Suspected Chronic Fowl Cholera... What to do?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by BackyardDelawares, Jan 12, 2010.

  1. BackyardDelawares

    BackyardDelawares New Egg

    Jan 12, 2010
    Hello. I've been using these forums as a resource for the 9 months I've had chickens, but this is my first time posting. The flock is mainly made up of the Delaware breed, though I have one Sicilian Buttercup, which is the one currently ill. I first noticed his wattles were swollen about 3 days ago, but not really paying attention didn't think illness, but simply thought this was some unknown ability. He seemed fine otherwise, sitting out on the fence lording over his domain.

    Yesterday when I first came out to check on them he was on his perch on the fence, but about 15 minutes later he was on the ground. He's the shyest of the lot, so I approached carefully (which usually results in him flying away), but he stayed still. I took him into the coop thinking maybe he had a fall and was a little dazed, and checked on him later. He was still standing in the same spot I put him, and had his shoulders hunched and his feet in an abnormal stance intended to aid in standing. So I brought him inside thinking it might be frostbite since we've had abnormally cold temperatures here (-4 F at the worst), and he likes to spend a lot of time outside despite that.

    In my research through these forums I looked up frostbite as an explanation for his swollen wattles. His wattles were cool to the touch, though, so they didn't seem infected, but the area behind the wattles was slightly swollen and was a little to warm. About an hour later that section had swollen more and his wattles were also warm/hot to the touch. I did put some neosporin on his wattles and comb in case of frostbite.

    I continued my research and came down to Fowl Cholera as a likely suspect. As his wattles got hotter, they also developed a darker, purplish band towards the bottom of them, which I had originally mistaken for frostbite. He also has seemed off balance, his shoulders have been hunched, feathers ruffled, and he's been twisting his neck. After 12 hours inside, his wattles are still swollen and hot, with the dark band on them. After giving him water with a spoon, he also seems to wheeze a bit or seems congested.

    Last night. Notice the swollen area behind the wattles. The white is only on this one side.

    This morning. The dark bands on his wattles seem worse.

    However, his face doesn't seem to exhibit cyanosis, just the bottom of his wattles. His nostrils don't seem to have any discharge, he doesn't seem to cough, he was hungry this morning, and thanks to his defecating on the floor this morning, his feces appear normal as well, not like diarrhea, and not greenish in hue. So I'm not entirely sure if it is Fowl Cholera and was hoping others with experience might be able to help me determine if this is the case, or what it might be. It seems it is likely to be Fowl Cholera, though, so I also have some questions regarding the illness and the flock.

    I think the culprit behind this disease is a stray chicken that secretly joined our flock. My wife and I first thought we just couldn't count when we kept coming up with an extra one, but apparently that was the likely source for this. However, the hen blends in well enough with the rest that I can't figure out which one is the intruder, which complicates things if she is a carrier. These chickens are more pets that provide eggs than anything, so culling is a drastic option for us. Sorry for the length of this post. I'm trying to provide any information that might be helpful, but this is rather long.


    1. The rest of the flock show no signs of having this illness. Is it just a matter of time for them (since the spores are presumably in their environment and will spread once the temperatures go up), or is there a chance they are OK?

    2. Assuming my rooster survives, he would then be a carrier and I could not put him back with the flock without exposing them to the Cholera, correct?

    3. If he can't be put back with them, the best option would likely be to cull him, correct?

    4. If the intruder chicken is the source of this infection, will it only be a matter of time before other birds get this? Would removing her help (assuming I could figure out which one it is), or is the area already too contaminated? (she's probably been in there a month or longer).

    5. Is there a preventative antibiotic I can put in their water? If I were to use that, would that simply inhibit symptoms, or would it prevent them from catching it at all? How long would I have to administer the antibiotics before it would be safe to stop?

    6. If any more of the flock turns up ill, do I need to assume the entire flock is a carrier? In that case is culling indicated for the whole flock?

    7. In the meantime, are the eggs safe to eat?

    8. If the flock is culled, is the meat safe to eat? If not, should they be burned?

    Thanks so much for the help. I didn't sleep well last night worrying about all this.
  2. purpletree23

    purpletree23 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 15, 2009
    The eggs are safe to eat.

