My gut says botulism, but could use some help

Nksg75

Songster
6 Years
Aug 18, 2014
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Needville Texas
good evening.
Today I unfortunately went to t he coop as always Andrea found my 2 year old hen Mrs. Lee on the ground, unable to pick herself up.
I immediately thought she was dead, so I went to pick her up, and she was very much alive. SHe is unable to move her head upright. It's almost as if she has wry neck, or stargazing.
I will include a video at the end of this post.
My gut tells me botulism, however I have no expierence with this symptom.
I have never had a chick, or an adult hen that had wryneck, or stargazed.
I found her this morning, and immediately started vitamins thinking it was a vitamin deficiency, however I don't think that is the case at all.
Her symptoms came on suddenly, and it just doesn't feel like a vitamin defeciancy.
The whole flock is on layer pellets(MG brand, here in Texas)
I have been using this brand for awhile now.
Here is some info:




1) What type of bird , age and weight (does the chicken seem or feel lighter or thinner than the others.)
Mrs Lee is a Lavendar Orpington, yes she feels a bit lighter than she should
2) What is the behavior, exactly.
Sh is unable to hold her head upright, it falls down, and twists like a stargazer, that was the first thing at I noticed. She seems to have no control when I try to stand her up, however I truly believe it's because her head keeps falling down and twisting.
3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms?
I found her this morning like this on the floor of the coop
4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms? Not yet
5) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma.
No, and I have looked her over,
6) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation.
That's a very good question, I am leaning toward botulism, considerening she and the rest of her flock free range daily
7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all.
I have to tube feed her, however if I put a mealworms in between her beak, she will swallow it no problem, she just can't make contact with the food on her own.
8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc.
She hasn't pooped since I separated her and brought her inside
9) What has been the treatment you have administered so far?
I originally started her on polyvisol, and nutridrench, then gave her a few drops of vitamin B complex thinking it may be a vitamin defeciancy.
I then worried she needed food and water, so I mashed up her pellets, and mixed it with water then tube fed her that.
Then after reading about botulism, I thought I should flush her system out with the salt water, so I did that.
I feel like a add child who can't make up her mind, but I want to give her a shot!
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?
I need to treat her myself
11) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help.
I have a video....


12) Describe the housing/bedding in use- pine shavings in the coop
 

Wyorp Rock

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Premium Feather Member
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Sep 20, 2015
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SHe is unable to move her head upright. It's almost as if she has wry neck, or stargazing.
My gut tells me botulism, however I have no expierence with this symptom.
I found her this morning, and immediately started vitamins thinking it was a vitamin deficiency
She hasn't pooped since I separated her and brought her inside
Poor Mrs. Lee :hugs
I see you mention free ranging, do you think that she may have eaten something dead or rotten.
From what I understand Botulism is a progression of symptoms starting as paralysis starting in the legs, then to the wings, neck, eyelids and then death.
Can she blink or if you put your finger in her eye, will she shut her eye - I know that sounds bad, but see what happens.

You are correct that she is exhibiting symptoms of Wry Neck.
Is Mrs. Lee molting, has she been laying eggs normally, have you added any new chickens to the flock recently - anything that could cause her stress?

The not pooping since she has been separated is very concerning. Hopefully by the time you read this she has pooped.
It sounds like you are doing what you can for her. Keep her hydrated and add the vitamins to see if that makes a difference.

Sadly, this is a symptom, so she may be suffering from a disease like Marek's.
If you happen to lose her, getting testing/necropsy through your state lab will give you a diagnosis https://tvmdl.tamu.edu/

Here's some reading about Marek's http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/the-great-big-giant-mareks-disease-faq
 

Nksg75

Songster
6 Years
Aug 18, 2014
968
1,031
221
Needville Texas
Poor Mrs. Lee :hugs
I see you mention free ranging, do you think that she may have eaten something dead or rotten.
From what I understand Botulism is a progression of symptoms starting as paralysis starting in the legs, then to the wings, neck, eyelids and then death.
Can she blink or if you put your finger in her eye, will she shut her eye - I know that sounds bad, but see what happens.

