Chickens dying!!!!! Please help!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by wannabelunaticfarmer, Jan 2, 2011.

  1. wannabelunaticfarmer

    wannabelunaticfarmer Hatching

    Jan 2, 2011
    I've recently had a string of deaths in my flock and need to find out what the problem is and what I can do about it. We are fairly new to raising chickens as this is just our second winter with birds. We live in northern Ohio and so far we've had a winter that has had average temps below normal. It's consistently been 20 degrees Farenheit during the day and low teens at night. With that being said I don't believe the cold and wind have been the problem. Last winter we had no deaths and we had a week of temps that got as low as -14 during the night. In this coop I have 25 Rhode Island Red hens and 11 Buckeye hens. They are about 20 weeks old and have shown no signs of malnourishment or disease. It all started a few days before Christmas, like December 22 I think, I found one dead hen in the coop in the morning when I went out to feed. She had been pecked pretty bad, but I assume that happened after death. The next day when I went out to change water and feed in the evening I had another dead hen. I was concerned that they may not be getting enough food or water so I started giving more feed and started changing the water, which freezes easily here a third time during the day. A few days went by and I had no deaths, then about three or four days after the second dead bird I found three dead hens upon feeding in the morning for a total of five hens in a week or so. These hens had clearly been chewed on by rats as parts of the feet and skull were gnawed off. I put down some rat poison in parts of the barn that the chickens have no access to and it disappeared pretty fast. I have found no dead rats or green colored rat poop that the chickens could have gotten into. I've had no more dead hens since then, but now I've had three roosters die here in the past few days. The roosters are in a different part of the same barn as the hens. I saw one rooster who seemed kind of lethargic and was walking like he was drunk. I left him alone and the next day he actually seemed like he had improved and was eating and pecking around as normal, but I saw one of our other roosters acting the same way and I know that this rooster (a black cochin) had acted fine even earlier that day. At this time I noticed that one of our Barred Plymouth Rock roosters was missing and I found him laying in the barn dead, toes and head clearly chewed on. Went back out and dispatched the black cochin and got rid of those two roosters. Today I got home from church to find the rooster (Rhode Island red) that first acted funny, lying in the chicken yard nearly dead. I dispatched him too. I am wondering if I we've got bird flu here or something? We've not had any coughing, sneezing, runny noses or mucous discharge of anykind that I've seen. The two roosters did display a lack of coordination and I've had now eight mystery deaths.

    Dec. 22 one dead hen
    Dec. 23 one dead hen
    Dec. 26 three dead hens
    Dec. 31 sick acting rooster
    Jan. 1 one dead rooster, one lethargic rooster (put down)
    Jan. 2 one lethargic rooster ( put down)

    Please help I"m not sure what to do. I'm not sure if I should cull the whole flock and start over in spring or what I should do. Does anyone have any experience with anything like this? Any suggestions?? Any insight would be nice. Thank you.
  2. Yay Chicks!

    Yay Chicks! Songster

    Apr 15, 2010
    Forest Grove, OR
    I'm pasting here the guidelines for posting an emergency. It makes it easier for people to read and answer your questions. Welcome to BYC. I'm sorry you are joining us under such sad circumstances:

    POSTING GUIDELINES for Emergencies / Diseases and Cures.

    Please help us to help you.
    When you need to post in the "Emergencies / Diseases and Cures" section please make the title of your thread concise and specific. For example, to title a thread "HELP" or "URGENT" or "EMERGENCY", etc., is not helpful for us or for you. Nor is telling us "my hen is sick, what should I do?" A good example of a new thread subject: "Chicken got into the pool-barely breathing! Help!"

    Off topic posts will be moved, with an explanation, to an area better suited to that post.

    Give us the following information. The more you tell us, the better we will be able to help you.

    1) What type of bird , age and weight.
    2) What is the behavior, exactly.
    3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms?
    4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms?
    5) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma.
    6) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation.
    7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all.
    8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc.
    9) What has been the treatment you have administered so far?
    10 ) What is your intent as far as treatment? For example, do you want to treat completely yourself, or do you need help in stabilizing the bird til you can get to a vet?
    11) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help.
    12) Describe the housing/bedding in use

    Remember that we are not veterinarians. We help based on our own research and experiences.
    We cannot monitor the board 24/7, and therefore do not guarantee we can always help, much as we would wish to.
    We should never be a replacement if real medical attention is required.
    If your situation seems to require a trip to the vet, please do so. It is always a good idea to know of an avian vet in your area in case your situation is bad enough that we cannot help. We encourage you to visit the Reference Forum and read up there before you need the information.

    Some important links to read:

    Links to disease symptoms and information
    Chicken Anatomy
    Friendly Reminder-PLEASE Quarantine Newly Purchased Birds!

    Thank you!

    The BYC Staff
    Last edited by terrielacy (11/30/2009 11:00 am)
  3. mypicklebird

    mypicklebird Songster

    Aug 8, 2008
    Sonoma Co, CA
    In scanning through your post- I am drawn to the part about food, you say you have started to feed more? Do you not have food out at all times for them? They need access to a nutritious food (ie grower, maintenance, layer pellet ect) at all times, as well as fresh water at all times. Part of your problem may be food/water. Do you deworm? Have you checked for heavy lice/mites?

