Hen not walking for 4 days

sarah654

Chirping
6 Years
Mar 9, 2013
17
6
77
Texas
I have a one year old Welsummer hen that stopped walking 4 days ago. She is alert and eating/drinking normally but does seem to be losing weight. She has laid an egg 3 out of the 4 days which is normal for her. She just lays on one side or the other using her wing to prop herself up. She will also sit back on her "butt" with her legs straight out in front of her and flap her wings to "scoot" around. When I manipulate her legs, she resists with her left but not with her right. I noticed her limping on the right side 5 days ago then she stopped walking altogether. I have checked her over thoroughly and I haven't found any signs of trauma. She had green diarrhea 2 days ago but today it is back to normal. No other chicken in my flock is showing symptoms. I treated with Wazine 2 days ago. The coop has sand on the floor, shavings in the nest boxes and they free range during the day. I do not have a veterinarian anywhere in the area that will treat poultry so I am trying to do the best I can at home. Any ideas or suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance


 

Nambroth

Fud Lady
8 Years
Apr 7, 2011
2,961
1,079
312
Western NY
My Coop
My Coop
There are many things that can cause lameness/poor balance/paralysis of the legs. I have copied this from my article on Marek's disease, in hopes that one of these can help you with a diagnosis. What is your flock's history? Have you had a sick bird or lost one in the last year or so? Have you brought any new birds in the last year or so?

  • Avian Lymphoid Leukosis is a disease that can cause Marek's like symptoms, though signs are usually only visible upon necropsy. This virus causes lymphomas, much like Marek's disease, throughout organ tissue. Most chickens with this virus will experience weakness, and will "waste away" over time, becoming more and more emaciated as the tumors spread. This viral disease is often thought to be the 'sister disease' to Marek's, as it is very similar in many ways. Unlike Marek's disease, it can be transmitted through the egg (vertically) from parent to chick. Of important note, there have been some signs that in individual chickens with a genetic predisposition, that Serotype-2 Marek's vaccine (only hatcheries have this vaccine) may cause this disease to more rapidly harm the infected chicken. http://www.merckmanuals.com/vet/poultry/neoplasms/lymphoid_leukosis_in_poultry.html
  • Heavy Metal Toxicity in chickens (and other fowl, such as ducks) can look very similar to Marek's paralysis. Lead toxicity seems to be the most common for birds like chickens, that unlike other pet birds such as parrots, generally do not chew on metal objects but may swallow small metallic objects whole. Lead shot, BBs, pellets, (etc) are often mistaken for stones and ingested to aid the bird in digestion. A single BB or piece of lead shot is enough to cause serious illness in a large fowl chicken, or even eating old lead paint flakes, or finding them in the soil is enough to harm a chicken-sized bird. Heavy metal toxicity is one of the leading medical problems that vets and wildlife rehabilitators see in ground dwelling birds such as chickens, ducks, and geese, so it can be somewhat common. Symptoms include neurological issues such as partial or total paralysis of one or both legs and sometimes the wings. With lead toxicity, lesions of the nervous system and elevated white blood counts can also mimic Marek's infection. X-rays and/or blood tests might be necessary to diagnose this problem. Treatment generally involves injections of a chelating agent such as Calsenate. Large metal objects may need to be surgically removed. This problem is very hard to diagnose without veterinary help. For more reading: http://www.birdclinic.net/avian1.htm http://www.avianweb.com/heavymetalpoisoningbirds.html
  • Botulism in fowl can also mimic the symptoms of Marek's, in that it often causes neurological distress and paralysis. Often birds with botulism will present leg weakness, and neck weakness or paralysis. This can come on quite suddenly or gradually, depending on how much of the Botulism toxin has been consumed by the bird. Botulism is caused by the consumption of the toxin, either from decaying material (usually decaying carcasses) or eating an abundance of invertebrates that have been infected with the Botulsim toxin (such as maggots that have been feeding on decaying material). Generally, if a bird survives more than 48 hours, it will recover, so if Botulism is suspected in birds with sudden paralysis, immediate treatment is necessary. For more reading on Botulism consult the following: http://www.merckmanuals.com/vet/poultry/botulism/overview_of_botulism_in_poultry.html and http://www.avianweb.com/botulism.html
  • Avian Encephalomyelitis is a disease that can cause paralysis in chickens. It can also affect turkeys, quail, pheasants and pigeons. Like Marek's, this disease can show up as birds losing coordination, leg paralysis and/or weakness, including sitting on the hocks, neck spasms, and tremors. This disease is mostly observed in chicks, under the age of three weeks. As chicks less than three weeks can not develop Marek's paralysis, be sure to investigate the possibility of Avian Encephalomyelitis if you experience these symptoms in young chicks. Read more: http://www.merckmanuals.com/vet/pou...itis/overview_of_avian_encephalomyelitis.html
  • Viral tenosynovitis is a viral form of arthritis that is transmitted in chickens and turkeys. Transmission is generally via fecal material of infected birds. Infected birds experience lameness and hock inflammation, swelling of the tendon sheaths (the 'tubes' that the leg tendons are encased in), and general lack of mobility of the legs. It is most commonly seen in commercial meat birds and has been reported less commonly in commercial leghorns in the past. Photos with more info (warning, necropsy images): http://www.thepoultrysite.com/publications/6/diseases-of-poultry/200/reovirus-infections
  • Mycoplasma synoviae (MS) is another disease of poultry that might look like Marek's. This bacterial disease affects chickens and turkeys, but may also infect other commonly kept fowl. It is a relatively common disease, and easily transmitted. Like Marek's, symptoms include lameness/paralysis of the legs and reluctance to stand and walk, as well as blue/purple comb and or wattles due to respiratory distress. The hock (ankle) and wing joints may become swollen. Birds may also experience rales (roughness of breath, rattling, wheezing) and may have some respiratory discharge. http://www.merckmanuals.com/vet/pou...nfection_in_poultry_infectious_synovitis.html
  • Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) is similar to MS, in that it is a mycoplasma infection, is very common in chickens, and is easily spread. It can cause paralysis and lameness in birds, similar to Marek's, but is generally accompanied by respiratory distress, sometimes severe in nature. Respiratory distress can include but is not limited to: rales (rasping, wheezing), coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, bubbling or discharge around the eyes, expelling mucus, and overall difficulty breathing. http://www.merckmanuals.com/vet/pou...lasma_gallisepticum_infection_in_poultry.html
  • Mold or Moldy Feed is a serious problem, as mold in grain, especially corn, is known to grow aflatoxins. Most of the aflatoxin problems on corn are caused by Aspergillus flavus, and the most potent toxin produced by this mold is called aflatoxin B1. These toxins may have degenerative effect on the nervous system of birds, causing signs similar to Marek's such as weakness, paralysis, or spasms, along with pale combs, weight loss, and lethargic behavior.... so it is very important to investigate feed, both bagged and in the bird's environment, to make sure it is fresh and free of mold. Molds may not be visible to the naked eye, so when in doubt, discard old feed and supply birds with fresh feed. If you find moldy feed or suspect moldy feed and see any changes in health in your flock, immediately discontinue access to affected feed! Read more: http://www.mycotoxins.info/myco_info/animpy_sr.html More information, and treatment: http://birdhealth.com.au/flockbirds/poultry/diseases/mould_infections.html
  • Injury to the body, and especially to the head, can cause paralysis-like symptoms that look similar to Marek's. It is important to carefully check for hidden injuries, gently palpate bones for breakage, and observe your bird carefully to determine if injury is a factor. Injuries may be internal and not visible via simple physical exam. Head injuries can cause paralysis or weakness, and loss of motor control. Breeds with vaulted skulls (such as Silkies) are especially prone to brain damage, and can sustain brain injury and swelling that can create physical disability.
  • Bumblefoot and other leg and foot issues can cause chickens to limp and favor their feet and legs. Carefully investigate for bumblefoot, and consider leg sprains and other injury when assessing your bird.
 

