3 dead chickens

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by dbrue, May 11, 2016.

  1. dbrue

    dbrue New Egg

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    May 11, 2016
    We have a small backyard flock. In the last 2 months we've lost 3 chickens. All about 3 weeks apart. The only symptom has been a heavy gait with a waddle to it. We have a flock of 10week olds that we need to integrate but we have another dead hen this morning. I know we should clean everything out and wait for a few weeks now, but any guesses as to what's wrong? We just use standard feeders and waterers. We're in the process of switching over to systems that keep the food and water fresher. My only guess it's that they slept in the nesting boxes until recently when we finally broke them of it. I was always cleaning poop of their fluffy bums and poop out of the boxes. If it's from that, would it be contagious?
     
  2. chicklover 1998

    chicklover 1998 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Welcome to BYC, can you give us breed, age, a more in-depth description, what their bellies feel like
     
  3. dbrue

    dbrue New Egg

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    Sure, and thanks for your response! We inherited the flock when we bought this house in August, so unfortunately, I don't know a lot of that information. I know their previous owner said he got them a few years ago from a farmer that sells them just before they start laying. I've since heard that sometimes they'll sell older hens instead of young ones. I've wondered if they aren't just old? Three in a row sounds like it may be more than old age though, plus I've read that they live to be 6+ sometimes. On the other hand, we are still getting the same amount of eggs each day even after they've died. And every 3-4 weeks seems like a long time for a disease to be spreading through the flock? The RIRs both died previously, and then this one that died this morning is what I'm guessing is a New Hampshire or a red sex link. The previous owner didn't have a very sanitary set up, but he never lost a hen either. My guess is that he was out there constantly maintaining. We have 5 little kids and get out there once a day, but the conditions have bothered me enough that we just invested a bunch of money in new feed and water systems so we can keep things clean and fresh. It's discouraging to keep losing them. We've done great with our little flock of 7, 10 week olds. I'm nervous to introduce them into the flock! I don't know what their bellies felt like. I didn't check!
     
  4. bear8357

    bear8357 New Egg

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    Overview of Histomoniasis in Poultry

    (Blackhead, Infectious enterohepatitis)
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    Histomoniasis is caused by a protozoan that infects the ceca, and later the liver, of turkeys, chickens, and occasionally other galliform birds. In turkeys, most infections are fatal, whereas in other galliforms susceptibility varies between species and breeds.
    Etiology

    The causative agent of histomoniasis is the anaerobic, single cell protozoan parasite Histomonas meleagridis that can exist in flagellated (8–15 μm in diameter) and amoeboid (8–30 μm in diameter) forms. Histomonas is most often transmitted in embryonated eggs of the cecal nematode Heterakis gallinarum. A large percentage of chickens and other gallinaceous birds harbor this worm, which serves as a reservoir. Three species of earthworms can act as vectors for H gallinarum larvae containing H meleagridis, which are infective to both chickens and turkeys. H meleagridis survives for long periods within Heterakis eggs, which are resistant and may remain viable in the soil for years. Histomonads are released from Heterakis larvae in the ceca a few days after entry of the nematode and replicate rapidly in the ceca. The parasites migrate into the submucosa and muscularis mucosae and cause extensive and severe necrosis. Histomonads reach the liver either by the vascular system or via the peritoneal cavity, and rounded necrotic lesions quickly appear on the liver surface. Histomonads interact with other gut organisms, such as bacteria and coccidia, and depend on these for full virulence. In turkeys, transmission is by direct cloacal contact with infected birds or via fresh droppings, resulting in histomoniasis quickly spreading throughout the flock. Infection has not been shown to spread in this manner in chickens.
    Traditionally, histomoniasis has been thought of as affecting turkeys, while doing little damage to chickens. However, outbreaks in chickens may cause high morbidity, moderate mortality, and extensive culling. Liver lesions tend to be less severe in chickens but often involve secondary bacterial infections. Morbidity can be especially high in young layer or breeder pullets. Layer flocks recover but lack uniformity. Experimental infections with Histomonas of 16-wk-old layers have demonstrated reduced egg production during infection. Tissue responses to infection may resolve in 4 wk, but birds may be carriers for another 6 wk.
    Clinical Findings

    Signs of histomoniasis are apparent in turkeys 7–12 days after infection and include listlessness, reduced appetite, drooping wings, unkempt feathers, and yellow droppings in the later stages of the disease. The origin of the name “blackhead” is obscure and misleading, with only a few birds displaying a cyanotic head. Young birds have a more acute disease and die within a few days after signs appear. Older birds may be sick for some time and become emaciated before death.
    Lesions:

