Partial Paralysis?


Mar 13, 2022
Northern Nevada
Hello wonderful BYC community,

I have a ~17 week old Easter Egger who recently became ill and I'm not sure why/how/what it is. Around this time last Friday I noticed she was not as energetic as usual and was kind of keeping to herself. Last Saturday she had a normal morning of eating and socializing, then plopped down in a corner of the run and didn't get up for the rest of the day. I noticed something was wrong when she wasn't eating dinner with the rest of the girls. I picked her up and quickly noticed she could not walk or move most of her body. There was zero mobility in her legs, she could barely move her wings, and was very weak in her neck/head but could still move it and her eyes were alert, open, and normal colored. I looked her all over and didn't see any obvious signs of injury/ bugs/ impacted crop, or anything out of the ordinary. The partial paralysis is the only symptom.
I quickly separated her from the flock and syringe fed her nutri-drench and electrolytes. She was weak enough to let me open her beak for the syringe with no protest, but she did willingly eat some oats/ mealworm treats mixed in with her regular starter feed on her own. It's been almost a week and she's gotten a little better each day but still cannot walk properly. She's regained a little muscle control but still hobbles around on her haunches and can't stand up on her feet. She'll extend her neck and torso to look around or eat food. Her poop seems normal and has been consistent since the first day I found her sick. She's had a few very stinky, runny, brown poops, but in between there's been normal color and consistency poops. To me, everything seems normal there.
Her appetite has been fairly normal all week but I do coax her to eat or drink sometimes. I've been giving her starter feed, oat/worm treats, some spring lettuce mix, some strawberries and blueberries, and she's been happily eating it all. I have a camera set up in her quarantine coop and I have seen her eat and drink on her own too.
I have 4 other hens and they are all fine and have shown no similar symptoms at all. They don't free range, but do have a fairly large run that they can run and play in. The run is not covered (bad, I know) but their water is a 5 gallon bucket with nipples so there's little exposure to the environment. Their food is not covered but I've seen no signs of other bird droppings or any other contamination. I do not know of any other friends or neighbors with chickens so a cross contamination from another flock is a very low to basically zero possibility. As far as I know there's no flu outbreak in my area but I know that you should basically assume it's everywhere. I have not found any spoiled food, we don't have any rodents (that I know of), and their environment is basically controlled. This is my first flock and their coop/run is brand new with no signs of bugs, mold, or anything. My chicks were not vaccinated from what the feed store told me.

I don't have any pictures at the moment but honestly, she looks like a normal chicken in a picture. It's just when she tries to walk that there's something off.

My questions are:

  • What do you think it could be? Again, partial paralysis is the ONLY symptom. Everything else seems normal. She's very alert and has shown no other symptoms of anything else. I know it could be Marek's or botulism but those are the only two I've narrowed it down to.

  • I guess this depends on what it is, but when could I introduce her back to the flock? If I'm fairly confident it's not something like a flu or Marek's, could I, in theory, introduce her before she's back to walking 100%? or will she just get picked on?
My first thought when this happens at about point of lay is Marek's. It's everywhere, and causes the paralysis you are talking about. I'll link a good BYC article on it and other things that can mimic Marek's. If it is Marek's, don't panic. It doesn't mean the whole flock is gone as each bird has their unique resistance to this ever present virus. Some simply come down hard with it. Some like to vaccinate, but like the flu vaccine, there are so many strains that the vaccine misses it. Most now like to breed for natural resistance to prevent Marek's super strains.


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