Lame bird in a matter of minutes...


8 Years
Sep 20, 2014
Denver, CO
1) What type of bird , age and weight (does the chicken seem or feel lighter or thinner than the others.)
Black Australorp, 8 months, lost weight within the last week
2) What is the behavior, exactly.
My Black Australorp, Greta, came down with an eye issue last week. She had no symptoms other than keeping it closed (no obvious wound, no oozing or redness, no symptoms of respiratory illness) so were thinking that it was a poke-in-the-eye scenario and kept an eye on her (no pun intended). She's started opening it, slowly, and by this morning it was vacillating between fully open and halfway open. But we've got way bigger problems now.
I noticed that she was hunkered down, away from the rest of them, this morning after breakfast. When I came out and the others came running, they started pecking at her, violently. So I separated her and noticed that not only has she lost quite a bit of weight, but her crop was completely empty. So I fed her on her own and she ate with great gusto. That's the only good news of my day. From there she stood in a sun beam (still out of the reach of the others) and when I tried to reintroduce her she was immediately and violently attacked again. So I brought her in because she was low energy as well. By the time I got her situated in her sick corner, she had lost use of her left leg (her left eye was the problem earlier). She went from walking around to lame in less than 3 minutes, and I'm not exaggerating. She can no longer stand. Her left foot is hot (feverish) but her right foot is cold (as I would expect having just been outside.

3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms?
See above
4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms? No
5) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma. No
6) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation.
We have had one Marek's casualty with a young (4 months old) Black Australorp, a little over a year ago. The others have been unaffected - at least so far and keeping my fingers crossed.
My gut feeling on this is Marek's. If so and it's anything like what happened last time, it will proceed very quickly and she'll likely be dead by morning. If it's some kind of infection that went from her eye to some sort of systemic thing, maybe we've got a chance? I have amoxicillin on hand...

7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all. See above. Until today she seemed to be eating fine, but her weight loss tells me otherwise.
8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc. Her poop this morning was completely normal - brown, pile, not runny, etc.
9) What has been the treatment you have administered so far? Other than feeding her separately from the others and bringing her indoors, that's all I've done so far. She's resting now on a heating pad in her sick corner, awake, but immobile.
10 ) What is your intent as far as treatment? For example, do you want to treat completely yourself, or do you need help in stabilizing the bird til you can get to a vet? Our vet is not an option. If there is a possibility that this is some sort of infection that started in her eye and has moved systemically, I can treat with antibiotics. In fact, I'm about to go ahead and do that so I don't waste any time.
11) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help. NA
12) Describe the housing/bedding in use the coop is sand, the run is dry sandy dirt and dry leaves. The coop is cleaned daily, the run every 2-3 days.

Wyorp Rock

🐓 ❤ 🐛
Premium Feather Member
7 Years
Sep 20, 2015
Southern N.C. Mountains
I'm sorry to hear about your pullet.

Unfortunately, the symptoms you describe along with having a history of Marek's, I would lean toward that being the cause of her rapid decline.
@rebrascora is more knowledgeable with Marek's.

Since there were really no signs of infection with the eye, it was simply closed and you say no swelling, pus, discharge, then the closing of the eye could have been neurological.

Do what you can to rule out something like being egg bound, but with the others attacking her, I'm thinking they realized she was sick.

Keep her hydrated and see if she will eat for you. At this point, if you think you will lose her any way, then antibiotics might be worth a shot. Amoxicillin dosage is 57mg per pound of weight given 2 times a day.

I'm sorry, I wish I could make other suggestions.


Free Ranging
5 Years
Feb 14, 2014
Consett Co.Durham. UK
I agree that it is almost certainly Marek's. The eye issue is something that many people don't associate with Marek's but is one of the more subtle signs of it. The leg problem has probably been triggered by the stress of being attacked by the flock. It can and does come on that sudden. Personally I would give her a vitamin supplement like Nutri Drench and feed her up and set up a little pen her adjacent to the rest of the flock and put her out there when it is warm and sunny but she will benefit from the warmth of the house on cooler, wet or snowy days. Personally I would not give the antibiotic unless you can see an infection because it can upset the gut flora and that could be enough to trigger her decline, but you have the bird in front of you and are best placed to make a gut decision on what is best.
I have had several recover from outbreaks of Marek's (obviously they still carry the disease and are prone to future outbreaks) and as long as they are keen to eat they have a chance. Keeping them as happy as possible is important so having time outside near the flock in a protected environment keeps them from getting too depressed. Down wind of the flock is probably wise since she will actively be shedding the virus whilst she is symptomatic. Of course it would probably be wiser still to cull her now but I just can't give up on birds that are bright eyed and want to fight it.

I wish you luck whatever you decide. I know how heart breaking this disease is and can only sympathise and offer support.


8 Years
Sep 20, 2014
Denver, CO
Thanks rebrascora and Wyorp Rock for confirming what I feared. She's a little stronger this morning and still has an appetite (although not as much as yesterday) so we're trudging on.

Thanks rebrascora for letting me know that they can actually live through this. While I'm not holding my breath, maybe there's a little hope? Our first casualty of MD was so so quick. No symptoms at all until one night she was intermittently stumbing and sitting down at roosting time. I brought her in for the night and she was dead the next morning. So I assumed that Greta wouldn't make it through the night, but she did..

The first bird's death was confirmed by necropsy to be Marek's but I wasn't told which strain... not that it matters much I guess. She was a hatchery bird and was vaccinated (or so I was told) and since then I've done a TON or research and was very
conscientious about getting new birds. So I've known all along that this was likely to happen. We made it past the really scary time (6-30 weeks or so I've read) so I was hopeful we'd dodged that bullet. Being mentally prepared doesn't make it any emotionally easier.

I will take your advice and give her some vitamins (I have VetRx, if that would work) and also have some iron-free Polyvisol. I may try that first and see how she does.

Unfortunately, I'm not home during most of the day and I have to tend to her before 6:15AM and after 4:30 or 5:00PM. It's chilly enough that I'm not going to leave her outside. If I can get home a little earlier, I may leave her out near her friends for a little bit until it's too cold.

Thanks again,

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom