Mareks? Lead poisoning?

asteria819

Chirping
May 2, 2019
62
111
76
TN
Back again with yet another chicken problem :(. Basically a short novel ahead, I just want to include all of the details in case any one has had a similar experience. Pictures attached.

So on Wednesday I came home from work, went outside to greet the girls, picked up our sweet Speckled Sussex, and her neck just started kind of twisting and hanging and it was just not normal. She could not hold her head up. When I put her down, it took her a second to re-adjust and get her balance back. I immediately thought maybe it was wry neck, so I went and purchased some selenium and vitamin E and added it to her food (she seemed to be eating and drinking okay, she was able to cock her head back enough not to aspirate) and separated her from everyone and she was inside for the night.

Thursday I came home from work, checked on her and she was still standing and getting around okay, picked her up, and her neck was still acting funky (Although with wry neck I wasn't expecting immediate improvement). When I put her down though, she really didn't ever get her balance back. She laid on her side sort of jerking/flopping around. Naturally I became pretty upset and realized this was more than just wry neck since her legs were not able to support her. She wasn't very alert after this and so I brought her into my bedroom and let her rest on a padded blanket on the ground. She would occasionally tense up and almost appear as if she was having a seizure and maneuver herself off of the blanket. I did not think she would make it through the night because from just Wednesday she went downhill SO fast. From walking and eating to basically having no balance, she was fairly limp, and was not eating. The only way I knew she was alive was she would move her head just a little bit and she was still warm.

Friday she was still alive somehow. I started to syringe feed her with her food softened in water and she was able to eat! After she ate a little bit, she became much more alert than she had been and was looking around and her eyes were open; however, she was still basically limp with the occasional body jerking. I took her to the vet who has avian experience shortly after this likely expecting to have to put her down. He examined her and said he has a strong feeling that it is Marek's, but asked if I had an old shed in our backyard that could be a source of lead. We do have a shed that we think was built in the 70's before lead paint was banned and probably hasn't been painted since. He said the odds were likely against us and it still looks like Marek's to him, but we can do a test. I decided to send off a blood test for lead just in case.

We have been doing tube feedings on her while we wait for the results. She has not gotten any worse since all of this has happened. If anything, she has gotten slightly better, but that's probably due to being properly fed. She is so much more alert and she will chirp at us. She has basically been living in a large bucket where she is propped up with towels and her neck is supported so it's not hanging or twisted (Vet's idea!) and so she will not aspirate. It seems like she is a little more coordinated in her movements, and when her neck is supported she is able to preen herself around her wings and such. She still randomly jerks around though. It is like she wants to stand up, but she can't get balance or her legs won't cooperate. Whenever she misplaces herself in the bucket and we reposition her, she extends her legs out very straight and tries to resist it seems. Not sure what that is. They aren't always straight though, she can still relax them and she wraps her toes around our fingers like she wants to perch on them when we hold her upright.

My point in making this post, has anyone experienced issues with lead poisoning in their chickens? Or ANYTHING similar to what is going on with her? If the test comes back negative for lead, then we will probably put her down, assuming it is Mareks, which completely breaks my heart. But like I said, if ANYONE has any possible thoughts about what this is, I am all ears. I trust the vet when he says it is likely Marek's because he has plenty of chicken experience, but I basically am just hoping for anything else possible that she could recover from and live normally without major deficits. We are monitoring the rest of our flock, but everyone else seems fine and there are no symptoms in anyone. I just feel like the symptoms she is showing are more aligned with lead poisoning (but that is also what I am hoping is the problem since it is treatable, lol) and the symptoms are not totally consistent with Marek's, but I do know that Marek's is a weird, versatile disease that can present in many ways, or even not at all. She was supposed to have been vaccinated, but I know that's not totally 100%. The shed is also being worked on as a precaution for the future.

Pictures: Some of her in a bucket to show how the vet recommended she stay positioned. The ones of her laying is right before a feeding and we were cleaning the bucket and replacing the towels since the girl's still gotta poop! Maybe some of you recognize her from another post I have asking whether it's a girl or a boy (cause her tail feathers are so pointy!). The vet agrees that it's probably a girl :)
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Lady of McCamley

Crowing
8 Years
Mar 19, 2011
7,060
4,759
462
NW Oregon
I can't pretend to be an expert on what's going on, but I can say what I think after having some experiences.

It sounds more to me like neural toxins from something (and not necessarily lead). Could she have gotten into rat poisoning? Especially the type 2 which is not a blood thinner but a neural toxin?

She sounds to me like she is having involuntary muscle convulsions (ataxia) rather than paralysis. In my personal experience Marek's produces weakness and paralysis not convulsions. The bird first seems unthrifty (or there is no signs), then suddenly a wing drops, or a leg drags, and it all grows worse until the bird can't support itself. The neck can twist backwards, but doesn't convulse.

There are some causes of ataxia in poultry. A common cause is Avian Encephalomyelitis, which is a virus, though usually contracted by young birds. Or neural toxins, anything from rat poison to botulism from spoiled food.

I'd definitely hope to get the blood test results to see if lead is possible (but I doubt it would be the cause).

Sadly, there may be little you can do other than comfort support. If it is a toxin it will have to flush itself and hopefully not leave lasting effects.

