The Rooster Mystery

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Simmonsfunnyfrm, Sep 19, 2014.

  1. Simmonsfunnyfrm

    Simmonsfunnyfrm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hello fellow chicken keepers: I have a problem I was hoping you all could help me figure out. Roosters have not fared well here the last year. Just the roosters. I have lost 5 in about a year. They act completely fine until it is too late, then one day I go out and they are weak, thin, and have diarrhea. They do not make it. I check for injuries and cannot find any. I'm just stumped because none of my pullets or hens have ever gotten sick like this. They all live together in the same space. What could be going on?
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Some answers to some questions may well help narrow the cause down. Might be easier if you quote this post, choose a different text color and type your answers near the questions. Just a suggestion, because sometimes it gets hard to extract the definite answers from among a whole paragraph of correlated info in response to some questions. Some of these questions may seem arbitrary but they're not.

    What breed/s and age/s are the hens?

    What breed/s and age/s were the roosters?

    Were the hens vaccinated?

    Were the roosters vaccinated?

    Was there a large amount of fighting between any individuals?

    Are the roosters related?

    What color was the diarrhea?

    What did you feed them?

    Did you worm them or use any medications any time prior to their deaths?

    Do you have known toxic plants around the place, or other sources of toxins/venoms like a lot of snakes, spiders, poisons, baits, etc?

    Was there any odd behavior you noted among them?

    (i.e. as two random examples on how individual behavior can impact a whole family line, one hen I have eats 'magic mushrooms' and feeds them to her babies too, and one other hen is daft about water sources and will drink dangerous liquids provided they look vaguely like water. Both hens are on a sort of 'watch list' for repercussions of their behavior, and their offspring are also on those lists. It's entirely possible for a group of siblings to eventually fall prey to the fallout of their parent's abnormal or unwise behavior).

    Answers to those questions should hopefully help. I notice you say you didn't notice anything was wrong till they were too thin and sick to be helped; this is a good reason to get your birds used to being handled, for their own good, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to check their bodyweight etc on the perches at night time. Low/no stress, low/no resistance, easy checkups and status monitoring. Too much we can't monitor without some degree of handling.

    Best wishes.
     
  3. Simmonsfunnyfrm

    Simmonsfunnyfrm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for your reply. Here are the answers to your questions.

    What breed/s and age/s are the hens? 6 months to 2.5 years

    What breed/s and age/s were the roosters? 6 months to 2 years

    Were the hens vaccinated? No

    Were the roosters vaccinated? No

    Was there a large amount of fighting between any individuals? Some minor squabbles over food where the older birds run the younger off but no feather picking or blood drawing.

    Are the roosters related? 2 were father and son but the other 3 were not related.

    What color was the diarrhea? Looked like regular color poop but runny, bubbly, with some tinges of yellow sometimes.

    What did you feed them? They are half free range, half All flock pellet fed (stuff you can feed to multiple types of poultry.)

    Did you worm them or use any medications any time prior to their deaths? No. Only thing I've ever used is DE.

    Do you have known toxic plants around the place, or other sources of toxins/venoms like a lot of snakes, spiders, poisons, baits, etc? Is Polk Salad poisonous? I think some may eat the berries. Nothing else.

    Was there any odd behavior you noted among them? Not til the very end.
     
  4. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Well, that answer throws out a whole lot of possibilities. Thanks for the clear answers though.

    What's 'Polk Salad' and are you 100% sure you've identified the plant correctly? There's multiple plants of any given appearance, generally, and some are nontoxic, others fatally toxic, and quite often they share a common name. Some plants are only toxic in some parts, or during some weather conditions, or during their reproductive or shooting cycles.

    Do your roosters eat earthworms? Runny partly or wholly yellow diarrhea is one symptom of blackhead and earthworms are a primary source of infection as they carry the infected oocysts. Among my flock no birds eat earthworms but newbies often do, for a while anyway. Something puts them off it real quick. I've had blackhead among my turkeys but never lost a chook to it; that said there are multiple strains, some far more virulent than others. Getting the 'black head' it's named for can completely fail to occur with some, but with other strains it does occur. The yellow diarrhea is more reliable.

