Sick Hens - Coughing, Runny Nose, Stretching Neck to breathe?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by puppetlady, Sep 2, 2009.

  1. puppetlady

    puppetlady New Egg

    Aug 25, 2009
    North Carolina Mountains
    This is probably going to be a fairly long post, so sorry. I'm going to provide a history of my birds as I had purchased them as young adults.

    I have a total of 34 birds currently in two seperate flocks. The history on my new flock:

    13 birds total in this flock and all are 2 yo Production Reds, 12 hens and 1 rooster. Just acquired them this past Sunday from a grower. Although I haven't inspected them in detail yet but there are no obvious signs of leg mites, shiny healthy looking feathers, clear wide open alert eyes, etc. They are robust looking birds with good weight on them. All of these birds came from one location, a man that is experienced in birds and sells eggs & meat birds as his profession. He didn't mention, and I never thought to ask (until I read the forums here) if he vaccinated his birds.

    21 birds total in my older flock. They all appear to be young adults and a few are laying eggs though I don't know which ones. I have one silkie hen (possitive she's laying because the eggs are vastly different/smaller), one silkie rooster, another rooster that is still a juvenile (don't know breed) and the remaining 18 hens are various breeds. I can make out a couple Plymouth rock, some cochins, and a few RIR, but others I'm not so sure about other than they are all similar in size and probably mixed breeds.

    All but two of this original flock came from one place.... a lazy, uneducated owner new to birds. I say lazy because 19 birds were stuffed in a tiny make shift "cage" with no boxes or shelter from wind/cold. The small patch of ground under them had no signs of plant life, it was muddy and at least an inch thick with wet bird poo, a mouse trap INSIDE the cage as well as a dead bird when I arrived to pick them up. The only signs of illness at this time was leg mites which they have since been cured of.

    I have had my original flock for about a month without any signs of illness before acquiring the new flock three days ago. The new flock has been completely seperate (other side of yard) from my old flock as a precautionary measure. I intended to keep them seperate for two weeks before I combined them.

    I have a large hen house and joined fenced in run for my original flock. I let them out of the hen house every morning about 6:30am and feed them laying crumbles. They go in the hen house on their own every night after sunset at which time I walk out to close the door and feed them a little corn scratch in addition to whatever I've gathered for them during the day such as bread crust, vegetable parts/scraps, egg shells, fruit scraps, left over cereal, pop tarts, etc. They drink plenty of water from various water sources through out the run because I usually have to re-fill them daily.

    Yesterday morning I found sick bird #1 (from the original flock). Our luck would have it that she's our favorite and the one that eagerly greets us to be petted every day. She was standing off away from the birds and not eating during the morning feed at 6:30am. I picked her up and noticed clear discharge coming from her nostrils and she was craning her neck out with her mouth open to breathe. She was wheazing. I immediately seperated her and checked both flocks with no signs of any more sick birds at 7am.

    Sick bird #1 did not show any desire for food during the second feeding at sunset last night but her condition remained the same. All other birds were in the hen house at which time I checked and found sick bird #2 & #3 both from my original flock. Their symptoms are not as severe, they occassional breathe with their mouths open, one has a tiny bit of clear discharge coming from it's nostrils, and they both have occassional slight wheazing.

    Still no illness in the new flock.

    This morning at 6:30am I checked on sick birds and immediately noticed that bird #1 now has one eye that is crusted over and closed. The other eye is still wide open and alert although none of the birds showed any interest in food again this morning. Bird #1 has about the same difficulty breathing as before. Birds #2 & #3 got a little worse but are not quite as bad as bird #1 and neither have any obvious eye issues.

    After checking the sick birds this morning I let the others out of their hen house and began checking them one by one. Found bird #4 & #5 with some wheazing, breathing with their mouth open, and have seperated them as well. These are also from my original flock.... still no illness in my new flock.

    Previously we have been sanitising our hands between feeding the two seperate flocks when we acquired the new one. Just as a precaution, however, I have young children and it could be possible that they may have handled the new birds or forgotten to sanitize their hands despite my constant drilling in their heads. [​IMG] If the new birds WERE vaccinated (waiting on answer to my email) then could it be possible that some sort of live vaccine has contaminated my original flock which is high unlikely to be vaccinated ? (she never answered any email questions in the past after I acquired the birds from her and from the condition of the birds when I acquired them, I'd say they probably were never vaccinated or wormed)

    Now, I had been debating the idea of worming any of my birds because I'm concerned about the effects on the eggs we eat and give to friends. I have noticed a small amount of runny poo in the hen house, but for the most part it is solid.

