Please help- 7 week old chick with neurological symptoms


In the Brooder
8 Years
Sep 30, 2011
Hello everyone,

I am really hoping someone can help. I did a bunch of searches for past topics but it sounds like my bird's symptoms can mean many things so I am not sure what to do.

I have a 7 week old chick who we hatched here at our house. He was the only egg that hatched so he has no "siblings" and has not yet been moved in with our adult chickens (he is still getting supplemental heat).

Two days ago, I witnessed what I can only describe as him freaking out. He was flapping wildly, running into walls, etc. My immediate reaction was that something had just spooked him- we've had some mice trying to get into the chicken food, or I thought maybe he got a spider bite or something. I covered his pen with a towel to calm him down. I checked a couple of hours later and he seemed "dazed" but okay- walking (though slow), eating and drinking and so on. I checked for any acute injury from when he was flailing around, and nothing looked funny or seemed painful.

Anyway, the next morning (yesterday) he was clearly not okay. He was laying on his side- he could walk but fell frequently, and throughout the day he started puffing up his feathers like he was cold, though I don't think he was- when I offered him more heat he moved away from it. He is still moving all of his extremities though he seems very weak and has almost no balance- he can no longer perch at all. He will drink when I hold him up and has eaten a little although not much. When I syringe feed him he seems to tolerate it just fine. Minimal poop but what there is seems okay and vent looks okay too. Eyes and nose are clear. He has developed some tic-like movements of his neck that he does not seem to be able to control. I do have videos of this although I am not sure how to post that- I can send a link if that is allowed.

This all sounds an awful lot like what I've read about Marek's disease and some other infectious diseases of chickens, but since his little "freak out" seemed to bring this on, I'm not sure if this is an illness or if maybe he had a head injury or what. I started giving antibiotics at the first sign of trouble yesterday morning on the offchance that he was sick or that his lack of balance was caused by an ear infection or something. Last night he had a period where he seemed better again- walking some and more coordinated, so I thought the medication might be helping. Today, though, he's worse, not able to move his body properly or control the head movements, so I am pretty sure he is not going to pull through.

Does anyone have any idea what has happened to my bird? Do you think I should treat my other birds? They are not housed together, but nearby, and I use the same bedding, food, etc. We have no other "new" birds and all of the other birds came to me as chicks and were vaccinated. This guy was not since he hatched here.

I am happy to answer any questions that any of you might have- I am not sure what is most relevant and what I may have left out.

Many thanks.

Last week:

Last night:

Today is worse as he is actually on his side again.
The tremoring movements have progressed into a long seizure-like episode. It is really horrible to watch, and there doesn't seem to be anything I can do. He still seems aware to some degree and responds to my touch and voice, but has no control over his body. I am in tears over this. It is really heartbreaking, and I still have no idea what even caused this.
If it weren't for the seizures, I'd say give poly vi sol (for B vitamins) and Vitamin E. The seizures sound like he injured himself beyond repair...I'm so sorry. You could still try the vitamin therapy if you want, it certainly can't hurt and maybe you will get lucky and save him. Good luck...I've had this happen and it is heart breaking

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