help, sick 4 week old chick, ? neurological problem


10 Years
Jun 18, 2009
This is my first hatch of banty cross heritage chicks.
all went well, they have a momma who is full sized araucana and a really good mom.
anyhow, yesterday one of the chicks I noticed was wobby legged.
then sitting down.
when I examined her she was very shaky and breathing heavily, could not stand for long.
I separated her, much to mom's fussing, and mom and other chicks stayed close by the cage where I had her.
she ate and drank, I gave her plain yogourt.
she seemed interested in eating.
then in the evening I put her back with mom and the rest and thought she might be gone in the morning.
to my surprise she came out with the rest, seemed better but still wobbly.
I did the same, put her in a separate cage within the chicken run.
tonight, did the yogurt again and put her back with mom.
she does not seem changed at the end of the day, no worse or better from yesterday.
of note, when I hold her she seems to be vibrating, a nervous type thing.
there are no visible marks on her legs or anywhere else, orifices all clean.
all chicks had good flooring, no slippery stuff.

help! is this marek's?

kelly J.
Hard to know if it's a neurological thing or not. I'd keep giving her food and perhaps add some liquid baby vitamins to make a mash of yogurt & crumbles for her. I recall that some of my babies seemed to vibrate at times and I think it was nervousness or being a bit too cold.

Keep us posted! Maybe another BYCer will chime in with more ideas.
I'd continue as you have been doing, making sure she gets enough food/water, and the yogurt certainly won't hurt.

Could be several things. Some chicks just seem to take longer to get on their feet than others.
I agree with all the prior posts. Just make sure she gets her fair share of food and if you have a dropper, put some sugar water down her. She seems to be in need of extra vitamins and energy. If you are near a drug store or Wal-Mart, just get childrens vitamin drops and put them on her beak so she can get them in her system. Keep us posted.
:(thank you for all the good advice and info.
this baby chick is 4 weeks old, not a newborn and it has been the first sign of wobbly leg, healthy up until this point running all over the place with the others.

so...I've kept her warm, been putting her in a special place during the day, lots of vitamins, special food, she likes salmon, hemp hearts, sunflower seeds ground and water.
during the night I put her back wtih mom and the other chicks and she settles under her nicely.

today, this a.m. I think she is more wobbly legged and her breathing is quite laboured, however she is still showing interest in eating.

has anyone heard of such a thing?

It seems odd to me she has after 4 weeks of healthy life all of sudden turned this way?

It seems the laboured breathing comes about after her trying to walk and hold herself up them she decides to sit and rest.
I think she is worse...

any other suggestions?

Hi, Kelly,

I have a similar problem here with a 5-week-old mottled Japanese pullet. I suspect an injury to her spine, probably her neck. I have her on antibiotics to prevent pneumonia, since her breathing is labored. And I have her on dexamethasone, which is a very good anti-inflammatory for the central nervous system. She improved immediately on that.

The dex is prescription-only - I had some left over from another injured animal. I don't know what else might do the trick. And, of course, your chick may have a completely different problem.

The antibiotic is available at any livestock supply store. Good luck with her.

With neurological issues suspected, you'll want to supplement with vitamin E in an oil form, not vitamin packages. With possible paralysis cases, supplement with riboflavin aka milk products (unless you're using any of the antibiotics listed below) in case it's a riboflavin deficiency, which does happen.

On any bird being medicated, they should be receiving probiotics during medication and 2 weeks afterwards every other dayd. You can use yogurt, unless you're using a drug ending with 'mycin' or 'cycline' - they you need to use something like a probiotic from the feedstore (probios, fastrack) or acidophilus tablets from the grocer/pharmacy/health food store. It's very important, particularly on young birds, to do so.

As for labored breathing - is it her whole body, or just her upper body? Is she definitely not too warm?

Also feed - are they all receiving a very fresh source of chick starter?
My little mottled Jap is a lot better today. She still can't really walk, but she does have more strength, she is breathing a bit better, she is more aware of her surroundings, and she can peep softly. She does try to get around now, and she tends to face plant. But hey - it's an improvement.

How is the little banty cross? Have you tried getting any sort of anti-inflammatory into her? Maybe a little aspirin? It is possible she has a neck injury, maybe a bulging disk, or a swollen ligament? Taking the inflammation down may help.

I knew nothing of spine injuries until last year when my horse broke her neck. She survived, and she recovered really well. And I learned way more than I ever wanted to know. It was her dexamethasone that I am using on the chick. The hard part was doing the math to figure out a possible dosage - 900-lb horse, 2.5 oz chick. Made my eyes cross.
Hmm puzzling problem...

Is she smaller than the others her size? Does she maybe not assert herself enough to get under mama when cold? I have a little EE that is MUCH smaller than the other 8 I have and that were all the same age supposedly. She has never been assertive and so I usually single her out for special treats, extra meal worms, more yogurt etc. She is just slow and needs a bit of help, but she also seems slow to mature.

I did have another in the group who breathed faster and kept her inside a few days, bit she was never quiet. She is completely fine now and the biggest of all. Part of her breathing fast was she is more feathered than the others and so was warmer... the brooder was too warm for her.

The problem with anti-inflamatories/steroids like Dex though are they mask symptoms. You should really not put a sick animal on steroids unless you know what the illness is. The steroid will mask many symptoms and not provide a way to see what the true cause /illness is. Since it is also an immunosuppressant it may make a bacterial or viral infection worse.

I hope your chick rallies and gets better...

The other Nancy

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