Help! 3-mo-old Orpy not using legs, pupils dilated & not eating!!


Rest in Peace 1966-2013
9 Years
Oct 29, 2010
Northern California Forests
1) What type of bird , age and weight.

Lemon Cuckoo split Orpington, 3 months old, *was* 1.5 pounds

2) What is the behavior, exactly.

At first he seemed like his leg(s) were weak or injured and he just wanted to be held. Now he's all ruffled up, sitting on his butt instead of on his legs and his pupils are dilated - he can see, but can't judge distance. I put crumble in front of his face or pour it past his field of vision, he snaps at the air. He peeps when he hears me and clearly appreciates cuddling but can't tell if picking him up is just agitating or hurting him.

3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms?

This is his second week and he's deteriorating slowly. He'll drink if I rest his beak in the water, but he keeps his eyes closed most of the time now.

4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms?

Nope - only this guy.

5) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma.

He's had two baths in the last two weeks and I've gone over every inch of him looking for any outward physical sign. He's just getting too bony.

6) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation.

If I knew what was wrong... ;-)

7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all.

Normal feed and water, until I realized yesterday that he must not have been eating really. 4 days ago he'd stand a little to compete for food (I had a smaller Houdan with a neck wound in with him). He's been on the GQF Vitamins in water for over 24 hours.

8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc.

Mostly milky and runny. Today there's been a mix of green and brown in with it as well.

9) What has been the treatment you have administered so far?

He's in a box by himself, under a heat lamp, being hand-fed vitamin water every few hours.

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?

Have to self treat at this point.

11) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help.

Nothing to see.

12) Describe the housing/bedding in use

In a large shed with a combination of adult birds and several others his own age. It's a LARGE shed - straw floor, cleaned when it's messy. He free ranges with everyone all day.

The first day I realized he was moving poorly was a day after he'd missed getting INto the shed at night and must have slept underneath by himself. A very similar occurrence happened to a Marans pullet of about the same age months ago. She wouldn't walk, but could get around a little - would try to stand and walk at times, if upset. She eventually recovered and never showed any lack of appetite or any other symptoms. For the first week and a half, I thought it was the same thing and started wondering what in the world could have caused this. She had been taken by a predator before he existed, so it wasn't something he could have "caught" from her.

It took her about 3 weeks to get back to normal - he's a different story. Yesterday I started looking for diseases that would cause these types of symptoms and, yes, Marek's immediately came to mind. He wasn't vaccinated so it's possible. His pupils are large and unresponsive, and his legs or hips are weak. He's in control of everything else and, as I stated earlier, peeps when I'm near or talk to him. If it weren't for the fact that he's, well, a 12-week-old HE - one could easily mistake him for a little broody Orpington pullet in his current state.

Any ideas? Anyone who has had Marek's experience on a 3-month old? Could seriously hurt muscles/joints cause this kind of reaction? My 4-year-old daughter LOVES herself some chickens to the point that I've got to take them away when she's holding them too tightly. This boy has lately gone from shy and aloof to coming over for attention in the past month is a real love. So it's easy for her to pick him up - I initially thought she had just hurt him. But now?

Thank you for any help/ideas/advice!

**Edited to add: he spends the whole day lying in a box doing the splits. It would be funny if it weren't so scary - what can be wrong with this guy?!?
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I'm assuming it's because the pupils are so dilated, but he's trying to keep his eyes closed as much as possible now. I'm giving him the vitamin water - is there anything else? It's obvious that he's dehydrated (sunken facial skin and eyes), but I don't want to give him TOO much water. How many mg should I be giving him?

I'm so sorry, I wish I could help. I suppose it might be Avian Encephalomyelitis but you haven't mentioned if the bird has been trembling or lying on its side a lot (though the dilated pupils sound similar).

It does sound like there isn't much you can do. Marek's obviously has a worse prognosis than AE. I'm sure there are many other things it could be, and I'm just sorry I can't think of what to do to help. Vitamins, yoghurt, easily digested food, that's all I can suggest... Careful with the water as it can easily go down the wrong way (just dribble it on the lower beak). It sounds like you're doing all you can.

Hopefully someone else will have some ideas.


