Older hen with staggers - kinda long

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by sussexgal, Oct 26, 2008.

  1. sussexgal

    sussexgal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Molly came to me 2 years ago as an adult. I have no idea how old she is. Up until a few weeks ago she was faithfuly giving me one egg a day- she is some kind of mixed breed: small, partridge colored with a chin muff and lays a small cream egg. She started a hard molt and quit laying. I have been giving her extra protein in the form of cooked egg and dry catfood. She has free choice layer pellets with a bit of wheat scratch. Her feathers are growing back in - kinda looks like a porcupine. This morning she has the staggers. She has been kept indoors in the coop since her molt started as the roos won't leave her alone. At night she stays roosted and the roos don't bother her. Yesterday was a downpour all day. All the chickens stayed in the coop. So... I'm thinking Molly probably didn't get much in the way of food or water. My bad. I wasn't thinking.

    Okay - she is now inside the house in a safe tupperware storage bin. I have given her a big bowl of scrambled egg with crushed egg shell, grit, layer pellets and a few wheat kernals. Her water has quick chick and some antibiotic just in case. She is ravenous.... but she is thin. I have wormer on order and that should be here sometime this next week. (Eprinex) Her comb is red so I'm thinking she's not anemic. No staggers yesterday.... her breathing is fine, no mucus; her eyes are clear and alert; her vent is fine - I did not check for broken bones yet but will when I go back to the farmhouse. I'm thinking her bones are fine tho - she looks like she developed cerebral palsey overnight. No head tremors. No new introduction to the flock and no visiters from other flock owners.

    Am I correct in thinking this may be nutritional in origin or am I off base. Thank you for any help you can give me....
  2. dlhunicorn

    dlhunicorn Human Encyclopedia

    Jan 11, 2007
    so this developed overnite?
    I dont see how AB (much less a "bit") are really going to help her but I am glad you had electrolytes to hand...
    Offer her free choice yogurt and continue mixing a scrambled egg yolk thru her feed ... lets hope being in a totally non stress environment and plenty of good feed and electrolytes to hand will do the trick.
  3. sussexgal

    sussexgal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thank You dlhunicorn.... She is better tonight. Not 100%, but better. Yes... she seemed to develop this quickly. Yesterday morning she was fine.... this morning? Staggers. Had her out on the floor tonight - she walks a bit off but is not staggering. She has eaten very well today and drank alot. And she was back to scratching and searching out 'food' even tho it was on a throw rug in the kitchen. So.... thank you again for your input. I will get some yogurt tomorrow for her - she does like that.
  4. Jenski

    Jenski Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 17, 2008
    Middle Tennessee
    Interestingly, I have a 2.5 year old hen who seems to have a similar situation: very hard molt, now covered in pins and bald spots, I've given her extra protein, and a couple of days ago I noticed a stagger when she was eating breakfast. I did a double take ~ did I really see that? ~ and I kept watching but otherwise she seemed fine. Over the weekend I have noticed it occasionally while she is eating off the ground: she takes a couple of odd steps in a circle, almost like one leg is out of joint. Then she is fine. My girl is also trotting around the yard, flapping, chasing bugs, etc. so I cannot figure it out. I changed out food and water to rule out foodborne issues.

    Sussexgal, please keep us posted on how your situation goes. I will do the same, and maybe we can figure this out.

    Anyone else with info is more than welcome to chime in! Thanks.
  5. sussexgal

    sussexgal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Will do, Jenski... Molly is getting quick chick in her water. Free choice layer pellets with dry cat food, sunflower seed, scrambled egg and wheat scratch. I also put antibiotics in the water - in her weakened state I didn't want her developing a secondary bacterial infection. She is very hungry judging from the amounts she is packing away.

    Our symptoms are quite similar... the odd gated semicircle when walking. Molly still would get up to the roost and perch. Eat and drink and squak at her coop mates. Of the 5 I was keeping cooped to keep the roos away, she is the only one who has the staggers. She is also the only one who is regrowing almost every feather on her body.

    .... have you added anything extra to your hen's diet since switching out feeds? I read that molt is hard on the the bird's systems - protein is an issue because the grain feeds they get don't have enough protein to compensate. Just an fyi.
  6. Jenski

    Jenski Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 17, 2008
    Middle Tennessee
    Yeah, my girl has been ravenous for protein, so I have actually been mixing in 50% grower crumble to their feed. The other girl in that pen is in the final stages of her molt too, so I figured they could both use it. They also get sunflower seeds (hulled), which they are enjoying. Edna is also very interested in meat snacks, so I have given her very small amounts of minced beef (steak). I tried cat food too, but they were only moderately interested.

