My third chicken died after three days of not walking, not eating, and her feet were curled up

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by rooster47, Mar 29, 2014.

  1. rooster47

    rooster47 In the Brooder

    Apr 30, 2010
    I started out with 5 Isa Brown chickens at 3 days old. That was 7 years ago. My 4th chicken just died of whatever the other 3 died of a few years ago. She started about 3 days ago not going to her roost at night.. She just stayed on the bed of shredded pine shavings. Yesterday she was laying on her side, outside of the coop, wouldn't eat, her feet were curled up and she was laying sideways. I brought her into our garage last night, tried to feed her and give her water.....she refused. She was dead this morning. I'm so sad.....don't know what she died from. She seemed so healthy a week ago. My last chicken is still laying an egg a day and just turned 7 years old March 15. I don't want her to die, too of this same thing. WHAT COULD IT BE? Thanks for responding.
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Crowing

    Apr 8, 2013
    Isabrowns are not developed for long term use. Breeders don't keep them even half as long as you kept yours. As such there are genetic issues that surface later which one would never know of if one followed the normal pattern and culled them as soon as egg production dropped beyond a certain point. Mine all died of a genetic disease at about the same age, a few years old, despite having lived different lives on different diets. I've never seen that disease before or after or in any other breed. It was progressive neuro-degeneration and affected everything. Paralysis was part of it. I suspect they stop producing something vital at the later ages because high production layers are genetically designed to produce at their own expenses, always under too much strain, so they age prematurely and die young no matter what you do.

    That said, it's entirely possible it could be something like Marek's disease, so you might want to check some sites on animal/poultry diseases and see if any symptoms match. I don't know where you're located, and different countries have different versions of the same disease, or unique diseases that some other places don't have, and of course the genetics are different in different countries and even in different towns in the same state of the same country. It all makes a difference.

    Another thing it could be is toxicity. Fungal spores and molds in the grains or other food, contamination of feed or water, something they've been finding to consume that you're not aware of like old lead paint, it could be lots of things. This is where autopsies and so forth can be invaluable.

    Best wishes. At least your girls had a good innings.
  3. Nambroth

    Nambroth Fud Lady

    Apr 7, 2011
    Western NY
    My Coop
    I'm so sorry for your loss. While Marek's disease, as mentioned, is not impossible... at 7 years old I personally would look to other problems, first.
    How is your last chicken acting?
    Of the chickens that died, were they laying eggs right up until the end, or did they stop? Is there any chance they were egg bound? Isa Browns are a production breed, and these breeds often have problems as they age with things such as internal laying/ Egg Yolk Peritonitis. This is a disease that sadly can not really be treated without veterinary help, or at least antibiotics, and even with antibiotics it is usually only "buying time". Most hens that get it eventually succumb to it. :( Here is more reading:

    Have you ever wormed your girls?

    Here are some other diseases that can "look" like Marek's disease (Marek's disease often causes lameness or paralysis of the legs and/or wings) in case any of them seem like what your hens had:

