Disabled Flock Members

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by GitaBooks, Jan 23, 2016.

  1. GitaBooks

    GitaBooks Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    I thought I would start a thread for people to share stories, advice, suggestions, and questions about the care of disabled poultry, as I have heard they are actually fairly common.
    The disability may be blindness, partial-paralysis, an old injury, a missing leg or wing, a head injury or even something as simple as allergies. We ourselves have had a few chickens with disabilities in the past and it is always difficult to care for them, but so worth it to give them a chance to fight as well.

    I'll start with our two chickens that had paralysis. Both had to be put down when they didn't heal, which was very sad, but I did my best to keep them happy for the time they were alive and both were very sweet.

    Amber is a cross-bred bantam pullet who suddenly went paralyzed in one leg at about 4 weeks of age, then the other. She could not stand up and it panicked her quite badly. I carried her around a lot to keep her calm and comfortable, and would place her in a cage with food and water while outside. She would scream when she tried to walk because she would fall on her face, her legs not doing what she wanted. When I would lift her she would hold them out stiffly, as seen in the photo. She couldn't balance to drink, so I would feed her and give her water by hand. She was very sweet and I wish I could have had the time or money to help her more. However, I have heard of people creating slings for paralyzed chickens and nursing them back to complete health!
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    We had just gotten new chicks and I let Amber rest in the pen with them so she could be around others of her kind. She didn't stay with the, though, as chicks tend to be rough with anyone who is weak.
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    My other chicken with the same problem, and our first disabled chicken, was Spritle. He was a cross-breed from our far but he may have been the one that we assisted in hatching. He was very sweet and lived up in my room in a cage. However, after a long while of him not healing, we had to put him down. I believe we had another similar chicken that had this issue, but it doesn't seem to be marek's as none of the other flock members are showing any symptoms of it (and we have a large flock of various breeds, ages and both roosters and hens).
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    Not all stories end badly, I'm going to share soon the story of Mavis, the pullet who got brain damage and lived in our basement. She might have walked in circles a lot, but she was so cuddly and cute also.
     
  2. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    It strikes me as excessive the number of "disabilities" you've had in your flock. Are you certain there isn't a virus present in your flock causing this?

    Just because older members of the flock display no abnormalities doesn't mean they aren't carrying something but have developed resistance to it.

    Are you getting these chicks from an outside source, or are you hatching chicks from within the flock? If the latter, a virus can be carried by the entire flock, and may be passed on to chicks through the egg from the hen that laid it. The same applies to the flock from which you're obtaining the chicks, if a private breeder.

    I would rule out this possibility by getting a necropsy done on the next chicken that dies.
     
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  3. GitaBooks

    GitaBooks Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    I was very worried about it being contagious, but the first chick, Spritle, was from a flock we had a few years ago. Because of the poor economy we had to get rid of all of our chickens for a few years and then we started up again with an entirely new flock. Amber was hatched under her own mother, who was also one of our flock. Most of our chickens came from hatcheries, though our original chickens came from a feed store, a few silkies from a local breeder (this was two years ago), and we got four chicks from a local as well. However, these chicks were kept separate from the others for the first few weeks of their life.

    Thank you for the suggestions though. I joined BYC because of Amber and was given lots of help with her. [​IMG]
     
  4. Amina

    Amina Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Marek's virus can stay viable on someone's land for a very, very long time. If you have chickens with it, get rid of those chickens, and even many years later start up with a new flock, it is very likely that the new flock will pick up the virus from your land. It really sounds like this is what you have. I agree that you really should get a necropsy done next time. I also think that with your history, you should make sure any new chicks are vaccinated for Marek's. You will also need to practice perfect biosecurity for the first few weeks, to keep from transferring virus on your clothes to the new chicks before the vaccine has time to kick in.
     
  5. GitaBooks

    GitaBooks Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    I've considered getting a necropsy, but we barely have the money to feed our chickens (some days I have to feed them old bread and cat food until we get our pay check) so shipping a chicken to Texas seems not so important for the time being.
    I also wanted to say that our barn is old enough that the paint inside of it is likely lead based. Our well water has a high amount of minerals in it as well, and is unsafe for us to drink (I try to give them rain water when at all possible) and we are surrounded by fields that put chemicals on their crops that then wash down into our land. There are a large number of reasons that chickens could suffer this issue, though the lead paint seems pretty high on the list for me.
    When we get the money to redo the barn I'm certainly going to repaint it.

