Weakness & Starvation from Internal Fungus and Mites


14 Years
May 25, 2008
Basic Facts

Riley and Little--large fowl Ameraucana hens. 1 1/2 yrs old. Smallish normally, and EXTREMELY underweight recently.
Sunny—Riley and Little’s father. 2 1/2 years. Normal size. Good weight.

Sunny and his mate (mother of Riley & Little) are from 1 breeder and are possibly full brother & sister.

These 3 chickens and 4 other large chickens were kept in 8’ x 10’ coop when problems started. Fenced run available to them for about 6 months--formerly used by dog. Pine shavings on pressboard wood coop floor, but bedding was probably 40-60% poop because not cleaned in a while. Bedding was kept dry. Run was dry dirt usually, with bits of coal, flaking lead paint, & glass sometimes.

Weather very hot. Coop had cross ventilation but still toasty at times. Chickens could use run but dominant chickens hogged the cool burrowing areas and Little & Riley often stayed inside the coop.

Had regular access to 18% lay crumbles in feeders most of the time. Scratch grains & 30 yr old wheat thrown in run most days too (about 35% of diet). Occasional handfuls of lawn grass and occasional fresh fruit.

Dewormed with pea-sized amount of moxidectin and praziquantel gel (typically for horses) in beak around March.

No injuries or signs of trauma.

Crop has never seemed stopped up.

There are no vets around that treat chickens.

8 months ago:
I discovered a dead pigeon that apparently had been laying in the snow a couple days in the run, and removed it and all its feathers. It looked as though its body had been picked at either by chickens or a cat.
About that time, Sunny developed white, fuzzy-looking warts on his comb and still has them all the time to this day. A time or two I thought I saw a similar wart on another chicken’s comb, but couldn’t clearly spot one. I guessed it was pigeon pox—but that’s supposed to last only a month or two. Also, unlike the normal symptoms for that, he doesn’t get a lot of dark scabs.

6 1/2 weeks ago:
I noticed Riley looking poor. She was molting & felt very skinny when I picked her up. She had diarrhea stuck on her feathers.
Her eyes, nose and breathing were clear.
Riley, Little & Sunny spent a lot of time in the coop—much of it on perches rather than on floor near feeders.
She was not very interested in eating much of anything--lay crumbles, treats such as bread, etc. Except bugs—she’d light up when she saw bugs. So I started additionally taking her outside every night or 2 to catch earwigs, moths & beetles.

4 weeks ago:
I went in the coop in the evening & saw Little hunched on the floor beneath the nests. When I picked her up I discovered that though she was well-feathered, she was extremely emaciated and weak. She had diarrhea and so did another hen, but the other hen was pretty normal weight. I tried to help revive Little with sugar water, etc., but she passed less than half an hour later.

3 1/2 weeks ago:
I bathed all the remaining chickens and transferred them to a brand new huge coop with fresh shavings. It has a concrete floor and doesn’t overheat as much. I started adding Vi-Tal (poultry vitamin, mineral & electrolyte powder), Aeromycin and apple cider vinegar to their water for 1 week. None of the chickens other than Riley built up diarrhea on their feathers again, although at least one chicken has periodically been doing bright green poops. The chickens are all an at-least-alright weight.
I separated Riley in a dog kennel with pine shavings I pick out regularly. Her poops were very bright green and she had lots of almost clear urates.
She seemed to perk up. She started growing feathers back in. I started sometimes having Riley’s bug supplements be grasshoppers (which also gave her time to pick up grit if she wanted) instead of nighttime bugs.

3 weeks ago:
I tried putting Riley back with the others. She quickly showed it was too stressful and she was too weak. I separated her again. Along with lay crumbles & insects, I gave her such things as quick rolled oats, canola oil, high-acid tomatoes, various greens (such as zucchini, grass, green pepper, etc), peaches, applesauce, etc. Sprinkled Vi-Tal on her food sometimes. Let her eat straight fructose every day or 2—pretty much however much she would. I cut out ACV in water, continued with Vi-Tal, and switched off Aeromycing and gave a sulphur-based med for 5 days. She seemed to perk up.

1 1/2 weeks ago:
Riley got weaker again and extremely thin. Not very interested in eating. Not as much energy for going after insects. I started giving her 1/4 baby aspirin every 2-4 days. I think it helps her feel better so she feels more like eating sometimes.

