Diagnosis Found • Lab Testing Birds • New Developments

Barrett Farm

14 Years
Jun 8, 2009
Silicon Valley
Here is some history.
1st death in 2009 We bought new chicks from a private party verses directly from a feed store or 4H club. The first night on of the blue cochin chicks was dead. Only culprits could be the other five chicks in the nursery.
2nd death in 2009 One of my black sex link, hatched 2006, started shaking her head. She had interest in food but didn't want to eat. She would run to me and be the first for handouts, but wouldn't pick up the food and eat it. She wasn't eating. Feathers on top of head stood up. Color of comb and waddle look great. Feathers are lusterous, clean and appears to be healthy. Had a full crop at the end of the day and was empty in the morning. She would also loose fluid out her mouth if she was bent over. We treated her for a sour crop and possible impacted crop. Administered mineral oil to soften plug and flushed crop with epsom salt mixture. She finally died in August. No autopsy was performed.
3rd death in 2009 My Rh Island Red only one year old, contracted same symptoms. She died three weeks later. Opened and found no apparant cause for death. She had many eggs forming inside her. She was the victim of a dog mauling in December but recovered fine.
4th death in 2009 The hatch mate to the Sex Link contracted same symptoms. Died under a tree. No autopsy performed.
5th death is eminent, estimate 2 weeks but think I should cull immediately. My Lacey Wyandotte has been shaking her head. Her head feathers behind her comb are erect. She ran to eat the seed I supplement and she would not eat. I tossed a couple pieces of dog food for protein. She tried to pick up but won't eat. She had fluid coming out her mouth, empty crop nothing hard or spongy. Tried to see if she would vomit it I turned upside down and pushed on crop. Nothing. I think she was hatched in 2005 or 2004. She is the only bird in my flock that struggles with bumble foot. Other wise she has been a happy healthy bird.
Does anyone have any ideas?
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So let me get this straight........the symptoms are shaking head
running to get food but won't eat
feathers on head stand up
comb and wattle are bright red (normal)
loose fluid in mouth

Any other symptoms? Sores or spots in the mouth? Do they get lethargic before dying or is it sudden?

What are you feeding them?
Do they have access to chicken grit and oyster shell 24/7?

It sounds like something was irritating/infecting their mouth or esophogus or crop. They want to eat but their throats are too sore to swallow. This might explain the excess liquid from the mouth. Is there anything in their environment that could poison them? What are you using for bedding? Anything strong smelling or dusty?
When you performed the autopsy did you cut open the intestine and the cecal pouches? If so what did you find?

And what does the fluid look like?

It could be an intestinal problem too.
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Answers to the questions to help diagnosis my flock's problem.
Feed: Nutrena Nature Wise Lay Crumbles and supplement with Premium Bird Seed "No Waste" (the seeds will not sprout if left on ground or fall out of bird feeder). The feed has been our feed for 20 years and this is the second year for the bird seed. Oyster shell is in the feed but also available in a dish by the waterer. Also have access to grit in the service yard where they wander all day.
Symptoms: Another symptom is they sleep standing up through the day and one hen was so weak she was walked like a drunk lady. We thought she was so weak because she didn't eat. No sores in the mouth. No poison or chemicals in their area. No snail bait in the yard. Illness lasts three weeks before they die of weakness if they are an older chicken. One which was one year old died, but she expired faster than the older ones. All the deaths have been to my oldest hens with the exception of the young red. They get so tired and lethargic because they don't want to eat. The one hen we nursed with flushes and oil did show progress and wanted to eat scrambled eggs, cottage cheese and baby cereal with applesauce and yogurt but only for a short while. She eventually gave up on those options too.
Something new this year... diatanacious earth was sprinkled in the yard. The chicken coop is a covered building with three walls. Two are fences and one is framed and covered with chicken netting and doors that open to the area where they scratch and dust. The coop is a dirt floor with straw broken and tossed. The open area is dirt and mulch that I added this year. We usually truck in mulch from a landscape supply but last year I bought five bags from Summerwinds Nursery Supply. The wood is too large to eat but I don't know if it is treated with a chemical.
We are puzzled why they all aren't sick if this is contagious. We can't figure out why it is one bird at a time not not one bird than a group of birds.
The autopsy was not helpful. She was the younger RIR. We did not go into the intestines or ceca. We were looking to see if there were any tumors or enlarged organs. We saw no worms or anything out of the ordinary.
could it be a toxin that is small doses is ok but builds up over time? you said the seeds were new in the past 2 years maybe resarch what chemical is put on them to keep them from sprouting? what kind of tree was the mulch from do you know maybe it has something in it.

hopeing this will help bump you.
the symptoms sound very specific.
This is just a hunch...but...it kinda sounds like this:


Extracted From:

A Pocket Guide to
Poultry Health

By Paul McMullin
Click Here to
Order Your Copy
Syngamus trachea, a nematode worm parasite of chickens, turkeys, pheasants, and other game and ornamental birds occurring worldwide. Infection is by the oral route with earthworms, slugs and snails acting as transfer hosts but the life cycle may also be direct, by ingestion of embryonated egg or L3. There is an 18-20 day prepatent period. The condition is seen more commonly in poultry on free range where ground may be contaminated by wild birds e.g. from rookeries.


Head shaking.
Loss of appetite and condition.
Post-mortem lesions

Presence of worms, paired parasites up to 2 cm long.
Signs and lesions, confirmation of presence of the parasite.

Flubendazole in feed, levamisole.

Any chance you could have a mold problem. Do you know if the birds you've lost roost close to each other? Sure hope you get it figured out. Bad enough to lose them, lots worse to not know what needs to be fixed.
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