Disease outbreak: weakness, diarrhea and death: Chickens of all ages. What is it and what do I do?

Ebarnes-21

Songster
6 Years
Oct 20, 2015
165
136
161
New Zealand
I have a disease in my poultry. Symptoms in short include diarrhea, weight loss, weakness, sudden death, possibly vent pecking.

I just lost my oldest rooster, 3 young poults are sick or have been and could relapse.

I need to know what it is and how to treat it, but I can't realistically afford to take the chickens to the vet for testing.

So I'll go through everything I have noticed and see what you think of it?

Firstly, bear everything in mind in light of I am in New Zealand, southern hemisphere mid-winter. So we're in a different disease cycle season, it's around the shortest day OK? Cold wet and rainy, the last few days has been hail too.

We've got about 30 chickens I suppose - 7 mature hens ranging in age, about 20 pullets and cockerels ranging from 8 to 4 months old.

Case 1: Three days ago our littlest chicken showed a bit hunched up with dirty feathers underneath her belly and vent. (3-4 months old and the 'runt' of the litter which is a pet just because s/he actually keeps pecking you until picked up and cuddled).
It was cold weather, and she has not learned to perch yet, with several other young poults had slept overnight on the floor in a dense huddle and little one got crowded into the corner and on the bottom with the predictable result for her personal hygeine. We thought she was just a little cold damp and uncomfortable, so we cleaned up her and the floor (which gets it regularly anyway of course) spread more straw around and moved the perches ends right onto the floor to encourage them to climb.

Nevertheless because there could have been diarrhea and she's so small we also treated her orally with a wormer and amprolium for cocci ... just in case ... but no-one else had anything and we thought we were paranoid.
She got better and looks OK so we thought it was just the cold after all.

Second: Yesterday morning we found our dear old gentleman rooster dead out in the orchard. The chicken house is out in the orchard and George always got there in the evening by jumping onto the standard height fence and flying in. He apparently crash-landed and died there, on his way to bed, and we found him the next morning. He had freshly diarrhea covered feathers under his vent, but he was in good condition (fat even), and had certainly not appeared in any way unwell the day before.

We panicked a bit and wormed them all in the feed, along with amprolium which is something that needs a full treatment course so we're treating the whole flock for cocci in the feed. We can't do it in the water at this time of year, it's constantly raining and they free range.

Third and fourth: Last night was the coldest night of the year so far, and this morning one other young 3 month old pullet came in at feeding so weak she was repeatedly knock over by other birds, wings drooping a bit, lethargic with weight loss. She is eating quite well. We have her in a basket alone for breakfast right now.
She has stained vent feathers underneath. I don't know what the diarrhea looks like yet ... our free range chickens all poop everywhere without labelling thier contributions and they all different stuff I think. Hopefully she's pooped in the basket and I can then see it.

Another slightly older cockerel is a bit weak and wobbly, nearly being knocked over by other chickens, and has slightly drooping wings, but he's very dirty underneath. He's also eating normally.

The same problem may have been in a cockerel the same age that we ate about a week ago. We hadn't noticed anything wrong with him of course ... but while I was plucking and dressing the carcass I noticed some mildly odd things I now think are related.

He'd lost weight, in contrast to the last nice fat one we ate. He wasn't really light, but he had no fat at all and looked like he'd lost it recently. He was clean feathered, but still he had slightly runny poop I noticed.
The odd thing was the red marks around his vent. Initially I thought it looked like small bright reddish bruised specks of hemorrhage in his skin layer and wondered about weird parasites from his anus (which I think couldn't do that anyway but it looked weird OK?), but then I observed that they were all in the outer surface, and were beak-shaped and neatly matched in pairs ... like he'd been pecking himself too hard preening around his vent. I removed the bruises and thought no more of it, but now I think it's probably relevant and he may have had the same thing. I'm going to try and check for these bite marks on the little pullet we have in the basket.


It's possible we have had this past seasons, and in geese too. Last year 2 pullets had similar symptoms. Again we attempted first worming and cocci treatment for the flock. It didn't seem to help a lot, but the affected birds did slowly get better anyway.

The year before last the geese clutch at about 9 months old got a disease of diarhhea, weakness with drooping wings and rapid weight loss ('not fat but OK' would turn to 'critically light' within a couple of days). We wormed them, treated for cocci (kept up for 2 weeks) and moved them out of the area, and it seemed to do the trick, but we lost the 4 biggest ganders anyway in one day because once outside an aggressive rooster started assaulting the female geese and killing their mates.
We got rid of the rooster of course immediately and the remaining geese regained health and weight with a lot of feeding and care.

This season our young geese got sick again. The first sign was one of them being too weak to stand in the morning, falling on his face when he tried to feed, and unable to hold his wings up. We picked him up and he was VERY light, and he passed away within hours which was a bit of a shock. His pair mate was also body light and her wings drooped. We wormed them, treated for cocci, taped up her wings for support and moved them out of the area. Which did the trick. We untaped her wings for short periods night and morning and within 2 days could leave them off she was able to hold them up and seemed back to normal.


So you get the drift - we have a similar disease in multiple poultry. Not all the time, they're all healthy for months on end, but it seems to crop up seasonally for the last 2 years or so and we're having an alarming outbreak in the chickens right now.

Are they the same, I really don't think it's cocci, as it does not appear to show bloody diarrhea of the mucousy nature I've seen from cocci before. Also, somehow they hunch different? They look weird and penguinish.
What do you think??
 

FluffyButtBabies

Songster
Jun 24, 2020
502
405
151
Virginia
It sounds a lot like worms, less like cocci. Worms cause weight loss, diarrhea, a puffed appearance, weakness, etc. Also, you said that when you treated some chickens for worms it helped. I would deworm all of you poultry and maybe even waterfowl. Don't treat them for two illnesses at the same time like before, because that can actually lower their immune system. Then after deworming them and waiting a bit, if they get better than that was the problem. If not, then you can rule it out and try treating for a different one. You said that the illness usually appears in summer? That's a very active time for worms.
 

Ebarnes-21

Songster
6 Years
Oct 20, 2015
165
136
161
New Zealand
There's an update coming here, I've just had a bunch of really bad weather for solar power and can't get on the internet without power.

The link Perris provided came up with one 'new' condition (I'd tried several other symptom checkers with no good match ...) and the key symptom that it suggested I hadn't noticed was undigested feed in the poop of the affected birds.

The condition I am pretty certain is called "Runting and Stunting" or "Malabsorption syndrome". I intend to come back here when I have the power to run the modem more than 10 minutes and offer a summary of my research on it, what I found, and what I'm going to be purchasing and doing to treat and manage it longterm in my flock.

The condition is prevalent in winter, but occasionally in summer only if there is very cold wet weather. It is worse in cold stress.
 

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