    I am now wondering if all the extra protein has somehow contributed to this odd gait. I noticed it again this morning; it almost looked like a muscle cramp on one side, or even the way a really old person might stagger around right when they wake from bed (or me, if I did a lot of yard work the day before).

    That said, her feathers are growing like crazy.

    Last edited: Oct 27, 2008
  7. sussexgal

    sussexgal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hey Jenski...

    It's hard to know what to do sometimes.... wish they could just say hey! Could I have a steak -extra rare please?

    I had Molly out running around on the linoleum this morning and she seemed to be doing better - so, I stuck her back out in the henhouse. Her gate is actually a bit worse on the uneven surface of the coop's shavings. And another new symptom - she seems to be having a difficult time exchanging air. I can hear her breath... dry sounding. So... my first intinct is to cull her. But a part of me says wait and see what happens. I did introduce wheat to them last week. That was a new feed. So... as of now - the wheat is stopped. I'm also going to clean the coop and put down fresh bedding. The litter isn't that bad, but maybe there is a fungal element in there I can't see. I'm definitely at a loss....
  8. Jenski

    Jenski Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 17, 2008
    Middle Tennessee
    sussexgal, thanks for the update. My girl is very quiet this morning, and I may bring her in tonight if she's not moving around much. Still doing the "half-circle" at breakfast too. No noticeable breathing issues. The coop is clean, and has clean shavings. It was cold this morning, so I gave them some mash that had been prepared like warm oatmeal.

    I don't have any clues about your girl's breathing issues. Could indeed be a fungal something going on, but would that also cause the staggers? Do you have any Oxine you could use as a mister for her to breathe?

    Does anyone else have any ideas on this severely molting hen staggering issue ~ since we have two hens in different states with the same symptoms?
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2008
  9. sussexgal

    sussexgal Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'm thinking now that the farmhouse was too warm for her - Dad keeps it at 85 - he's old, with old bones that ache. I am keeping the birds in today - big snow out there. But, I brought Molly in and am keeping her in the mud room. It's insulated and only gets ambient heat from the house. She was not raspy this miorning at all. She ate a whole egg by herself and was wolfing flax seed and layer crumbles when I left.

    I've been searching and reading about causes for staggers in older hens, ie. not babies or young pullets. So far the list includes:

    1. nutrient deficiencies - both amino acid and vitamin/mineral
    2. a good knock to the noggin
    3. mites that have taken up residence in the ear causing inner ear vertigo
    4. merek's, but that has a whole slew of other symptoms that we are not experiencing
    5. Fungal toxins

    Molly isn't the brightest bulb in the box and in the past she has flown into the wall when getting down from the roost. Add to that her ability to aim is off because of the lack of flight feathers? She coulda cracked her head. Or one of the other chickens may have given her a good beaking. Then there is the weightloss - so she's not been getting enough good stuff during this god awful moult she's going thru. The recommended protein intake I guess is 30% for moulting birds. Molly is getting cheese and eggs now to help suppliment.

    None of the other birds are showing symptoms, so it's something intrinsic to her alone. I've narrowed it down to head injury or nutritional issues - or both. But just in case, I've stopped giving them the wheat grain on the outside chance there is a mold that I can't see or it was sprayed with something in the feild to keep bugs away. And I cleaned their coop yesterday and put in all new shavings. The only source of mold I saw was a bit of wet bedding under their waterer - gone now!

    I'll keep posting as I find other causes. Has your girl perked up at all?
  10. Jenski

    Jenski Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 17, 2008
    Middle Tennessee
    Good suggestions, sussexgal, and well worth investigating.

    Here's another possibility ~ mesogenic (mid-grade) Newcastle disease (avian pneumoencaphalitis)???


    The circling fits, and so do your girl's respiratory issues. I noticed mine has just the slightest bit of a cough (odd sound, and only very occasionally). Whatever it is, it could be their immune systems were compromised due to the hard molt. I have one other girl with a sniffle in an adjacent pen, but the hen who shares Edna's pen is fine.

    I am at work now, but will check on my girl in a couple of hours. Good luck!

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