emergency - spreading paralysis, please help!


10 Years
Aug 25, 2009
Quebec, Canada
I've been looking online for two days for an answer to this but have found nothing - hopefully someone here can help??

My 6 month-old silkie cockerel Owen started showing signs of leg paralysis Saturday afternoon.

He was fine Saturday morning, never sick a day in his life - everyone else in the flock is thriving. They have a small coop for the night and a large grass and dirt pen for the day.

I isolated him as he could sit but not walk except by dragging himself by the wings to eat and drink.

Yesterday (Sunday) his paralysis spread to his entire body except his head. His legs are stiff and will not bend on their own but they do bend if I apply pressure to his knees. His instinct is to push them straight out of his body so he keeps topping over. His wings are held spread away from his body. His muscles have tremors. He has zero equilibrium nor muscle coordination and can only remain in the squatting position if I hold his legs.

He cannot eat or drink on his own yet is alert, clear eyes, cannot talk anymore but he tries. No fever, no discharges anywhere, poops are watery but not sickly looking. Eyes bright and alert. I looked for ticks or bugs or stings but cannot find anything.

If I put mash in his beak he will swallow it. I have been giving him water with poly-vi-sol with a tube directly into his crop, a little bit every few hours.

He has gotten progressively worse the past 48 hours and now can only lay on his side, legs feebly kicking from under him. He seems to be having more difficulty breathing today than yesterday.

He looks as bewildered as I feel - can anyone please tell me what's going on and if there is any hope we can fix it? I do not want to give up on Owen but I do not want to leave him suffering longer than he has to.

My husband is leaving tomorrow morning for two days and he is the one who gives mercy to our dying chooks, as I absolutely cannot do it - so I need some answers by tomorrow morning at the latest to make a decision on Owen's fate...

PS: It's not Mareks, the signs don't fit. Nor Botulism, again the signs don't fit - I cannot pull any feathers from his body, they are stuck in there tight.

Thank you -

from a very heart-broken chick mama :(
I am sorry to say I couldn't find anything either. I think it might be wise to have your husband put him down before he leaves, because you wouldn't want this bird to become a carrier of this condition or disease if he should survive, and infect the rest of your flock.

It could even have been a stroke, or some kind of brain injury. It's truly hard to tell. It does sound like he is worstening, and may be in pain.....

So sorry you and your little roo are going through this, and hugs to you,
Thank you Sharon... just came back from trying to tube-feed him and I can't even do that anymore, he won't let me - thrashes his head from left to right with his neck all backwards and I'm afraid to hurt him.

Perhaps he's trying to tell me something :(

I think I will have to do the humane thing, maybe even tonight so he doesn't suffer any longer.

Thank you for your input...

I just wish I knew WHAT it was. like you said, perhaps a stroke or a head injury?

thanks again...
Could he have eaten anything toxic? I had a chicken that showed many of Owen's symptoms - if you have any molasses it may be worth trying to flush his system out to eliminate anything he may have eaten that may have caused his problems.

I wish you and Owen well! It is so terribly frustrating to try and understand what to do for the best for their best interests when they are ill...

Hi, I'm not sure if the symptoms fit, but did you look up 'epidemic tremors'? It's a paralysis disease, happens quite fast, and mostly affects chicks. However it would be going through all the young birds so perhaps that isn't it.

Another name is avian encephalomyelitis. A friend of mine had it in a batch of chicks and thought it resembled marek's, but the trembling and lying on the side (rather than sitting up with legs stretched in each direction) seemed different, and they also went blind. All recovered without remaining blind (though some I think had ongoing minor troubles). I'm sure you'll find better info if you google it.

thanks everyone...

Owen's paralysis spread to his neck and he started having trouble breathing, no way to get food or water into him... he was covered in his own poop and prostrate on his side, unable to move.

My husband laid his poor body to rest a few minutes ago as leaving him to suffer was just inhumane.

I'm heartbroken and baffled, still don't know what happened - oh dear Owen, rest in peace... you were loved for every minute of your short life.

Good-bye my baby


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