Dying left and right!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Sweet Basil, Jan 28, 2017.

  1. Sweet Basil

    Sweet Basil Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am at a complete loss on what to do. Here's a little history of our flock: Last summer, we had a flock of about a dozen hens. We bought two mixed-breed 4-5-month-old pullets from a lady, and a month later we bought a dozen hatching eggs from the same place. We kept six of the babies and sold the rest.

    About a month ago, a 5-month-old pullet we hatched died suddenly after apparently having a seizure/fit. She showed no outward signs of illness or injury. A week later, one of the pullets we bought (who had been laying well for a few weeks) had balance problems and diarrhea before dying two weeks later. A few days after that, the second young pullet we bought had diarrhea for almost a week and died. Soon after that, a second hatched pullet got diarrhea for a few days and died. We found out the state Poultry Commission does free necropsies and took her in the morning she died. We are STILL waiting to hear the results from that. Last time I talked to them, they said only part of the results were in and the guy assigned to our case was not in office.

    Now, nearly three weeks later, a third hatched pullet was found dead this morning. She had showed no signs of illness other than not holding her tail up high for about a week-and-a-half and the last couple of days her face was a bit pale. I did a necropsy on her myself. From my uneducated viewpoint, it seems like her heart was to blame, or was at least the final blow. I can't find a picture of a chicken heart on the internet that looks like hers: totally covered with big blobs of fat. There was a lot of fluid around the heart, also. I'm very confused about what I saw with the lungs, but everything else looked normal, as far as I can see. (I can send photos of my necropsy to any members with a strong stomach, if that would help.)

    The only chicken left from the group we bought this summer is the last hatchling, a rooster who just started crowing and mating with the hens this week. I don't understand what is happening and why it has so far not affected our original flock. I contacted the seller, who is very sympathetic, also can't figure it out, and is having no trouble with her flock. I thought it might be genetic, but she said she goes to great lengths to avoid inbreeding her chickens. I contacted the people who bought 3-4-month-old chicks from me -- one person said one roo had died the first night, but she thought it was from him getting rained on and then being in freezing temperatures that night.

    That's everything I know to tell you. Does anyone have any ideas/suggestions? This is so sad.

    Sorry this is so very long.
     
  2. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive True BYC Addict

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    First of all, I would contact your state poultry lab once again, and insist on some preliminary resuslts since you are still losing birds. Final results can take a bit of time, but 3 weeks is pretty long for a preliminary. Were your original birds vaccinated for Mareks or anything else when you got them? Have you ever treated for coccidiosis or gotten some droppings tested by a vet? You did the rifht thing to get a necropsy, and hopefully they will soon get back to you. Diseases in flocks sometimes get started when birds of different ages from multiple sources are brought together. I would use probiotics and occasional vitamins for your chickens. If coccidiosis might be a problem, a preventative dose of Corid may help for 5 days in young or new birds. Please let us know what you find out, and I hope that you can find answers soon.
     
  3. Sweet Basil

    Sweet Basil Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for your ideas. I am planning to call Monday morning and get someone to find the paperwork and tell me what they know so far. When I brought the pullet in, the man estimated it would take one week to get results.

    None of the birds have ever been vaccinated, as far as I know. The only treatment the flock has ever had is Duramycin-10 years ago for a respiratory infection. We saved all of them that time.

    No droppings have been tested. Our vet doesn't deal with birds. I'm not sure if the other vet does...

    Upon suggestion by the lady who gave us the eggs, we gave Poly-Vi-Sol to the flock the last couple of days. How long/often can you give vitamins to the flock? Is there a type of probiotics you recommend? The only additive our hens have had is some Apple Cider Vinegar in their water in the summer (we use plastic buckets in the summer and don't want to rust the metal buckets in the winter).

    I thought of coccidiosis, but wouldn't the 5-month-old chicks we hatched be immune by now? And isn't it unlikely for coccidiosis to pop up in below-freezing weather?

    Thanks again for your help.
     
