History of a coop- please help solve this mystery

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by lampe731, Aug 30, 2013.

  1. lampe731

    lampe731 Out Of The Brooder

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    This is going to be a long winded post. I've spent a lot of time on here reading old posts trying to make sense of what is going on in my coop but I can't figure it out. I'm hoping one (or more!) of you chicken gurus will be able to see something I missed in the matrix and help me save my remaining 3 hens- two of which are no longer eating.

    I got my 6 hens April 2011- a first time chicken keeper. I got them from a local hatchery- Mt. Healthy Hatchery and had them vaccinated for Merek's. The first problems I noticed a problem with my hens was my RIR, Scarlet, slept a lot as a growing chick. Much more than the others. We thought it was cute because she would fall asleep in your hand. She ended up being a great producer- always quiet and slow and prone to double yoke eggs. She got ill with what appeared to be a neurological problem- I fed her B complex mixed with olive oil for nearly a month and she recovered. She got sick again- seeming loosing control of her muscles just flopping around as though something was attacking her day and night. One of the most pitiful things I have ever seen. At 9 months old we put her down.

    In May/June of 2012 I switched them from Purina layer to Highland Naturals Layer (an organic GMO free feed).

    Somewhere between June and July one of my hens, Cookie silver laced Wyandotte, stopped laying eggs. Everything else about her seemed fine.

    At the end of 2012 my production began to taper off. I did provide artificial light, but they normally went to roost while it was on anyway- so I attributed the loss of egg production to the reduced light in winter months. In February I got 4 eggs from my 5 hens for the month.

    I got married in March of 2013 and was out of town for 3 weeks. I had a friend stay at the house and watch the chickens and cats. When I returned home I found Cookie very ill with a super advanced case of sour crop. She died the next day. I got a total of 8 eggs in March.

    At this point I decided something was wrong. I should have gotten more than 8 eggs with days getting much longer. I kept a constant eye out for a problem. Pat, an Easter egger, presented a problem with bubbles in her eyes. I called my vet and got some Tylan. By time I got home the bubbles were gone- but I treated them anyway. Pat immediately started laying eggs. For a week.

    I continued reading and saw that lice or mites can cause a drop in production. I looked them over and saw never evidence of either but treated them with seven dust anyway to make sure. I repeated this twice as I saw directed in the forms a few days apart sprinkling it all over esp. under the wings and vent. No change.

    Then I was supposed to leave for vacation July 27th. When I got home from work I found my hen Nugget, a comet golden Hubbard, was pooping yellow frothy diarrhea. I looked it up- sounded like worms. I got excited- maybe after everything I had been through the answer was already in the coop labeled wazine. I had bought the wormer and never used it. I treated them and delayed vacation. When everyone was looking ok, other than still runny poops, we left. My neighbor gave them yogurt and mealworms every day that we were gone. And Pat laid and egg every day. When we got home Nugget was about the same. She still had lots of energy picking and scratching with the rest eating and drinking fine. 20 days later symptoms hadn't improved and she was loosing weight rapidly. I read about treating for more than one kind of worm and decided a second wormer might be needed. I bought some safe guard goat wormer and dosed as recommended and separated Nugget. I also started putting vitamins/electrolites in their water- a rooster booster brand powder. The following day Nugget began only picking at food. I could still get her to eat yogurt and treats as well as wet cat food. Poops were white and runny with some green chunks. She was starting to show signs of improvement- more energy picking at more food- and then she just stopped eating. She died yesterday afternoon.

    Now two of my three remaining hens are not eating, Rye and Betty. Pat is still laying about 1 egg every 2-3 days.

    I am at a loss.


    Please help- if you have any questions that you think would help solve the problem don't hesitate to ask I will answer them all.

    Alex
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2013
  2. Naunnie

    Naunnie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hello Alex and welcome to BYC. I am by no means a chicken guru but I do have a few questions and suggestions. Do they free-range? What type of housing are they in. Is it new or old construction? Other than the Cats, are they around any other birds/animals. I can't explain it but my first thought was...... are they exposed to something that is slowly poisoning them. I have read Cedar can be toxic to birds. Do you use any type of chemicals on your plants/lawn? If they free-range, could they be eating something toxic? Most chickens will avoid eating poisonous plants but it is still possible. I may be way off here but it is my nature to research. Here is a link I found useful.
    http://www.poultryclub.org/poultry/poisonous-plants-and-toxins/

    To help support Rye and Betty, I would put Apple Cider Vinegar with the "Mother" in their water. If they have never had it before, they not like like it a first. Start with 1 teaspoon to a gallon of water and increase a little at a time to 1 tablespoon to a gallon. ACV will help boost their immune system. You can do a search here for more information about the benefits of ACV
     
  3. lampe731

    lampe731 Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for the suggestions Naunnie- I will pick up the ACV tonight at the store. Can I get it at a regular grocery? I have regular old ACV in the pantry but not "with the mother".

