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sick chickens-any advise?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by ktsmom, Sep 1, 2009.

  1. ktsmom

    ktsmom In the Brooder

    Jun 5, 2008
    Hello. When taking care of the chickens yesterday, i noticed one chicken sort of sitting off on her own, normally a skittish bird, she was not yesterday, and sat with eyes closed. Today, upon checking on the birds, the quiet chicken yesterday was acting normal again. However she and two others are making noises that sound like coughing and sneezing. There is no discharge, droppings are normal, food and water consumption in the flock is normal, and the birds are acting totally normal, they're just making odd noises. (similar to what a child would sound like if he/she had a cold and sort of had a barky cough) Short of taking them to the vet, any suggestions?

  2. threehorses

    threehorses Songster

    Apr 20, 2009
    Quote:First, could you please answer the questions from this sticky post ( https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=3569) into this thread of yours here? That will help us answer you more accurately.

    Second, please be sure to isolate these two birds from the rest of the flock in case they're contagious.

    Sounds like your birds have a respiratory condition and I'd like to get more info to see if we can pinpoint maybe what type.

    In the mean time, I'm attaching an article to help for tomorrow. It's all the things you can do to help your birds with respiratory symptoms to heal more quickly. Sometimes doing these things help the bird recover on its own. If the bird needs antibiotics (if they're even applicable) then it'll compliment antibiotic therapy and help speed healing.

    IN the mean time, I look forward to your reply with the questions of the sticky post. Thank you.

    When treating a respiratory illness in my chickens, no matter what the cause (fungal, environmental, bacteria, viral) I like to attack the problem from multiple angles at once: Medicinal, nutritional, environmental, and through supportive products.

    Medicinal: This should be handled on an individual basis for each situation. The one bit of advice I would give is that if you DO treat for bacterial illness with antibiotics, be sure to use the correct antibiotic, the strongest you can get for that problem, for the full dosage and full duration. Never let them "sip", give for a short period, or give partial dosages. And leave Baytril as a last resort.

    To help tackle a respiratory illness, I keep in mind that the body needs fuel to do its job. Not only is the bird still having to nourish itself to survive, but there's the extra stress of providing materials to fight the intruder - the pathogen causing the illness. There are certain nutrients that boost the immune system and increase healing for respiratory illnesses and I like to take full advantage of them. Anything that I can do to boost the chicken's immune system, I will do.

    Vitamin A (and its precursor beta-carotene) is one of the weapons in my arsenal against respiratory illness. Vitamin A is a most important vitamin for ocular, mucus membrane, and respiratory health. It is so important to the chicken that a lack of sufficient vitamin A in the diet can actually CAUSE respiratory illness. So it's one of the first nutrients I make sure to supplement to an ill bird.

    If the bird doesn't have caseous nodules (yellow-whitish pimples) in the inside of its eyelids, mouth, throat, etc, you can simply treat with a more broad spectrum oil type vitamin liquid. Because vitamin A is an oil vitamin, I feel that using oil or liquid/oil sources is more effective than dried sources. So I prefer a vitamin like PolyViSol baby vitamins (Enfamil brand) used in the individual bird's beak daily. Don't buy the iron-fortified, but the non-iron-fortified. You can find it in the vitamin section of many stores, including Walmart. For a chick, it's 1 drop in the beak for 7 days and then taper off. For a young or medium bird, 2 drops. For a larger bird, 3 drops.

    If I'm treating a flock, I prefer to use fortified wheat germ oil, or cod liver oil, in a quickly eaten damp mash that I prepare for the birds daily. For the cod liver oil, depending on which kind you use you can use a very small amount in some crumbles that you will put on top of their feed or use it in a quickly eaten damp mash. For wheat germ oil, I mix a capful into a cup of feed and stir well. I think stir this into a half gallon of feed and give that three times a week on top of their other feed.

    This takes care of A vitamins quite nicely.

    The benefit of the polyvisol is that it also contains other vitamins helpful to the bird.


    In all cases of illness or stress, I provide probiotics to my birds but particularly for respiratory illnesses. Probiotics are non-medicinal sources of living bacteria used to replenish the beneficial bacteria present in the avian digestive system. Good bacteria live in and 'colonize' the digestive tract, helping the bird to digest their foods, and additionally competing with bad bacteria/fungi for the digestive tract. Having a strong supply of beneficial bacteria not only keeps a flock more thrifty and vigorous, but will increase their resistance to digestive disease.