    Mavis is my ultimate disabled flock member and she is the reason I started this thread, so I thought it was about time I shared her story. If you own a silkie, you may be interested in this. You see, silkies crests mean that their skull is vaulted and they are more prone to brain damage for this reason. Brain damage does not mean that a chicken will die, but they often need specialized care afterwards.

    Princess is our best broody hen we have. She will sit on just about anything just about anywhere and she goes broody two or three times a year. We gave her three standard eggs and one of her own eggs (one which she had with our silkie rooster, Azul). They hatched during the winter and I feared that they would not be able to keep warm and so we decided to bring them into our basement until they were fully feathered.
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    We put the four chicks (two barred mixes, a pearl barred rooster, and Mavis the black silkie) into a bowl and carried them and Princess indoors where we had set up a large 10 x 6 ft pen. Because she is a silkie she could not jump out from the low sides. We positioned a heat light in one corner with some hay for a nest and spread out a sheet for easy cleaning and for them to be able to grip.
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    We placed her into the pen and the chicks as well and she quickly settled down to keeping them warm.
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    As time passed we began introducing more to them. We brought in a box of dust from the barn because of mite issues and they got rid of their mites in the dust bath. We gave them samples of fun foods like greens, scrambled eggs and bread.
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    They began to feather out.
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    Mavis got along with her larger siblings just fine.
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  6. GitaBooks

    GitaBooks Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Mavis and her siblings were fully feathered and ready to be introduced outside once more. They were making a mess anyways. [​IMG] So we took them out and placed them in a crate in the chicken's roosting room so that they would not be bullied as they all got reaquainted with one another. Now, I know I can't blame my self for letting them out too early, but as chance would have it, when I did let them out and set them on top of the crate to perch together, one of the other chickens would apparently fall while trying to get to a perch and land on top of Mavis's head. I decided to go check on them, something I don't generally do, but thank God that I did. Mavis was laying on the ground, barely breathing. I thought she was dead!
    I grabbed her up into my hands, holding her against me while I caught her siblings and placed them and their mother back in the crate for safety. I brought Mavis inside.

    This is Mavis before her injury, showing off how her siblings legs went through a growth-spurt and they are now twice the size of her.
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    Their pen after a cleaning (generally not near this good looking).
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    Little Mavis before her injury. She had such large, beautiful black eyes.
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    We took her inside and my mother held her for a long time as she caught her breath and began to wake up. However, she remained very dazed, hunched up with ruffled feathers. When we brought her siblings back inside to try to introduce her back to them she sat in a corner very pitifully.

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    When she walked she kept her head down, as if she couldn't see, and would walk in circles and run into the wall. She didn't seem all the way there and she would not eat or drink.
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    So we took her upstairs and began force feeding her. We would pry her beak open and place some scrambled egg, canned cat food or bread dipped in warm water onto her tongue and she would swallow it. When we put her down she would walk in circles over and over again, then try to walk through the wall, then walk in circles. She acted like she was blind and for the first few days she may have been, we never really knew.
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    So she became my little baby. She had odd habits and never stopped her walking in circles, though she did get slightly better at it. She also tended to sit in corners, she made noises I don't think I have ever heard from a chicken, and she would yawn over and over again, then use her beak to rub her neck, then yawn again. However, she was so soft and silkie and cute. We began to get her to eat on her own and even drink on her own.
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    We would take her upstairs and let her walk around and she would peck at something bright colored (that meant she couldn't be blind, right?) and then walk in a circle, see it again and peck at it like she had just found it. She didn't seem to realize she wasn't walking in a straight line.
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    She would walk in circles, find her food and eat it, then walk in a circle, find it again and eat some more. But her crop was full in the evening so she was getting enough even with her strange methods.
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    Last edited: Jan 27, 2016
  7. GitaBooks

    GitaBooks Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Now to finish Mavis's story off. She grew in size and filled in her feathers some. She got more use to being handled, though she didn't enjoy being picked up until she realized it was you. She enjoyed cuddles and being fed treats.