    The hens are mostly in a run- the coop is the back side of our "garage" (built in 1910- repurposed as a coop for them in 2010/11) and it 6' x 12' (huge I know) the floor is gravel/dirt/ pine shavings. I have recently decided that this is a pain to clean and just installed a piece of plywood under the pop door and food/water containers (covers about 1/3 of the coop). There are also poop pits under their roosts that I change out about once a month (or when I detect an odor) the pits are covered with chicken wire so they can't scratch in them. I use DE throughout the coop. The run is 7' x12' and has a roof over 2/3 of it (which I put in about 4 months ago- used to just be open).

    They are only ever around cats- one lives in the garage with them (well her food and bed is in there but in the summer she only goes in for food). Of course, being up against a nature preserve there are all sorts of animals. I'm pretty sure there is a family of possums that lives very close by. There was also a few squirrels that recently (about a month ago? maybe two now) taught me where the tiniest weak points in the run were by getting in and getting to the feed. That problem is solved.

    I let them out to forage when I am home, but recently this has just meant hanging out in the ferns and laying down- I'm hoping this is due to the heat (90degs) and not lethergy.

    I am very adiment about not using anything on my lawn and I back up to a nature preserve (the hen house is almost in the nature preserve) my neighbors have also talked to me about their precautions to favor my chickens. There is a large beech tree over the run that is dropping seeds right now- but it did the same last year. I will investigate to see if beech nuts are poisonous to chickens.

    Do you think the seven dust could be a problem? I read it was okay for chickens :( I sure hope this isn't all my fault!
     
  4. Naunnie

    Naunnie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The AVC that is recommended is cloudy and has sediment in the bottom. Shake it good before each use. It is unpasteurized and retains the benefits of the apples. Most grocery stores will carry it. "Bragg" is a popular brand labeled "organic". Heinz has recently started with an "unfiltered with the mother". The brownish, but clear ACV is not the same.

    Sevin dust has it's place. For many years 5% Sevin was considered safe, but things changed when they came out with 7% Sevin. I would not use the 7% on any critter.

    I will also do some research about the beechnuts. I know the bark and leaves are considered medical but large doses of the nuts can be poison to humans and other animals.

    What kind of ferns are they hanging out in? Have you noticed if they are nibbling on them?

    You mentioned "Nature preserve". Do you know what they are trying to preserve? How much do you know about them? I only ask because it may not be what you think. It is possible they are trying to "preserve" something by eradicating something else. I would investigate.

    And one more....the "garage" have you repainted or is it insulated? Any possibility of lead or asbestos? What was it used for? I wonder about the dirt....Could it be a source of contamination?

    I'm sorry Alex...I do not mean to sound like a paranoid nutcase! I am just trying to help. You have done what I would have done. They get good feed, have been dewormed, treated for external parasites, have plenty of room, but there still seems to be a problem.....


    Hang in there.....Hopefully other BYC members will chime in soon.
     
  5. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress Premium Member

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    It's a good thing you vaccinated for Marek's. That kindof rules that out. But not 100%.
    It really does sound like Marek's, either the paralysis and flapping like the first bird, and the others sortof wasting away. But where could they have gotten it? I doubt it was the hatchery because those chicks come from eggs in big incubators, hatch, go down a chute, and get boxed. So even tho it sounds like Marek's, there's no setup, no exposure, and they are vaccinated.

    Did the people before you have chickens at your house? Is there anything chemical wise that may have leached into the coop before you lived there or the chickens? Is your food getting contaminated or wet? Is the water good? What kind of stuff do they have access to? A good thing to do would be a necropsy if another dies. Get the address of the State animal disease lab, get the paper you fill out, and the box to ship her in, having everything ready really helps.

    My only other guess is that they are getting into something toxic.
     
