Baby chick paralysis please


In the Brooder
8 Years
Mar 7, 2011
Hello - I am new to the forum and have a big problem that I need lot's of advice to solve

I am new to chickens, I bought baby chicks about two weeks ago. I read up on how to raise chickens, anything I could get my hands on I read and have followed. I have a nice box, with a warm and cozy red heat lamp, pine shavings, feeder, waterer, plenty of space, my chicks have it all.
I bought 7 chickens, 1 production red, 1 barred rock, 1 blue andalusion, 1 speckled sussex and 3 ameracaunas. The barred rock was generally small and seemed overly sleepy, though I may have gotten a bantam and the sleepiness was no real concern since it was only a couple days old! Over the next few days she really didn't grow like the other ones, again thought it was just that she may be a bantam, but then she started struggling to get up, her feet were curled up and she just kinda scooted around. I looked online and thought it was "curled toe" and went as far as making some splints for her to help her walk. It did seem to help a little and she improved the next day. Well, another of my chicks, the production red started becoming unsteady on her feet, falling over and letting the other chicks walk all over her!! I separated her to keep her from being stomped on and she was even worse than the one I had originally been concerned about. She was not able to walk, both her feet are stuck out in front of her and she can't get them under her to get up and they both just lie there doing nothing! Well today another TWO of my chicks are starting with the same symptoms that my first two REALLY sick ones had when they first got sick and these are my blue andalusian and one ameracauna.
I now have three boxes of separated chicks a box with the really sick ones, the potentially sick ones and the as far as I know healthy ones! All these sick chicks are just two weeks old now, and this is becoming an epidemic. I am super upset about these little ones and no one has really had answers for me. I have gotten vitamins thinking it could be riboflavin deficiency, antibiotics in case it is coccidiosis or anything else that could be treated with anitbiotics. I've talked to the people I bought them from and the general answer is that sometimes baby chicks die. They aren't dying, yet, but a disease is obviously spreading through from bird to bird. I have placed food and water within reach of the ones that can't walk. They have an excellant appetite and eat and drink well, just can't get up . I think, from what I've read, it may be something called Avian encephalmyelitis. The symptoms are almost perfectly matching. It's one of the only other diseases I can find that effects very young birds(1-3 weeks old).

Well to the point I guess. Has anyone ever seen or heard of this kind of thing?? Like I said, I am at a loss for this right now. I have tried everything. I was so excited get these little ones and now I am miserable trying to save them from some unknown horrible disease! They are separated and sad and it really is awful. They aren't suffering right now, they are being fed and watered and kept clean, I move them around a few times a day to keep them from getting uncomfortable. I feel like I may have to euthenize them if it doesn't improve. I just want answers more than anything.
So if you have any insight into this, please let me know.
They have all been quarantined, and bedding, food and water has been cleaned and refreched from the healthy to the sick already.

Thanks for any answers or advice you may give.
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sorry to hear about your little one try a little sugar in the water
Well one girl died tonight. At least she is out of her misery. It's very sad.
so sorry to hear of your loss, I will read up on avian encephalmyelitis since I have never heard of it.. and it is true and sad baby chicks as well as chickens die, and sometimes we can't do a thing about it. Did the ones you got the chicks from offer to replace the ones you have lost?
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Thanks, it is very sad. I am glad that she isn't sick any more though. It's kind of a relief.
We are taking them back to the place we got them to let them know what is going on and that it is contagious, but I don't know if they will offer a replacement or not. After all this I'm not sure I want to take the chance to tell you the truth! I'd be much better if one day they just died instead of having to watch them get worse and worse! It's hard to say exactly what it is because so many diseases are similar, but this in particular sounded exactly right from symptom to symptom, except the appetite loss, they always ate and drank, just couldn't get to the feeders, so of course I set them up to be able to get to food and water without moving. It's over the top I know, but I fell in love with these little ones right away! Plust they were only a day- week old when the first ones started to show symptoms. Not many diseases effect such young chicks that I have found.

Here is the info I found on it. Just something to look out for I guess

Avian Encephalomyelitis
Synonyms: epidemic tremor, AE

Species affected: The disease is most prevalent in chickens less than 6 weeks of age. Pheasants, corturnix quail, and turkeys are natural hosts as well, but less susceptible than chickens. Ducklings, young pigeons, and guinea fowl can be experimentally infected.

