Pullets dying - lameness, labored breathing, what could this be? (video)

lbc1

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 28, 2013
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In May I bought some Speckled Sussex pullets (4 months old) from a lady. Starting in July, all of those chickens got sick and died except for one, with symptoms like going lame, squinting their eyes, and having trouble breathing. One of them also had strange crusty scabs on its face in the week before it died. I took one of the sick Speckleds to the vet when it went lame, suspecting Mareks, and after finding thread worms in the bird's system, the vet only said the chicken was weak from the parasites and highly doubted Mareks. It's been almost two months and I've been de-worming all of my flock using the de-wormer the vet gave me but still more of the Sussex died in August with the same symptoms.

Now one of my original flock (a RIR pullet I bought as a chick) seems to be ill with similar symptoms (no scabs though). She suddenly went lame in one leg last week, and after a few days went lame in the other leg. The legs are both curled up under her and when she tries to stand she falls on her face. She seems to be having trouble breathing - I don't hear any raspiness but she sticks her neck out like it's hard to breathe. I was trying to get a shot of the inside of her mouth since it seems like there are a few black lines in there. There is no discharge from the nose or eyes, but some of my other chickens (but not this one ???) have been sneezing lately - more than just one or two random sneezes, I hear them a few times a day. I don't know if that's related to this illness or not.

Here is a video of her from today:

 

Eggcessive

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Apr 3, 2011
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Sorry that you have these strange symptoms going on in your flock. Marek's disease seems like a good possibility. Though I'm not vet, mycoplasma synoviae might be another possibility. You are probably going to need to send off one of your chickens to your state vet for a necropsy to find the cause. Some state vets will euthanize the chicken for you. Here is a link to finding your state vet: http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/AnimalHealth/statevets.aspx
 

mithious

Songster
6 Years
May 12, 2013
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Great North Woods of New Hampshire
Sorry that you have these strange symptoms going on in your flock. Marek's disease seems like a good possibility. Though I'm not vet, mycoplasma synoviae might be another possibility. You are probably going to need to send off one of your chickens to your state vet for a necropsy to find the cause. Some state vets will euthanize the chicken for you. Here is a link to finding your state vet: http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/AnimalHealth/statevets.aspx

X2

I would get a necropsy done also. That is the only way you will know for sure. I checked my local extension, incase I ever need it, and it's only $35.00 for one on a chicken. They give the way of preserving and sending the chicken also and sell, here, very cheaply, the containers needed also. Here, it's $1.50 per container. Check your local University extension, their vet services and they should list all that you need for your state and how much it will cost. Best wishes
hugs.gif
 

lbc1

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 28, 2013
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Thanks. I am keeping her inside and babying her to see if she improves. She was so healthy and strong just last week you can tell she hates suddenly not being able to get around. If she passes or if she gets bad enough to need to be euthanized I'm definitely going to get a necropsy to find out what's going on.

I have two close neighbors with chickens, and brought in the Speckled pullets, so it's hard to say where/when all of this could have started. Just so sick that I might have any of the rest of my birds dying at any time now.
 

lbc1

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 28, 2013
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22
Just wanted to give an update to anyone who may find this thread - after nearly three weeks of further decline I had this pullet euthanized and sent for a necropsy. It was Mareks.
 

Eggcessive

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Thank you for the update. It helps you to know that any new chicks in the future would be okay with having a mareks vaccine. The disease will always be around your property, but you still can have chickens if they are vaccinated. Do you have any that are immune or showing no symptoms? So sorry for the loss of your chickens.
 

lbc1

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 28, 2013
12
0
22
Thank you - it's kinda nerve-wracking wondering if any more will get sick. I have a group of 4 1/2 month old Marans and some older hens ranging from 7 months to 2 years old. Since the original group of Marek's-infected chickens died, one of the Marans babies at 4 months started looking ill and died suddenly, and then this thread's RIR pullet who displayed all the Marek's symptoms. She has been the last as of yet. I don't know if my other chickens were vaccinated (feed store buy), and the person I got the group of infected chickens from says hers were vaccinated for Marek's. 4/5 of those chickens have died with Marek's symptoms though, and they were the first to get sick, so for whatever reason I doubt their immunity.

I figure if I can just get the 4 1/2 month old chickens through the rest of this year, they should be okay. But I'm worried about the older hens - can Marek's hit older hens? Only one of the original hens from the "infected group" is still around but she never displayed any symptoms of anything - could she still be exposing my flock to the disease? Or have they all been exposed already since they all lived together?
 

CRSelvey

Songster
7 Years
Mar 7, 2013
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Greencastle, IN
Thank you for the update. It helps you to know that any new chicks in the future would be okay with having a mareks vaccine. The disease will always be around your property, but you still can have chickens if they are vaccinated. Do you have any that are immune or showing no symptoms? So sorry for the loss of your chickens.


Hi Eggcessive,

I don't know if you ever got an answer to this question about the vaccination. I have also had a chicken die of these symptoms and had the necropsy come back Marek's. The vaccination, as it was explained to me, will prevent the tumors from developing so you won't know if your chickens have Marek's. I have kept my other chickens and have even gotten more after a lot of research and debate. We will not be vaccinating our chickens, even though its easier on the chickens, because it gives us a false sense of security. It would make me less careful about wearing my regular shoes to the coop and walking around fair grounds etc... I want to be aware at all times that I could be infecting other's birds if I am not super careful. Having Marek's as part of my flock also prevents me from trading or selling any of my chickens to others.

To keep new chickens, we had them completely isolated from the other group of chickens for the first 12 weeks to give their immune systems a chance to develop more before being exposed. Also, when I spoke to the Vet at Purdue who performed the necropsy (and strongly encouraged the vaccine), she said that there are some breeds that are more resistant to Marek's than others, but the why hasn't been identified yet. None of this is a full-proof plan, but there is always a chance that new chickens could get it from wild birds.

Good luck with your chickens.
 

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