    Generally any yellow diarrhea says the animal is suffering liver failure. A plant could do this, blackhead causes it, there's many potential causes. Feeding males layer mash or pellets is one of them. There's a chance your diet, despite being described as being for all sorts of birds, is too fatty for them, another cause of liver failure; generally it also causes cardiac issues too. Adult male and female chickens need separate diets to some degree as their needs are different, you can't meet both on the same diet almost as a general rule (you could throw that rule out the window if they were living on natural, raw protein sources though, rather than preprocessed foods).

    Some would jump all over the non vaccinated part, but I don't believe it's necessary, personally; I don't vaccinate mine and deaths to disease are a miniscule minority of adults, with no chick mortality rate; that's despite practicing the exact opposite of biosecurity and regularly bringing in new birds, sick birds, etc. They're mongrels descended from generations of such poultry keeping practices, breeds them very tough.

    It's possible that it's some kind of STD affecting only one gender, that's common enough among even wild animals, but rampant in domestics. One gender or the other always tends to bears the brunt of the infective pathogens. But that's just speculation at this point obviously. I know in paddocks of sheep etc you can always pick the homosexual rams because their testicles are swollen grossly, infected and infertile due to mating other rams. Seen a lot of STDs in cows as well, in which case it's the females you observe infected even though the bulls are the ones passing it around.

    Judging from the yellow poop though your males all suffered some kind of liver failure. A heck of a lot of things can cause that. Many are cumulative which makes missing the actual incident easy since they were fine in the immediate time period thereafter. Sorry I don't have more info than that.

    Best wishes.
     
  5. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Think it may indeed be your problem.

    Here's some Wikipedia info on it, for what it's worth (the sources they're citing here do sound legit but always worth looking into if you don't own the books or know the sources well). It does sound like it's a possibility for your mystery deaths though some say it doesn't affect birds... But with numerous species going under the same name, you know you're already toying with trouble, generally:

    The following species are accepted by one or more regional floras:[6][7][8][9][10][11]
    Formerly placed here

    The Ombú Phytolacca dioica grows as a tree on the pampas of South America and is one of the few providers of shade on the open grassland. It is a symbol of Uruguay, Argentina and gaucho culture. P. weberbaueri from Peru also grows to tree size. Both species have massively buttressed bases to their trunks, and very soft wood with a high water storage capacity which makes them resistant to grass fires and drought.[12]
    Uses

    Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed, pokeweed, poke) is used as a folk medicine and as food, although all parts of it must be considered toxic unless, as folk recipes claim, it is "properly prepared." The root is never eaten and cannot be made edible.[13] Poke salad ('poke salat') is considered part of traditional southern U.S. cuisine, where it is cooked three times in three changes of boiling water to remove some of the harmful components.[14] Toxic constituents which have been identified include the alkaloids phytolaccine and phytolaccotoxin, as well as a glycoprotein.[15]


    Some specifically American Poke/Polk Salad info (though who knows what type you have, people have imported plants hither thither and yon, lol)...


    Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
    Source: USDA Nutrient Database
    American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a large semi-succulent herbaceous perennial plant growing up to 10 feet (3 metres) in height. It is native to eastern North America, the Midwest, and the Gulf Coast, with more scattered populations in the far West. It is also known as Virginia poke,[1][2] American nightshade, cancer jalap, coakum, garget,[2] inkberry, pigeon berry,[1][2] pocan,[2] pokeroot,[1] pokeweed,[1] pokeberry,[1] redweed, scoke,[2] red ink plant and chui xu shang lu (in Chinese medicine).[1] Sometimes the plant is also referred to as poke sallet[3] (or polk salad).[4] Parts of this plant are highly toxic to livestock and humans, and it is considered a major pest by farmers. Nonetheless, some parts can be used as food, medicine, or poison if properly prepared.
    The plant has a large white taproot, green or red stems, and large, simple leaves. White flowers are followed by purple to almost black berries, which are a good food source for songbirds such as Gray Catbird, Northern Cardinal, Brown Thrasher, and Northern Mockingbird.
    Contents
    Morphology