  4. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive True BYC Addict

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    Cocci is possible in any chicken if they have an immunity problem, or have not yet built up tolerance to a new strain they may be exposed to in a new home. A few fresh droppings examined by the same vet as your other pets, would get some results about cocci or worms. I prefer to use poultry vitamins in the water that are of a correct dosage long term. Polyvisol is okay for short term use in a deficiency. Vitamins are not necessary long term if they are getting a fresh balanced feed.
    A key thing you said, is that there was a respiratory disease at one time in the flock. Most respiratory diseases cause the survivors and other flock members to be carriers. If new birds come in, they can become sick from the carriers. Have you seen any respiratory symptoms in the ones that died? I hope that you can get some info from the state vet soon.
     
  5. Sweet Basil

    Sweet Basil Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ah, I forgot about there being different strains of coccidia. I still don't know why the three we hatched and raised would get it so late in life, but I'm no parasite expert.

    I used the Poli-Vi-Sol because our local farm and ranch store had every type of Nutri-Drench, EXCEPT the one for poultry. I feed Dumor and Purina layer pellets, and the hens free range in a 30X170 foot pen every day full of grass, bushes, mulch piles, etc. At the time the illness started, we were making a slow transition from Dumor grower crumbles back to the layer pellets because the youngest chickens were approaching 6 months old.

    Only one of the hens from what I called our "original flock" was there when the respiratory illness occurred (I was a newbie chicken owner and foolishly threw a new hen in with our first five). The rest of my "original flock" were added or hatched several months or years after the respiratory illness was over. Could they still be carriers if they weren't there at the time? Five chickens have died so far (all from the pullets and eggs we purchased from one person last summer), and none of them showed any respiratory signs. Two died suddenly after a seizure/fit (deaths #1 & #5). One died after balance problems and diarrhea (death #2). Two died after diarrhea only (deaths #3 & #4).

    Since the heart in the last bird was completely encased in fat, could it be a genetic problem? The eggs/pullets she sold us were a mix of breeds, though.

    Sorry for so many questions. I really appreciate you giving your time and input to help my flock.
     
  6. Sweet Basil

    Sweet Basil Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Here's an update on this frustrating situation:

    I called the state livestock and poultry commission again. The lady said she doesn't know why they told me it would be a week before we got necropsy results; she said it usually takes 4-8 weeks and that they are very backed up right now. They tried to send me preliminary results, but it wouldn't work, so now I'm waiting on a pathologist to call me back. I can't believe this --I grew up around chickens and have had my own for 5 years and have never seen so many hens die like this.
     
  7. Lizardlicks

    Lizardlicks Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Question: have you done a good walk-around to make sure there isn't anything strange in their area they might have gotten into? Chickens will sample just about anything to see if it's tasty; if someone purposefully or accidentally dumped something toxic on your property that could explain the range of symptoms and suddenness of die off in otherwise healthy birds. Sick animals usually have warning signs and symptoms, but poisoned ones will often go before you know there's anything wrong.
     
  8. Sweet Basil

    Sweet Basil Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the idea. I did search around the pen and coop multiple times, but did not see anything unusual.

    Chickens will definitely eat almost anything that will fit in their beaks! In the last 5 years, mine have gotten into foam pipe insulation by the air-conditioner, orange foam insulation that was sprayed into a crack in a wall, and bits of styrofoam and trash that blew into the yard...all good reasons why I'm glad they have a separate pen now!

    I have one neighbor who occasionally gives the hens food. After reading your question, I called him just in case (though he usually asks me before giving them anything). He said he hasn't tossed anything into the pen in several months.

    I don't know what to try next. The remaining 9 hens and 1 rooster seem fine at the moment, but I've learned that means nothing around here!
     
  9. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    What are you feeding? Just laying pellet? Are they raised on that feed? Could very well be the problem. Layer feed is for actively laying birds ONLY. The high levels of calcium can be fatal to males, young birds, and hens that aren't in lay.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2017
  10. rebrascora

    rebrascora Overrun With Chickens

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    Hi

    So sorry to hear about your losses.
    I would be interested in seeing your post mortem photos if you want to PM them to me. Was there any other fat around other organs? Did the liver look healthy? When you say there was fluid around the heart, was it in a sac or just in the thoracic cavity? Do you feed scratch as well as the layer pellets? I've seen birds fed too much scratch, get fatty deposits on their organs including the heart but there was also a huge abdominal pad of it as you would expect with obesity. Could the deposits have been lesions/tumours rather than fat. I'm thinking perhaps Marek's too particularly since you had one with balance issues.

    Regards

    Barbara
     
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