Trouble walking and sneezing in small home flock

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Czango, Jan 7, 2015.

  1. Czango

    Czango Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 30, 2014
    Hey there everyone, I have a bit of a mystery I hope you'll help me with.

    My parents have a small flock of chickens, kept on a grassy enclosure which is moved once every several months. The coop has proper ventilation, and they're fed layer pellets or poultry/fowl crumble. Most of the birds are standard hatchery chickens, vaccinated for Marek's at the hatchery. Four of them had been recently purchased at a show, and these birds were quarantined for three weeks so as to not introduce any foreign diseases to the flock. These newer birds are about six months old.

    Three weeks ago, one of these chickens began sneezing. It didn't appear to be much, and other than sneezing and slightly congested nostrils, the bird acted normally. It has retained these symptoms, and continues to be lively and eat regularly.

    Two weeks ago, another of the new chickens began to show trouble standing up. It did a sort of ball-change type move to stand up, and frequently spread out its wings for balance or support. Upon standing up, the bird acted fine. I removed this bird from the pen temporarily to see if it would recover, but it didn't seem to help all that much. Eventually, it became droopier and less active. While the family was away for a week, the pet-sitter reported the bird had died. (This person actually works in a veterinary office, and brought the bird in! The vet didn't see anything they could do, but I'll be inquiring for further details shortly).

    Just today, I was alerted to the fact that a mature (about two, maybe three years old?) bird in the flock (rooster) seemed to be sneezing and light, generally acting strangely. I checked it out, and also noticed it would occasionally stumble, bracing itself with its wings like the other bird. He also did the standard 'pull-head-in' type behavior that can get anyone a bit nervous. This chicken was vaccinated for Marek's at the hatchery.

    Upon further investigation, a young cockerel also appears to have trouble standing, but once up acts normally and energetic. He shows no sneezing or respiratory issues.
    Two old hens are sneezing occasionally, two others appear fine.
    The pullet who first developed the sneezing still appears congested, but active.
    Another pullet shows no signs.

    Altogether, this has befuddled me. I'm not sure if I'm looking at two separate outbreaks, an outbreak and a nutritional deficiency, or something completely different. Because all the older birds have definitely been vaccinated for Marek's, I find it unlikely that that's the culprit. On reading about coccidiosis in-depth, I feel like this may be a possibility. While I'm familiar with poultry and their tendencies, I've never had an outbreak in nine years of raising birds, so I'm attempting to handle this as calmly and efficiently as possible. This flock is managed by my parents, not me, so I may be fuzzy on some of the specifics, otherwise I'd happily answer any questions. If anyone has a solution or suggestion, I'd love to hear!

    For now, I'm going to try to bring up the protein in their diet, as a protein deficiency is one of my theories. Perhaps the sneezing is separate, and the bird who died had something else entirely? I know it's a long-shot, but possible. Thanks for any help you can offer, and here's a picture of the cockerel while trying to stand.

    [​IMG]

    Thanks for your help, and thanks for reading through my long-winded poultry disease adventures. :D
     
  2. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive True BYC Addict

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    I think you may be seeing infectious bronchitis going through your flock. Sneezing and runny nose are the usual symptoms. Chickens remain carriers for up to a year afterward. There can be a temporary decrease in laying, and wrinkled shells may be seen. Many people have reported getting Mareks disease from hatchery chicks that were supposed to be vaccinated. This may be due to the vaccine not working, or the chick was missed. A chicken could be sacrificed, and sent to the state vet to be euthanized and have a necropsy to look for Mareks or other diseases. Here are links to read about infectous bronchitis and other respiratory disease symptoms, plus a link for mareks and how to contact your state vet:
    http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ps044
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/the-great-big-giant-mareks-disease-faq
    http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahln/downloads/all_nahln_lab_list.pdf
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2015
  3. Czango

    Czango Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 30, 2014
    Thanks for the response. After a day of researching/analyzing, I actually had it narrowed down to infectious bronchitis and Marek's, so I'm glad there's agreement there. I put electrolytes in their water and I'm keeping them warm for the night, but I suppose only time will tell. Regardless, I don't think the survivors will be put in contact with other birds if they remain alive. Thanks for the links, I'll be sure to keep these in mind as the situation progresses.
     
  4. Czango

    Czango Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 30, 2014
    The infection appears to have run its course at this point, there was one more casualty, but everyone else has recovered. Although this is good news, I have a suspicion that this was an instance of MG. For now I've been using different clothes/boots when accessing my other flock, and they've shown no signs of disease yet, but I don't know how long I can keep this up. My belief is that came in from the birds I purchased at a show or possibly wild birds that sneak in to eat the chicken food.

    It's likely that I'll have a test done to see if my MG hypothesis is correct.

    Regardless of whether or not my larger flock gets it, I will not be selling eggs or birds to people outside the flock, which shouldn't be an issue. I'm going to cut off contact with the infected flock anyway, as I don't want to take any risks. Because the birds are just for kitchen egg production for my parents, I don't believe I'll cull the birds. There are a few in there I was interested in breeding, and while this now seems unlikely, I have been doing some interesting research.

    This is an interesting JSTOR article from 1985, and I'm going to see if this research has continued, or if they're still practicing this process. If so, this could solve part of my problem.

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/1590481?seq=2#page_scan_tab_contents

    I'm not sure if everyone can access this or not, a subscription may be necessary. I can post screenshots if people are interested, but the gist of it is a vaccination to control vertical transmission of MG, and eventually eliminate it from small home flocks, over the course of several generations. This would allow the preservation of a certain lineage if you wanted to cull infected birds but keep the genetics. Interesting stuff!
     
  5. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive True BYC Addict

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    Thanks for the link and the update. Milder strains of MG are hard to distinguish from infectious bronchitis. It's possible to have both at the same time, too, with one being a secondary infection. Testing or a necropsy are the best bets to diagnosing it. The good thing about IB, is that your chickens will only be carriers for up to a year, so that new birds added later will not get it or be carriers. MG causes them to be carriers for life.
     

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