Chickens dying

sjgoslee

In the Brooder
Hi all, this is our first flock, we started out with 6, added 4 and then added another 4, all within the same age group. None have started laying yet. They are all creeping up on 6 months old. We had 3 roosters and 11 hens. A couple months ago, the second batch of 4 hens we got, from a neighboring farm, started getting sick one by one- moving them inside and medicating them did nothing. 3 of them died. Then the 4th got sick two weeks ago, and died last night. Of our original 6, we found our sweet lavender rooster dead in the coop yesterday. He was not showing ANY symptoms. The only symptoms the other 4 had that died were gradual listlessness. No sign of respiratory problems, no coughing or sneezing, no bloody stool that I saw, but we couldn't' think of anything else to treat them with but Corid (the very first one that got sick got taken to the vet, but all she could do was give us bactrim, which didn't seem to help). Anyway, we're at a loss - five dead in as many months. We started the flock in May. At this point, we're just waiting for them all to get sick, since we have no idea what's wrong. I clean their coop completely every couple weeks and scrub it out with a mix of water & vinegar. I change both waterers every day (and their dog bowls, which they prefer to drink out of). The plastic waterer gets ACV in it. I've just tried adding electrolytes.

They have a 5x6 coop, a 4 foot attached run (which is never closed off during the day), a 16x20 pen (which is always open when they're out), and a huge fenced in yard, where they spend most of their time. We have three dogs that patrol with them, is there anything they can catch from the dogs?

We are so attached to these guys that my husband says he can't stand to try again if we lose the whole flock. Any ideas what this could be? We figured the 4 we got from the neighboring farm might have brought something contagious and we made a newbie mistake introducing them, but the rooster, Laserbeak, was fine one day, and then dropped the next. I'd say it was something unrelated to the ones that have been getting sick, except what are the odds??

Thanks for any advice.
 

rebrascora

Free Ranging
5 Years
Feb 14, 2014
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Consett Co.Durham. UK
Hi
I'm so sorry you are having such a tragic time with your first flock. Most of us know the heartbreak of losing birds, especially youngsters.

The two commonest killers of young chickens are Coccidiosis and Marek's. You didn't make it clear if you treated the sick birds with Corid and if so, did you direct drench them with a couple of drops of the concentrated Corid liquid or just add it to their water and hope they drank enough? Once they are sick, they often go off their food and water so ensuring that they get a good initial dose of the medicine is important. It is possible/likely that the new birds suffered coccidiosis as a result of being moved to a new home. They develop resistance to coccidia in their own environment as they grow up, but if you move them to a new home, they can be exposed to different strains that they have not previously experienced and have no resistance to. Those birds could also have brought Marek's disease with them. It can lie dormant and birds appear quite healthy until something like moving to a new home or surge of hormones at point of lay or the attentions of one or more rampant adolescent cockerels stresses them. Marek's suppresses the immune system so it may be that they suffered Coccidiosis as a result of being immune compromised. It takes a minimum of 3 weeks after infection with the Marek's virus before symptoms occur and they can be as subtle and varied as being unable to keep one eyelid fully open to severe paralysis causing the bird to be unable to get up, floundering on their side, to sudden death due to visceral tumours or lesions on the skin or changes in the shape of the pupil or colour of the iris. It is a very complex disease to understand and hence diagnose.

Since you have lost multiple birds, it would make sense to have a necropsy done. This is best performed by a state veterinary or agricultural diagnostics lab. Some states subsidise these facilities so it can be reasonably inexpensive or even free. The body needs to be double bagged and refrigerated as soon as possible whilst you make enquiries about your local service.
If a professional necropsy is not possible, a DIY examination is possible and quite often shed light on the likely cause even with no medical training. Quite a few of us do this and share photos so that we can discuss probably cause of death and also learn from each other. I appreciate it is not something everyone can get their head around when they see their birds as pets, but I find it a helpful way to cope with their death and perhaps benefit the rest of my flock.

Even if it is Marek's, some of your flock will have natural resistance, so you will not lose all and as someone who has had Marek's in their flock for 4 years, I know the heart ache but also how to manage it in my situation and move forward. I breed from the birds that survive, although this year for the first time I also brought in hatching eggs, which are pretty much at the vulnerable age for a Marek's outbreak now. It is a bit of a tense time for me at the moment but all I can do is keep them as happy and stress free as possible. I will say that adolescent cockerels running around in a flock of pullets with no mature rooster to keep them in check can be a huge source of stress. I separate the boys out to a bachelor pad or grow out pen before their hormones kick in and give the pullets the chance to get over the confusion and stress of adolescence and get into an egg laying routine without having to also cope with daily harassment from teenage boys.
 

