Please help with diagnosis

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Waterfaery, Jan 23, 2014.

  1. Waterfaery

    Waterfaery Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 23, 2014

    I'm a long time reader but sad to say that my first post is about a horrible thing that happened to my flock this morning. We had a mixed flock of 6 different birds, including 1 rooster and 5 hens. This morning, the rooster and one hen died suddenly and one of the other hens is now sick. The vet was quite useless really and didn't know much about chickens. I hope someone on here can help figure out what the problem is, as I really want to save the sick hen and the 3 others, as well as prevent such a thing from happening again.

    These are the symptoms and details about the birds:

    Isis – lavender araucana approx 10 months old

    • off the lay for a couple of months but otherwise active and normal
    • a bit lethargic and slow on Thursday evening, but not noticeable enough that we thought anything of it until afterwards
    • found dead on Friday morning just outside the coop
    • green diarrhoea beside dead body

    Ruairí – black orpington rooster approx 1 year old

    • had bumblefoot, which we were planning on taking him to the vet for next week
    • otherwise fine, healthy and active right up until Friday morning
    • found close to Isis' body on Friday morning
    • unable to stand up – legs not working at all
    • wings flapping
    • head drooped to one side, eyes closing
    • died within 5 minutes of being found

    Féileacán – black + white hamburg approx 1 year old

    • no noticeable symptoms at all until Friday morning, after death of the other two
    • limping, especially on right leg
    • took to vet – vet said both thighs were hot and inflamed
    • unable to diagnose
    • treated with antibiotics (Baytril), anti inflammatories (Metacam) and Baycox (to cover all bases, she said)
    • currently isolated from remaining flock
    • hobbling around, still limping and legs a bit shaky, no improvement since treatment
    • pecking, scratching, eating and drinking as normal

    Remaining flock:
    Lucy – frizzle bantam cross approx 18 months old
    Buttercup – shaver cross approx 15 months old
    Aoife – blue orpington approx 9 months old

    These three seem unaffected so far. We're treating them with the same medication as Féileacán and have them separated from her at the moment.

    We are totally devastated. This was our first time keeping chickens and they were such beloved pets. We started with Lucy and Buttercup in April last year and added the others gradually over the next couple of months. Aoife was our last addition in July.

    Interestingly, the three affected birds all came from the same breeder, although I don't know if that means anything, as we have had them for so long now.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  2. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Flock Master Premium Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    Welcome to BYC. Sorry for your loss. I would wonder if your bird may have botulism or Mareks disease. Since the two died and one is now sick, I would try to rule out botulism first. It is caused by eating vegetation or animal/fish remains, and causes paralysis which starts in the feet and moves upward in the body. It will kill quickly, but many will recover. Please Google botulism in chickens and look for the first link--it should be the poultry site.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014
  3. Saerie

    Saerie Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 20, 2014
    So sorry to hear about this. :(
    I know of a disease that matches those symptoms. It has some long scientific name but I know it as simply Thick leg disease. I don't know of any cure. But it is an inherited disease, so only the birds in your flock from that breeder will be affected, if I'm right. Let me know if any of the other birds get sick.
  4. Waterfaery

    Waterfaery Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 23, 2014

    Thanks for the responses. I had a look at your suggestions.

    Thanks Saerie. None of the affected chickens' legs are thick. The one who's sick now has long, slender legs and they look the same as ever, although they are a bit wobbly. I've been too upset to look but my partner has examined the corpses and the legs are normal. Also, the three came from the same breeder but there is no way they could be related as they are all totally different breeds.

    Thanks Eggcessive. The vet seemed to think it wasn't Marek's disease because she said they are too old to get it. Is that right? Does it only affect chicks? As to the botulism, I don't know how to start ruling it out. What should I look for? It does seem possible, as my partner had recently turned over our compost heap and the chickens often eat out of it. There was a dead hedgehog in there. Could this be the cause? I never realised it was unsafe to let them near the compost. We're going to cover it up now.

    If it is that and those three ate something infected with botulism, do you think the one who's sick now will survive? The other two died very quickly so she would surely have died at the same time if it was any type of poisoning, wouldn't she? They went from being fine to dying within an extremely short space of time but she has been hobbling around all day with no signs of deterioration. Maybe she didn't eat as much of it?

    From googling I've also found Mycoplasma and Staph. Does anyone know anything about these? Are they a possibility or can I rule them out?

  5. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member Project Manager

    Jun 24, 2012
    My Coop
    Sorry for your losses. [​IMG]

    With all due respect to your vet, she is wrong about your birds being too old to have Marek's, just have her call one of the avian pathologists at The UC Davis Tulare Lab - (559) 688-7543 and they explain it to her [​IMG]. I have a necropsy report that lists the cause of death in my 3 year old hen as Marek's and I recently just lost a 2-3 year old rooster to it.

  6. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member Project Manager

    Jun 24, 2012
    My Coop
  7. Waterfaery

    Waterfaery Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 23, 2014
    Thanks Kathy,

    Can you please tell me about the timeframe involved with Marek's? Would it happen so suddenly with no symptoms before death? Would it kill two birds within a couple of hours of each other?
  8. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member Project Manager

    Jun 24, 2012
    My Coop

    Weight loss is what I usually what I see first, but I have had a couple that were fine one day, down the next, so I brought them inside and treated them very aggressively, but they still died and would have died that same day had I not brought them in. It really could be anything, that's why you should have a necropsy done.

  9. realsis

    realsis Crazy for Silkies

    Jan 17, 2013
    Yes mareks can. May I make a suggestion? I suggest learning as much as possible about the mareks virus. As I understand it they can have the virus and remain without symptoms until periods of stress or weakness and then become the birds could have actually been infected with the virus for a long period of time then for whatever the reason became symptomatic. If a flock member has mareks it does not mean they will all be symptomatic . But it does mean they can still spread the virus to other birds even without having symptoms themselves.its recommended that any new birds brought in be vaccinated and kept from exposure (exposure would be the outside because mareks can live on land for years and is airborne, and adult birds) for at the very least 14 days to give time for the antibodies and immunity to build. If this quartine time is not given they can catch the virus although vaccinated because time was not given to build immunity. I hope this is helpful and wish you the best. Basically I'm saying the birds could have caught the virus at a young age and remained without symptoms until now.that is possible. It's also possible to have the virus and be a carrier. And remain without symptoms but spread the virus.with mareks your best defense is knowledge.the more you research the better.mareks is litterly everywhere. Our best defense is vaccination and time given for antibodies to develop. Although vaccination is NOT 100% effective it's all we have as of now.i hope this helps and wish you the best.
  10. BigECarter

    BigECarter Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 8, 2012
    Mississippi Gulf Coast
    While Marek's is a definite possibility, I suspect that something else is going on, especially given how sick half of your flock became in such a short period if time. With no recent additions to the flock, I would guess something they ate.

    I highly recommend that you get a necropsy done if you have any more losses. Refrigerate any dead chicken that you want to send to a lab. Don't freeze!


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