    There are no local vets that will treat birds. The nearest bird vet is about 2 hours away. I went to a local feed store this morning and they had no clue what I should do, but I purchased the following items: Antibiotic (Agrimycin powder), VetRx (which says it is effective relief and prevention of colds, roup, scaly legs, & eye worm), and Wazine. However, I have not treated anyone as of yet because I'm not sure if these items should/could be combined and I had some questions:

    1.) Any ideas or suggstions on what this could be? I read the boards here and thought possibly Mycoplasma of some sort?? What do you think?

    2.) Can all of these medicines be combined? Bird supplies are limited around here, and this is what was offered at one local feed store. I could check another if you think I should get something else?

    3.) How should I proceed with additional eggs? Will any or all of these medications affect eating them.... if so.... are they harmful to boil & feed back to the birds? Should I be concerned about keeping the eggs secure from other animals/spreading the desease, etc?

    Your help is most appreciated!
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2009
  2. puppetlady

    puppetlady New Egg

    Aug 25, 2009
    North Carolina Mountains
    Bumpity Bump?
  3. Chickie Mamma

    Chickie Mamma Farmer at Heart

    Apr 20, 2008
    Sherman, CT
    Oh, I hope someone could help you! I find it odd that "new" flock is not sick. They could be carriers though, and children are the worst at sanitizing hands, feet etc. I've never brought in new grown birds before, nor had any sick. I hope someone can identify the sickness!
  4. puppetlady

    puppetlady New Egg

    Aug 25, 2009
    North Carolina Mountains
    So, should I assume that this is a respiratory disease like what the two links/threads indicate? I'm just confused because each thread has different remedies. And my questions about ALL of the treatments I have being combined isn't answered.... one of the threads only mention the VetRX that I have. And I still don't know if any of this will affect my eggs??
  5. puppetlady

    puppetlady New Egg

    Aug 25, 2009
    North Carolina Mountains
    UPDATE: While waiting for additional info to my plight, I have 6 more sick birds that were seperated from my original flock this evening. Makes a total of 11 sick birds.

    New symptoms from one of the original 5 (4 of these are RIR and I can't tell them apart)

    A lot of poo is sticking to the back of this one, just below the vent. Vent is clear though.... could be doing this because she's not really roosting, just sitting and not bothering to stand when she needs to go?

    Another new symptom from one of the original 5 (a RIR) is that she expelled some yellow (mucus??) while laying upside down and getting treated.

    New flock still symptom free.

    How I treated entire flock: Started with the "healthy" birds (I say healthy because they are still symptom free). I am only treating with VetRx at this point because I haven't gotten any additional information from anyone and after getting 6 more sick birds I figured I needed to start doing SOMETHING while waiting for more help. I mixed some VetRx solution into very warm water inside a spray bottle. I also made a slightly stronger solution in a smaller cup.

    I treated each bird individually, doing the "sick" ones last. I picked up each bird, used a new q-tip for each bird, and applied the stronger solution to the nostrils and dabbed a bit under each eye. Then sprayed them each a few good times on their backs and put them in the hen house.

    At this time I also took the opporutnity to inspect each bird for lice, mites, etc. Since I had a previous issue with leg mites I went ahead and slathered up their legs with Petrolium Jelly for good measure, though all of their legs felt smooth & looked normal. No sign of lice or other visible bugs.

    I don't know if I should try worming them? Or using the antibiotic that I have? And if so.... do I treat all of them or just the ones that come up with symptoms? Should I purchase some Apple cider vinegar and put that in the water intead of the antibiotics? Should I try a yogurt mash? Help?
  6. kathyinmo

    kathyinmo Nothing In Moderation

    I sure wish I could help you. The only thing I know to do is to refer you to the threads I did. Best of luck, sorry I am no help.
  7. puppetlady

    puppetlady New Egg

    Aug 25, 2009
    North Carolina Mountains
    Thank You Kathyinmo

    No imporvement noticed yet from the VetRx, though it hasn't even been 24 hours yet and I don't know how long these things take. The best thing so far is that I haven't lost any birds. The sad part is that I had to add 4 more birds to my sick ward this morning... making a total of 15 out of 21 of my original flock that are sick.

    New seperate flock still free of symptoms.