Clinical signs: Signs commonly appear during the first week of life and between the second and third weeks. Affected chicks may first show a dull expression of the eyes, followed by progressive incoordination, sitting on hocks, tremors of the head and neck, and finally paralysis or prostration. Affected chicks are inactive. Some may refuse to walk or will walk on their hocks. In advanced cases, many chicks will lie with both feet out to one side (prostrate) and die. All stages (dullness, tremors, prostration) can usually be seen in an affected flock. Feed and water consumption decreases and the birds lose weight. In adult birds, a transitory drop (5-20 percent) in egg production may be the only clinical sign present. However, in breeding flocks, a corresponding decrease in hatchability is also noted as the virus is egg- transmitted until hens develop immunity. Chickens which survive the clinical disease may develop cataracts later in life (see Table 2 ).

Transmission: The virus can be transmitted through the egg from infected hen to chick, accounting for disease during the first week of life. The disease can also be spread through a flock by direct contact of susceptible hatchlings with infected birds, accounting for the disease at 2-3 weeks of age. Indirect spread can occur through fecal contamination of feed and water. Recovered birds are immune and do not spread the virus.

Treatment: There is no treatment for outbreaks. Infected birds should be removed, killed and incinerated. Recovered chicks are unthrifty.

Prevention: A vaccine is available.
It may be that they are not sick at all. The problem might be "splaying" where they start their first day or so not being able to get a good grip on their bedding and this causes leg problems. They begin to wobble or fall down. Then they don't want to get up. So they end up getting trampled a lot. After that it just goes downhill and they usually will die quickly.

This sounds exactly like what you've described above. Chicks that will eat and drink....but can't seem to get up or move around.

What are you use for bedding?
Although a few of the symptoms match, I don't think this sounds like Encephalomyelitis for several reasons:

1. It is transmitted through the egg from an infected hen. But you have birds of different breeds dying.
2. Your chicks are not having "nervous" symptoms or tremors and this disease is a disorder of the nervous system.
3. From what you're describing, it doesn't sound like your birds are actually paralyzed or completely unable to move. They simply don't want to get up, or are having extreme difficulty walking.
4. This disease spreads laterally in the hatcher or brooder to other hatchmates. That means when you contacted the hatchery, they would most likely have had reports of this illness from other customers, or quite possibly they would have detected it in their laying hen (egg production will decrease dramatically in a diseased bird).
Yes i thought it was splaying too or curly toe, at first. I even splinted them to try to help them get up and moving but it didn't help. They do have some tremors but they are very fine tremors in the legs. I don't know if splaying causes them to be completely stiff but I can't manipulate the legs because they are contracted out in front of them, not limp or weak. That may be the case with splaying too but the sick ones legs seem much larger than the rest, over developed it seems. They have been trying to move alot by flappin their wings, trying to get up but fall over and than struggle till they get tired.
I'm using pine shavings, about 1-2 inches in a cardboard box. I clean it every 2-3 days to keep it clean and fresh. This is the first time I used the place I bought them from but he says he gets them from the same hatchery.
So if it's splaying would so many be effected? If it's the bedding? The odd thing is that the one I was initially concerned about is still alive, the other one went down hill within a day and was dead in three days.
Thanks for all the info, I'll take all the advice I can get. The other girls that aren't sick or injured are doing well and the two I separated from them seem to be holding steady for now.
Perhaps the first one was sick and infected the others in the flock. It's fairly contagious. IF that is the disease they may have. I just don't know, and probably never will but separated them just in case it was! I'm not taking any chances anymore with the girls that are healthy. I only have 3 that are really in good health now and gopin the two I separated turn out to be ok too!
I think I may be having a similiar problem. I'm looking after a chick I found injured in my garden; it could barely walk and was cold and has since gone into a coma-like state - it doesn't move but it's eyes have shut. I believe it is less than 1 week old.

I suspect it could be from eating insect poison in someone's garden though it could be Encephalomyelitis. I'll check up.
If you have them on shavings, I don't believe that it is splay leg.

I am leaning more towards a contagious illness. I would have one of the sick ones euthanized and necropsied to find out. Antibiotics do not work for Coccidiosis. However, the symptoms do not match for that.

Encephilitis definitely matches. Can you find out where they were purchased?

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