sarah654

Chirping
6 Years
Mar 9, 2013
17
6
77
Texas
Nambroth thank you so much for your help. We have had 2 hens die within the last year. The most recent one, a month ago, was egg bound. We are unsure of the cause of death of the other one. It died about 6 months ago. Four days before she started limping, we added a new rooster to the flock. I have since contacted the previous owner to see if he has experienced this with any chicken in his flock. He said he had not. I am truly at a loss because other than being unable to walk, she is completely herself. Alert, healthy appetite, vocal and still laying.
I have read through the information you posted and with all them, the paralysis seems to be accompanied by other symptoms. I had read an article about giving them baby aspirin for injuries causing paralysis. Do you have any knowledge of this treatment? I greatly appreciate all of your help!
 

Nambroth

Fud Lady
8 Years
Apr 7, 2011
2,961
1,079
312
Western NY
My Coop
My Coop
Nambroth thank you so much for your help. We have had 2 hens die within the last year. The most recent one, a month ago, was egg bound. We are unsure of the cause of death of the other one. It died about 6 months ago. Four days before she started limping, we added a new rooster to the flock. I have since contacted the previous owner to see if he has experienced this with any chicken in his flock. He said he had not. I am truly at a loss because other than being unable to walk, she is completely herself. Alert, healthy appetite, vocal and still laying.
I have read through the information you posted and with all them, the paralysis seems to be accompanied by other symptoms. I had read an article about giving them baby aspirin for injuries causing paralysis. Do you have any knowledge of this treatment? I greatly appreciate all of your help!
Baby aspirin is safe, as is Metacam-- Metacam is something you would either need to order online or get it from a vet (cat and dog vets have it, they might sell you some if you explain your situation even if they won't see the chicken!). I will look up the dosage for you! These are mostly therapeutic in that they are a pain management and offer some anti-inflammatory relief, so they aren't a cure, but might help if she is hurting!