1 week ago:
Sprinkled some diamataceous earth on her lay crumbles but she seemed to not want to eat it so I dewormed her with pea-sized amount of moxidectin and praziquantel gel in her beak.
I started giving her plain yogurt with active cultures. Occasional grass along with treats. Realized she now hates having Vi-Tal sprinkled on food, though seems to be alright with it in water. Cut Vi-Tal out entirely. Riley’s poops got darker green.

Started giving 3 drops of Poly-Visol without Iron twice a day. Added generous 2 pinchfuls of [Himalayan?? – some high-mineral salt] to her 1 mug of drinking water along with ACV. I put a container of grit in her kennel where she could access it. I started mixing in 22% Manna Pro Gamebird/Showbird Conditioner mini-pellets half and half with her lay crumbles. I put a very small handful of scratch on her floor.

Her poops got much more firm looking and darker in center, with watery urates.
Riley ate poorly Sat night but well Sun morning. I left for trip that evening.

Today (Tuesday):
I just got back. The person taking care of Riley told me she ate well Sun night & Mon morning, but was very weak last night. The caretaker was able to give her some sweetened yam syrup & Poly-Visol.

Riley was astonishingly weak when I got home 2 hours ago—lying partly on her side. Lots of runny diarrhea on her.

I mixed up fructose and Vi-Tal in water. Gradually gave her 1.5 cc.
Gave her .3 cc of canola oil.
Have her wrapped in a towel on by lap, and have been giving her a few drops of fructose water every 10 mins. She is gradually regaining enough energy to resist dropper feeding.
Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! Help!

Brainstorms on what could be the overall cause of Riley's problem???
I don't know if it might be tied to Sunny's.
I think maybe Riley's recent turn for the worse could have to do with the stress of deworming and/or overdose of minerals??

Thank you SO much if you can help!!! I don’t want to lose this wonderful little hen! She is such a sweetheart and pet she will fly up and perch on my arm if I invite her. Little was also a sweetie...
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Oh my, poor chickens!
I am not an expert but thought your request needed a bump. When I read that you had a 40% poop load on the floor that was press-board (especially OSB) I flinched, as it is a haven for mold if not kept scrupulously clean. Mold = very sick or dead chickens. Also lead and the other pollutants in the old run were certainly not healthful. Giving scratch for 35% of their diet is way too much for a balanced diet. I have no idea about 30 year old wheat. All I can say is I hope someone who nows more will chime in and help.
Wow, what a history on those babies!

I'm thinking that somewhere a while ago this might have been a mycotoxin problem - mildew, old wheat, the conditions they met before you had them, possibly some other issues like lead - but those types of things are hard to tell without a vet's work being done.

There might possibly be some external symptoms of an internal fungal imbalance, and of course mycotoxicosis (fungal poisoning), particularly long term, results in nutrients malabsorbtion and particularly in oil vitamin deficiencies, live issues.

The worming back then was a good idea. I'm a little careful with moxidectin as, unlike the other 'mectins, you have to dose it exactly. There's not as much room for error with it. This I learned working in the horse industry. With usual ivermectin, you can give a larger amount; with moxidectin there were deaths associated. So just be careful with it.

The pyrantal was a great idea. Of course, the only way to really keep tapes away is reducing intermediate hosts: free range bugs. Or at least not feeding more of them than they find on their own. I used to, but I've just stopped doing it and opted for mealyworms instead. They're clean, farmed, and don't tend towards parasite issues.

Of course, dark and tighter (scant) green droppings are indicative of a lack of food going in. You're seeing more bile because there is less feed there. The droppings got more large and were just dark in the center, yes? I find the "worm" that comprises the coiled feces solids gets fatter, if that makes sense, when there's more food. Fatter, shorter, not-dark-green worm. She was getting there but then back slid.

Also, I would not give a bird who is thin or having any digestive problems diatomaceous earth. It's irritating to inflammed digestive tracts, so any time you see a thin bird or one with odd droppings, assume that its intestines are inflammed until you know otherwise. I learned this lesson the hard way, so I just try to tell others so that they'll know to avoid it.

I also think perhaps the himalayan salts/minerals might have been a bit much. Salts in animals are an emetic (makes vomiting happen) but in birds it's a strong flush when it's just salts. Minerals are intricately tied in with other nutrient absorbtion. So when I do minerals to a sick bird, I try to give a broad range - say with a vitamin/mineral supplement in the water or an avian vitamin/mineral supplement on the feed. Or a parrot starter formula. That is, unless I'm purposefully doing a flush in which case you can use epsom salts - but they're quite severe. They will actually dehydrate a bird, salts will, if not in balance because they flush the system of fluids.

So I think I would go back to the start with her - like this is the first of this, and try to save her first.

