A whole heap of symptoms, I need Help!!!

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Mary Poopins

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 22, 2013
Hello all,
First let me apologize for such a long post. I just wanted to explain everything in as much detail as possible.
We have been seeing our flock die off over the past year from some mysterious disease which seems to result in what appears to be acities as the chickens final undoing.

The entire flock was purchased at the same time, from a feed store, which doesn't offer vaccinated chicks and they refuse to say where they come from, which leads me to believe it's a shady source.
The two that are left are 4.5 years old.
The flock was made up mostly of Rhode Island Reds although we have suspicions that they aren't true reds and are instead some production red mix because their size is not right, they are much tinier then other reds we have seen.

The symptoms usually start with messy backsides.
Then the chicken typically cranes their necks like they are gasping for air. I have listened for gurgling and so far on all effected chickens there is no gurgling, but there sometimes is a pop sound as the change in the direction of the breath happens.
This progresses to listlessness and loss of balance.
At some point the chicken stops eating and drinking.
The right wing drops noticeably, like there is loss of muscle control.
The listlessness and loss of balance results in the chicken finally sitting down and not wanting to get back up, which means she definitely stops eating and drinking at this point.
If food and water are offered the chicken refuses.
The right wing continues to droop even more.
The chickens sides then become inflated, like they are being pumped full of air.
Then from this point it's a waiting game, either we dispatch the chicken or allow it to starve to death.

Whatever this is, it is selective. It only effects one or two birds at a time and the entire process takes about a month.
We have tried medicating their water, but this doesn't work when the sick chicken refuses water.

Last year it happened just after a cold snap to a few birds left out in the cold so we chocked it up to acities, then it happened to more, again one or two at a time...
But now it is happening to our last two, in various stages and we haven't had cold enough weather for at least a month, so the timing is off.

Their coop is clean, the weather is here is really dry (15% humidity average) so there aren't any pools of water laying about spreading disease.
The chickens use a nipple watterer to keep the chances of disease low.

The chickens are fed well.

The last two have stopped laying altogether, again they are both 4.5 years old.

One variable I have noticed is that the last time the chickens were sick there were a lot of small wild birds who would come into our yard and steal their food. This is again happening, even though we have taken steps to try and deter the small birds.

I am not sure what to do.
We would like to know what is going wrong, what we are doing wrong and how we can fix it, because we would like to have more chickens and we don't want them to suffer the same fate.

If we choose to get any more birds, the next flock is going to come from a breeder and they will be vaccinated, even though I know it doesn't mean they will be treated for everything.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

We are lost...Help?
Thanks, Mary
Well a 4-1/2 yr old hen is almost past her prime
It sounds like you bought them that old?
As for what can be done it is likely unless you take the sickest bird to a vet and have a lab test on it you can't really be sure.
If they do not eat then I would say
they have a E.Coli infection in their body.
If it is ascities you will not be able to cure them any ways.
Have you tried taking a syringe and expressing the fluid build up in the chickens body yet?

As for new chickens,
I would dispose of these sick chickens humanely and
then clean up the chicken house and maybe keep the new chickens penned up?.
they may have gotten some contaminated water in the beginning.
Or got something spoiled when foraging.
Something like that caused this delema.
Hello Glenda,
Thank you for your response.

If it were E.coli wouldn’t we also have it?
I mean we touch them all the time….

Is there a way I can look for it?
I have a microscope…

We bought them all as chicks, three days or so old and we haven’t brought any new birds in since.
However our neighbors on both sides also raise chickens and from what we can tell neither is very clean about it.
I am suspect that the small wild birds have caught something from them and than transferred it to our girls.

We have tried to take one of the birds to a vet, but none of the vets in the area will treat chickens. One finally agreed but they wanted like $300 just for the visit, not including the tests.

No, we have not removed fluid from any of the chicken’s bellies. I cannot bring myself to do that to a bird that is already in what appears to be so much pain. Logically after the bird is dispatched, there would be no pain to feel, but these ladies are more pets than livestock so it’s like vivisecting your cat…

There is not much to forage out here, so I doubt it is something they ate that we didn’t give them, unless it was a bug.

We will not get any new chicks until these two have gone and we have a chance to clean up their coop and disinfect as much as possible.

One other update, the sickest bird right now seems to want to go to “bed” while it is still light out, around 6pm, while the other girl stays out until dusk.
Well the hens body has ailments and they then get the E.Coli in the body stomach organs.
I always warn people this:
This s most important as your health is at stake.
Thus you need to wash with hot water and soap every time you doctored the sick chickens.
You would not get the E.Coli unless you ate their eggs or meat,
I personally hope you come to a conclusion on their humanly demise.
As I doubt there is a cure for them.
Hopefully you will be okay.
Hello Glenda,
Thank you for your response.
Thank you for the reminder to wash after handling them, this is something we already do, but again thank you for the reminder.

We too don't think there is anything that can be done for the current girls.
We just want to make sure if we decide to get more that this doesn't happen to them.

Thank you again for all of your help, Mary
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