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Need help! Very sick 4 week old chicks with strange symptoms. I need some ideas :(

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by keesha63, Jul 2, 2016.

  1. keesha63

    keesha63 Chirping

    6 weeks ago I noticed one of my 9 week old Polish chicks sitting on her hocks. She was in a large cage upstairs in my house with a group of 3 siblings and another 8 silkies all that were hatched here. They had never been outside yet nor has anything from outside brought into their cage. I don't handle them just change their food and water. They have never been exposed to any other chickens. I pull out the Polish chick (Elvie) and put her in a cage by herself so I could monitor her. She appeared to be high stepping the first day, by day 2 she was not able to stand. She did not have the typical Mareks stance...both feet were just under her, she could not stand nor walk. Her feet were curled in. Still was eating and drinking well. I felt it was most likely a vitamin deficiency so I moved her sister in with her for company. I started Polyvisol 3 drop x 3 times, Vit E and selenium. After a week no improvement. I brought her to an avian vet (no local vets that specialize in chickens here). The vet initially thought Mareks but given her age and the fact she had no outside exposure it was decided that was unlikely to be what this was. It would have had to come in on my clothing (I've never had Mareks here btw) and somehow managed to infect that chicken which I never touched. Not 100% impossible very very unlikely. The vet felt it was likely a deficiency in something but could not figure out what. I continued the vitamin treatments but also started B complex tablets crushed. Then just B1 crushed. After 3 weeks I removed her sister and put her back in with her hatch mates since it did not look like Elvie was improving at all. No resp symptoms but she was gaping. She could only get around by flinging herself from one side of the cage to the other. I put her in a sling and do leg exercises in hopes of her getting back the use of her legs. She was seen by a second vet 2 weeks after the first. This vet again agreed it was highly unlikely to be Mareks but felt it was also a deficiency. She did blood tests which showed nothing really unusual other than a slightly higher WBC count. That can mean an infection or can be elevated by stress. She was started on two antibiotics for 7 days with no improvement. A fecal sample came back negative for parasites (Not surprising since she's never been outside) and negative for cocci. She still has not improved but does eat well. Neither her sister nor any of her hatch mates have ever shown any symptoms. Her sister was in a small cage with her for 3 weeks and now back with her hatch mates for just over 3 weeks, they are all healthy still. So this brings me to the chicks.

    I hatched out a group of 11 Polish chicks 4 weeks ago today. They have been growing out nicely and are all normal size and weight. They are kept in a cage in my dining room. They have never been outside or had any thing brought into their cage from outside (like soil for dust bathing). They were on medicated chick starter until 2 days ago when I first saw symptoms and switched them to non-medicated chick starter. The only treat they have ever had was a slice of watermelon. 2 days ago I noticed two of them sitting frequently and when they stood up they seemed unsteady. I removed them and put them in a separate cage to monitor. By that night neither could stand and they started gaping. I started them on vitamins as well. By this morning I had a third chick from that group with the same symptoms. She is still able to walk but also gaping. My avian vet was here again and again has no idea what this is. She still feels it's most unlikely to be Mareks again because they were only 3 weeks old and none have the Mareks stance. She checked their lungs and they are clear. They have no coughing, sneezing or discharge. Essentially no resp symptoms other than they gap with each breath. She is going to contact the university tomorrow to speak with someone in pathology.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on what this can be? We are at a loss :(

  2. keesha63

    keesha63 Chirping

    Here's a picture of the latest chick. This seems to progress quickly to not being able to stand :( This is what I mean by gapping as well. [​IMG]
  3. chickenslave2

    chickenslave2 In the Brooder

    Apr 14, 2016
    It looks like the poor thing is struggling to breath. Maybe they are struggling for breath and can't stand/walk because they're using all their strengths to try breathe?
  4. mustang56

    mustang56 Songster

    Jan 4, 2012
    Very sorry this is happening, so sad...
    I wonder if it's something in the feed causing this...
  5. Wyorp Rock

    Wyorp Rock Free Ranging

    Sep 20, 2015
    Southern N.C. Mountains
    I'm sure you have looked at all these illness/disorders and more, but brainstorming is what helps sometimes in the forums.

