Euthanize? Recurring leg tremors, loss of balance


In the Brooder
8 Years
Jun 26, 2011
1) What type of bird , age and weight 7 Mo Barred Rock, pretty thin
2) What is the behavior, exactly. Started with crooked walking, progresses to loss of balance, lying on side in crate, leg tremors. She is alert, chirps when I come in the room. As she is lying on her side, she moves her legs a lot in an attempt to stand up, but she can't push herself up. When I sit her up, she sits on her hocks temporarily and then falls to the side. During her first episode of this behavior, she would also stargaze often and had her head scrunched into her chest. She frequently is bending her body into a C shape so her beak is around to her back and kinda sorta preens. She seems a little OCD about it, while accomplishing nothing. I've found no sign of bugs or parasites on her.

3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms? 1 week, happened a month ago and lasted for 3 weeks until she gained control and strength to walk. She was reintroduced to the rest of flock and lived somewhat normally for a week before losing balance again.
4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms? No
5) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma. No
6) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation. Showed up the first time the day after I sprayed them all with coconut oil to treat for lice (no sign of lice or mites now). I thought moldy straw might have been the cause at first. Then I suspected West Nile or Mareks.
7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all. Good appetite. Eating one scrambled egg a day with vitamin e and selenium, b vitamins, kefir water for probiotics, in addtion to organic soy free layer mash.

8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc. First time it happened it was very runny. This time it is firm with normal coloring. Fecal sample results negative for worms and coccidia.
9) What has been the treatment you have administered so far? Vitamin B (brewer's yeast), Vitamin E, Selenium, probiotics,
10 ) What is your intent as far as treatment? For example, do you want to treat completely yourself, or do you need help in stabilizing the bird til you can get to a vet? My vet did not know what was wrong with her. He is not an avian specialist. I feel like I've researched for hours and while I've learned a lot, I still cannot figure out what is going on with her. I was so relieved when she started feeling better, and now that it's happening again, I'm considering euthanizing her because her quality of life isn't the greatest.
11) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help. In this picture her toes look curled, but they are not always curled.
12) Describe the housing/bedding in use She's in a dog crate in my heated garage.
No, I don't think she is having a seizure. If she was, I'd expect that her behavior would this point, every time I visit with her, she is unable to hold herself upright. Her legs aren't paralyzed, but she isn't very coordinated with them. I'll hold her upright and look how she stands, and often one foot is slightly crossed over or on top of the other. I spread them apart so create a more stable base for her to sit, which worked for a couple of days. The past two days she falls over.

I should add that during her first episode of this, she declined in a similar manner and spent a week on her side, and then her balance started to improve, and eventually she was able to stand. After another week she could walk. This time around, she is more alert than last time. Last time she would fall asleep while I was trying to feed her. She hasn't done that once this month.

I agree, I think it's neurological. I'm not sure what else to try, to stick it out, or to euthanize her...
maybe she had a stroke? Possibly botulism? Doesn't sounds very promising her behavior. Sorry I do not have anything to recommend. :(
hey there, saw your post. mine are doing the same. First Rebel, trouble with balance, head down to eat would wind up rolling down slope. He is better and back outside, but Henry started acting the same so brought him in. In his case sounds very much as yours, stays on side, moves legs and wings in attempt to set up. When i set him up he falls over. I am feeding him moistioned crumbles which he eats readily but takes time as I hold him. I use a dropper to get the fluid (electrolytes and vitamins in am, water in afternoon and evening) this has gone on a month. Winkie, a hen yesterday at which time she was showing same symptoms but hit her faster and harder. no laying down just huddled brought her in, shortly after she died. Now with Henry his stools are normal. I am told may have Wry neck from Mereks disease. Some recover as Rebel some die as Winkie, dont know of Henry, guess I still have hopes of him pulling through, that is why keep feeding. is he suffering I dont know, i have heard chickens squawk in pain, frustration he is just clucking away and when I come in, he hears my voice and moves his legs and wings (not the one under him well of course) but to turn in my direction. I use baby wipes to clean him up keep him dry or at least try (use the aloe type non scented). I am still checking for I want to raise these Rhode Island Reds, but are the eggs safe to eat that is another question. see Rebel is the father to both Henry and Winkie. Rebels brother who a friend had died a month ago, same symptoms-they had give me Rebel and Frederika two years ago. so it was not until this year and hey we are a few miles apart so is it genetic. I will keep reading and there are videos that tell what people have done, just type in the words Mereks and Wry neck. prayers are with you, know it is difficult.
Honestly, I'd put her down if she were mine. Is she in pain? Maybe not, but how do we know for sure? Is her quality of life good? Probably not. Will she ever be able to act like a real chicken and run around outside, scratching for bugs? Probably not. And the biggie for me is, Can I afford to keep a non-producing chicken or spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on a $5 bird? For me, the answer is no, and the biggest reason she'd be put out of her misery. Admittedly, my chickens are not pets. They are here to produce meat and eggs for my DH and me. I enjoy them. I've named a couple of them, and I do care about them. Because I care, I'd hate to see one suffer. It's a hard decision to make, but sometimes the hardest decisions for us are the best ones for our animals.
Thank you for your posts. I really appreciate it! It's a hard decision, and I'm on my own with this one.

I went to bed last night planning on going to the vet's to euthanize her. Call me crazy, but that evening I talked to her and told her what i was thinking and asked her to give me a sign one way or the other to help me make my decision. in the morning, I went down to feed her and I tried sitting her up (like I've done for the past 5 days) and this time she stayed upright! She was upright, on her hocks, and occasionally standing all day today! So that's enough of a sign for me that it's not quite time yet. I've come to peace with the fact that she may not be a very productive hen. I'm mostly concerned about her quality of life. She has certainly taught me a lot about chickens!!

I'll try to keep the thread updated, but if I forget, and you are reading this in the future, please feel free to message me if you want an update. There have been a few times when I've researched old threads and was really wondering about the outcome with their chickens.
She stayed upright all night and this morning she stood for several minutes on her own with no balance problems. I also haven't seen leg tremors for 24 hours. It's looking more promising!
I've been reading a lot about Marek's disease because I think some of mine have it, and I would say the picture you describe fits it well. It is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system in a variety of ways, producing a variety of neurological symptoms. The C-shape you describe, probably indicates involvement of the neck muscles. If/when it gets worse, the neck can get stuck in that position (which is then called wry neck). Leg weakness and imbalance are also common symptoms. These symptoms can come and go with the bird hanging on for a long time, or the bird can go downhill quickly. There is no cure.

Was she vaccinated for Marek's disease? Do you have other chickens? Have any of the others developed any symptoms or weakness, imbalance, twisted neck, blindness, or anything else that just doesn't seem right to you?

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