    I know if I start the antibiotics that it has to run.... I think I remember reading 10 days straight? The problem is, I hate to use antibiotics without getting further input as to if this is a remedy. The problem with antibiotics is that if you use them freely then the bird could build an immunity towards them.

    Today I'm going to see if I can find that Apple Cider Vinegar I read in one of those threads and hope that it helps in combination with the VetRx.

    The sick ward isn't seeing much food being consumed, Not even their favorite mash of scrambled eggs & shells.... but I have seen a few birds drinking water..... not a lot though.

    On the up side, my #1 sick bird, the only one with the crusty eye issue had two clear eyes last night and this morning.
  8. threehorses

    threehorses Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 20, 2009
    If there's a short incubation time, it seems the new birds brought in something they carried with them - it could be as 'simple' as coryza - there's really no way to tell without testing, so there's not really a point of guessing as we just won't know. INstead i would suggest just treating them hard and heavy.

    Personally, I would recommend Tylan50 injections as they are very fast acting, only require 3 days of treatment, and will hit it hard and fast. Additionally diluted 4 parts boiled and cooled water to one part Tylan50 you can use it as a nasal flush. This really helps faciliate healing.

    Of course all eyes will need to be cleaned daily - buy lots of q-tips at the dollar store.

    I'm going to attach an article below here to help you with using the VetRx, etc. It's supportive treatments for any form of respiratory illness, meant to be used in conjunction with your antibiotic - in this case Oxytetracycline or Tylan50 if you choose to go that route (an article will also be included on how to use that med).

    IN the mean time, it's not just hand contact, but shoes that spread disease, animals that walk between, and being in the same air area. (That's one reason why I quarantine my birds apart and in an area where the breeze never goes between the two). Make sure all family know that the sick birds are now off limits until well.

    I don't think worming is going to be a thing to do now. And if you use antibiotics (which I feel you should) then do it for 14 days straight if it's the oxytetracycline and that's one of the recommended lengths of treatment, no less than 10 days.

    If you use Tylan50 injections, then you can use the organic ACV in the water to help cut mucus - and yogurt as a probiotic without having to buy a separate probiotic like acidophilis or Probios like you'd have to with your 'mycin and 'cycline drugs.

    By the way, what brand is your Agrimycin, and how many mg/mL are listed on the package, and how many ounces are in the package?

    OK for starts, here are the articles:


    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
    Tylan50's 1 ml has 50 mg with a dosage of 35mg per 1 kg caged bird weight, according to the Merck veterinary manual.

    1kg=2 lbs so 35 mg = 2 lbs bird dosage;

    There are 50mg per 1ml (1 cc) of Tylan50. And 50 mg is 143% of 35mg, so 1 ml treats a 2.86 pound bird. 1/2 cc treats a 1.43 pound bird. etc.

    So basically, 1 cc per every 3 pounds of the bird's weight according to Merck if you're using the Tylan50 (this dosage doesn't apply to Tylan100, etc).

    Hearsay dosage is 1/2cc per adult bird. I prefer to follow Merck and not risk antibiotic resistance.

    Three days of IM (in the muscle, breast muscle) shots. No less, no more.

    IM shots are given in the breast muscle. Draw the injection up and cap it. Find a spot on the bird's breast. Clean it with a bit of alcohol on a paper towel or tissue. Push the syringe into the breast muscle, but not terribly deep. PULL the syringe plunger and check the syringe - if you don't see blood, you may then push the plunger to give the shot. If you do see blood, change locations of the shot. You must never give this injection into a blood supply.

    Syringes used: 3 cc syringes with 25 gauge needle (20 is fine, too) at approximately 1" long.
  9. puppetlady

    puppetlady New Egg

    Aug 25, 2009
    North Carolina Mountains
    Thank you so much Nathalie!

    It took me two days but I finally found someone that carried Tylan, surprisingly it wasn't one of the Vets I called. [​IMG]

    It also took a while to find the correct kind of Apple cyder Vinegar, but I'm lucky to have an organice health food grocery store in one of the towns nearby.

    I'm going to start the injections this evening.

    I lost my first bird last night. [​IMG] Oddly enough, it wasn't even one that had shown any symptoms other than it's sudden death. However, now my entire original flock is sick with this illness and still no sick birds in my new flock. I'm still going to treat them all though, just to make sure.

    I'll post updates in a day or two. Thank you again, everyone, for your thoughts and ideas on my situation.

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