Possible Epidemic (Fatal)

Rachel96

Songster
7 Years
Mar 12, 2012
274
7
101
South Australia
I'm a little worried about something I've noticed with my littlest chicks.

It started with one of them dying last Sunday. Well, maybe it started a little before then. Wriggle had clubfeet but they were actually getting a little better - they may have healed completely but she died at four days old. Anyway we noticed that all Saturday and maybe Friday afternoon, she was cheeping very loudly and very constantly, over and over and over, even in her sleep. My mother threatened her with the stewpot and my sister claims to have prayed for her to shut up.

Apart from the feet problem, Wriggle seemed a perfectly healthy chick - willing to hobble after the others as fast as she could, eating and cheeping and pooping just as she should be. Until we got home early Sunday afternoon after church and found her lying prone under the heat lamp, on her side, lethargic and mostly unresponsive.

When I picked her up, she cheeped plainitively a little but could barely raise her head. She seemed to be struggling to breathe and after a while, she would stop breathing for a bit and then have a seizure or something, trying to suck in air. She also brought back up sticky plegm for a bit. None of us were very surprised by the time she died late Sunday night.

As sad as I was, I managed to convince myself that Wriggle's untimely death was because of something she was born with - after all, she'd had bad feet all along.

Now I'm not so sure. I have another chick, this time eight-day-old Worm, presenting with scarily similar symptoms. For a start, for the past day or two she has been cheeping very loudly and very constantly, just as Wriggle had been doing. But Wriggle and Worm were the only two to hatch from their clutch of eggs... so Worm was just missing her friend, right?

Then, in the space of about half an hour earlier this evening, she went from lively and active and running around with the other chicks, to sitting pitifullly under the heat lamp, her cheeps softer and pained. Her position was odd - leaning so far back as to be almost on her back - and my immediate thought was that something was wrong with her legs, which were in an odd position. I picked her up and tested the theory by gently moving her legs, and then by letting her legs dangle and tapping the pads of her feet - the legs didn't seem stiff or mishappen, and her reflexes seemed fine as she pulled her legs against her stomach as I tapped her feet.

When placed on a flat surface, it's noticable that Worm has little to no motor control or balance - she's wobbling about concerningly, barely able to stay upright, and she can't walk at all - almost like she's drunk! She's still leaning back and ending up on her back, bit more recently on her side, too - just as Wriggle had been. I've seperated her from the others and placed her under a heat lamp.

I'm trying to work out what could be causing all this, whether the two incidents might be related and how. Neither of the chicks have/had sores or wounds, so I know it can't be bullying happening. This chicks were also completely unrelated, the eggs having come from different farms, although they're both ISA Brown crosses.

My best guess at the moment is that they picked something up from the six new chicks I purchased early on Saturday to keep them company (I had a very poor hatch and the two chicks seemed lonely). None of the new chicks are presenting with any of the symptoms -- but I'm wondering whether they might have been vaccinated against something they could be carrying, and passed it on to my chicks, neither of whom have been vaccinated against anything having been hatched at home. Wriggle's first symptom - the loud cheeping - began around the same time.

My mother suggests that it might have something to do with an egg exploding during incubation - it was quite rotten and stunk the house out, and even with the smell aired out of the house, it remained in the incubator for some time. It's the only irregularity I can remember during incubation. The hatch rate was very poor - of 48 eggs, only 13 made it to lockdown (I candled before locking down), only 4 pipped, and only 1 hatched on it's own (Worm). 1 died half-out of the egg, and the other had to be helped out after having been half-zipped for 36 hours (Wriggle).

Any ideas or advice would be good and very much appreciated. This is my first time trying to hatch chicks on my own - my family hatched some when I was about 7 but apart from that I've always purchased day old chicks. I was hoping to hatch my own chicks in future but am beginning to wonder if I did something terribly wrong, as many of the chicks I've had recently seem to die.

from Rachel.
 
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Rachel96

Songster
7 Years
Mar 12, 2012
274
7
101
South Australia
Worm is now lying on her side, unable to move and struggling for breath... just as Wriggle was.