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    Liver lesions, histomoniasis, turkey
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    The primary lesions of histomoniasis are in the ceca, which exhibit marked inflammatory changes and ulcerations, causing a thickening of the cecal wall. Occasionally, these ulcers erode the cecal wall, leading to peritonitis and involvement of other organs. The ceca contain a yellowish green, caseous exudate or, in later stages, a dry, cheesy core. Liver lesions are highly variable in appearance; in turkeys, they may be up to 4 cm in diameter and involve the entire organ. In some cases, the liver will appear green or tan. The liver and cecal lesions together are pathognomonic. However, the liver lesions must be differentiated from those of tuberculosis, leukosis, avian trichomonosis, and mycosis. Lesions are also seen in other organs, such as the kidneys, bursa of Fabricius, spleen, and pancreas. Studies by PCR show that Histomonas DNA can be found in the blood and in the tissues of most organs, whether lesions are present or not. Histopathologic examination is helpful for differentiation of diseases.
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    Histomonas meleagridis, liver, turkey
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    Histomonads are intercellular, although they may be so closely packed as to appear intracellular. The nuclei are much smaller than those of the host cells, and the cytoplasm less vacuolated. Scrapings from the liver lesions or ceca may be placed in isotonic saline solution for direct microscopic examination; Histomonas spp must be differentiated from other cecal flagellates. Molecular diagnosis is possible with published PCR primers.
    Prevention and Treatment

    Because healthy chickens and gamebirds often carry the cecal worm vector, any contact between turkeys and other galliforms should be avoided and care should be taken to reduce the worm population. Worm eggs, from contaminated soil, can be tracked inside by workers, causing infection. Arthropods such as flies may also serve as mechanical vectors. Because H gallinarum ova can survive in soil for many months or years, turkeys should not be put on ground contaminated by chickens. Once established in a turkey flock, infection spreads rapidly without a vector through direct contact. Dividing a facility into subunits using barriers can contain the outbreaks to specific units. Histomonads that are shed directly into the environment die quickly. Thus, in a turkey facility, where Heterakis is unable to complete its life cycle, decontamination is not required.
    Immunization has only been partially successful in controlling histomoniasis, and reports differ on its effectiveness. The immune response of turkeys to live attenuated Histomonas requires 4 wk to develop. Vaccination of 18-wk-old pullets 5 wk before experimental infection has been shown to prevent a drop in egg production. Most workers have concluded that immunization of birds against this disease using live cultures is not practical. Killed organisms stimulate some immunity when given SC or IP but do not offer protection.
    No drugs are currently approved for use as treatments for histomoniasis. Nitarsone is available for prophylaxis by feed medication. Nitarsone is mixed with the feed at 0.01875% and fed continuously. A 5-day withdrawal period is required for animals slaughtered for human consumption. Under most conditions, nitarsone is effective, although some outbreaks in turkeys on medication have been reported. Historically, nitroimidazoles such as ronidazole, ipronidazole, and dimetridazole were used for prevention and treatment and were highly effective. Some of these products can be used by veterinary prescription in non-food-producing birds. Frequent worming of chickens with benzimidazole anthelmintics helps reduce exposure to heterakid worms that carry the infection.
     
  5. dbrue

    dbrue New Egg

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    May 11, 2016
    Yikes! I think I got the general gist of that. Thank you. So I need to get the meds from the vet? Or is the whole flock, coop and run indefinitely contaminated? Should I be leary of having my kids around the flock? Fit mentioned workers can bring it in on shoes. What would it do to people? What about using their composted manuer in the garden? Thanks!
     
  6. chicklover 1998

    chicklover 1998 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    it is fine around kids, because it affects mostly birds, but it can remain in the soil for 4 years after the last bird is gone, meaning if you want to eliminate it from your flock, every bird must be culled and no new birds for those 4 years, any new birds that are introduced will get blackhead if that is what you have and then they will probably succumb to it.
    I'm doubting that it is black head as well, casportpony can be of more help than I can.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2016
  7. dbrue

    dbrue New Egg

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    May 11, 2016
    So the worming treatments won't help?
     
  8. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member

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    Welcome to BYC! I seriously doubt that your chickens had histomoniasis (blackhead). If you said turkeys or peafowl, then sure, but it's pretty rare in chickens.

    Are any sick right now? If so, can you post some poop pictures?

    -Kathy
     
  9. dbrue

    dbrue New Egg

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    May 11, 2016
    Thanks Kathy! I've done some research based on responses. I think you're right. Some sort of worm seems probable, I'm just not sure which one. Everyone is healthy at least by appearances for now. Im going to do some deep cleaning in the coop. Will pulling some dirt out of the run and adding new cover help? And then I need to figure out which worming meds to use. I've read so many different opinions so I'm not sure where to even begin. If there's a thread that already covers this is love a link! Thanks!
     
  10. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member

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    Some of my turkeys and peafowl get blackhead every year. It *is* quite treatable if caught soon enough.

    -Kathy
     

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