Spreading respiratory/sinus/eye infection in flock - testing versus culling

JessicaJR

In the Brooder
Dec 21, 2016
8
3
29
Round Rock, TX
I'm a backyard breeder with about 3-4 years experience with chickens. I have over 25 years of experience with other livestock and pets, so I'm not a newbie. But I am at a loss...

Background:

I had about 25 adult birds in 4 coops/pens. No significant issues in the past year or so. I do bring in new birds occasionally but usually only from friend/fellow breeder flocks and with a 30 day quarantine. This spring I brought home a trio of adult birds that had been bought from me as chicks and a fellow breeder and friend had decided to downsize her breeds and I offered to buy them back. I think that may be the source but not 100% sure. She is not the person to sell sick birds and her reputation is important to her, so no blame there. But those are the only birds I've brought home this season. 30 day quarantine and then introduced them to my current flock.

Maybe 60 days after I brought them home, find the rooster dead. No obvious sign of injury but birds die sometimes so I was sad but just kinda shrugged. There are no chicken vets within 75-90 minutes drive of my house so that isn't an option. About 3 weeks later, found another bird dead. Different pen but from the same trio (I split up the trio into 2 different pens). Upset now, but not really sure what to do...none of the other birds appear sick. No more deaths for at least a month. Then again...dead bird and another with weepy eyes and seems off balance. Of course while I'm out of town for 2 weeks and a chicken friend is watching my flock. Sick chicken is given vitamins, probiotics, and kept inside in my friends bathtub (she's a good friend) but died anyways.

2 weeks later, a hen develops really swollen and weepy eyes. Next day, another hen with same swelling. Looks like a red mini donut around her eyeball on both sides. Hard to the touch and not able to express anything out. Not an infection *in* the eye socket (I've seen those videos of people popping out yellow/white puss balls), but red and swollen around in the sinuses. Started Tylan inj. and they are acting ok, but swelling is still about the same after 5 or 6 days (I've lost track). They seem to be eating and drinking ok, but noticeably very thin.

Yesterday, noticed a rooster wheezing and sounding like he's got crud in his throat. No swelling around the eyes, but started him on antibiotics too. (I'm running out of isolation space). This morning, noticed that 2 of the 3 hens that were in with the wheezy rooster have swollen eyes now too, although not as swollen as the first 2 hens yet. So that's 5 sick birds currently from 2 separate pens. So about 75% of my birds have been directly exposed to a sick bird. And the others are all with 50 feet of those pens, even if they aren't attached, so likely exposed.

I have bad carpal tunnel in both hands and just had surgery on the first one, so drawing up the thick antibiotic and giving injections is literally torture for me. Giving that many injections is truly impossible for me and hubby is not able/willing to help-it's not his thing and that's fine most of the time.

I have also had almost complete drop off of egg laying from all my birds. It's been HOT here 100+ degrees and also they have started molting (feathers everywhere) so I contributed it to that. But now I'm wondering if sickness could be playing a part too and the others are sick but just not showing obvious signs. I picked up a couple of the more tame "healthy" hens and they definitely felt thin/light to me.

So I have some questions.

1) Should I treat my whole flock now since this appears to be spreading? Also water soluble antibiotics would be easier for me than many, many injections. While I hate to use antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, I'm leaning towards ordering powdered antibiotics that I can dose all the waterers with and try to treat any birds that are sick but not showing overt signs of it yet since they've all been exposed. Does that sound reasonable?

2) The "research" I've been doing and looking at all the various pictures makes me afraid that it may be something like MG or another organism where the birds will always be a carrier and may get sick in the future or may never lay well again. I breed and sell chicks and hatching eggs locally and I will not be able to do that if this is not something that will go away. I'm terrified that I will have to cull my whole flock and start over if I want to continue to be a small scale breeder, which I really enjoy. But I would NEVER knowingly sell sick birds. So even if I treat and they get better, I still won't really know what it was and if I'm potentially selling birds and/or chicks and hatching eggs from birds that are still carriers of a pathogen.
This is all statement...here's the questions. Could something cause these types of symptoms and not be a "cull your flock or never sell birds again" type of infection? Or do the symptoms point to a "nasty one" (for lack of a better term) even without testing?