You are correct that she is exhibiting symptoms of Wry Neck.
Is Mrs. Lee molting, has she been laying eggs normally, have you added any new chickens to the flock recently - anything that could cause her stress?

The not pooping since she has been separated is very concerning. Hopefully by the time you read this she has pooped.
It sounds like you are doing what you can for her. Keep her hydrated and add the vitamins to see if that makes a difference.

Sadly, this is a symptom, so she may be suffering from a disease like Marek's.
If you happen to lose her, getting testing/necropsy through your state lab will give you a diagnosis https://tvmdl.tamu.edu/

Here's some reading about Marek's http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/the-great-big-giant-mareks-disease-faq
Thank you for mentioning the Mareks, it did cross my mind, however I have had chickens die from Mereks before, and they were usually the chicks that were broody raised and never were vaccinated.
Mrs Lee was purchased from MPC and was vaccinated along with the others I ordered from MPC.
I do realize that vaccinating is not a guarantee, however in all the cases of Mereks I have had, it wasn't like this at all. It was the typical splayed legs, one foot forward. And in all those cases, I was able to witness the slow decline of the legs. Meaning, they started with a slight limp, and you could just see the leg or legs were losing the ability to keep up with the rest of the body.
Then the chicken would be brought inside where I would try desperately to keep them comfortable, because I am too much of a wimp to end there life.
I did have to do it myself with one hen years ago, and I sent her body to necropsy (I think I posted the results somewhere on this site)
So yes, I thought of it, however I don't feel that Mereks is the case here.
Also she is top of the pecking order, so absolutely she could have gotten into something bad.
What she ate, I don't know, but I will need to look around the area this morning.
One thing I thought of late late last night is there is a new mare in the pasture with the chickens.
This is a long shot, but is it possible that a horse with an unknown health history could have Equine (something like encephalitis?)
I wouldn't put it past the chickens to eat the horse poop, because there are 2 donkeys in this pasture as well, and I have seen the chickens scratch through there manure.
In regards to Mrs. Lees eyes, she does open them, and is still alive this morning, but I have not tried testing her reaction to her eye, I will do that today.
she had a light molt this year, and was growing her feathers back nicely.
Her feathers don't seem to fall out too easily as is the case with botulism, granted I haven't tried specifically to test that, just over the course of treatment, her feather lose hasn't been noticeably large.
 

Wyorp Rock

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This is a long shot, but is it possible that a horse with an unknown health history could have Equine (something like encephalitis?)
I'm sure your chickens will eat horse poop, that would not be unusual.
Equine encephalitis is spread my mosquitoes. I think if that was the cause of your hen's problem your Mare would be down and in very bad shape since horses are highly affected by the virus. It would be worth doing some reading on the disease though.
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ps044

I would still lean toward Marek's as the cause. I'm sorry. If you have vet care, they can do a bit of testing to rule out infection or internal parasites which could be exacerbating her condition.
 

Eggcessive

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Apr 3, 2011
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You have received very good advice from Wyorp Rock. Botulism, from what I have learned, causes flaccid paralysis starting in feet progressing upward along the spinal nerves up toward the head, within hours. Death may occur within a day. Since you have dealt with Mareks in the past, it would be more likely that it is Mareks, but it can be best diagnosed with a professional necropsy through your state vet. Heavy metal, mold, plant, or chemical poisoning could be other possibilities. In the meantime, I would stop the flushes, and continue to tube feed her fluids and a little feed with the vitamins. She may be too disabled to sit in a chicken sling, but you can try it, or prop her on some rolled towels. Has she passed any droppings yet? I hope you can find out what it bothering her, and hope she can recover. Sorry you are dealing with this.
 

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