  6. Haunted55

    Haunted55 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Actually, there were problems from this hatchery that are still on going. My birds that introduced the Marek's came from there. I don't know if it's Marek's or not but I will say that some of the symptoms as very similar to what I saw.
    I would strongly encourage you to contact these peole at the link below and send in a blood sample to see if it is in fact Merak's. I would also switch to a Super B complex, human, per gallon of water.
    http://tvmdl.tamu.edu/tests_service...sease-(PCR)&unit_id=1187&unit_effdt=02-JUN-10
     
  7. lampe731

    lampe731 Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank Naunnie I found the bragg's you talked about. When I refresh their water in the morning I will add a tsp and work up to a Tbls over the next week. I checked my seven dust- it says it is 5% so hopefully that is ok.

    I've never actually seen them pick at the nuts- but I suppose it is an option. If a squirrel were to open one and throw it down they may treat it differently than the ones that come down whole (this tree is MASSIVE about 8' diameter at the base so it drops a lot of nuts.) I will start cleaning them out of the run now just in case.

    I'm not sure what kind of ferns they are but I'm pretty sure they don't eat them. I would see a lot more destruction. In the spring the ferns get covered with cabbage worms and they eat those right off the leaves. Natural insecticides lol. I think they like the protection from the sun and watching eyes. There is a pair of barred owls that visit every now and then, but they definitely used to spend more time in the yard- again I'm hoping this is weather related.

    The park is definitely a mini nature preserve. It is 6 acres of what used to be a massive seed farm near Cincinnati. Now the estate house and the 4 acres closest to it are preserved by a gift from a wealthy philantophist. It is quiet nice but poorly looked after. I go through and pick trash up out of it sometimes. It is pretty overrun with wild grape. There is a caretaker who lives in the estate house and "takes care" of the property.

    The garage is not insulated- just wood frame with a yellow pine exterior. I put 1/4" ply over the studs in the coop to keep them from getting to the older wood/ repairs that were made. I used a latex porch/floor paint to paint the plywood that I just put in under the feeder/waterer.

    The dirt could certainly be a source of contamination. I have enough ply to do the whole floor and I think I'm going to. They seem to particularly hate the piece I put in and I'm worried about extra stress. Maybe it is worth it to just get it done.

    And I definitely don't think you are paranoid! I've gone over all of this in my head too. I just want to figure it out [​IMG]

    Seminolewind-- I agree I really think Scarlet ether had Merek's or a small heart that caused neurological damage. Not being right from day one is what makes me think something was not right with her that may not have been Merek's.

    If anyone had chickens at this house I would guess it was probably more than 50 years ago- I see absolutely no evidence for it anywhere. Chemicals are always a possibility. I am definitely feeling the urge now to get that dirt and gravel mixture that is the coop covered up. There was a bunch of broken glass in it when we bought the house and when I cleaned it all up that area always gave my the creeps. I have been so sure that the chickens were going to unearth a dead body [​IMG] the gravel dirt mixture probably is 3-4' deep. I've never explored it that far. The garage sits on a hill so the back part (where the coop is) is about 3-4' off the ground.

    I keep the feed in airtight plastic containers. I had one bag of feed go green- I left it sitting on the floor in the coop- I disposed of it.

    It is funny you mention water- I said the same thing to my husband earlier tonight. About two years ago I decided to get out my old fish tank and get some fish. I've had fish since I was little and have never had a problem with them. I know how to prep a tank for new fish and how to care for a tank. I've been doing it my whole life. I had two batches of fish stop eating and die. Maybe there really is something there. I'm pretty sure that when we bought the house the inspector said that the line running from the street was the original one they put in during the early 1900's and that we would probably, at some point be forced to replace it. I don't remember him saying that the water would be harmful or anything- just that it would break. I recently picked up a water quality test kit from home depot that you send into a lab to get processed- I will do that straight away. I drink the tap water here all the time- but I guess it is not my ONLY source or water either and I'm much larger than the animals in question. Cats seem fine.

    I'm not sure what you mean by access to so I will do a broad edible list:
    -layer mash inside
    -water inside and out
    -grit inside
    -oyster shell inside
    -treats- right now mostly apples, watermelon, tomatoes, random other veggies I'm cooking... I stopped giving them grapes because they **** near choke on them they get so excited about swallowing them whole lol. Occasionally they will get a meat bone to finish picking at. Meal worms are often given

    . When the are out they have access to the backyard which is about 50'x50' and mostly "grass" (very weedy grass) there is a garden with ferns, a garden with a hydrangea, hostas and pine trees, and a garden with Solomon's seal, wild clematis, and more hostas. The trees that drop most everything are the beech, honeysuckle, mimosa, pine, rose of Sharon.