3) How common is a "nasty" infection such as mycoplasma, coryza, etc where they may be carriers for life? I know just because there are photos all over the internet doesn't make it an everyday occurrence...

4) In the BYC forums, I found mention of Zoologix in California that will run PCR for 8 poultry respiratory pathogens (very sensitive testing). It would identify if any of these are present in the sample sent in (see description below). I am confidant I can do the tracheal swab by myself, but the test is $100 plus shipping and would only identify organisms, not provide recommendations for treatment (ie not a culture and sensitivity). It would definitively tell me if the pathogen is one of these 8 possibilities. But if it's not, then I'm left with no information (other than that it's NOT one of these). Since I am disabled at the moment without income, this would be a huge expense for me. But I'm willing to do it if it seems reasonable. Does this testing seem like overkill? Or does this seem like a valuable investment to you more experienced chicken keepers?

Poultry respiratory PCR panel - Poultry respiratory panel detects and differentiates eight clinically significant respiratory pathogens:
Avian influenza
Aspergillus fumigatus
Bordetella avium
Infectious bronchitis
Infectious laryngotracheitis
Infectious coryza
Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale
Mycoplasma gallisepticum


5) While my birds are not pets per se, they are loved and I would hate to lose them. But if the possibility is high that they have one of the "nasty" infections where they will be carriers for life and will infect any other birds they come into contact with, I wonder if the money for testing would be better spent toward purchasing quality replacement stock to start over. I'm really at a loss and I don't know what the best way is to proceed. But it's breaking my heart to keep losing birds and to see them get sick one by one. Any support/advice/etc. appreciated.
 

JessicaJR

In the Brooder
Dec 21, 2016
8
3
29
Round Rock, TX
I don't currently have any photos and it's almost 1am here, but I will take some tomorrow morning to share. Again, appreciate any input.
 

jwyles

Free Ranging
May 8, 2017
2,734
17,235
736
Louisiana
I'm a backyard breeder with about 3-4 years experience with chickens. I have over 25 years of experience with other livestock and pets, so I'm not a newbie. But I am at a loss...

Background:

I had about 25 adult birds in 4 coops/pens. No significant issues in the past year or so. I do bring in new birds occasionally but usually only from friend/fellow breeder flocks and with a 30 day quarantine. This spring I brought home a trio of adult birds that had been bought from me as chicks and a fellow breeder and friend had decided to downsize her breeds and I offered to buy them back. I think that may be the source but not 100% sure. She is not the person to sell sick birds and her reputation is important to her, so no blame there. But those are the only birds I've brought home this season. 30 day quarantine and then introduced them to my current flock.

Maybe 60 days after I brought them home, find the rooster dead. No obvious sign of injury but birds die sometimes so I was sad but just kinda shrugged. There are no chicken vets within 75-90 minutes drive of my house so that isn't an option. About 3 weeks later, found another bird dead. Different pen but from the same trio (I split up the trio into 2 different pens). Upset now, but not really sure what to do...none of the other birds appear sick. No more deaths for at least a month. Then again...dead bird and another with weepy eyes and seems off balance. Of course while I'm out of town for 2 weeks and a chicken friend is watching my flock. Sick chicken is given vitamins, probiotics, and kept inside in my friends bathtub (she's a good friend) but died anyways.

2 weeks later, a hen develops really swollen and weepy eyes. Next day, another hen with same swelling. Looks like a red mini donut around her eyeball on both sides. Hard to the touch and not able to express anything out. Not an infection *in* the eye socket (I've seen those videos of people popping out yellow/white puss balls), but red and swollen around in the sinuses. Started Tylan inj. and they are acting ok, but swelling is still about the same after 5 or 6 days (I've lost track). They seem to be eating and drinking ok, but noticeably very thin.