    Plant Type: Perennial herbaceous plant which can reach a height of 10 feet (3 metres), but is usually 4 feet (1.2 metres) to 6 feet (2 metres). However, the plant must be a few years old before the root grows large enough to support this size. The stem is often red as the plant matures. There is an upright, erect central stem early in the season, which changes to a spreading, horizontal form later in the season with the weight of the berries. Plant dies back to roots each winter. Stem has a chambered pith.[citation needed]
    Leaves: The leaves are alternate with coarse texture with moderate porosity. Leaves can reach sixteen inches in length. Each leaf is entire. Leaves are medium green and smooth with what some characterize as an unpleasant odor.[citation needed]
    Flowers: The flowers have 5 regular parts with upright stamens and are up to 0.2 inches (5 mm) wide. They have white petal-like sepals without true petals, on white pedicles and peduncles in an upright or drooping raceme, which darken as the plant fruits. Blooms first appear in early summer and continue into early fall.[citation needed]
    Fruit: A shiny dark purple berry held in racemous clusters on pink pedicels with a pink peduncle. Pedicles without berries have a distinctive rounded five part calyx. Fruits are round with a flat indented top and bottom. Immature berries are green, turning white and then blackish purple.[citation needed]
    Root: Thick central taproot which grows deep and spreads horizontally. Rapid growth. Tan cortex, white pulp, moderate number of rootlets. Transversely cut root slices show concentric rings. No nitrogen fixation ability.[5][1]
    Habitat and range

    Broadly distributed in fields and waste places, and usually found in edge habitats. The seeds do not require stratification and are dispersed by berry-feeding birds. Adapted to coarse or fine soils with moderate moisture, high calcium tolerance but low salinity tolerance, pH tolerance from 4.7-8. Grows well in sun or shade and readily survives fire due to its ability to resprout from the roots. In recent years the plant appears to have increased in populated places. Found in most of the United States except the Mountain States, Alaska and Hawaii.[1][6]
    Known constituents

    Various sources discuss notable chemical constituents of the plant.[1][7]
    Triterpene saponins: Phytolaccoside A,B,C,D,E,F,G (esculentoside E), phytolaccagenin, jaligonic acid, esculentic acid, 3-oxo-30-carbomethoxy-23-norolean-12-en-28-oic acid, phytolaccagenic acid, oleanolic acid.[8]
    Triterpene alcohols: α-spinasterol, α-spinasteryl-β-D-glucoside, 6-palmityl-Δ7-stigmasterol-Δ-D-glucoside, 6-palmytityl-α-spinasteryl-6-D-glucoside.
    Others: phytolaccatoxin, canthomicrol, astragalin, protein PAP-R, Pokeweed mitogen, (PMW, a series of glycoproteins), caryophyllene, lectins, tannin, starch.

    Nutritional information per 100 grams dry weight of shoots:[5]

    Standardization: Phytolacca is not generally standardized since it is not marketed to public and various properties are being considered for standardization for different uses.
    Toxicity

    Pokeweed poisonings were common in eastern North America during the 19th century, especially from the use of tinctures as antirheumatic preparations and from ingestion of berries and roots that were mistaken for parsnip, Jerusalem artichoke, or horseradish.[9] Deaths are currently uncommon, although there are cases of emesis and catharsis, but at least one death of a child who consumed crushed seeds in a juice has occurred.[citation needed]
    Toxic components of the plant include saponins based on the triterepene genins phytolaccagenin, jaligonic acid, phytolaccagenic acid (phytolaccinic acid), esculentic acid, and pokeberrygenin.[8] These include phytolaccosides A, B, D, E, and G, and phytolaccasaponins B, E, and G. Phytolaccigenin causes hemagglutination.[10][11] Additional toxic constituents which have been identified include the alkaloids phytolaccine and phytolaccotoxin, as well as a glycoprotein.[12]
    The poisonous principles are found in highest concentrations in the rootstock, leaves, and stems while only small amounts are in the ripe fruits.[13] The plant generally gets more toxic with maturity with the exception of the berries which are more toxic while still green.[14]
    Symptoms of poisoning from common pokeweed include a burning sensation in the mouth, salivation, gastrointestinal cramps, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Depending upon the amount consumed more severe symptoms can occur. These include: anemia, altered heart rate and respiration, convulsions and death from respiratory failure. In most cases both people and animals recover within 1 to 2 days if only small quantities are eaten.[15]

