Puzzling losses - Coccidiosis confirmed by necropsy

HudokFarm

Songster
8 Years
May 6, 2011
166
4
116
Minnesota
I have lost three chickens since Sunday. My husband and I are scratching our heads as to what is going on. All three seemed to have such different symptoms and progressions that we are wondering if we should be worried about whether this is a flock-wide illness or not. Here is the info on the three hens' progressions. Does anyone have any input here? Does anyone see similarities that I am missing?

Loss #1 - 16 month old EE, good layer. Had legs set wide apart and seemed almost bow-legged. Weekend of 13th/14th she was NQR and so we moved her out of the coop and into a secure crate we use for sick or injured hens. She seemed to do well through the week and we decided to move her back out to the coop on Saturday (the 20th). When she got out that day it was obvious that she was not OK. She could not stand on her own and when another hen came past too close she would just fall over. She ate a little grass, but I did not see her poo much and all of it was mostly watery. Saturday evening she was worse and seemed to be declining. We gave her some vitamins and hoped for the best. Sunday morning she passed. Her abdomen was discolored and distended, but hard (not mushy like the hen we had once who was eggbound). Her feet and legs appeared to had atrophied during the course of the week. The last day when she was not set directly on her feet, her legs would go in different directions (one front, the other back) as she fell. That concerned me, but it seemed to be more of a tendency if she was not balanced as they would not do that every time she fell. I think she did not have much control over her legs at all that last day especially. In retrospect, I wonder if her bow-leggedness was in part due to an ever-increasing abdomen? Until it got bad enough that she could not operate? I'm just not sure.

Loss #2 - 16 month old RSL, excellent layer but recent eggs have had funky (but still OK) shells. She was in a group of hens that I got after on Saturday (the 20th) for cornering and pecking another hen and I noticed that after the hubbub she was limping on her right leg. Checked her over and she had no obvious injuries that we could actually treat. She was better on Sunday and was putting weight on the leg. Monday night she was even better and so we gave her some vitamins and I watched her eat and poo. She was bright, alert, red in the comb and wattles, and VERY excited for treats. Yesterday (Tuesday the 23rd) I came home from work and she was dead. According to my father-in-law, who lets them out in the mornings, everyone was OK when he let them out. I inspected her and she seemed to have no evidence on her skin of bruising, discoloration or anything. She had some nasal discharge, but I could not tell if it was pre- or postmortem.

Loss #3 - 16 month old SS, OK layer of smallish eggs, no previous signs of trouble. She was hanging out next to the deceased RSL and I noticed that her comb was awful pale and she was not alert or bright-eyed. Her comb was pale and her crop seemed to have only liquid in it. Her skin looked kind of yellow-ish (more so than usual as SS have white-ish skin). I separated her and started pulling water fountains to sanitize them before doing the entire coop. While I was cleaning one of the fountains, she died.

I vigorously cleaned out the coop while keeping all the hens out. The coop should probably have been cleaned last week or the week prior as a matter of course, but we have just been so busy we have been pushing it off. I sprayed sanitizer on all surfaces and most of the walls where they would reach after the old bedding was gone. One hen was not interested in the new straw and so I separated her JUST IN CASE. When my husband checked on her at 0230 hrs this morning, she was OK and her comb was still red and she was perky (albeit sleepy and grumpy at the disturbance). I think she may just have a bit of sour crop, but I was taking no chances.

So is there anything I am missing here that you all can see? It is entirely possible that these are all fluke deaths, but three in as many days kind of has me freaked out.
 

realsis

Crazy for Silkies
7 Years
Jan 17, 2013
3,968
373
263
California
The first death makes me curious as to what her legs were doing. One in front one in back... Did she seemed paralized this way? Legs sticking out in strange positions and being paralyzed could be a sign of mareks. not sure though about the distended abdomen? If it was my flock I would send a body out to a state lab to be tested and for a piece of mind. This way you will know exactly what your dealing with and how to handle the rest of the flock. this way you can know weather or not your even dealing with a disease at all or it was just a fluke. If it turns out to be a disease at least then you will know which one and how to treat it or if it can be treated. I urge you if you loose another to get it tested so you can find out once and for all what it is. We can guess a thousand guesses of different things that might have happened but all they will be is guesses.I think the
Only way you can really find out what's happening it to get one tested after it passes. I really hope this helps. Maybe someone else might have seen a clue and can be of more help. I really hope that these were isolated instances and you don't loose any more birds! But if you do consider a lab test. Then you will know what your dealing with. Sorry I couldn't be of more help and I'm very very sorry for your losses. I wish you the best of luck and God bless.
 

Eggcessive

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Apr 3, 2011
58,234
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southern Ohio
I agree with Realsis about having a necropsy done if another chicken dies. I would also suspect poison or botulism, since these deaths have been so close. Neighbors can put out rat poison, and if chickens wander around they can get into it without you knowing the problem. Botulism can occur after eating decaying animal carcasses, maggots, pond mud, and decaying plant waste. This link will give you info on your states' vet office for necropsies: http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/AnimalHealth/statevets.aspx
 

HudokFarm

Songster
8 Years
May 6, 2011
166
4
116
Minnesota
I am definitely looking into where to get a necroscopy if we lose another hen. Thank you for the resource on where to find out who does these, Eggcessive. I never considered the botulism idea. I was initially worried about the paralysis as well with the first hen but when the second two were so different I wasn't sure.

Thanks for your thoughts and I will get to work on calling about necroscopies just in case. Hopefully I will not need the info!
 

HudokFarm

Songster
8 Years
May 6, 2011
166
4
116
Minnesota
Great resource! If anyone in Minnesota needs the information the U of M does necropsy at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. They do up to 10 birds for a flat fee of $85.25 for all birds (not per piece). If one is obviously going to die, you can bring it in and they will euthanize and follow immediately with the necropsy. Great info and they are very helpful if you call them. I do hope I don't need to call them again, though!
 

Eggcessive

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Apr 3, 2011
58,234
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southern Ohio
Thanks HudokFarm for posting about the necropsy fee. Many could not afford the fees, but in some states I have heard they are almost free. An online person I know recently paid a vet almost $300 to do testing on her rooster, and then he was going to charge her more for sending the body to the state lab. She said she was going to do it herself, and saved $200 more. Her rooster had rat poisoning from the neighbor. I hope your chicken gets better, but it would be valuable to know if you have Mareks in your flock.
 

HudokFarm

Songster
8 Years
May 6, 2011
166
4
116
Minnesota
Update: Everything seemed OK, but we lost the one I had separated on Tuesday just this morning. Another SS looks like her comb is pale and her wattles are VERY pale. She was acting just borderline odd yesterday. I am taking both of them in for necropsies. Maybe I'll have an answer later today? The UMN lab I talked to gets the results to you the day they do the procedure.
 

Eggcessive

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Apr 3, 2011
58,234
49,556
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southern Ohio
Gosh I'm sorry this is still happening. Maybe there is a really strong case of Mareks disease that is going through flock. I'm very interested in what the findings of the necropsy show. They may not get final results back right away if they have to do cultures, but can give you an idea.
 

HudokFarm

Songster
8 Years
May 6, 2011
166
4
116
Minnesota
Apparently the doctor doing the necropsies is know nationwide as an avian specialist. The intake person said that we were lucky to have him in on the day I brought our birds in. I have not heard anything yet, but will keep this post updated.

BTW, it was very tough to take a live bird in, but they were very nice about it there and agreed that she did not look well. They will also get to see the beginning and end stages of whatever we have going on.
 

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