Limping chicken now can't walk

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by ChickenLife92, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. ChickenLife92

    ChickenLife92 Just Hatched

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    Apr 25, 2017
    Hello, my sister's chicken about a month or so ago started to limp and now today is unable to walk. She felt around her legs and she didn't respond in pain. She checked for bumblefoot as well and didn't find anything. The hen is about 8 months old and an Americana/easter egg chicken. She always sleeps on the ground of the barn, never the roost or the egg boxes. She separated her from the other chickens and is in the garage. She called me not knowing what to do but maybe put her down. Does anyone know what we can do for the chicken?
     
  2. rebrascora

    rebrascora Overrun With Chickens

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    Unfortunately it sounds like it may be Marek's disease. It is a viral infection (herpes type virus) which affects mostly adolescent birds. It is an extremely widespread and common virus for which there is, sadly, no recognised treatment and often proves fatal because it causes tumours but also suppresses the immune system, leaving birds vulnerable to other things like respiratory infection, coccidiosis and e coli. Common symptoms of the disease are paralysis, often a leg or wing, but neck and tail can also become contorted as it affects the neurological system. In my experience the ones that experience paralysis often are bright eyed and look healthy apart from their inability to coordinate their limbs and sometimes end up floundering on their side unable to right themselves. I've had some with it that recovered from an attack almost as quickly as they went down with it and were perfectly normal a week or so later, but they are carriers for life and will almost certainly have other attacks, usually more severe in later life, sometimes a month or so later, but other times they will go a year or more with no outward sign of the disease, until they suddenly go lame again.
    Some strains of the virus are pretty virulent and kill quite quickly often taking many young birds in a flock whilst others, like the one I've got in my flock, is milder and most don't seem to get it. Sometimes the virus will cause them to die suddenly without any signs of paralysis, others waste away as internal tumours develop.

    I will support lame birds as long as they show an interest in food. which is how I know some can recover but other people believe it is best to cull them to prevent spread of the disease. I've had it in my flock for 3 years and I raised 56 chicks last year. 3 showed Marek's symptoms out of 56 and I lost two of them to it. The other one (a bantam cockerel) is about 6 months down the line from his first attack and you can't tell there is anything wrong with him. He looks the picture of health and is making a total and utter nuisance of himself with my large fowl hens. He was so incapacitated back with it then, that I really thought he wouldn't make it and only kept him alive to keep a lame pullet company. Unfortunately the pullet succumbed to the virus and the cockerel made a miraculous recovery....typical [​IMG]

    Anyway, if your sister wants to support the pullet, keeping her happy and safe and stress free and well fed. Good nutrition to support the immune system. If the pullet is unable to stand, a chicken sling/hammock can easily be crafted out of everyday items to support her in an upright position. Vitamin supplements are good. Sunshine and grass are very good whenever possible. Company of other chickens is good but needs to be in a safe environment, so that she doesn't get picked on, so a cage or dog crate is useful. Some people feel that St John's Wort helps but if she won't eat it, I find that force feeding them something they don't want causes stress and that makes the paralysis worse. I nursed one pullet for several months and she got back to free ranging with the flock from being completely prostrate for weeks on end. It took a lot of time and effort but she was such a sweet heart I couldn't give up on her.

    Anyway, I may be totally of the mark with my diagnosis but realistically, Marek's is one of the most common causes of death in young chickens, and if there is no other indication of an injury causing the lameness, then this has to be top of the list of culprits. Your sister needs to be aware that Marek's is extremely easily spread (via dander dust) on clothes, shoes, hair or even the wind as well as the chickens themselves and whilst not a threat to human health, she needs to consider taking precautions to prevent spreading it to other peoples' flocks. ie not selling/giving away birds or showing birds from her flock. Eggs from Marek's infected flocks are safe to eat and in fact the meat from Marek's suffering birds is also safe to eat from the research I have done.

    I hope that helps your sister make an informed decision about what to do with her pullet. If she euthanizes it or it dies I would recommend getting a necropsy done to confirm or negate my suspicions. I believe State Agricultural labs/veterinary colleges in the USA will do them. Some charge a fee, others are free from what I have read.

    Best wishes

    Barbara
     
  3. ChickenLife92

    ChickenLife92 Just Hatched

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    Apr 25, 2017
    Thank you very much for your detailed post, Barbara. We decided to not put her down. However, she unfortunately passed a few days after.
     
  4. rebrascora

    rebrascora Overrun With Chickens

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    So very sorry to hear she didn't make it.
     

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