Mystery disease - What killed my chick?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by ticketism, Dec 1, 2015.

  1. ticketism

    ticketism Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 17, 2015
    I'm still quite new to chicken keeping, and this is the first one I've lost so I'm a bit rattled. I know chicks are susceptible to a range of things, and a lot of symptoms overlap which makes it so hard to know what it is unless you go to a vet... But I thought I'd try to get some opinions anyway.

    We got three Orp chicks at 4 weeks old, all still in a brooder together. The other two seem fine (for now *fingers crossed*). Yesterday I took them out to the backyard 'playpen' and while the two girls were exactly as usual he seemed a little uninterested. He did a little bit of scratching/pecking, walked around slowly a bit, ate and drank a bit, sat down with the girls, but not his usual full-of-beans self. It was evening though, and starting to get a little cool and a bit darker, so I actually didn't think much of it.

    This morning I checked on them and saw that the girls were running around like normal, but he was sitting on the floor. I picked him up and noticed he had diarrhea streaked down his fluffy butt feathers, looked a bit pale in the face/comb/wattle, and his legs were quite thin and veiny. I put him back down, he just sat where I put him. Didn't eat, didn't drink, kept getting droopy headed, eyes slowly closing then snapping open. He was breathing a normal rate, but with every exhale I could hear a bit of a wheeze or gurgle type sound. Nothing felt swollen, broken, out of place, etc.

    What I feel is weird is that he was sitting with his butt right up in the air, though his legs were flat as they would usually be. This got progressively worse over the next hour... His tail was so high up, he had his neck scrunched down weirdly and his head just slightly up. He wasn't chirping and wriggling at me holding and touching him, and he didn't try to jump out of his quarantine box (which is very unusual, this one was so feisty!).

    I turned to go wash my hands, grab my phone and take a photo to help with IDing his illness (because at this point, I didn't have great hopes for him), and I heard my partner yelling 'Oh no! He's dying!' from the room with him. I ran back in, he was violently spasm-ing in the quarantine box. It was over in a few seconds, with him dead, eyes closed, contorted and stretched out. After a few seconds, quite a lot of fluid came pouring out of his mouth and didn't stop for about 15 seconds. I guess this was the contents of his crop coming out? Just noting it as strange as he hadn't been eating or drinking, and even if he had or there had still been some left there from the day before, it was a light, watery milk looking fluid that doesn't match their chick starter.

    I'm quite sad, and I feel so bad that I couldn't protect him, or help him, or stop this... But what do you think it may have been?


    Diarrhoea, no blood
    Weight loss and potentially dehydration
    Not eating or drinking
    Wheezing upon exhalation
    Paleness of the face
    Odd posture of wings and spine while sitting
    Slight wing shaking and seemingly weak legs
    Twisted/contorted neck and spine
    Spasms upon death
    Expulsion of fluid from mouth upon death

    I'm also somewhat at a loss as to what to do now, and I'm really worried about my other Orpies too, so any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance,

    EDIT: My partner called the breeder and asked her opinion on what happened, and she said she'd never seen it before. Seems a bit unlikely to me, I'm sure breeders have seen lots of birds go, just as a sheer numbers game. But the weirdly bent neck/back and lifted tail thing seems so strange to me. Can anyone shed any light? Or is this all just standard chicken keeping stuff and I'm just still too green?
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2015
  2. ticketism

    ticketism Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 17, 2015
    I'm getting pretty worried about my other two 6w Orps. I actually can't tell if they're showing any signs or if I'm just being paranoid, haha. I'm pretty sure they seem fine. They're eating and drinking like normal, and are both bright, alert and active. Losing a chick is so sad, and so stressful! I wish I could have been able to take his body to an avian vet for a necropsy and histopathology report. If no one can shed any light here then I'll just never know what my first loss was due to. Such a horrible experience, I hope the next one I lose is years and years from now, because she was so old so just ran out of life.
  3. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    No way to know for sure what killed your chick but in chicks that age that were previously doing fine, those symptoms of lethargy, not eating/drinking, diarrhea (with or without blood), all are highly suggestive of coccidiosis. It's one of the most common killers of young chicks and it does kill very fast. The spasms and loss of fluid from the beak are common at the moment of death.

    Just keep a close eye on your remaining chicks, if you see them get lethargic, puffed up, just sitting, diarrhea, just go ahead and treat them with Corid.
  4. ticketism

    ticketism Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 17, 2015
    I'll definitely be keeping an eye on the other chicks. I've cleaned and changed absolutely everything that the sick boy had or may have had contact with, including all the clothing my partner and I were wearing that day. I've not let the girls go back out into their designated playpen backyard area in case there is anything infectious there - He may have pooped on the lawn and they could come along walking through or pecking at it. I've given them some minced garlic in a little water separate from their food and water to have if they want. I'm hoping it will help their immune systems. Is there anything else I can give them that will help their immune systems and maybe prevent them from getting sick if they've been exposed? I've read about garlic, cayenne, oregano (all of which I have in my garden ready to go), cinnamon, yogurt, etc... Don't want to start chucking any and everything at them though. Does coccidiosis cause respiratory problems? I haven't read anything about that. He had a kind of wheeze or gurgle going on. And what about his strange neck/spine thing? Is that just quite common in sick chicks but looks really unusual? It was that main thing that I couldn't find information about and seems odd to me. Maybe it's totally normal... It just seemed so extreme.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2015

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