    • Vitamin deficiencies can cause weakness or paralysis, for example, and those can be reversed with careful supplementation. If you are experiencing paralysis or weakened muscle control in your chicken(s), be sure to explore this possibility:
    • Avian Lymphoid Leukosis is a disease that can cause Marek's like symptoms, though signs are usually only visible upon necropsy. This virus causes lymphomas, much like Marek's disease, throughout organ tissue. Most chickens with this virus will experience weakness, and will "waste away" over time, becoming more and more emaciated as the tumors spread. This viral disease is often thought to be the 'sister disease' to Marek's, as it is very similar in many ways. Unlike Marek's disease, it can be transmitted through the egg (vertically) from parent to chick. Of important note, there have been some signs that in individual chickens with a genetic predisposition, that Serotype-2 Marek's vaccine (only hatcheries have this vaccine) may cause this disease to more rapidly harm the infected chicken.
    • Heavy Metal Toxicity in chickens (and other fowl, such as ducks) can look very similar to Marek's paralysis. Lead toxicity seems to be the most common for birds like chickens, that unlike other pet birds such as parrots, generally do not chew on metal objects but may swallow small metallic objects whole. Lead shot, BBs, pellets, (etc) are often mistaken for stones and ingested to aid the bird in digestion. A single BB or piece of lead shot is enough to cause serious illness in a large fowl chicken, or even eating old lead paint flakes, or finding them in the soil is enough to harm a chicken-sized bird. Heavy metal toxicity is one of the leading medical problems that vets and wildlife rehabilitators see in ground dwelling birds such as chickens, ducks, and geese, so it can be somewhat common. Symptoms include neurological issues such as partial or total paralysis of one or both legs and sometimes the wings. With lead toxicity, lesions of the nervous system and elevated white blood counts can also mimic Marek's infection. X-rays and/or blood tests might be necessary to diagnose this problem. Treatment generally involves injections of a chelating agent such as Calsenate. Large metal objects may need to be surgically removed. This problem is very hard to diagnose without veterinary help. For more reading:
    • Botulism in fowl can also mimic the symptoms of Marek's, in that it often causes neurological distress and paralysis. Often birds with botulism will present leg weakness, and neck weakness or paralysis. This can come on quite suddenly or gradually, depending on how much of the Botulism toxin has been consumed by the bird. Botulism is caused by the consumption of the toxin, either from decaying material (usually decaying carcasses) or eating an abundance of invertebrates that have been infected with the Botulsim toxin (such as maggots that have been feeding on decaying material). Generally, if a bird survives more than 48 hours, it will recover, so if Botulism is suspected in birds with sudden paralysis, immediate treatment is necessary. For more reading on Botulism consult the following: and
    • Viral tenosynovitis is a viral form of arthritis that is transmitted in chickens and turkeys. Transmission is generally via fecal material of infected birds. Infected birds experience lameness and hock inflammation, swelling of the tendon sheaths (the 'tubes' that the leg tendons are encased in), and general lack of mobility of the legs. It is most commonly seen in commercial meat birds and has been reported less commonly in commercial leghorns in the past. Photos with more info (warning, necropsy images):
    • Mycoplasma synoviae (MS) is another disease of poultry that might look like Marek's. This bacterial disease affects chickens and turkeys, but may also infect other commonly kept fowl. It is a relatively common disease, and easily transmitted. Like Marek's, symptoms include lameness/paralysis of the legs and reluctance to stand and walk, as well as blue/purple comb and or wattles due to respiratory distress. The hock (ankle) and wing joints may become swollen. Birds may also experience rales (roughness of breath, rattling, wheezing) and may have some respiratory discharge.
    • Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) is similar to MS, in that it is a mycoplasma infection, is very common in chickens, and is easily spread. It can cause paralysis and lameness in birds, similar to Marek's, but is generally accompanied by respiratory distress, sometimes severe in nature. Respiratory distress can include but is not limited to: rales (rasping, wheezing), coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, bubbling or discharge around the eyes, expelling mucus, and overall difficulty breathing.
    • Mold or Moldy Feed is a serious problem, as mold in grain, especially corn, is known to grow aflatoxins. Most of the aflatoxin problems on corn are caused by Aspergillus flavus, and the most potent toxin produced by this mold is called aflatoxin B1. These toxins may have degenerative effect on the nervous system of birds, causing signs similar to Marek's such as weakness, paralysis, or spasms, along with pale combs, weight loss, and lethargic behavior.... so it is very important to investigate feed, both bagged and in the bird's environment, to make sure it is fresh and free of mold. Molds may not be visible to the naked eye, so when in doubt, discard old feed and supply birds with fresh feed. If you find moldy feed or suspect moldy feed and see any changes in health in your flock, immediately discontinue access to affected feed! Read more: More information, and treatment:
    • Injury to the body, and especially to the head, can cause paralysis-like symptoms that look similar to Marek's. It is important to carefully check for hidden injuries, gently palpate bones for breakage, and observe your bird carefully to determine if injury is a factor. Injuries may be internal and not visible via simple physical exam. Head injuries can cause paralysis or weakness, and loss of motor control. Breeds with vaulted skulls (such as Silkies) are especially prone to brain damage, and can sustain brain injury and swelling that can create physical disability.
    • Erysipelas is a bacterial disease, not common but it can affect all commonly kept fowl. Turkeys seem especially susceptible. Generally few signs appear, though birds may become weakened and may have seeming leg paralysis very shortly before death. Mortality is generally less than 15% in infected birds. Birds that succumb will generally die within 24 hours. It is very sudden. This disease is serious, and while uncommon, if you suspect it, you may wish to test it because it can infect other animals and humans (through open cuts).
    • Pasteurellosis is also a bacterial disease. It is also not overly common, and most often seen in turkeys, but a few of the symptoms can look like Marek's disease. Lameness in the legs, difficulty breathing, and twisted neck (wry neck) are often observed, as well as loose stools and swollen wattles.

    Where do you live? Can you consider sending your hen that passed away this morning for a necropsy? It might help you to know what was wrong, since there are so many possibilities. If you can consider necropsy, please put your hen into refrigeration (don't freeze her) until you can send her for testing.
    I'm very sorry for your loss and I know how hard it is.
    harmesonfarm and chooks4life like this.

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