The egg binding in your most recent death (so sorry to hear it!) may have been a stand-alone problem (it often is, sadly) or a complication from something else. If the hen was older, or of a breed that lays more heavily, it could have easily just been its own problem.
Did the other bird that died 6 months ago show any symptoms at all?

I want to be very honest, I am not an expert, and while I have studied Marek's disease a lot, I am only starting to dive into research on other diseases (free time is at a minimum in my household) so I just want to be clear, I am much less educated on some things than others! I know with Marek's disease, which can indeed show up as only leg problems in some birds, it has an incubation period of 3 weeks. Meaning from time to exposure, it takes at least three weeks for symptoms to show up if a bird is going to show them (some birds don't show them for months or even years!). So, four days is not enough time for your hen to develop symptoms of Marek's disease from your new rooster, at least! This does not rule Marek's out entirely, as it could have been in your flock for longer and your other birds are showing now signs, or it could have come in on the environment. But this is hardly a diagnosis either!

Still, let's look at other problems first, since there is not much that can be done if it's Marek's.
Is there any chance at all that there is lead that your girl could have gotten into? My vet advised that she's seen birds develop neurological problems (often leg paralysis) from ingesting as little as a single BB (which chickens often mistake for a lovely piece of grit) or even birds eating old paint flakes. Lots of things used to be manufactured out of lead, and if you live on a property that is a bit older, there is a chance.
What are you feeding, exactly? Is there any chance at all that it may have gotten moldy?
Is she still eating well?

I sincerely do hope that she recovers, but if she passes, you might want to consider sending her for testing. It would give you a lot of answers and it makes it much easier to deal with your flock in the future if you know what's going on. Back when I lived in TX, Texas A&M used to do necropsies for a low cost; I don't know if they still do but I know they do diagnostic blood testing.
 
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Nambroth

Fud Lady
8 Years
Apr 7, 2011
2,961
1,079
312
Western NY
My Coop
My Coop
About the aspirin-- @casportpony yet again comes through with great info. Check out this thread: https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/840411/using-aspirin-on-chickens#post_12408288

I looked up the dosing in "Clinical Avian Medicine" and it says the aspirin dose for birds is 5mg/kg (5mg per 2.2 pounds) 3-4 times a day.

That info is here:
http://avianmedicine.net/content/uploads/2013/03/09_therapeutic_agents.pdf

-Kathy
To find out how much Aspirin is in different types of capsules:
Extra strength - 500mg
Regular - 325mg
Low dose - 81mg
Baby - 81mg chewable

-Kathy
So you would need to break the tablets up as necessary, to get the approximate dosage. A good way of doing this is seen on page 2 of the above thread... grind the tablet into powder, so that you can more easily portion out small dosages.
So with aspirin, weigh your bird and administer 5mg of aspirin per kilogram of chicken.


If you do get Metacam instead, my vet always prescribes Metacam (oral solution, 1.5mg/ml suspension) at 0.2mg/kg.
So, weigh your bird, and administer 0.2mg of metacam per kilogram of chicken.
Metacam is given as a liquid, and easier to measure out with a 1ml syringe, but isn't something that you can buy at your local pharmacy.
 

sarah654

Chirping
6 Years
Mar 9, 2013
17
6
77
Texas
Thank you so much for all of the information! I completely understand the lack of free time...I have a 2 year old :) I appreciate you taking time out of yours to help me with my girl!

I think the egg binding was probably just a problem on it's own. She started laying late and when she did start, the eggs were enormous.

The other chicken didn't show any signs of anything. She was fine in the morning and my husband found her dead that evening.

I crushed up some Aspirin this morning and gave it to her in some buttermilk and she slurped it right down :) I am waiting for a call back from a nearby vet to see if they will sell me some Metacam. She is still eating and drinking normally. She has developed diarrhea again this morning but there isn't any blood in it. We keep their food in a sealed container but I checked it this morning just to make sure it hadn't become moldy, which it hadn't. She is eating a laying pellet and has access to oyster shell mixed with clean egg shells. I am concerned about the lead poisoning though. We live in an old house built in 1942. I will be checking the yard today for any chipping paint and I found a lab that will test paint chips for lead.

I am hoping she will improve some over the weekend but I have prepared myself for the worst. It's so crazy how attached you can become to them but I cannot stand the thought of her suffering. Thanks again!
 

Nambroth

Fud Lady
8 Years
Apr 7, 2011
2,961
1,079
312
Western NY
My Coop
My Coop
Oh goodness, yes.. it looks as if your egg-bound hen had some plumbing problems, so to speak! Poor thing.

I hope for the best for your girl! I never anticipated how attached I'd become to my birds, either!!
 
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