.

Both chickens are eating and drinking well. The little pullet seems to be making a comback. The silkie is still having trouble and scooting around backwards, though I have to hold her up so she can eat and drink. I guess another answer will be what happens to the newly hatched chicks and the TSC chicks that just got big enough to go out into the backyard. So I guess in a week and a half if any of them start dropping like flies I'll know it's definitely something contagious.

I just hope I can find something to help my husbands silkie. He's a big, tattooed veteran, but he loves that little puff ball.
post #6 of 46
Thread Starter 
Well, not the main poultry lab, but one of their branch offices. I bet I could call them and find out if there have been any problems like this around my area.
post #7 of 46
Originally Posted by ameliadanielle View Post

Well, not the main poultry lab, but one of their branch offices. I bet I could call them and find out if there have been any problems like this around my area.

It's worth a try to ask, they may be able to do some type of testing to help you out.

I hope they both get better.

post #8 of 46
Thread Starter 
I haven't had a chance to call the poultry lab yet. I think I'm going to email them. Maybe they will call me back soon. The pullet is about the same. Eating and drinking and pooping normally. She hasn't gotten any worse. She can still move and use both of her legs... although not very well.

The silkie however... she can't keep herself upright. Just falls over laying on her side and her head is constantly jerking. Almost like when someone starts to doze off and then jerks back awake. It's constant. She hasn't eaten today and she spit out her food. She drank some water and I gave her a dropper full of colloidal silver as at this point there's nothing left to try but anything.

We were going to put her down tonight, but my husband can't bring himself to do it yet. We're going to see if in the morning she's had any change or if she's worse. We've propped her up with a towel to keep her from falling over.

It's so sad. She was our sweetest chicken. She was always a little special ed, like she would never brood properly. She'd just go into that broody gaze while standing over a nest of eggs, she would never sit on them. She was also very easy to brake while she was doing this. I always suspected she probably had some sort of brain damage. Could this have made anything neurological just the end for her?
post #9 of 46

I'm sorry she is getting worse:hugs


I don't know much about Silkies, but I have found this for you if you have not read it:

post #10 of 46
Thread Starter 
Our silkie did not make it. sad.png She was gone this morning when we woke up. I'm sure it was spend up by her inability to eat. She couldn't even drink last night, she choked.

Our pullet is still going strong. She seems to be doing better. She's enjoying all the attention now that's for sure. She was pretty wild when all this started and now she's turning into a lap chicken. Hopefully sometime next week I can get an appointment to to drop our silkie off for a necropsy. I know my husband wants to bury her... but it's probably the best chance I will have of finding out what happened and what's going on with the rest of my flock and if it's just going to be a waiting game for the rest to follow.
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