    In 1962, a study conducted in the School of Pharmacy, Southwestern State College in Weatherford attempted to determine the toxicity of poke berries on mice. The study indicated that the acute oral lethal dose in mice was greater than the amount which could be administered, which was limited to the amount required to fill the stomachs of the mice. According to the study, "If human beings are equally as sensitive (or resistant) to Poke Berry poisoning as were the mice used, it would take about 45 pounds of fresh berries to kill an average adult male." The study concluded that the oral lethal dose of fresh poke berries on mice "appeared to be about 300 gm/kg body weight and for the dry berries about 100 gm/kg body weight." and that The "liquid extract of Poke berries was approximately 80 times as toxic when injected intraperitoneally as when given orally" [16]
    Uses

    Phytolacca americana is used as a folk medicine and as food, although all parts of it must be considered toxic unless, as folk recipes claim, it is "properly prepared". The root is never eaten and cannot be made edible.[17]
    Food uses

    The leaves of young plants are sometimes collected as a spring green potherb and eaten after repeated blanchings. Shoots are also blanched with several changes of water and eaten as a substitute for asparagus. They become cathartic as they advance to maturity.[18]
    Young leaves, if collected before acquiring a red color, are said by some to be edible if boiled for 5 minutes, rinsed, and reboiled. However, it may be difficult to identify exactly when leaves have no red color whatsoever; an incorrect picking may result in a poisoning. Berries are toxic when raw but cooked juice is reportedly potable, whereas the seeds are supposed to remain toxic after cooking. Pokeberry juice is added to other juices for jelly by those who believe it can relieve the pain of arthritis. In a traditional Cherokee recipe for fried poke stalks, young stalks are harvested while still tender, peeled to remove most of the toxin, washed, then cut into pieces and fried like okra with cornmeal.
    Young pokeweed leaves boiled three times to reduce the toxin, discarding the water after each boiling, results in "poke salit" "poke salad", or "poke sallet",[19][20] and is occasionally available commercially. Many authorities advise against eating pokeweed even after thrice boiling, as traces of the toxin may still remain. All agree pokeweed should never be eaten uncooked. The cultural significance of poke salad is referenced in the 1969 hit song "Polk Salad Annie", written and performed by Tony Joe White, and famously covered by Elvis Presley, as well as other bands such as the El Orbits of Houston, Texas. Poke sallet festivals are held annually in Gainesboro, Tennessee; Blanchard, Louisiana; Harlan, Kentucky and Arab, Alabama.
    The juice from the berries can be used to make jelly. The berries have also been used to make pies.[21][22]
    Medicinal uses

    Historically pokeweed has been used as a folk remedy by Native Americans in traditional Chinese medicine as a purgative, an emetic, a heart stimulant and to treat cancer, itching, and syphilis.[citation needed] It was also used for its anti-rheumatic properties and in 1820 the US Pharmacopoeia listed this plant as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory.[23][24][1] Grated pokeroot can be used to treat inflammations and rashes of the breast.[25][unreliable source?][medical citation needed] Preliminary in vitro studies on a protein isolated from pokeweed indicate activity against HIV and some types of cancer cells, but its effectiveness in human health has not yet been examined.[24]
    Other uses

    A patent has been filed to use poke toxins to control zebra mussels.[26]
    Some pokeweeds are also grown as ornamental plants, mainly for their attractive berries; a number of cultivars have been selected for larger fruit panicles.
    Pokeweeds are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Giant Leopard Moth.
    Pokeweed berries can be processed to yield a red ink or dye.[27][28]
     
  6. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Since there's numerous species under this name, and some are known to possess toxic properties, I'd probably consider this a very likely cause of the mystery deaths unless something else comes to mind which seems more likely. One of the results of liver poisoning is of course failure so this could potentially be the cause.

    A further bit of info on it from another source:

    http://www.cancer.org/treatment/tre...ivemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/pokeweed

    Best wishes.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2014
  7. Simmonsfunnyfrm

    Simmonsfunnyfrm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Pope County, Arkansas
    Thanks so much for all your detailed help! Yes, I know it is Polk Salad for sure, we have been just letting it grow because in the Spring the leaves can be cooked down and eaten by people with scrambled eggs and such. I didn't think about it being toxic to the chickens because I have seen songbirds eating the berries. My flock lives in an enclosed privacy fence. I will take out all the polk growing there and see if it helps any.
     
  8. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    It is quite strange only the males died. Hope your problem is found and doesn't have a recurrence.

    Best wishes.
     

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