Hen lethargic, not eating, drinking, messy bottom, some yellowish poo mixed in diarrhea..Blackhead?

Lady of McCamley

Free Ranging
12 Years
Mar 19, 2011
NW Oregon
I have a 2 year old Gold Star that had a severe case of IB in May but recovered. The rest of the flock got it in varying degrees, but this particular bird was the sickest. The other hen she was isolated with died while she amazingly recovered after hacking for a week. She has surprised me by how well she seems to have been doing other than having a recurring mildly messy bottom which I have kept at bay with some worming (Hygromycin B) and probiotics.

I'm not 100% positive yet, but I also think she is the one that has been laying very fragile eggs. I've been finding a shattered egg in the box for weeks now...through the process of elimination and careful checking...I think it is her.

This morning for the first time I found her lingering in the main coop...just lingering, standing and gazing aimlessly...the only one in the coop at the time (and the only egg laid that morning was the fragile egg).

I picked her up to examine her, and she did struggle against me, but I noticed a bit of a messy bum on her again. This time, for the first time, I noticed some distinct yellow color on some goopy feathers...it reminded me a bit of the sulphur yellow of Blackhead type poo....not the orange of cecal...but I am probably jumping to conclusions. However because of this hen's history, I've been staying on the alert as I know a suppressed immune system can become a magnet for other things.

I know Blackhead is very rare in backyard flocks, and I do attempt to keep my grounds and coops clean (just got done cleaning again twice this week). We've also had a very dry August and a good thunderstorm and rain this week...so I don't think the protozoa could really be flourishing in conditions here but I suppose the heavy rains this week could have "birthed" something...but again I'd be surprised.

Even though she is not thinnish, she actually is a good size bird with decent meat on her, I suspicion she has never been 100% after the IB, and I'm wondering if I am beginning to see some of that after effect...perhaps some internal issues like liver or kidney. Her comb at first looked good this morning, but it is getting a bit floppy and may have some mild discoloring.

Anyway, the yellow in the poo caused me to be concerned about potential Blackhead and I am hoping someone with experience can concur that it could be something other than Blackhead or confirm that I should begin to take early action against Blackhead for the rest of the flock. (I've read that there really isn't anything you can do as the government pulled all the meds off the market but that significant amount of cayenne in the feed can help.)

She's isolated away from the flock in the yard right now by her choice. I am watching her, and may chose to cull her especially if she is indeed the fragile egg layer. I don't think she is just going broody (although I've had more than my share with that in this flock in the last 2 months)...she hasn't moved from the isolated corner I put her in to give her space away from the flock.

I did give the flock a dose of herbal wormer and cayenne this morning and have put probiotics in the water. I keep ACV in a waterer on consistent basis. I am prepared to take further actions if need be.

Thanks for your advice.
Lady of McCamley
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I checked on her again and she is up and drinking and walking around...I'll treat for the messy bottom and keep my fingers crossed.

Still appreciate any info on Blackhead that anyone could give me regarding chickens to file away and watch.

Lady of McCamley
Thanks for the info Eggcessive.

I'll see if I can connect with Casportpony.

I have this hen in isolation now and am watching her. She was much perkier this afternoon but does appear to have some light yellow urates...how much I will have to figure out in the morning as I can isolate her poop better. That likely indicates a liver issue...possibly from Blackhead but after your mention of E coli overgrowth, I began to investigate that as well.

I googled and read this article http://www.diamondv.com/languages/en/pdf/newsletter/poultry/2011/PoultryAdvisor_2011-02_Ecoli.pdf on E coli overgrowth and this article on Blackhead http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/1285/control-of-blackhead-disease

Because of the history of this bird, and because Blackhead is truly rare in backyard flocks, plus the weather conditions being overall very, very dry for the last month (can't find the info source now but one article said Blackhead histamonosis from cecal worms is very vulnerable to dry conditions), all this cause me to believe it is likely E coli overgrowth in this bird....the E coli article stated that is a common occurrence in chickens after IB....and this was my sickest bird after IB, and she has had recurring messy bum since then which improved with probiotics.

Given that...it appears that treatment is antibiotics, probiotics, sanitation, isolation, and culling. If I discover that she is laying those really fragile eggs, I think the best course of action will likely be to cull her as I don't see that ever improving as obviously the IB did indeed damage her egg tract and I can't have her eggs continually gooping up the others in the main coop.

I'd love more info from those with knowledge of either Blackhead or E coli condition as I watch and wait for the next couple of days.

Thanks for the input
Lady of McCamley
After being on Tetracycline for 4 days, after seeing a bit of improvement, I'm not seeing overall much improvement and a few new symptoms have come up.

She has started labored breathing and some rasping and has begun to shake her head like a fly is on it. She does appear to have a bit more energy. I don't see a lot of eating or drinking yet. And she is not laying (no surprise).

I don't see a lot of diarrhea in the litter, or as much, but she is not clear yet. The urates still look dark.

I'm thinking, with history, this matches E coli overgrowth....airsacullitis, with possibly liver congestion explaining the yellow/dark urates.

I've still got her on tetracycline, and they say wait 5 days for improvement.

Any other ideas?

Or is it just best to cull at this point.

I really don't want her to be a vector for the rest of the flock for E Coli infections or something else.

Lady of McCamley
Is there any way that you can contact your state vet to ask about doing a culture on your chicken for E.Coli? I don't have a lot of experience with sick chickens, but I know that Dawg53 on here has had a rosster that died of E.Coli after treating him for several months. He might be a good source to PM, and he is very helpful on the emergency thread. Here is the Oregon link for the state vet that you can question. I would also ask about necropsies when asking about a culture.
Blackhead and e. Coli often go hand-in-hand, but e.Coli is one of the more common killers of backyard poultry, so that would be my guess. Whenever I suspect blackhead I de-worm with fenbendazole and start treatment with metronidazole (Flagyl, Fish-Zole or Meditrich) at no less than 30mg/kg by mouth once a day for five days (that's 30mg per 2.2 pounds). If I see no improvement after 3-5 days on metronidazole I start treating for e. Coli with Clavamox or Baytril.

These are pictures of peafowl poop that had blackhead and possibly e.Coli


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Thanks for the photos and ideas.

She was brighter this morning. I found her up and eating. Head shake seems to be gone...although she had a funny beak click.

Maybe the Tetracycline is starting to work.

Her poo is runny but doesn't look dark or bloody. Most of the dark yellow appeared gone this morning as she left a big poo, wet litter spot.

Will continue to assess and watch.

I'll look for the Fish-Zole at my local pet store for treatment.

Do you know how long egg withdrawal time would be...not that she's laying...but I would presume I would not want to eat her eggs for some time due to E coli overgrowth and treatments...what 2 weeks after last treatment and all symptoms gone????

Thanks again for the ideas.
Lady of McCamley

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