Barred Rocks going blind? Thoughts and questions

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by ravenfeathers, Dec 17, 2008.

  1. ravenfeathers

    ravenfeathers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 23, 2008
    vermont
    i haven't posted here since my flock were chicks, but everything's been going swimmingly. my flock is happy and healthy and beautiful, a bunch of fat, sassy girls and their fearless leader, bob the rooster.

    about two months ago, i noticed that one of my barred rock pullets, peanut, had cloudy eyes. she was otherwise healthy and fending for herself fine. she seems to have some vision, perhaps seeing shapes or light and dark. she does peck at my hand if i wave it in front of her.

    the day i discovered peanut's eye problem, i carefully checked over the other sixteen birds and found nothing amiss. eyes were all shiny and perfect. tonight, i picked up one of the barred rocks in passing and noticed cloudy eyes, so i assumed it was peanut. she was making a fuss about being picked up, which was uncharacteristic. a closer look at one of the pullets on the roost revealed that peanut was four feet away and the pullet in my hands was mambo, but there was no doubt about the cloudy eyes. i pulled out my flashlight again and checked out the entire flock again. the rest of the birds had shiny, dark little eyes, no problems there.

    their diet is exceptional and i'm positive that both birds had full sight as chicks. they've had no exposure to any chemicals and their bedding is peat. there's no ammonia odor whatsoever in the coop, even at floor level and the bedding stays extremely dry. i use a heat lamp in the coop and it's insulated, but it's not hot, just warm enough to keep it comfortable and the water from freezing.

    so, questions:

    in the absence of any other symptoms, is it safe to assume that i got some chicks from a bad hatchery strain, particularly since they're both BRs? my flock is a mix of breeds with just four BR girls.

    is there anything other than poor genetics that would cause this type of asymptomatic blindness?

    as long as these two are maintaining themselves in the flock, is it best to let them remain in the flock? it's a very peaceful bunch, no fighting or picking at all.

    any other thoughts on this perplexing development?

    i'd very much like to hear what some more experienced flock owners think and any advice you might have. i will not be culling any of my pullets, but i won't be breeding them, either.
     
  2. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    Hard to say. Do you have a picture of one of the eyes? This image is one of Ocular Marek's disease (the eye on the right) Does it look like this or different?
    [​IMG]
     
  3. ravenfeathers

    ravenfeathers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    it's quite different from that. marek's did occur to me, not least because i didn't have my chicks vaccinated (because i'm an idiot and now every time something goes wrong, i'm going to be convinced it's marek's disease). basically what it looks like (and i'd go take a picture, but it's cold and snowy out there and one trip out per night is enough, heh heh), the iris is normally coloured and sized, but the pupil isn't black, it's grey and cloudy, a lot like an old dog's eyes. it's not a surface cloudiness like a cataract, just a general paleness and that more toward the center of the pupil than the outside edge.

    i can try to get a picture when i'm doing chores tomorrow and post it.
     
  4. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    I'm sure everyone would like to see that. I wasn't implying that it is Ocular Marek's, just wanted to clarify what it looked like, so please dont panic! I've only had minimal experience with blindness-a chick was once hatched blind and we sadly culled the poor thing.
     
  5. ravenfeathers

    ravenfeathers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    i'd like to apologize for the incredibly poor quality of these photos. i used my kids' camera, it was dark, and i couldn't use the flash. triple whammy. oh, and i didn't have an assistant. [​IMG] these are just of peanut, because mambo didn't want to play, but mambo's eyes look very similar.

    this is peanut with the flash on:
    [​IMG]

    the apparent opacity is not eye-shine here, despite the flash. i did turn the flash off after this shot, partly because i was worried about eye-shine and partly because the rest of the flock was hating the flash. actually, peanut reacted quite a bit to the flash, but i'm not sure if it was the light or the popping sound.

    this is peanut without the flash on:
    [​IMG]

    you can see the cloudiness is the pupil here and see that it doesn't extend over the surface of the eye into the iris.

    just because the light is horrible, here's one of my buff orp pullets for lighting comparison:
    [​IMG]

    my mother thinks that the tissue around peanut's eyes look swollen, so i went back out and looked at all the barred rocks around the eyes. all four are completely different, but one of the clear eyed ones is very similar to peanut and the other is very similar to mambo, so i don't think that's a lead. you can also see (i think) that there is no discharge or goopiness at all.
     
  6. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    Hmm, I just dont know what to tell you. I hope someone else can shed some light on this eye issue for you.
     
  7. mypicklebird

    mypicklebird Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 8, 2008
    Sonoma Co, CA
    Looks like cataracts. Is it in both eyes? How old is the hen?
     
  8. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 19, 2007
    Pennsylvania
    yeah, looks like cataracts. Do chickens get that?
     
  9. ravenfeathers

    ravenfeathers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 23, 2008
    vermont
    both are pullets, just reaching laying age, about 19-20 weeks old and the opacity is appearing in both eyes of both birds. it was my first reaction, too (well, my second, right after OMGMAREK'S!) because, as i said to speckledhen they look like an old dog's eyes, cloudy, but not deformed. however, cataracts don't seem probable because they're young birds and i'm not seeing any other contributing factors to cataract formation.

    according to this pdf, cataracts can occur in flocks with vitamin E deficiency, avian encephalomyelitis, or continuous exposure to "some types of artificial lighting". unless there's a serious problem with my commercial feed (which is incredibly unlikely), the first isn't applicable. my understanding of encephalomyelitis is that it's accompanied by ataxia and paralysis and is also likely to occur in much younger birds than mine, around 10 weeks old. also, my birds are hatchery birds and i'd assume that they're vaccinating their breeding stock, as this is passed from the parent birds. i have no idea what types of artificial lighting the pdf file references and google isn't very helpful on this point. at any rate, the only continuous light my birds have is a single red heat lamp at night and a white heat lamp for 12 hours during the day.

    i guess i'm leaning more and more toward genetic defect here.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2008
  10. PeeperKeeper

    PeeperKeeper Chillin' With My Peeps

    Where does you peat bedding originate? I know this is really off the waLL BUT... I read an article that said the peat bogs of the northern european areas was slowly being contaminated by radio active particles left over bynuclear testing and the accident in Chernoble. They are still conducting testing on reindeer and the Laplander peoples.
    It really does look like cataracts.
     

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