    If you're not using a medicine whose active ingredients end in -cycline or -mycin (read the label), then you can use plain unflavored yogurt. Most yogurts in the US contain a source of living bacteria, Lactobacilli. (Make sure and read the label for "contains live cultures".) Lactobacillus acidophilus will colonize the gut of the chicken. Use 1 teaspoon per 6 chicks to 1 tablespoon per large adult fowl as a guiding dosage. It doesn't have to be exact, but you don't want to give something as great as a cup to birds. Although birds are normally less able to digest as many milk products as humans and mammals, yogurt contains less lactose and so is less upsetting to their system within reasonable use. The live bacteria as well as its D vitamin fortification and protein make it an inexpensive and worthy probiotic.

    If you ARE using a -mycin of -cycline drug, then substitute with acidophilis capsules/tablets (the contents thereof), or with a prepared live probiotic for livestock such as Probios brand dispersible powder. The powders are often easier to sneak into treats to give to birds.

    No probiotics should be given in the water, despite labeling. They're best given in a small amount of quickly eaten damp feed. Yogurt can be mixed with water, and then that mixture mixed with a few crumbled pellets of the bird's normal diet and that fed first thing in the morning. removing the feed 20 minutes before giving the healthful damp mash ensures that they're more interested in it. You can also hide other healthful ingredients in the same mash.

    The reason this is so important for respiratory birds, even if not medicated, is that the ocular and nasal sinuses drain into the digestive tract through the opening in the roof of the bird's beak. The drainage can upset the bacterial flora of the gut and cause it to be reduced which leaves the bird more vulnerable to diarrhea and digestive secondary illnesses like yeast/fungus, and pathogenic bacteria.

    As ill birds are often reluctant to eat, sometimes I like to use boiled/mashed eggs as part of a daily damp mash to tempt them to at least eat the nutritional supplements I'm trying to give them daily. The extra protein helps birds who are healing to have a little more fuel.

    VetRx is an herbal based oil that is non-medicinal but very helpful to birds being treated for respiratory illness. The purpose of VetRx is to facilitate air flow through the sinuses of the bird, reduce mucus, and possibly reduce inflammation. If VetRx for poultry cannot be found, any other of the "species" of vetrx (rabbit, cagedbird, etc) can be used the same. If that cannot be found, Marshal Pet Peter Rabbit Rx is the same and can be found at many big-chain pet stores.

    VetRx is best used to swab the upper respiratory area. Mix a few drops of very hot water and a few drops of VetRx in a cup. Stir well to cool the water while emulsifying the oil into the water. Use q-tips to apply to the bird: a new q-tip end for each individual spot, an absolutely new q-tip per each bird. The q-tip can be quite damp for all applications. Swab the nostrils (nares) well, press a q-tip into the cleft opening in the roof of the beak of the bird. Pressing gently there can sometimes cause the VetRx to bubble into the eye, which is acceptable. It's not necessary but a benefit. Use either some very dilute VetRx one drop in each eye or (my preference) simply swab near each tear duct. The box recommends using in the water so that when the birds drink, they treat their own beaks as the oil floats on top. This is an option; I rarely follow it as sometimes I use the water to give other things. You can, however, use it wherever the bird wipes their eyes on their feathers, or where they lay their head when they sleep.

    A bird that can't breathe will not eat; A bird that will not eat will not heal. Bacteria generally hate oxygen, so we want air flowing all through the sinuses.

    SUPPORTIVE PRODUCTS/OACV: If you're not medicating in the water, and if your birds have a lot of mucus in their throats (gurgling, coughing, etc) the you can use organic apple cider vinegar in their water during illness to help reduce mucus and help support digestive health. The dosage is always 1 teaspoon of OACV to one gallon of water. The reason for using the organic is that it's unfiltered and still contains some of the prebiotics and lactobacilli that will act in concert with your yogurt to promote digestive tract health. The pH of this solution will also correct the pH of the digestive tract (which, remember, is being bombarded by nasal secretions) so that it's more friendly for good bacteria, and UNfriendly for opportunistic fungus and bacteria. A correct pH facilitates good nutrient absorbtion and we do want our ill birds to get everything they can from their food. The reason for using organic is not philosophical, but because of its mode of manufacture; there's still some good left in it.

    All birds, because of their specialized respiratory system, are highly dependent on superior air quality and ventilation. Birds who have reduced breathing ability in respiratory illness are particularly dependent on good air. They should be kept as all birds are: in well ventilated but not drafty conditions with few fumes or odors in the air, in a non-dusty bedding. This is particularly true if you cannot rule out an environmental cause for illness (ammonia, mildew spores in the air, etc).

