Chicken rabies?...or what could it be?

maralynn28

Songster
9 Years
Mar 4, 2010
476
18
157
Corpus Christi, TX
Hi all,
I had a hen attacked last week. We were able to save her from her attacker (not sure what because my dog chased it away) and after inspection it looked like she was dragged by her leg. Missing feathers and a little limp but otherwise fine. I isolated her in a kennel in my house and made a chicken sling. She was eating scrambled eggs along with her regular feed and had a hearty appetite the first few days. Two days ago, I tried her outside and she would not walk at all, kept putting lame leg behind her. It seemed she was getting worse. She stopped eating yesterday and I came home from work today to witness a seizure type episode, where she was foaming at the mouth and had liquid coming from her eyes! Very distressing! Once the seizure passed, she lay still and quiet...and gone. Poor baby. It seemed to me like maybe she caught rabies from whatever attacked her but I’m being told chickens can’t get rabies. Thoughts?
 

Fishkeeper

Crowing
Oct 30, 2017
2,345
4,966
286
Central Texas
Birds don't get rabies, it only affects mammals. Also, rabies presents differently. In a rabid animal, you see severe hydrophobia (avoidance of water), aggression, massively increased salivation, increased difficulty moving, and then finally death. It's a slow-moving disease. And, again, it ONLY affects mammals.
A necropsy may be worth doing, but probably she either had brain damage or some sort of rapid-moving infection. She may have also had a pre-existing condition that was exacerbated by the stress and her injuries.

EDIT:
I am mistaken. Although rabies is generally considered to be a mammal-only disease, it IS known to, very rarely, take hold in birds. Birds don't tend to survive the initial attack to carry the virus, though.
Chickens that are bitten by rabid animals and die of the disease die in a month or so. Rabies is slow, it has to travel up by the nerves to reach the brain before it can begin to have any impact. You're talking about something much faster that didn't cause any neurological issues until the fatal seizure.
 
Last edited:

SniperGoose

Crowing
Apr 15, 2018
302
1,134
257
Central Pennsylvania
As far as I'm aware, birds cannot get rabies. So I would rule that out. However, maybe she got an infection from the attack? Or perhaps she got some internal injuries that you couldn't see. I think a necropsy would be your best bet if you truly want to know what exactly caused her death. I'm not sure how much they would cost at your location, but a lab near me here in PA does poultry necropsies for $30. I'm sorry for your loss!
 

Fishkeeper

Crowing
Oct 30, 2017
2,345
4,966
286
Central Texas
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4511517/
A source. It does seem to be possible for birds to get rabies, but it takes longer than that. The below is a description of the presentation of rabies, and it takes at least two weeks to show symptoms, plus the disease doesn't kill that fast.
https://www.vetinfo.com/the-rabies-virus-life-cycle.html

On the subject of rabies, if you are ever bitten or scratched by an animal you even SUSPECT was rabid, you need to get rabies shots. If you can't catch the animal and take it in for rabies testing (which requires brain tissue, the animal has to be killed), you need to get rabies shots. Rabies is 100% fatal- there are less than a dozen cases of people surviving it in the entire history of medicine, whereas thousands of people a year die of it. If you are infected with rabies, and you get treatment for it, BEFORE it reaches your brain and symptoms start, you will live. If you are infected with rabies and do not get treatment, or get it only after symptoms start, you will die. Your chances of surviving rabies once you show symptoms are literally less than one in a million. It is functionally 100% fatal. It will kill you.
Please do not die of "didn't get shots".
 

maralynn28

Songster
9 Years
Mar 4, 2010
476
18
157
Corpus Christi, TX
Thanks all. I agree it’s more likely infection or internal injury I couldn’t see. I was concerned about rabies and if I need to extra vigilant with disposing if the body, worried about my dogs getting it etc. They are vaccinated but I still worry. My pets are my babies. She was such a pretty blue egg layer too.
 

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