    Fowl cholera is very rare so I'm pretty sure he does not have that. Chickens are like children. If it's too cold or too hot for them outside you have to keep them inside. From the looks of him he has frostbite and is suffering from the cold.

    Will he drink on his own? Why the teaspoon?

    Five him water and keep him warm and quiet. He needs protein and fat. Scrambled eggs, shelled sunflower seed, cooked pasta and leafy green vegetables. I would give this same diet to the rest of your flock until the cold passes. I'm sure they are suffering and just don't have signs of it yet.

    If the chickens are NOT laying take away the laying pellets if that is what you are giving them. Put them on a high protein grower and give some scratch twice a day, this helps keep them warm.

    How is their coop? Draft free? Nice deep litter, heat lamp or other source of heat?

    Don't give antibiotics until you know what you are dealing with.

    If he gets a little TLC I think he will be fine.

    If his eyes get swollen and he starts to sneeze than that's another story. We'll cross that road when we come to it.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2010
  3. Zahboo

    Zahboo Simply Stated

    Feb 3, 2009
    Hope Mills, NC
    It looks like frostbite to me, but I'm not that experienced...
  4. BackyardDelawares

    BackyardDelawares New Egg

    Jan 12, 2010
    I've been using a teaspoon as he pretty much ignored the water in the dish. His wattles are so large they block his vision of what is below him, and get in the way for getting food or water. Even with the teaspoon he's been having trouble. I've been feeding him cooked egg yolk in bits off of the spoon since he doesn't see it once it hits the ground.

    The chickens continue to lay, though production is about halved. The coop is not great, though I had added insulation where I could to block large drafts. However, the coop door has frozen to the ground, so I am unable to close it to prevent that inflow of air. Generally it isn't this cold here, and the heat lamps in the coop keep it above freezing overnight, and decent during the day. I'll pick up some non-layer feed this afternoon, and I've been giving them scratch to help with the cold.

    It would be great if this didn't end up being a disease. He's seems little more perked up today and has been crowing a fair amount. His wattles are still so large, though. In some of the posts I read people suggested using a sterile razor blade to drain them. While I'd rather not do anything like that, is this something that would help him, or will the swelling go down on its own quickly enough? Thanks for the help.
  5. hinkjc

    hinkjc Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    Jan 11, 2007
    Looks like a nasty case of frostbite to me too. The only thing you can do is keep him warm, put him on vitamins and electrolytes and hope for the best. Well, you could cut them off, but not something I have experience with. I've heard folks removing frostbitten combs/wattles to stop infection spreading to the blood.
  6. purpletree23

    purpletree23 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 15, 2009
    The coop door that is frozen to the it big or small. Can you block the wind somehow? How about pouring boiling water on the bottom of the door to free it?
  7. BackyardDelawares

    BackyardDelawares New Egg

    Jan 12, 2010
    The coop door is a small one; the roosters have to duck to go through it. The boiling water might do the trick, but it is supposed to be in the 40s today, so it should free up then. It was mostly this week long cold snap that created all the trouble.

    In the meantime, the rooster seems to be recovering. He's eating and drinking more, and his wattles seem to have shrunken a small amount. I am hopeful for a full recovery. Thanks!
  8. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

    Jan 4, 2009
    Tempe, Arizona
    Quote:I'm not sure where you are coming up with the notion that fowl cholera is rare? The Chicken Health Handbook lists it as common. It is caused by pasteurella multocida, an extremely common bacteria in cats, common, but less so, in dogs. This is the same bacteria that causes a serious infection in rabbits (often fatal), and can infect humans as well. It is very persistent and hard to eradicate.

    My rabbit has been on baytril for nearly three months, and will be on it awhile longer--I did try taking him off after a couple of months when all symptoms had been gone for awhile--within a week he was displaying symptoms again.

    That said, I do think the rooster's wattles look to be frost bitten, not a result of cholera. You would see significantly more respiratory symptoms with cholera that is stated.
  9. QuailHollow

    QuailHollow Chillin' With My Peeps

    He looks like a bird with frostbite/hypothermia.
  10. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    When they drink and eat wet foods like oatmeal in frigid weather, that increases the chances that a rooster's wattles will be frostbitten. Looks like that's what happened to me.

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