1&1/2 Year-old Hen - diarrhea, lethargic, only eats treats


In the Brooder
7 Years
Feb 26, 2012
Howdy folks!

I have another sick bird . . . her name is Maime. in mid-July I found Maime, a 1-and-a-half-year-old Jersey Giant hen sitting in the coop and acting A.D.R (a technical term, the letters stand for " 'Ain't Doing Right", lol) =). She was laying under the roosts and not outside with the rest of the flock. I kept her in the basement for a little over a week. I did not see anything to indicate that she was sick other than I noticed that she was quite thin. I submitted a fecal sample to test for parasites and the results were negative. She was not laying at the time (just finishing up a molt) and with my vet's guidance I started giving her some higher protein chick-start feed with her regular lay-ration . . . just to bulk-her up a little. I offered it free-choice, but I don't think she chose to eat much of it, but otherwise she ate her lay-ration extremely well and treats with gusto! =)

She did very well down there in my basement and I thought maybe the summer heat outside got to her and she just needed a break to cool off. I put her back with the rest of the flock and she did great . . . for a while. She was always one of the first birds to run out of the coop to eat in the morning and she seemed to be in good spirits too! Even her feathers grew back splendidly after she finished her molt!

Now, two months later, she is sick again. But this time she has diarrhea, she is even thinner now, she is lethargic, and her crop seems to empty very slowly. I ran another fecal sample through the diagnostic lab and, once again, it is negative for all parasites. At the vet's advice I decided to treat her with Trimethoprim Sulfa (antibiotic and sulfa-drug) for coccidia anyway. One week later now, she is still not well at all. I had the vet run some bloodwork too and the results were rather shocking to both of us. She has virtually NO white blood cells. She has very low Albumin (a blood protein produced by the liver). Her calcium and phosphorous levels are also low. She also has high CK levels, but the vet thinks that's due to emaciation.

My vet is very worried about Marek's disease because low white blood cell count can sometimes be associated with viral diseases. He recommended euthanasia and posting her for necropsy. I have two problems with this differential diagnosis. The first is: this is a completely closed flock. They hatched together, were raised together, and have NEVER been exposed to another chicken . . . ever. There are other backyard flocks in my area, but they have never met my girls.

My second problem is . . . she's still eating. She will eat tomatoes, spaghetti, crackers, etc. Of course, she refuses her regular lay-ration (to which I add in oyster shell, dried sea kelp, and Omega-3, not just with her-but with the flock). I try to mix it in with her treats, but she's not getting much. I have been giving her about 1.5ml of the poultry Nutridrench directly in the mouth to make sure that she gets at least some vitamins and minerals. Her crop empties very slowly now so she will eat a plate of veggies and pasta in the morning and by night only a little of it has been moved through. I just don't want to give up on her if she's still willing to eat.

If she stops eating I'll take that as time for euthanasia, but until then, I'm planning on switching to Tylan injectable and possibly injectable Thiamine &/or B12 just to boost her appetite. If anyone has any thoughts or recommendations I'm open to anything! Thank so much for your help and advice =D
Fecal floats can have false negatives.

I once read on BYC where someone had taken poo in for testing (it was negative) and not 24 hours later they saw a worm in the poo. So use your judgement as to whether she could have worms.

Diarrhea, thin hens, lethargy, immune system damage, could be worms.

As far as her crop being slow to empty, I don't know.

The trouble is that dewormers can kill a weak hen. I don't know if it is worth trying, since it may not be the answer.
Thanks for the reply, ChickensAreSweet! =) I've read that coccidia and many other parasites can shed their ova intermittently, so they might not be seen on a fecal float even if the bird is positive. I decided to treat her for coccidia just in case and today I finished a 1-week course of that sulfa-drug. I plan to wait 3 days then repeat the treatment, to cover all my bases. She does have greenish feces today, but it's no longer diarrhea.

I started Tylan injectable today since it seems that a few other vets have had success with this drug in poultry. I also just started B-12 by mouth along with the poultry Nutridrench, just to see if that peps her up a bit . . . oh boy, she really hates taking things by mouth! =P I plan to offer yogurt and some probios to keep her gut flora alive too, but I'm wondering if this is all a lost cause. ='(

Today she seems listless, but she is still eating a little and her crop is less full than it was yesterday, so it's still emptying. At least she ate her tomato, cracker bits, and nibbled at a small handful of weeds from the garden. She didn't want her mealworms though . . . they used to be her favorite. I just don't feel right giving up on her if she is still eating. ='(

Does anyone know the dose for Vitamin B-complex injectable for adult chickens?

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