    Here she is eating from my hand on the counter.
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    Here she is walking in circles in the kitchen, staring at the floor. That is my dog, Cinnamon, hoping for some food off the plate.
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    I would bring her outside to forage, sun bathe, and enjoy the fresh air and warmth, as the basement was kind of stuffy and cold. She really enjoyed it.
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    She might look dead here, but don't worry, she isn't. [​IMG] She is sun bathing and this is how much she enjoyed it. She would sit at my feet while I watched over her. Loud noises like trucks made her run in frantic circles and I'd have to chase her down (when I say run it was more like attempt a slow jog).
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    I tried introducing her to the other chickens but I was afraid she would walk under something and disappear out of reach, drown in a water bucket, get bullied, or get caught by a predator. She enjoyed time out in the barn though
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    Her siblings were okay with her, but her nasty rooster brother did attack her and send her running and screaming in her frantic little mode and she nearly disappeared out of reach while out in the barn. I was a little more protective of her after that.
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    She loved to go on walks inside a hat. She would sit in it for warmth and comfort and I would walk out in our field with her.
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    We got 25 cockerels (plus a surprise chick from McMurray) for eating but when we tried introducing Mavis to them, though she was bigger, those evil little guys attacked her and made her hide in a corner. She got to live outside the pen in the basement and they got the inside.
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    Poor Mavis. Before I could introduce her to the outdoor crate in the barn she got a little neglected in the basement. The cool, damp environment got to her and she got sick. I tried letting her sun bathe, I tried antibiotics, I tried keeping her out in the barn, I tried force feeding her, but she passed a few days after she got sick. It was very sad and we buried her out in our field with the other pets we have lost.

    Here she is enjoying the backyard, which has green grass and lots of sunlight.
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    RIP little Mavis, you inspire to try my best to help other injured, sick or disabled animals like you.
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  8. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    That's a wonderful, heart-warming story. It brought tears to my eyes because it reminds me of my disabled hen Flo. I had to euthanize her this past summer when she got to where she could no longer get around at all.

    Everything you did for Mavis, I did for Flo. She began having problems with her leg several years ago, first not being able to hop up even a short step in the run, and later, not being able to make it onto a roosting perch. But practically from the first sign of her going lame, the flock began turning on her. You know how they are.

    It became so bad eventually, several chickens would attack her and literally stomp on her, standing on her back, pecking away at her head until I would rescue her. She quickly learned I was her protector and would hide behind me when her tormentors were after her.

    Between the progressive crippling and the bullying, I decided to place her in a protected pen during the day, and bring her into the garage to sleep at night, where it was warmer, and that helped make the crippling pain less. She was also on baby aspirin and glucosamine and it helped. She was very good at taking her medicine. I never had to force it down her.

    Last summer, she was feeling well enough to start laying again. I felt it was her way of thanking me for being her care giver. I rigged a dog crate in her pen, and she laid her eggs in it, and I even began letting her sleep there at night since the nights were warm. Some new chicks arrived in the mail and they shared her pen with her, brooding right there next to her.

    But around this time was when she went downhill very quickly, no appetite, refused her aspirin and the glucosamine. She could no longer make it to her food dish or into her crate to sleep. She had laid her final eggs weeks before, and they were very deformed. I knew the end was close.

    Flo had always been very special. She developed her own language to communicate with me. None of her vocalizations were like any of the rest of the chickens, and she "spoke" it only with me. And I always understood what she was saying. It was an amazing bond. I let her tell me when she no longer wanted to live, and we ended it. She died cuddled in my arms, trusting me to do the right thing for her as always.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2016
  9. jak2002003

    jak2002003 Overrun With Chickens

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    Maybe feeding them bread and cat food is not a good diet for chickens?

    I am sure bread and cat food are more expensive then chicken food anyway?!

    I don't want to sound mean.. but if you can't afford to even buy chicken feed then perhaps you should think if you should be keeping chickens at all.. or at least stop buying more chicks?

    If your pets get sick you need to be able to get them medical care... what will happen if you dog gets sick in the future.. or its get age related medical problems?
     
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  10. GitaBooks

    GitaBooks Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    That is so sweet and amazing. She was so lucky to have you and we are so lucky to have them. It is so incredible how such a small animal can touch our hearts.
     

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