Yesterday, noticed a rooster wheezing and sounding like he's got crud in his throat. No swelling around the eyes, but started him on antibiotics too. (I'm running out of isolation space). This morning, noticed that 2 of the 3 hens that were in with the wheezy rooster have swollen eyes now too, although not as swollen as the first 2 hens yet. So that's 5 sick birds currently from 2 separate pens. So about 75% of my birds have been directly exposed to a sick bird. And the others are all with 50 feet of those pens, even if they aren't attached, so likely exposed.

I have bad carpal tunnel in both hands and just had surgery on the first one, so drawing up the thick antibiotic and giving injections is literally torture for me. Giving that many injections is truly impossible for me and hubby is not able/willing to help-it's not his thing and that's fine most of the time.

I have also had almost complete drop off of egg laying from all my birds. It's been HOT here 100+ degrees and also they have started molting (feathers everywhere) so I contributed it to that. But now I'm wondering if sickness could be playing a part too and the others are sick but just not showing obvious signs. I picked up a couple of the more tame "healthy" hens and they definitely felt thin/light to me.

So I have some questions.

1) Should I treat my whole flock now since this appears to be spreading? Also water soluble antibiotics would be easier for me than many, many injections. While I hate to use antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, I'm leaning towards ordering powdered antibiotics that I can dose all the waterers with and try to treat any birds that are sick but not showing overt signs of it yet since they've all been exposed. Does that sound reasonable?

2) The "research" I've been doing and looking at all the various pictures makes me afraid that it may be something like MG or another organism where the birds will always be a carrier and may get sick in the future or may never lay well again. I breed and sell chicks and hatching eggs locally and I will not be able to do that if this is not something that will go away. I'm terrified that I will have to cull my whole flock and start over if I want to continue to be a small scale breeder, which I really enjoy. But I would NEVER knowingly sell sick birds. So even if I treat and they get better, I still won't really know what it was and if I'm potentially selling birds and/or chicks and hatching eggs from birds that are still carriers of a pathogen.
This is all statement...here's the questions. Could something cause these types of symptoms and not be a "cull your flock or never sell birds again" type of infection? Or do the symptoms point to a "nasty one" (for lack of a better term) even without testing?

3) How common is a "nasty" infection such as mycoplasma, coryza, etc where they may be carriers for life? I know just because there are photos all over the internet doesn't make it an everyday occurrence...

4) In the BYC forums, I found mention of Zoologix in California that will run PCR for 8 poultry respiratory pathogens (very sensitive testing). It would identify if any of these are present in the sample sent in (see description below). I am confidant I can do the tracheal swab by myself, but the test is $100 plus shipping and would only identify organisms, not provide recommendations for treatment (ie not a culture and sensitivity). It would definitively tell me if the pathogen is one of these 8 possibilities. But if it's not, then I'm left with no information (other than that it's NOT one of these). Since I am disabled at the moment without income, this would be a huge expense for me. But I'm willing to do it if it seems reasonable. Does this testing seem like overkill? Or does this seem like a valuable investment to you more experienced chicken keepers?

Poultry respiratory PCR panel - Poultry respiratory panel detects and differentiates eight clinically significant respiratory pathogens:
Avian influenza
Aspergillus fumigatus
Bordetella avium

Infectious bronchitis
Infectious laryngotracheitis
Infectious coryza
Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale
Mycoplasma gallisepticum


5) While my birds are not pets per se, they are loved and I would hate to lose them. But if the possibility is high that they have one of the "nasty" infections where they will be carriers for life and will infect any other birds they come into contact with, I wonder if the money for testing would be better spent toward purchasing quality replacement stock to start over. I'm really at a loss and I don't know what the best way is to proceed. But it's breaking my heart to keep losing birds and to see them get sick one by one. Any support/advice/etc. appreciated.
Hey, Jessica! I completely sympathize with where you are right now. I've been there with sick birds and for me I personally found out that using diatomaceous earth with my birds was causing them to exhibit these symptoms; however, I didn't lose any birds. But I did stop using it very early on. i was at the point of sending for testing, but figured that out.

