JERSEY GIANT GIRL (8 weeks) Running Backwards/Head Tucked--- SEIZURES???

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by lust4life, Oct 5, 2012.

  1. lust4life

    lust4life In the Brooder

    Hi All--

    After a long search about possible seizure disorders/twisted necks, etc. I came across some older threads about chickens intermittently running backwards with their heads tucked under and hope that those folks might be able to shed some new light on the problem now that it's been a few months.

    It best describes the new behavior of our Jersey Giant pullet who is now 8 weeks old. She's in a great pen with her little flock of newbies, all different breeds, who are fine.

    We've raised several groups over the years and have it set up so they really thrive--but we have NEVER had the sort of problems with new chicks that we're having this go-round. (One died inexplicably, one arrived dead on shipment, one suffered a sour crop but we got her over that.) In the past we always got our new groups of 10 chicks who did well and lived to a ripe old age!)

    This Jersey Girl tucks her head between her legs, acts as though she's preening her breast or scratching in the bedding, but then it escalates into running backwards with her head tucked, sometimes falling over with one or both feet clenched. It looks to me like some type of seizure activity and I wonder with her being a Giant, if she needs supplemental calcium/vits since she's growing so fast? (I only say this because I know parrots well and seizures are common in breeds with low blood calcium levels.)

    This comes and goes; all day yesterday she was fine until the evening when she really got going. This morning she's at it again, with periods in between of looking (mostly) normal; eating and drinking. I've been giving her the Vit E as suggested, also a few drops of liquid Calcium, a bit of crushed B vitamin and Electrolyes. I will pick up the baby vitamins and Selenium today and see if that helps. She is quite thin compared to the others, but no evidence of wet droppings, nasal/ocular discharge, breathing issues and she appears to be eating quite well.

    At first I was worried it might be contagious, however this is a closed group kept in a building where they would not be exposed to outside pathogens, except on the lowest level. It really looks like some neurological problem...? Thoughts?

    They are on the same (non-medicated) commercial Du-Mor chick starter that we've used with all our chicks, along with chick grit, some free-range chick kibble, and slow exposure to soil/grass/rocks/bugs from outside to increase their resistance to whatever might be lurking out there.

    First stool check done by the vet at two weeks (precautionary) showed no parasites/coccidia/Giardia. Not to say that they couldn't have picked some up from the outside logs, but it shouldn't be a heavy load. They're not stressed, have a nice big brooder pen with a good heat light, as well as natural light during the day. They're at about 70-75 degrees during the day at this point.

    Any advice would be appreciated!


  2. aoxa

    aoxa Crowing

    Try Poly-V-Sol instead of all those other supplements. Without iron.

    She could have wry neck, or it could be seizures. I would definitely try the liquid baby vitamins first, and if it doesn't work, there is something else going on.
  3. lust4life

    lust4life In the Brooder

    Just got in with the baby vitamins (no iron), Selenium, and some more electrolytes for her water.

    I've been staring at her a LOT; it's so odd. It really seems to start with what looks like normal preening/pecking for food and develops into this odd running behavior. Definitely seems neurological the more I watch it. And then there is the clenched foot that she does---that DEFINITELY looks like a seizure of some type.

    My Yellow-Naped Amazon had one ONCE-- and she had one foot clenched the entire time. It started with a rapid blinking, then she started to fall off her perch. Fortunately, I was right there with her. Bloodwork/exam didn't show anything, but the avian vet suspected a borderline low blood calcium, just enough to cause a seizure.

    This looks a lot like the chicken version of that, with the running/preening being sort of a prodromal period when she's feeling confused or agitated. that leads up to an actual seizure with the falling/clenching. It's happening every few minutes now and my heart goes out to her.

    I would just like to know what's causing it and hopefully make it stop. She, like all our girls, is a big sweetheart. I am really looking forward to having a big ol' Jersey Girl about the farm, so she needs to cut this out and get back to her goofy self!
  4. lust4life

    lust4life In the Brooder

    Well, for what it's worth, I made the baby vitamin/electrolyte mixture into a mash with her regular feed, added a bit of crushed eggshell and she went nuts for it! Perhaps her little body is telling her it's what she needs? In any case, she ate up every bit while the other chicks didn't care for it much. She also got a name: BIG ETHEL. I hope it's good luck for her.

    Also, I found that I can interrupt her bizarre behavior by touching her or just sort of redirecting her.
    She seems able to stop doing it at will at this point. She does spend most of her time looking at the ground, pecking and preening her belly, more so than the other ones. But she does eat and drink, and had a nice poop while I watched her.

    Left to her own, she'll start preening/pecking again and really gets wound up while doing it. (Kind of like a dog neurotically chasing his tail.) And the way she pecks and preens so intensely, almost worrying at things that aren't there, well, it makes me wonder if chickens can have schizophrenia or something like Tourette's syndrome with an elaborate tic that she can't quite control.

    Weird, huh?

    I don't think this is terminal...more that it's some neurological quirk from which she'll hopefully recover.

  5. lust4life

    lust4life In the Brooder

    Oh yeah... and she makes these odd vocalizations while she's doing it, which is what made me think of Tourettes. It's like a vibrating chirp, not the usual sound.
  6. LadyJada

    LadyJada In the Brooder

    Mar 1, 2013
    I have a 6 week Jersey Giant girl going through the same thing, how did your turn out? It is so heartbreaking. :(
  7. mandelyn

    mandelyn Crowing

    Aug 30, 2009
    Mt Repose, OH
    My Coop
    It's Vitamin E deficiency. Here's my thread on it. My pullet is all cleared up now, took 12 days of specialized feeding.

    I chose not to use vitamin E capsules because it can be toxic if they get too much. So I focused on foods that contain a good amount of it, with a base of Exact baby parrot formula. I would make up 2 tablespoons of formula, then add 1 table spoon of Wheat Germ, and one tablespoon of Safflower Oil. Adding more parrot formula until the consistency was thick and not runny. I fed her all she would eat at 4 times a day, then reducing it as her symptoms improved. The extra went to the other birds. By the 8th day we were on one meal a day of the formula.

    Also added greens, dandelion, spinach, and turnip greens. Some days making a salad with safflower oil sprinkled on it, with flax seed and meal worms.

    She was symptom free by day 12, and outside and perfectly normal shortly after that. She's now the friendliest chicken I've ever had!
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2013

  8. mandelyn

    mandelyn Crowing

    Aug 30, 2009
    Mt Repose, OH
    My Coop
    Just read the rest of your posts on her behavior. Blue Bell would preen a lot, but as soon as her head went down to do her belly, she'd have an episode. I would bring her head back around and she'd come out of it. As it was going away, it became easier to bring her out of it, sometimes just talking to her would bring her out of it.

    Between episodes she was normal enough. She would make some sounds of almost pain when she was really twisted around into a corner, as if she was retaining thought but could not control her body.

    Sometimes I would just hold her on the couch, and keep her head up. We tried to make a cone to keep her head up but that was a fail.

    It's such a relief to know what's causing it, and a bigger relief when the symptoms start fading away.

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