Wyorp Rock

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Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Sep 20, 2015
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Southern N.C. Mountains
I'm sorry for you losses.

Can you take some stool samples to your vet for testing of Coccidiosis and worms?
The only way to really find out what is happening is to have some testing/necropsy if you still have the body of the last one that died, refrigerate it and send it to you state lab. http://www.rec.udel.edu/Lasher/index.html

If you have photos of poop and the chickens, we may see something?
I can't imagine how frustrating and heartbreaking it is for you to lose them like this.

What do you feed?
Any mold/mildew in the coop, do they have access to anything toxic - maybe where oil has spilled, insecticides or something rotten/dead.
Just trying to weed out a few possibilities.

Listlessness is a symptom that is related to so many things, unless we can help you narrow it down it would be hard to know what to do.
 

sjgoslee

In the Brooder
Hi thank you! I treated with Corid for 5 days in their waterers (kept their bowls empty so they had to drink from them). We didn't do a drop with concentrated Corid directly to Phoebe (the last sick one), but I did do a drop of the water mixture - so it's possible that she didn't' get enough, you're right. The others were all drinking and eating normal, so if it is that, hopefully they at least got the right dosage. The rooster that just died was also eating and drinking normally from what I could tell.
This shouldn't be from stress (I don't think) - We got the original 6 in may (with the rooster who just died) and the others in June. So they have been with us for while, all the roosters were great with each other, and nothing has changed in the yard since then. They have been a super happy flock from what I've seen. They got startled by the first geese to go over (the honking was hilarious), and we do have a family of red tailed hawks that knows they're in the yard, but are unable to get them because of their vigilance and hides (so far) and those have also been around since they've been outside (June).
We have a bantam rooster who is rowdy, but younger than the other two roosters. Fluffy, our head rooster, is so far super great with all the girls. Laserbeak, the one who died, was the biggest rooster but most submissive. Super sweet with everyone. There have been no chases or big fights or anything that we've witnessed. They all snuggle in different parts of the deck, garden and yard all day, all together.
It's just so strange.
 

sjgoslee

In the Brooder
What do you feed?
Any mold/mildew in the coop, do they have access to anything toxic - maybe where oil has spilled, insecticides or something rotten/dead.

I have them on grower feed still - it's in a can to keep the squirrels out, and it's out of the weather. I check it each time I fill their feed, and it's not moldy or damp. The only thing a few of them are obsessed with eating that's weird is the foam padding on our kid's trampoline polls. The ones that peck at it are not the sick ones though. They hop up onto the fence to get at the tall berries on our neighbor's bushes. We have hibiscus plants that they sleep under. All these have been the same all summer, though. Poop on the latest sick one was water and white. I havne't seen any blood. I dont know if I'll be able to find any (when I get home from work), but I'll search around and see.
 

Wyorp Rock

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Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Sep 20, 2015
36,704
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Southern N.C. Mountains
Chickens love insulation/foam, you may want to block that off, they will eat every bit of it that they can reach.

If you can find some of the poop, it would be a good idea to have your vet run some testing, that may give you some answers.
 

Duck Hill

Songster
5 Years
Jun 17, 2015
380
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172
South Carolina
Try to find out if your state has a state vet. You bring a dead bird to them, and for a very reasonable fee (about $100 in my state) they do an autopsy (called necropsy) to check for common communicable diseases in the dead bird. Usually, the bird needs to be placed in the refrigerator and brought to them fairly soon, but this varies, call them!

Yes, I had to drive about two hours each way to bring my dead bird to them, but... This was very helpful, because then I knew why my birds had died. I did not feel helpless, and this gave me confidence to keep trying, even after losing my favorite birds. I knew how to protect those that I had left (or the next batch). The first set of ducks I lost had West Nile disease. Knowing this taught me to control mosquitoes on my property.

The second bird I brought them was that of a friend who had lost about 2/3 of her flock. We couldn't figure out why. I brought one down, and the vet ruled out all communicable diseases. The likely culprit was therefore botulism. We hunted and found the source - decomposing matter in a plastic bottomed dog house.

Losing an animal or several or a whole flock is very painful. But I am growing attached to the new flock members. I know I may lose them to something else, but it won't be likely to be West Nile or botulism, because I am now very strict about controlling mosquitoes and wet areas.
 

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