Two hens dead in one week, now two are sick

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by colhannah, Aug 23, 2015.

  1. colhannah

    colhannah In the Brooder

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    Jun 22, 2010
    canton, georgia
    Hi, I have a strange issue going on with my hens. One died out of the blue last week. She was fine one day, then the next was lying around on her side, not eating or drinking, then died a few hours later. Now this morning I found a dead hen in the coop, one staggering, and another dragging one leg behind her. Hens are free-range, going into the coop at night to sleep and in for the morning to lay their eggs. No diet changes, I feed organic/non-GMO feed. We bought some pullets about two months ago, and they all seem healthy with the exception of one that has a leg infection. I've been treating her with amoxicillin. All of our chickens have always been healthy, only loosing a hen or two due to old age. I am terrified that this is some disease that will spread to the entire flock. None of the hens are sneezing, wheezing, or having cold-like symptoms, just the neurologic signs in the two hens as far as staggering, wings off kilter, and looking dizzy. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!
     
  2. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Enabler

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    I would check the feed for any off-odor or mold. Look around for any dead animals or fish that they could have eaten, or for rotting vegetation such as in a compost heap, where they may have eaten botulism toxin. Lead or chemical poisoning could also be the problem. Mareks disease is a virus can cause weakness in one or both wings, neck, lost of balance and use of wings to help balance. Were your chickens all vaccinated for Mareks? I would recommend that you refrigerate any other chicken that dies, and take or send it to your state vet for a necropsy to look for a cause of death. Mareks shouldn't strike all at once like this, so I would look pretty closely at the botulism or mold possibility. Here is some reading for you:
    http://www.thepoultrysite.com/diseaseinfo/19/botulism/
    http://www.thepoultrysite.com/diseaseinfo/90/mareks-disease/
    https://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource000791_Rep813.pdf
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/the-great-big-giant-mareks-disease-faq

    Here is a link for your state vet:
    http://www.usaha.org/Portals/6/StateAnimalHealthOfficials.pdf
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015
  3. colhannah

    colhannah In the Brooder

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    Jun 22, 2010
    canton, georgia
    Thank you for your response! Our hens have access to our horse pasture, so there is no telling what they could have gotten into. I see them scratching around in the manure, but that is something they have done for years with no problem. Our horses are all parasite-free, so I wouldn't expect an issue there. I have contacted the Georgia state lab, so I'll see what they recommend. I'm hoping it's not Mareck's.
     
  4. colhannah

    colhannah In the Brooder

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    Jun 22, 2010
    canton, georgia
    Ok, another hen is dead. She was literally flailing around seconds after walking around looking dazed and confused. She had a feather in her beak, and when my husband caught her to take it out, she walked away and then started flopping around, not able to get to her feet. She looked like she was having a seizure. Now she's gone. I noticed another hen walking with her hind end down, and when she went to turn her head, it would shake. I'm fully expecting her to be the next victim. This is so sad! I am taking my hen that died tonight to the State lab tomorrow to find out what in the world is going on. I will post tomorrow.
     
  5. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Enabler

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    Sorry for your loss. You may want to take some drastic steps such as changing your bag of feed, confining the chickens to the coop and run if possible, and when you call the state vet lab, ask if there have been any reports of Newcastles disease, Avian Influenza, or equine encephalitis (in poultry or birds) in your area. Fowl cholera is another one whose first signs can be dead birds, but not always. I hope you can get some quick results from your necropsy, and please update us with any findings. Here is a list of common diseases with symptoms for you to read if you wish:
    http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ps044
     
  6. purpletree23

    purpletree23 Songster

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    I tend to agree hat it is the feed. As a precaution I would remove them from the coop for a few days in case the trouble is with mold or something else in the bedding or coop it's self.

    Start with fresh water and bedding and floor litter.


    Non GMO and organic food sells slow and the humidity and heat has been bad in Georgia.....perfect for growth of poisonous molds.

    Get a new bag of food preferable not the kind you have been using.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2015
  7. colhannah

    colhannah In the Brooder

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    Jun 22, 2010
    canton, georgia
    I talked to a doctor at the Georgia Poultry Lab, and he said to bring a dead chicken and a live one that is exhibiting symptoms. I did that today, so we will see what the results are. I described the situation to him, and he said his first guess would be Merek's. Since we did recently add new birds to our flock, I am suspecting that as well. They all seem fine, so I'm guessing they are carriers and have infected my poor sweet girls. This is really hard to go through. It is so painful to see them deteriorate and suffer. I've looked at the feed, and it looks very good. And since it is my original hens that are all coming down with this and none of the new birds, I think it's probable that it's a disease and not something ingested. They all graze the same areas and eat the same food.
     
  8. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Enabler

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    Thank you for the update. From what I have read about Mareks, it takes about 3 weeks for symptoms to show up after a chicken have been exposed to Mareks. How long ago did you add new birds? When Mareks is in your environment, you can get new chicks or older hens who are vaccinated for Mareks, and they should be fine, but will be carriers of the disease. New chicks have to be kept from any dust and dander in your coop for at least 2 weeks before being exposed. The environment can remain infectious for years, one source stating 7 years.
     
  9. colhannah

    colhannah In the Brooder

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    Jun 22, 2010
    canton, georgia
    We got the new hens about a month ago. I have no idea if they were vaccinated or not. We got them from an older man who had passed away, and his wife didn't want to have to mess with the chicken care. We have learned our lesson and will never add new hens to our flock. We will be getting chicks that we know are vaccinated so we don't have to go through this terrible heartbreak again.
     
  10. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Enabler

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    That would fit the timeline for Mareks exposure to cause symptoms almost to a T. It's such a tragedy that you are having to go through this, but I admire you for trying to find out definitely what is wrong.
     

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