Lost my first chicken :( Could I have saved her? (2nd try)


Aug 18, 2020
TLDR at bottom:

Last night we lost our first chicken. :hit:hit:hitWillow was a young silkie, born on June 17th. Three days ago I thought she had a very slight limp, but I couldn't find anything physically wrong. No sign of bumble foot or anything else my amateur self could discern. Other than that she was acting fine. She was eating/drinking and out and about with the flock. The next day, she had a noticeable limp, and sometimes her toes would curl under a bit and she'd walk on her knuckles and act really unsteady. I fed her some extra vitamin supplements on some treats, which she ate, along with some watered-down food. She was still getting around and sometimes she'd walk normally for a stretch. I started looking into vets that'd see poultry but none are available for days. I put a heater in a mini-coop for the night. Yesterday I had gotten up early and checked on Willow and noticed her crop had not deflated during the night. It wasn't particialrly hard or squishy, and no foul smell (that I could tell, but I did just get covid). I had to leave for the morning and when I left and got back, she was sitting under a big pine tree, just huddled up alone. She wouldn't accept food or water and more hobbled than walked, didn't want to move. I talked to a much more experienced friend and he thought perhaps food poisoning, since they free-range during the day (no other birds are sick so far, thank goodness). I brought her inside and set her up in a warm and quiet place with food and water. This morning she was dead.

It took half the day for the rigor mortis to relax enough to attempt a necropsy (and try to mentally prep too), and I followed a guide, but I ended up rushing a bit since I was getting a bit nauseous (thanks covid). Also my young kids insisted on watching, and having to comfort them was getting to me. Anyway, it was enough to realize that I have no idea what I'm doing, with chickens or otherwise, but here's what I found:

Her crop was full with lots of food and grass. It just smelled like soggy chicken food). Her gizzard (?) was rock hard (is that normal?) and packed full of what looked like food and maybe tiny grit.

I'd appreciate any insight/ideas as to what happened to our little fluffy-butt. She was my mother's favorite and would often come right up to her to be picked up.
Thanks in advance!

-quickly progressing (< three days from first sign to death) illness
-day 1: very slight limp, day 2: worse limp, sometimes toes curl under, day 3: lethargy, hobbling, wouldn't eat/drink

Necropsy: Willow dripped a yellowish, slightly viscous fluid from her mouth, her crop was full, despite not eating for prior 24 hours, her gizzard was rock-hard and packed full, but no hard parts in her intestines. Also found that she had lice, so I'll be dealing with that with the rest of the flock.
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'Mareks' comes to mind..... any others affected?
No, no other birds are showing any symptoms or acting off. Most of mine are vaccinated though, so probably wouldn't show much. The other tiny peepers (other wilkies I got with Willow) are acting fine (I don't know if they were vaccinated as they were a gift).
One more thing I forgot to add! She was dripping a pale yellow, slightly viscous fluid from her mouth. If any other birds do start showing signs, what should I do??
After striking out on finding a vet, my husband asked me why I didn't "ask those chicken people online" and I replied that if I wanted someone to tell me it was Mareks without even reading my entire post, then I would. Obviously after Willow died I figured I'd give this forum another shot, but I am again rather disappointed. The first (and only) suggestion was, of course, Mareks, posted within a minute of mine and asking a question I answered in my post, which is of course exactly as I predicted would happen. I know we're not experts, but nothing? I lost a sweet chicken too young and want to avoid any other deaths. Although I cannot say for sure it wasn't Mareks, Willow had no other symptoms of it that I could find.

Anyway, I'm hoping for a speck of insight into the very full and rock-hard gizzard and full crop, despite not eating for 24 hours? And about fluid dripping from her mouth? Are those symptom of Mareks? I couldn't find that specific info online or books. Wouldn't others be showing symptoms? And if they did start, what could be done? Any recommendations?

In the theory that this is all just too much reading, I'm adding a TLDR list of symptoms to my original post. Maybe that will help.
I'm so sorry for your loss. My heart hurts for you. I've tagged some folks that may be able to provide you with some insight on this, but sometimes it's impossible to tell without lab work. I am so sorry.
I'm so sorry for your loss. My heart hurts for you. I've tagged some folks that may be able to provide you with some insight on this, but sometimes it's impossible to tell without lab work. I am so sorry.
Thank you so much! I wish I could've sent out for a real necrospy, but with our family quarantined with covid, I couldn't expect anyone to accept her or samples. I really appreciate the sentiment though.

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