My thoughts.
LofMc
 

Folly's place

Crossing the Road
8 Years
Sep 13, 2011
17,598
23,051
906
southern Michigan
Nursing care, adding vitamins as you are doing, and testing. Lead can be tested at home in soil samples, paint chips, and the like. Ask your health department? You want to know if it's Marek's disease or not, for sure.
There are other neurotoxins, including some molds, mushrooms, and old farm chemicals. Any old leaking containers out there?
I think egg yolks can be tested for lead also.
Do you check the mill date on each bag of feed for them? I've seen old stuff at my local feed stores often, and some vitamins will degrade over time, causing deficiencies.
I hope she can recover!
Mary
 

asteria819

Chirping
May 2, 2019
62
111
76
TN
I can't pretend to be an expert on what's going on, but I can say what I think after having some experiences.

It sounds more to me like neural toxins from something (and not necessarily lead). Could she have gotten into rat poisoning? Especially the type 2 which is not a blood thinner but a neural toxin?

She sounds to me like she is having involuntary muscle convulsions (ataxia) rather than paralysis. In my personal experience Marek's produces weakness and paralysis not convulsions. The bird first seems unthrifty (or there is no signs), then suddenly a wing drops, or a leg drags, and it all grows worse until the bird can't support itself. The neck can twist backwards, but doesn't convulse.

There are some causes of ataxia in poultry. A common cause is Avian Encephalomyelitis, which is a virus, though usually contracted by young birds. Or neural toxins, anything from rat poison to botulism from spoiled food.

I'd definitely hope to get the blood test results to see if lead is possible (but I doubt it would be the cause).

Sadly, there may be little you can do other than comfort support. If it is a toxin it will have to flush itself and hopefully not leave lasting effects.

My thoughts.
LofMc
Thank you so much for your response. I am hoping she will get better slowly but surely since that seems to have been the trend over the last few days. If the test comes back negative then maybe we will see how she is doing as far as recovery goes and make a decision. I don’t want her to have a poor quality of life when she should be outside foraging and being a happy chicken. This is the first time we’ve dealt with something possibly fatal with our flock and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. She is such a funny, spunky little bird! Hoping for the best. Thank you again.
 

asteria819

Chirping
May 2, 2019
62
111
76
TN
Nursing care, adding vitamins as you are doing, and testing. Lead can be tested at home in soil samples, paint chips, and the like. Ask your health department? You want to know if it's Marek's disease or not, for sure.
There are other neurotoxins, including some molds, mushrooms, and old farm chemicals. Any old leaking containers out there?
I think egg yolks can be tested for lead also.
Do you check the mill date on each bag of feed for them? I've seen old stuff at my local feed stores often, and some vitamins will degrade over time, causing deficiencies.
I hope she can recover!
Mary
I will be adding some electrolytes to the water we’re giving her in addition to vitamins. I doubt there are any leaky chemicals anywhere but we will double check to ensure all of our other girls are safe. This girl is a little over 3 months, so no egg laying yet. We haven’t really been checking the date on our feed but definitely will make it a point to check from now on.
Thank you for your response!
 

asteria819

Chirping
May 2, 2019
62
111
76
TN
I can't pretend to be an expert on what's going on, but I can say what I think after having some experiences.

It sounds more to me like neural toxins from something (and not necessarily lead). Could she have gotten into rat poisoning? Especially the type 2 which is not a blood thinner but a neural toxin?

She sounds to me like she is having involuntary muscle convulsions (ataxia) rather than paralysis. In my personal experience Marek's produces weakness and paralysis not convulsions. The bird first seems unthrifty (or there is no signs), then suddenly a wing drops, or a leg drags, and it all grows worse until the bird can't support itself. The neck can twist backwards, but doesn't convulse.

There are some causes of ataxia in poultry. A common cause is Avian Encephalomyelitis, which is a virus, though usually contracted by young birds. Or neural toxins, anything from rat poison to botulism from spoiled food.

I'd definitely hope to get the blood test results to see if lead is possible (but I doubt it would be the cause).

Sadly, there may be little you can do other than comfort support. If it is a toxin it will have to flush itself and hopefully not leave lasting effects.

My thoughts.
LofMc
Forgot to address this: she may have gotten into rat poison, but I don’t think it’s very likely. We do put it in the attic of our shed (it’s a pretty big shed, more like a barn lol) so unless it made it’s way down then I’m unsure of how she got it. But anything is possible
 

Lady of McCamley

Crowing
8 Years
Mar 19, 2011
7,060
4,759
462
NW Oregon
Forgot to address this: she may have gotten into rat poison, but I don’t think it’s very likely. We do put it in the attic of our shed (it’s a pretty big shed, more like a barn lol) so unless it made it’s way down then I’m unsure of how she got it. But anything is possible
I've seen the rats carry the poison bats around, which is how it can get spread beyond where it should be. Squirrels too. Especially if it is the longer term blood thinner (Type 1) poison that takes several feedings. However they Type 2 is supposed to be one bite, and that's the neural toxin. But they can carry it too.

LofMc
 

asteria819

Chirping
May 2, 2019
62
111
76
TN
I've seen the rats carry the poison bats around, which is how it can get spread beyond where it should be. Squirrels too. Especially if it is the longer term blood thinner (Type 1) poison that takes several feedings. However they Type 2 is supposed to be one bite, and that's the neural toxin. But they can carry it too.

LofMc
I know the kind of poison we get is the one that has the cholecalciferol in it which isn’t the blood thinning type I don’t believe. It’s the little cubes.
 
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