Anyway, I might would test. Now, that's a personal opinion, but i would want to know or rule out what I was dealing with. Also, I know you're being careful not to blame anyone and I would be too. I'm pretty sure wuld birds can carry these infections. It's odd it started with two of the new birds but it doesn't mean it was present in that person's flock before she decided to downsize. I hope you figure it out and I especially hope for good news for you. Sorry you're dealing with this.
 

Wyorp Rock

Blessed
Premium Feather Member
Sep 20, 2015
33,497
45,907
1,262
Southern N.C. Mountains
Heres a picture both whole and dissected View attachment 1875399 View attachment 1875401
another with weepy eyes and seems off balance.
2 weeks later, a hen develops really swollen and weepy eyes. Next day, another hen with same swelling. Looks like a red mini donut around her eyeball on both sides. Hard to the touch and not able to express anything out. Not an infection *in* the eye socket (I've seen those videos of people popping out yellow/white puss balls), but red and swollen around in the sinuses. Started Tylan inj. and they are acting ok, but swelling is still about the same after 5 or 6 days
I have bad carpal tunnel in both hands and just had surgery on the first one, so drawing up the thick antibiotic and giving injections is literally torture for me.
Started Tylan inj
Giving that many injections is truly impossible for me and hubby is not able/willing to help-it's not his thing and that's fine most of the time.
Should I treat my whole flock now since this appears to be spreading? Also water soluble antibiotics would be easier for me than many, many injections. While I hate to use antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, I'm leaning towards ordering powdered antibiotics
The "research" I've been doing and looking at all the various pictures makes me afraid that it may be something like MG or another organism where the birds will always be a carrier and may get sick in the future or may never lay well again.
How common is a "nasty" infection such as mycoplasma, coryza, etc where they may be carriers for life? I know just because there are photos all over the internet doesn't make it an everyday occurrence...
I found mention of Zoologix in California that will run PCR for 8 poultry respiratory pathogens (very sensitive testing). It would identify if any of these are present in the sample sent in (see description below). I am confidant I can do the tracheal swab by myself, but the test is $100 plus shipping and would only identify organisms, not provide recommendations for treatment
I'm sorry that you are dealing with this.
When you can, photos may be helpful.

It would be a very good idea to get some testing to find out what you are dealing with so you can an informed decision of what you need to do. Zoologix is an option for testing, but contact your state lab to see if they are cheaper - sometimes they are. Call and speak with them directly, they may be able to waive some fees, offer suggestions, etc. you never know. https://tvmdl.tamu.edu/

If you are selling/breeding, etc. having a respiratory disease will destroy your reputation for sure. Close the flock for now until you get some answers.

Injectable Tylan50 can be given orally if that will make it easier on you. I can't imagine sticking a bird 3 times a day for injections, that must be painful for them as well. Dosage is 0.25 ml per pound of weight given orally 3 times a day for 5 days.
IF you can find it in stock (online) Tylosin powder can be used in the water. Seems like Tylan is very hard to find at the moment. Both bird supply places I looked at are out of stock, but I'll give you the links anyway so you can keep watch to see if when it's available.
https://www.jedds.com/shop/tylan-soluble-100-g/
https://allbirdproducts.com/products/tylosin-powder-generic

Disease like Mycoplasma, Infectious Coryza and ILT make birds and those exposed carriers for life. Symptoms can be treated (managed) with antibiotics, but it's not uncommon for birds to become symptomatic again during times of stress (molting, other health issues, flock disruptions, etc.) and likely any new birds you bring in from outside sources will become sick (new birds will still be considered carriers even if they don't show symptoms). Mycoplasma is fairly common - it is one that is also passed through the egg to the embryo of hatching eggs, so very possible for chicks to hatch as carriers of the disease too.
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ps044
 

Eggcessive

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
Apr 3, 2011
56,598
47,431
1,202
southern Ohio
My guess is that you do probably have birds with mycoplasma gallispeticum (MG,) but since some diseases can be complictated by a secondary infection, often infectious bronchitis or others, I would just close the flock to birds going in or out of your flock. MG can also be passed through hatching eggs. MG can have very mild symptoms, or swollen eyelids, bubbles in the eyes, nasal congestion, and other symptoms.