I don't know for sure what your little guy has, but I did find this:
Coccidiosis (Intestinal):
Incidence: common poultry ailment worldwide, especially in warm, humid weather.
System/organ affected: intestinal tract
Symptoms: in growing birds: droopiness, huddling with ruffled feathers, loss of interest in eating, slow growth and possible weight loss, diarrhea. In mature birds: thin breasts, weak legs, drop in egg-laying, sometimes diarrhea.
Cause: several different species of protozoan parasites.
Transmission: droppings of infected birds; spread on used equipment, feed sacks, shoes.
Prevention: good sanitation, keep clean, dry litter.
Treatment: 1 teaspoon amprolium per gallon of drinking water for five days. Antibiotic treatment guards against secondary infection. Follow treatment with vitamin supplements of A and K.
Kinky Back
Incidence: common chicken ailment in broiler flocks
System/organ affected: joints or vertebrae
Symptoms: in young broilers: arched back, extended neck, feet off ground, struggling backward on hocks to move around.
Cause: unknown, possibly hereditary.
Transmission: genetic or feed related. Does not spread bird to bird.
Prevention: breed for resistance, do not feed for rapid growth.
Treatment: none; cull
Incidence: common chicken ailment
System/organ affected: bones
Symptoms: thickened leg bones, puffy looking shanks, lameness.
Cause: retrovirus
Transmission: contact with infected birds; spread by infected breeders through hatching eggs or from infected chicks to non-infected chicks through droppings, blood-sucking parasites.
Prevention: buying and breeding resistant strands.
Treatment: none; cull
Staphylococcic Arthritis
Incidence: common chicken ailment worldwide
System/organ affected: joints or entire body
Symptoms: fever, reluctance to move, ruffled feathers, depression, swollen joints, resting on hocks.
Cause: bacteria
Transmission: bacteria entering body through wounds
Prevention: prevent injuries by providing safe, uncrowded housing.
Treatment: staph bacteria are resistant to many antibiotics, but treatment may be sufficient if a suitable antibiotic is determined by laboratory testing.
Ulcerative Enteritis
Incidence: common chicken ailment worldwide
System/organ affected: lower intestine and ceca
Symptoms: in young birds: sudden death with no symptoms, hunched up posture with head pulled in and eyes closed, diarrhea.
Cause: bacteria that affect game birds more often than chickens. It persists under various conditions and resists disinfectants.
Transmission: contagious; spreads in droppings of infected carrier birds picked from litter, feed, water.
Prevention: remove and replace litter between flocks or raise birds on wire. Avoid overcrowding and manage internal and external parasites.
Treatment: strepomycin in drinking water at rate of 15 grams per gallon for ten days. All survivors may be carriers.

With Marek's, they usually also have enlarged feather follicles or white bumps on skin that scab over with a brown crust.
I PMed a friend who knows darn near everything chicken-related. His name is Dawg53. Hopefully he will have some good answers for you.
My friend said:
This is a tough one. Either cocci or marek's....I'm kinda leaning towards marek's due to the eye issue...but I'm not sure. My answer is that she shouldve culled it and the other one a long time ago at first symptoms. The risk of spreading to the others is great.
IMO, anytime a chick or young pullet or young rooster gets sick, it's best to cull. Later on they will bring you misery and heartache when they get adult size and will spread diseases among the healthy birds.

Sorry if that isn't what you wanted to hear. Who does want to hear that? It is ultimately up to you what you want to do with him. You could treat him for cocci & see how he responds. Just please know that when my friend recommends culling, he does not do so lightly. He has had chickens for a long time, and he has had more than his share of heartbreak. He knows that a lot of poultry diseases are contagious, and even if you cured a chicken, they can become carriers that could spread it to the rest of your flock. Sometimes culling is the best option.
Treatment: 1 teaspoon amprolium per gallon of drinking water for five days. Antibiotic treatment guards against secondary infection. Follow treatment with vitamin supplements of A and K.
Whenever one of my girls seems a bit "off", I supplement her diet by feeding her some foods that are high in vitamins A, K & E , especially vit. A. He might have a nutrient deficiency, and vitamin A is one of the most important vitamins for a chickens overall health.
Some foods high in vit. A are: broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, mangoes & tomato juice. Spinach, peppers & alfalfa leaves for K, and sweet potatoes & broccoli for E, which helps boost the immune system.
If you have any of these veggies, boil them up until they are soft & chop them into bite-size pieces or mash them with a fork.
You could also try giving him some drops of Poly-vis-ol from Enfamil (no iron formula) for a few days. 1 drop for chicks, 2 for smaller hens, 3 for standard adults.
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Did you feed him medicated chick starter when he was small? That should have helped him become resistant to cocci.
If you didn't, it might just be cocci.

Good luck to you.
Yes, they are all always on the medicated chick starter until at least 8 weeks. Sadly, that stuff must be like candy because the older birds will get all kinds of sneaky to get to the baby food.

Whatever he has does not appear to be contagious - it's almost like he's in a permanent state of shock on the pupils. They aren't changing color or shape like with Marek's. He has full control of his body aside from acting like his legs are broken (they aren't).

I've been giving him vitamin water every 4 hours or so and also bits of egg and yogurt. I have no clue as to how much fluid to provide at one time. I pretty much just keep giving him about a ml at a time until he's had maybe 10 ml or he fights it.

This is driving me nuts - he's not getting noticeably worse, but nothing is improving either. He's in a always fluffed up so it's nearly impossible to tell that he's wasting away. He does still have some flesh on him, but barely. Keeping him under a heat lamp (but he can move away if it gets too warm - and does) so I know he's not too cold.

It's his lying there like a gymnast-in-an-extreme-splits-formation-at-the-end-of-a-run that's really bothering me now. When I pick him up to give him fluids, he'll shriek at me if I move him wrong. Can't for the life of me figure out precisely what "wrong" is, though.
Mareks has different forms that manifest differently. One of those is leg paralysis. I saw a pic of a bird with Mareks that looked like it was doing a full side split like you are describing. And if I am not mistaken, the incubation period is long so if it is Mareks you woun't see it in any of the other birds till it's too late.
I'm trying to read all I can about Mareks right now so I can decide whether to vaccinate or not.
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