Loss of balance, Tipping over

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by californiagirl, Mar 24, 2012.

  1. californiagirl

    californiagirl Out Of The Brooder

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    Last spring, I found one of our four-week-old Partridge Rocks sprawled on her side in the brooder. She was being trampled by the seven other chicks and basically unresponsive. Enter the information from Backyard Chicken! I fed her infant vitamins and electrolytes with a dropper and within 24 hours she was up and perky again. However, we noticed the next day that she couldn't seem to get her head in the feeder anymore. He neck was twisted to the right and the left shoulder blade was higher than the other so she couldn't peck straight down like the rest of the chicks. We took the cover off the feeder and she was able to eat and didn't seem to be in any pain. We suspected that something got broken while she was down and grew back funny.


    Four weeks old (April 2011) - Esther is the middle chick. You can see how her neck is twisted and her feathers are puffed up where the shoulder is higher.
    [​IMG]

    She has always been lighter than the other pullets, but we made sure to give her special treats away from the others, and honestly she's such a sweetie she probably gets held more as well. All the others started laying at around 5 months of age, but not Esther. She never squatted or showed any signs, but we kept her anyway as a pet. Plus, we figured that by having a non-layer at the bottom of the pecking order we were saving ourselves the trouble of losing eggs.

    A few weeks ago (March 2012), we noticed her squatting and going into the nesting boxes. She started singing the egg song and her vent became moist. Finally, we caught her in the act, but I had to stand guard to keep the other hens from kicking her out of the box. The became very aggressive with her and started chasing her away. They'd be foraging in the yard and one would catch sight of Esther and take off after her.

    One week ago we had a severe (for us in SoCal) winter storm. We had freezing wind and rain followed by snow. I kept the hens confined to their coop and run, doubling their food because they weren't able to forage. On day three I noticed Esther hiding in the corner of the run. She had lost weight (not sure how much, but I could tell by holding her) and seemed very sad. She also seemed unsteady on her feet and would sit on her butt like a kangaroo while she ate.

    I moved her to a separate coop and run to keep an eye on her and gave her some hot starter mash. I could not believe how much she ate! At first I thought the other hens had been keeping her from eating and she was just hungry or dehydrated. I've had her separated for three days now and she's gone back to eating normally and cries to be let out to forage. But she still seems unsteady on her feet and sometimes falls backwards with her feet under her. It almost looks like her back end weighs more than her front and she tips over. She hasn't laid all week, but has been having normal, solid poops several times a day. She can make it up and down the ladder to the coop, but sleeps in the nesting box rather than get on the perch.

    She's always had a funny gait because of her shoulder and twisted neck, but this seems different. Before she was one of the fastest runners, and although she was definitely funny looking, she seemed strong and healthy. I've been doing loads of searches here and on Google, but nothing seems to fit. It's like she's lost her balance and looks like a chicken who's gotten into a barrel of beer!

    She is still sitting funny, but every time I tried to get a picture he got up thinking I might have a treat. Here are some pictures for her taken today (March 24, 2012).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Any ideas? I'm wondering if she had Marek's as a chick and if it might be progressing now that she is laying. Or maybe it's a coincidence that this started when she was stressed, and the change in her skeleton due to laying has put her off balance. I am mostly concerned that she might have something that could be a threat to the 8 chicks I have in the brooder right now. I'd hate to put her down after all this time and when she doesn't seem to be in any pain, but don't want to get so sentimental that I jeopardize the rest of my flock. I would appreciate any insight.
     
  2. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

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    Have you checked for egg binding?
     
  3. californiagirl

    californiagirl Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 19, 2011
    Yucaipa, CA
    I just did a vent check and felt her abdomen all over. Can't feel anything unusual. She's also pooping regularly. Would she be pooping if egg bound?
     
  4. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

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    Maybe. It depends where in the reproductive tract that the egg is binding.
     
  5. SpeckledHills

    SpeckledHills Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Egg peritonitis is also a definite possibility. They crouch or sit a lot when they have that, plus walk wide-legged.

    I am sorry your hen is having problems. [​IMG] She sounds like a sweetie.
     
  6. TinyBirds

    TinyBirds Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Texas
    We had one recently that seemed to have the exact same thing you're describing. We kept her indoors but she didn't get better even after 2 weeks, so I finally put her out of her misery. If I had it to do over again, I would have put her down sooner. My friend told me it could be Mareks (maybe worse with stress due to the cold we had recently too) and he said to cull her right away. We just couldn't bring ourselves to do it and that's why she was indoors to avoid exposing other chickens. It was an awful experience and I'm sorry you're going through it now too. Sorry [​IMG]
     
  7. SpeckledHills

    SpeckledHills Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't think Marek's would cause neck problems so long ago & then not cause other paralysis problems until several months later. Just an uneducated guess from me...

    Also, with Marek's, I think usually only one leg starts having a problem first, rather than there being a general balance problem.

    p.s. TinyBirds--I'm very sorry you had to lose your hen, & I hope it wasn't Marek's causing her problems (tho if it was, your other birds still might not get problems [​IMG]--from my understanding ). It is very, very hard to know if and when to put one down. And to do it. May you heal from the trauma you went through and I hope things are going smoothly with your other chickens. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2012
  8. californiagirl

    californiagirl Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 19, 2011
    Yucaipa, CA
    Well, as a follow up, Esther is up and running again! We kept her inside at night during the rain and let her out to graze before the other girls were let out of the coop. After a couple of days of this she started mixing with the girls again and even defended her piece of cauliflower from one of the bullies. She still can't balance on a perch though and has claimed one of the nesting boxes as her own personal bedroom. She waits until she gets out to poop, so I'm okay with that if it keeps her warm and safe at night. The rest of the girls get close on the perches when it's cold, so I was worried about her being warm enough. Yesterday I collected an egg that I think may have been hers. Her eggs are much lighter than the others' and tend to have a chalkiness appearance and she did seem very pleased with herself now that I think about it.

    I think that maybe we just have a physically and mentally handicapped hen. She has always been "different", with her crooked neck, humped shoulder, funny hooting, and docile nature. I suspect that she became malnourished while the hens were in confinement because the others weren't letting her eat enough. Usually they all eat first and she has the dish all to herself when they're done and are out grazing, and we make sure she gets extra treats which wasn't happening because of all the rain and snow. Plus, they have a large grazing area and she's normally able to avoid them if they get rough, so I think she was under some mental/emotional stress as well.

    I learned several things from this experience:

    1. Flock dynamics can change dramatically when chickens are not allowed to free range. The top hens became more territorial and aggressive and the bottom of the order hen became depressed and stopped laying.

    2. Chickens have feelings, too. Okay, so I've always treated animals like people, but after seeing how being picked on affected Esther I've realized that there's more to flock health than the physical assessment. Human mommies often can tell when something's just not right. As a "chicken mommy" I need to know my girls well enough to spot when something's not right even if I can't quite figure out what it is yet.

    3. I am obsessed with my chickens. When I caught myself looking at "chicken diapers" online for a deformed, retarded, non-laying hen, I knew I was officially a goner. But I'm okay with that. Fortunately my family is as well :)

    4. We all need to learn from others. I did a ton of searches before starting this thread myself, so hopefully my experience will help somebody else in a similar situation.
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. californiagirl

    californiagirl Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 19, 2011
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    Yay! Caught her in the act! She's laying again!
     
  10. SpeckledHills

    SpeckledHills Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sounds like your watchfulness, "mother-hen"-ing and intuition have been a saving grace for Esther.
    SO glad!!! [​IMG]
     

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