    The compost bin used to be in the back yard, but was moved early spring this year so they can no longer get to it.

    Still eager to here what people think!!! Thanks for the feedback so far. Big on the list is checking the tap water, looking for possible toxins, and boarding up the floor in the coop.

    I just feel like this shouldn't be so hard. I hear stories of people having chickens for 10 years and never have an issue. I just feel like somehow this must be my fault and I want to make it right.
     
  8. lampe731

    lampe731 Out Of The Brooder

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    Haunted- Interesting info!!! Scary too- I had no idea Mt. Healthy was having issues- I heard about the salmonella outbreak linked to them (or was it e.coli?) but I think I had bought before that hit. Can you ever put birds back into a place that once had Marek's safely? If it is Marek's should I end my backyard chicken keeping at this house?? :( :( So the B I do have some pills Nature's bounty B-complex plus b-12. Just crush it up and put it in the water? Does that work with the ACV or do they neutralize?

    I took a look at the site. I have no idea how to draw blood! Eeek! If the problem is truly coming from Mt. Healthy could I go to them and ask for a test to be run? (I live about 20mins away which is why I got my hens there- I could just pick them up).
     
  9. Haunted55

    Haunted55 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't use ACV, when I need to acidify my bird's systems, I add a 250 mg vitamin C to their gallon waterer. This works whole system. I use a Super B Complex with mine and yes, just crush it and add.

    I spoke with one of the State Vets out there last Fall [?] about what had happened to me and got a lot of information. They couldn't tell me everything, as the investigation was still on going. Interesting stuff. They did tell me there were a lot more things going on besides the salmonella. You could try contacting them, Mt. Healthy, but as most who have done so can tell you, it won't do much good. I was actually told by their rep that all chickens have salmonella and it's normal. Really? Lol, honest, that's what I was told. If your birds have salmonella, they can die and usually do if not treated, just like us. By now, I'm sure they've been brought back into compliance after all of the investigations and so fourth.

    Something to keep in mind....you say you are 20 mins. away from them. You went there to pick up your birds....ummm, knowing what I do now, I would never go to a hatchery. Too many chances of bringing something besides the birds home. Some of these diseases poultry gets are long lived, like Marek's and can last for years with no birds present. Some can be carried on the wind and can travel great distances. Your best bet and friend is going to be biosecurity from now on. Yes you can bring new birds in, but be prepared to jump through hoops to have any success. Any new birds will need to be vaccinated for Marek's, preferrably with the 3 strain vaccine. These birds need to be kept separate from your current flock until the vaccine has taken a really good set in the bird. 6-8 weeks is what I go by. During this time, they need to be truly isolated from any chances of marek's being introduced to them on clothing, shoes, equipment, air....seriously, it can be interesting. I now have my new birds in a new house. I do all of the chores in there before I go into my original chicken house still. I have lowered the biosecurity here between buildings but am still cautious and outside of here is still treated very carefully. I carry Lysol spray with me in my vehicles and use it on my shoes before and after going into a grain store, or any other place that I know I would come in contact with others that may have poultry. Ag Fairs are out of the question, swap meets...all that good stuff. I look at it this way, my birds have Marek's, therefore so do I. Even though we as humans cannot get Marek's, we can certainly carry it around with ourselves. Clothing, hair, vehicles..if it's in your flock, it's in your house and environment as well. Open a window and with a breeze it's now inside where you live. Scary huh?
     
  10. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress Premium Member

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    Hi Haunted. I've heard you comment that the chicks from Mt. Healty possibly introduced Marek's to your flock. I can't say it didn't happen, but I've always thought it was near impossible since the hatched chicks have no exposure to other chickens, and they are literally zipped out of there so fast. I guess I would personally look at a lot more possibilities before I looked at Marek's. Knowing how you are about details, I always thought you had a very good valid conclusion you came to.

    Lampe, you can have the vet draw the blood, and put into the right kind of tube, may have to pack it on ice yourself and send it yourself. Have your water tested. The county/state should offer this for free.

    If you have owls, there's a possibility you have mice. I am pretty sure that 2 of my hens last year ate a dead mouse in a trap that was about 5 days old, and died within a day of eachother. It was not poisoned, but possibly had some toxic bacteria in it, being it was 5 days old. The trap was in the closed pen on the other side of the coop, my husband didn't know it was there, and let them into that pen.

    About 5 years ago, a member I was friends with dusted her birds with 7% Seven and a few died. I can't say it did or didn't because I never knew all the circumstances.

    Just some more food for thought.
     

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