Sometimes a less expensive way to get a diagnosis is with a necropsy on a dead bird. My state will do a necropsy for $23 on a dead bird, and will charge a few dollars for each test. Texas may be mire expensive, but if you call and say that it is a backyard bird, they may have something affordable.

You obviously have a disease, and respiratory diseases tend to make your whole flock carriers for life. ILT, coryza, and MG all do that. Infectious bronchitis, which does not cause swollen eyes, makes them carriers for up to a year.

@Texas Kiki may know the cost of a basic necropsy in TX, so I would call the lab and speak to someone about bringing in or shipping a refrigerated body overnight. If you lose another, double wrap it in clean garbage bags, keep it cool, but don’t freeze, and get it to the poultry lab M-F. Sometimes they will do several for the same cost if you put down sick birds. Sorry that you are dealing with this, but honestly most backyard flocks have the potential for this with migrating birds around. Here is a list of state poultry vets, and there are 3 listed for TX:
https://www.metzerfarms.com/PoultryLabs.cfm
 

JessicaJR

In the Brooder
Dec 21, 2016
8
3
29
Round Rock, TX
Update: I sent out tracheal swabs to Zoologix and got results back that it was positive for Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale (ORT). But I can't seem to find a lot of practical information for backyard chicken flocks on this disease. I've read dozens of scholarly articles tonight and I'm still not sure how to proceed. It appears that ORT can cause primary infection but is typically seen to augment (worsen) infection when another organism is present, be it E. Coli, Newcastle, or any other viral or bacterial infection. I'm not sure whether this is a primary or secondary infection though as the zoologix test only tested for specific respiratory organisms and did not include a culture and sensitivity. And the primary visible symptom is the sinus swelling which I do not see as a common manifestation of ORT. Could there be another infection happening as well that wasn't in the 8 tested? I plan to call the state diagnostic lab tomorrow and try to speak with one of the vets for more advice.

I've been giving enrofloxacin (Baytril 10%) in the water for 4 days. The one rooster that was wheezing is no longer wheezing. The two hens that have been sick the longest have shown improvement in the amount of intraorbital sinus swelling and they appear to have a bit more energy. The other 2 hens who got sick more recently - one appears improved. The other still has a huge intraorbital sinus swelling (she has only been swollen on one side but it is large). So the antibiotics do appear to be helping.

But I am unable to find definite information regarding whether this is curable or not. There is evidence that it is transmitted both horizontally (through dust/detritus) and vertically (through eggs). But all the research papers I am reading are testing for what the bacteria's characteristics and not necessarily focused on how to treat it.

Because this bacteria can have unpredictable antibiotic resistance depending on which strain it is, it's not clear-cut as to which antibiotic is best (at least from what I'm reading). So a culture and sensitivity could still be appropriate and helpful in treatment. But again, I don't know if this is a disease that can be cured through treatment or if the birds will always be carriers.

At this point, assuming this *is* fully curable, I am leaning toward treatment of the flock, and then (if they will start laying again) hatching out new chicks in isolation and starting over with new chicks from my bloodlines. I have a brand new coop that is 90% build that has never had chickens in it. I would disinfect it as a precaution and then could raise the new flock in this new environment.

But if it's not a curable disease, and if I will be unable to hatch clean chicks to start over...then I will most likely cull and eventually start over. However, finding information on how to disinfect for this disease and how long it will remain in the environment is proving tricky too. It's a relatively new disease, but after almost 30 years, we should know more about this disease than I am able to find.

Any advice or information is helpful. Again, I plan to call the State Diagnostic Lab tomorrow to ask for help and advice as well from their experts.
 

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