    Rats can't usually kill an adult chicken, unless it is ill already- they are opportunistic, but can kill chicks and young/small birds.
  4. ranchhand

    ranchhand Rest in Peace 1956-2011

    Aug 25, 2008
    The "drunken" behaviour is what catches my eye. Have any of the others displayed that behaviour?

    Usually I see that as a result of some type of poisoning. It could be they are eating poisoned rats- maybe a neighbor started putting out poison before you did?
    Also, is there any possibility the poisoned rats were pooping in the chicken feed? Generally, rat presence indicates a food source, which is why I store feed in galvanized trash cans.

    Another thing to consider is moldy feed- even a tiny amount of moldy feed can kill them. Just a dab under a feeder or waterer can cause death. In my experience it started with leg paralysis. Very similar to the symptoms of Mareks.

    Have you brought in any new birds lately? They could be carriers. Have you been to other's coops or runs? It can be brought in on your shoes. Do the neighbors have birds? That's another vector.

    I really hope you can solve this, it's miserable to experience that kind of loss. Best of wishes and luck to you.
  5. RedfogsFlock

    RedfogsFlock Songster

    Jan 17, 2010
    Wittmann, AZ
    After reading your post two things came to my mind because we had the same problem at two different times. So here is what ours was.

    1. The first time it was mold. We had some in the bedding in our coop. Upon a good cleaning I discovered it as I was moving the bedding around.

    2. The second time we had a rattlesnake hybernating in our bedding. We use hay, and there was a snake living in our coop. When it got warm out he came out, turned out to be a 4 foot rattler!

    We would go out in the mornings everthing would be fine, and later that night I'd find one, two, sometimes 3 dead hens.

    So good luck in finding what's actually wrong?
  6. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress

    Sep 6, 2007
    spring hill, florida
    I guess I would start with tossing whatever you're feeding them and get a fresh bag. You never know about animal feed.
  7. Jan336

    Jan336 Songster

    I am a former reptile owner, and I can %90 assure you that you have a rattlesnake family. Sounds like a snake has attacked your birds. Have any birds "missing">? Here is some important info on rattlesnakes:


    also: Snakebite
    A rattlesnake warning sign in California

    Rattlesnakes are born with fully functioning fangs capable of injecting venom and can regulate the amount of venom they inject when biting. Generally they deliver a full dose of venom to their prey, but may deliver less venom or none at all when biting defensively. A frightened or injured snake may not exercise such control. Young snakes are also dangerous[3], and should not be treated with any less caution than the adults.
    [edit] Toxicity

    Most species of rattlesnakes have hemotoxic venom, destroying tissue, degenerating organs and causing coagulopathy (disrupted blood clotting). Some degree of permanent scarring is very likely in the event of a venomous bite, even with prompt, effective treatment, and a severe envenomation, combined with delayed or ineffective treatment, can lead to the loss of a limb or death. Untreated rattlesnake bites, especially from larger species, can be fatal. However, antivenom, when applied in time, reduces the death rate to less than 4%. It is estimated that between 7,000 and 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year, and about five of those die.[4] About 72% of those bitten by rattlesnakes are male.[5]

    Some rattlesnakes, especially the tropical species, have neurotoxic venom. A bite from these snakes can interfere with or shut down parts of the nervous system. In the U.S. the Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) in Arizona and parts of California has a neurotoxic venom component known as Mojave Type A toxin. The current antivenom, (FDA-approved in October, 2000) known as CroFab, contains antibodies to Mojave A and B toxins as well as the toxins of most other U.S. pit vipers. Mojave A toxin has been identified present in the venoms of other species of rattlesnakes on occasion. Neurotoxins cause neurological symptoms, paralysis, and could result in death due to respiratory paralysis.

    The Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula), a constrictor, is famous for being largely immune to the venom of rattlesnakes and other vipers,[6] and therefore rattlesnakes form part of this snake's natural diet in the wild.
    Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
    [edit] First aid

    When a bite occurs, the amount of venom injected cannot be gauged easily. Symptoms and swelling may occur within minutes and potentially become life-threatening rapidly, but in some cases hours may pass before serious effects appear.

    Experienced health workers typically gauge envenomation in stages ranging from 0, when there is no evident venom, to 5, when there is a life-threatening amount of venom present. The stages reflect the amount of bruising and swelling around the fang marks and the speed with which that bruising and swelling progresses. In more severe envenomation cases (stage 4 or 5) there may also be proximal symptoms, such as lip-tingling, dizziness, bleeding, vomiting, or shock. Difficulty breathing, paralysis, drooling, and massive haemorrhaging are also common symptoms.

    Quick medical attention is critical, and treatment typically requires antivenin/antivenom to block the tissue destruction, nerve effects, and blood-clotting disorders common with rattlesnake venom. Most medical experts recommend keeping the area of the bite below the level of the heart. It is important to keep a snake bite victim calm in order to avoid elevating their heart rate and accelerating the circulation of venom within the body. Untrained individuals should not attempt to make incisions at or around bite sites, or to use tourniquets, as either treatment may be more destructive than the envenomation itself.

    Any bite from a rattlesnake should be regarded as a life-threatening medical emergency that requires immediate hospital treatment from trained professionals.

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