    When you have multiple birds, the sick bird/flock should always be cared for after all the other chores are done. You want to reduce all changes of infecting other birds, or even challenging possibly exposed birds who aren't showing symptoms (yet). Isolate sick birds unless you intend to treat the flock. Then it really does help to isolate the sick birds so that they don't have to compete for feed. Keep something like overalls or a big man's shirt in the 'sick area' and put it on before handling the birds, taking it off before leaving the coop. Keep anti-bacterial gel in that area to wipe your hands as you leave so that you don't contaminate the doorknobs of your house. Of course, wash thoroughly when all chores are done. Be sure to disinfect all the feeders and waterers more often as the droplets of their respiratory exudates will be on feeders and waterers. If you have family or friends over, try to keep only one person handlng the sick flock and ask everyone never to go from the sick flock to the well.

    I hope that these suggestions will help you when it comes time to treat your flock for respiratory illness. All suggestions have been used by me personally on everything from slight cases to extreme cases. They work well for me, and I hope that they will help you to bring your flock back to full health.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my article and consider my suggestions.

    Nathalie Ross
    (Please do not reproduce without permission of the author. The author is not a veterinarian and always recommends a good qualified avian vet attend your ill birds first. No information is intended to supercede that of a qualified veterinarian.)
    August 1, 2009
  3. ktsmom

    ktsmom In the Brooder

    Jun 5, 2008
    Sorry, I forgot to answer those questions...I did read that, but just didn't answer them...again, sorry.

    ) What type of bird , age and weight.
    a leghorn, a barred rocks, and what is supposed to be a white rocks, but believed to be a meat bird (bald bottom, huge bird) all about 16 months old

    2) What is the behavior, exactly.
    behavior is perfectly normal today (yesterday the leghorn sort of sat around, but today, was acting normal) other birds all normal. Making coughing & sneezing noises.

    3) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma.
    no bleeding, injuries, or other signs of trauma

    4) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation.
    nothing that I know of other than a big weather change...lots of rain, and now it is unseasonably cool (in the 50's at night, mid 70's in the day)

    5) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all.
    Eating layer crumbles mostly, with cracked corn and scratch to suppliment, as well as chopped garden veggies. Fresh water available at all times. They come out to free range in the afternoons until dusk, eating grass, bugs, and anything else they can find on the ground.

    6) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc.
    Poop appears to be normal
    7) What has been the treatment you have administered so far?
    No treatment so far, but have separated the birds

    8 ) What is your intent as far as treatment? For example, do you want to treat completely yourself, or do you need help in stabilizing the bird til you can get to a vet?
    would prefer to treat myself, but if birds appear too ill, willing to take to a vet
    9) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help.
    no pics available, as the birds appear perfectly normal
    10) Describe the housing/bedding in use
    housing-birds free range in afternoon/evening hours, fenced yard. While nobody is here to keep an eye on them, they have large runs with dirt flooring. Henhouse has hay on the floor and laying areas. All pens, runs and house recently cleared out and changed. Food grade diatomaceous earth used regularly in bedding and in runs/pens.
  4. ktsmom

    ktsmom In the Brooder

    Jun 5, 2008
    thanks for the advice/info. Last night, I used vet rx on the birds, and today, added organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar to their drinking water. After work, when I was able to get vitamins and such, I gave each of the "coughing" chickens 3 drops (i put it on a small piece of bread, and while giving them a little treat, I tossed the "vitamin bread" in front of each of them and they ate it gladly). I also got some plain unflavored yogurt (with active cultures) and they liked it, but didn't care for it to be stuck to their beaks when they were done...but they wiped it off. In addition, I cooked some eggs and chopped them up and gave them some of that, figuring the extra protien would give them an extra boost...or at least they would be eating and I would see them eating. They were acting normal, again today, just coughing. I was able to see each of them pooping, and their poo looks normal, just a little greenish. There was alot less abnormal noise from the first chicken to have the symptoms, but she had improved before I did anything. I think maybe it's some kind of respiratory virus that'll need to run it's course, however that is just a guess on my part. I'll still keep up with giving them vitamins, the vet rx and the ACV and a little yogurt, as well as providing them with a little extra healthy goodies. I think I'm going to chop some carrots in the morning!! Hopefully, the other girls will be at least a little better tomorrow!
    Again, thanks for all the advise and information.

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