I would continue the polyvisol. If you can get it (it's not available everywhere) I would highly recommend a powdered parrot (baby) starter like Exact or the Zupreem powders from the pet store. They have probiotics, minerals, vitamins, etc in a balanced but very very nutrient dense package.

If you do not have that, I would use eggs, the vitamins, a little yogurt or another probiotic (a more dense one like acidophilus capsule contents would be nice, or Probios), and make a paste the thickness of applesauce (without drippiness) and use that to nourish her.

I would also make sure that she's very well hydrated. I would use a good electrolyte supplement in her water and make sure that for at least four days that's the base of all her water, and the water you use for any mashes.

For now, I would add powdered oatmeal (just powdering the dry grains before cooking) in that pastey food to try and do two things: a) solidify the droppings a bit while adding a little carbohydrate energy, and b) make her gut bacteria happy by giving them PREbiotics.

I wouldn't use any oil at all unless she has an impacted crop, which it doesn't sound like she has enough contents to have one. I'd possibly add honey to the mix to get her to be interested in eating/drinking. I'd add it both to her water and her feed/paste.

I'd see about stabilizing her first with a balanced nutrient ration that isn't too much of protein, or too much energy without a backup for when that energy drops for example.

Of course, there's a possibility that there was some gizzard damage from the previous glass, etc... and I really suspect fungus, etc. Which is why polyvisol would be highly recommended.
THANK YOU SO MUCH for replies and caring! Especially thank you for replying so quickly to my email, threehorses.
We had to put Riley down a little while ago. She was suffering and it got clearer that she wasn’t going to make it.
I am so sad. I love her. Been out in the barn crying. I’m glad she isn’t suffering any more, though.
I’ll post more tomorrow. Thank you again.
Oh well darnit, I'm so very sorry.
/big hugs. I don't know what it is about chickens that just get into our hearts - but they really do get in there, and losing one really just hurts.

Again I'm so sorry, and I'll look for your reply tomorrow. I hope you can get some rest tonight. At least she had someone who cared for her, and I do know that they know those things - or sense that. And that's a very big mercy that you give to all your birds.
I'm so sorry. I think three horses has explored the variables and that you were dealing with more than one thing. I'm very suspicious about the dead pigeon as well as the possibility of mold. Do you have room to remove any remaining birds so that this coop/run can be returned to a pristine condition? I'd also remove any traces of coal and/or build up around them because bitumen contains so many toxins. Such a loss...
I'm sorry to not post again sooner. Here is what I meant to post soon after:

Thanks for info on scratch. I will reduce the % I feed in the future.
Thanks much for tip on diamataceous earth. I will keep that in mind.
I dunno if a mold issue
The floor seems to have been dry the last 3 months because it's been so hot & dry here.
I'm confused on salts--Some posts I'd come across said they were a good way to arrest diarrhea, I thought?? May have misread because I was skimming.
I'd felt pretty confident using Moxidectin because in 2 studies I read it said in poultry there was a broader range of dosing safety than some other wormers--but sounds like not so with horses. I'm actually clueless about how much Praziquantel you're supposed to use in chickens. But the first time I dewormed with Moxidectin last summer, the only affordable way I could find it locally was in Quest Plus horse dewormer, which includes Praziquantel. So I just dosed correctly for the Moxidectin content and hoped for the best. Seems to work out alright, thankfully. Do you know what the withdrawal time is supposed to be for those wormers? I read somewhere 2 1/2 weeks for Moxidectin but not sure.
I moved all chickens from this coop to a completely brand new, indoor-only coop a little over a month ago now.
Thanks again for all ideas.
Riley & Little's mother, Wonder, is now having problems!
Tonight I saw that Wonder has black circular marks on her comb and around her eyes. These are a recent development (I think within last week). They look somewhat scabbish but are not very raised and are rather wide. She had been thin lately and seems to be losing even more weight. She is also molting.
I've hand-fed her gamebird/showbird conditioner pellets a few times lately in addition to her constantly available 18% lay crumbles, & let her free-range for grasshoppers a couple times, and she seems to be eating heartily.
I'm terrified that I might lose her.
She is my dearest hen, plus very important in helping maintain genetic diversity in the Ameraucana lines I am breeding.

Any more ideas on what problems might be that are causing warts & other marks on combs??
I've also posted in Dr. Peter Brown's website forum in case someone there might have ideas, too.
Here are photos of Sunny's comb from a couple weeks ago.



I can't find digital camera right now to take pics of Wonder's comb.

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