I can't understand how a chick can go from being so happy and healthy and active to being on the verge of death in the space of two hours,
 

Rachel96

Songster
7 Years
Mar 12, 2012
274
7
101
South Australia
She is gasping for breath - a whole-body movement and opening her beak, it's slower than it should be and irregular.

Also she keeps seizing and convulsing.
 

Rachel96

Songster
7 Years
Mar 12, 2012
274
7
101
South Australia
She's bringing up plegm or something as she breaths. There's absolutely no movement except for the beak opening to breath. Breathing is shallower and further apart.
 

mmktdox

Chirping
8 Years
Jun 12, 2011
148
4
91
Metcalfe, Ontario, Canada
Sorry for your troubles. I'm not an expert but maybe a bit more information might be helpful. I assume they are under a heat lamp or still in a brooder, is the temperature correct for their age? What are they eating? Medicated or non med feed? Water? Perhaps adding some electrolytes to the water or supplementing with some liquid vitamins might give them a boost? I've read that Poly-Vi-Sol infants drops are beneficial but I believe you have to stay away from the ones with extra iron?

I've also read on this forum to always quarantine new chicks (chickens). It's quite possible that your hatchery chicks introduced something to the ones you hatched at home? Good luck :)
 

Rachel96

Songster
7 Years
Mar 12, 2012
274
7
101
South Australia
Just to report that Worm died at 10:26pm Central Australian Time.

I guess maybe I'm just a bad chicken owner... a lot of the things mmktdox mentioned I've never thought of before. To try to answer the questions:

They're in a brooder; it's actually a bird/small pet cage of about 1m x 50cm, by about 50cm high. It's lined with newspaper and then straw, with food and water at one end and a heat lamp at the other. I've never measured the temperature, but have it so that they can be right under the light where it's warm if they want or they can be at the edge of the light or even not under it at all. Most of the time that works just fine as the chicks can decide how warm they want to be.

Immediately after hatching, the chicks stayed in the incubator for a bit before being moved to a smaller bird cage (30cm x 40cm, by about 50cm high) lined with newspaper and a towel, again with small portions of food and water at one end and a light at the other, to dry out. They were moved to the bigger brooder after a day or two.

They eat Barastoc chick starter crumble, sometimes with a little canary mix (quail food) mixed in. I'm not sure if that's medicated or not. As for water, they have rain water with a few drops of home-made vinegar mixed in. That's high-quality water for my family; humans and animals have rain water and plants have bore water or grey water (neither of which I'd feed a living creature!). I've never heard of electrolytes (well I have but assumed they had something to do with electricity... yes, yes, I dropped all sciences after Year 10 and picked up extra languages instead). I'd not considered feeding chickens vitamins (especially as I've only ever seem them in pill form), but I do feed them fresh orange juice sometimes which they love.

I've never heard of having to quarantine new chicks before. I usually keep new full-grown hens separate in adjacent cages, but that's just until they get to know each other. For chicks I usually just watch them for about half an hour to make sure no-one's killing anyone else. Maybe that's where I went wrong.

The grain & fodder shop I purchased from is quite trustworthy; we've been going there for about 15 years now, even after moving to a different area. The owners are quite knowledgeable about their products and about chickens, and it's a small family business which is run primarily to promote chook-keeping and other such stuff in the suburban area where it is, rather than for profit. I've bought chicks from them before and mixed them with chicks from other grain & fodder shops (this one only has 3 layer breeds, white Leghorn, ISA Brown, and Australorp) with no problems before.

At any rate, so far it's only been the ones I've hatched at home who have died; the ones from the grain and fodder shop haven't shown any signs of illness or distress (yet). I'll be keeping my eye out. It should be noted that where they're being kept is no different to where I've kept countless other batches of chicks and this is the first time I've had illness or fatalities in the chicks, but I do usually purchase them as day-olds.

from Rachel.
 
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rikithemonk

Songster
7 Years
Apr 19, 2012
279
25
101
Mont Dora Florida
Where did you get the light bulb in their heat lamp? Some red heat bulbs have a shatter resistant coating. This coating gives off a gas toxic to birds. If your not sure, I recommend replacing the red bulb with an old fashion type screw in regular light bulb.

Riki

Also, birds should never be kept in the kitchen. Non stick coatings and some microwavable TV dinner containers also give off gasses toxic to birds when heated.
 
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