    Is there any swelling in the hocks?
    I would look into diseases/illnesses that are transmitted "transovarian" meaning it is passed along in the egg, so the chick can be born with it.

    Curled toes can sometimes be a B2 (Riboflavin) disorder.
    Some illnesses fall in the category of "respiratory", but don't always present with wheezing, sneezing, runny nose, etc.

    Look into Mycoplasma Synoviae - it affects the hocks - usually swelling - can be accompanied by some respiratory.
    Avian Encephalomyelitis would cause imbalance leg problems as well.

    Of course genetic defect and neurological disorders can't be ruled out. Unfortunately the only way to possibly get an idea of the cause is sacrifice one and have a necropsy.

    Just my thoughts.


    http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/p...synovitis.html?qt=Mycoplasma synoviae &alt=sh

    List of most common illnesses/respiratory and non respiratory with symptoms chart at bottom:
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2016
  6. keesha63

    keesha63 Chirping

    The leg issues seem to come a few hours before the gaping thing happens. One of the three (the weakest one) passed last night. The second and third appear unchanged today. No better but no worse. No new ones with symptoms...but I am so nervous to even look into that brooder cage, it's so terrible :(

    No hock swelling at all but it did look similar to MS by symptoms so I started them on Tylan last night. I only had the water soluble powder so I am giving it via eye dropper to make sure they are getting it as neither seems to be eating or drinking on their own. The curled toes are what made me think it might be a Riboflavin deficency as well but with weeks of adding it via crushed pill on the first one there's been no change in any of them.

    I am grasping at straws here so I've started them on Colloidal silver and hypericum 5 drops each 4 times a day, along with their Tylan and Nutridrench alternated with Polyvisol.

    I do realize the only way I am going to get down to the cause is by autopsy. The vet is checking into the cost for me tomorrow. Last year I had one other die that I asked for an autopsy on. The vet clinic called the University for a price and it was $650 believe it or not, so I declined to have it done. :( My new vet thinks there was a huge markup through that vet clinic and can do it direct (well I will need to drive 3 hrs to drop it off) so we will see. Hopefully her talk to the poultry pathologist tomorrow will give us some hope. As maybe the symptoms will raise red flags for her.

    Another thing I forgot to mention is that my cousin and myself split the Polish hatching eggs. We each took 15 to hatch. We both had 12 successfully hatch and hers even today are still okay. Logically that could rule out anything carried via the egg...unless I was just really unlucky?
  7. Wyorp Rock

    Wyorp Rock Free Ranging

    Sep 20, 2015
    Southern N.C. Mountains
    I'm sorry for your loss.

    Hopefully you can get some help with your vet so you can find out exactly what this is.

    I would be hesitant to hatch or acquire any more eggs/chicks until the issue is resolved.

  8. keesha63

    keesha63 Chirping

    Oh for sure! The funny thing was I was finished hatching for you season. My cousin had told the Polish breeder she wanted some eggs to hatch out...she says as many as she could get together in a week. The breeder got together 31 eggs for her! So she asked me to put some in my incubator as well since she had no room. This was definitely my last hatch for the summer.

    I am some what encouraged by the one from yesterday being no worse. This "thing" moved very quickly in the other two from a few days before.
  9. Wyorp Rock

    Wyorp Rock Free Ranging

    Sep 20, 2015
    Southern N.C. Mountains
    How frustrating.

    Hopefully this latest one will pull through.
    If you do find more information or get an answer from the vet, then please keep us posted.
  10. Wickedchicken6

    Wickedchicken6 No Rest For The WicKed Premium Member Project Manager

    Nov 7, 2015
    Southwestern MB, Canada
    I'm so sorry to hear about your chicks.
    Wyorp Rock mentioned some possibilities.

    I've never dealt with anything like this so I have nothing to offer as far as concrete ideas as to what could be happening.
    If you do find anything out from the vet I would also like to know what you find.
    Not knowing what it is and what to do is extremely frustrating.
    I hope some light can be shed on what it could be.
    And I hope the rest of your chicks stay well.

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