What might these symptoms indicate?

1720BlueBell

In the Brooder
Dec 17, 2020
10
28
30
Two of our red sex linked layers, just under 3 years if age, are lethargic, with swollen abdomens, purplish combs, bothered by the cold weather. One is ravenous for food; the other pecks at and eats very little.

The abdomen swelling appears to come forward along side their lower breasts. Their feces are generally quite liquid, with greenish and whitish blobs of somewhat firmer material also in the discharge. The weaker hen has lost her normal voice. Neither wants to be picked up. They are both pets who normally want us to carry them around.

Our birds get a good quality layer pellet feed, some scratch grain, some incidental human food such as cooked rice, vegetable scraps, etc. They are free ranging during most days.

A concern of mine is they have access to the ground under wild bird feeders. It could be the hens are contracting something carried by songbirds.

Over the last 10 years, we've had a half dozen or more birds develop these symptoms. Some girls have declined until they lost the battle. Others have recovered, so it seems.

A local chicken fancier offered the idea that they have infections from damage caused by complications of eggs passing through the egg canal. She has described the rotation of the egg partway through the laying cycle, that can get disrupted and cause an internal injury leading to infection. Does this sound reasonable?

Is there anything we can do to help these pets recover? We've given them a Drench solution. I've floated the weaker girl in warm water for 30 minutes or so. This, with massage, seems to lessen her discomfort.

We've got them in the house in a dog kennel. It's 10 degrees outside, and only 35 or so in the hen house. And we been giving them a mix of ground meat, cooked rice, chopped cucumber, oats, goodies like that.

Unfortunately, no veterinarian in this whole southwest part of Colorado will offer any help with birds.

I do have some Terramycin powder that I could mix up for them.

Thanks for any ideas and helpful consideration.
 

Quaicken108

Crowing
Oct 27, 2019
2,110
3,203
382
NSW, Australia
A purple comb can signal a lack of oxygen in the blood, poor circulation or respiratory/breathing issues. If it’s some form of egg bound problem there isn’t much you can do because it can lead to a stroke and sadly death. If it’s a crop issue then a diagnosis of that would help for the treatment. Are they light? What do their crops feel like? Have they been laying a lot recently? Or not much? Is this sudden? What does their vent look like? Maybe you could take a photo of them. As far as treatment it’s pointless unless you know what it is that is wrong with them. Their poos might not be normal I’m not sure maybe a photo of that would help. If they don’t look normal to you than they probably aren’t and it might be because of internal issues. Hope this helps and you can reply and I can help you with a diagnosis and treatment. Although of course this must be a hard and sad time. :) :( :)
 

1720BlueBell

In the Brooder
Dec 17, 2020
10
28
30
Quaicken108, thanks for your reply.
I can answer some of your questions.
They have not been laying for many weeks. The symptoms have come on over the course of about a week.
Presently their crops are normal. The birds eat some food. We limit the amount so that they don't overeat. Within several hours the crops are emptied.
Their vents look relatively normal, maybe slightly distended as their abdomens are swollen and firm.
Their excrement is a pool of clear liquid with small greenish and whitish blobs of material included. Yesterday there was about a half cc of blood on the floor. This was certainly not from an injury; it was part of a defecation.
Hope this has given you some more leads.
 

Shezadandy

Crowing
6 Years
Sep 26, 2015
2,508
3,327
407
Portland OR
Quaicken108, thanks for your reply.
I can answer some of your questions.
They have not been laying for many weeks. The symptoms have come on over the course of about a week.
Presently their crops are normal. The birds eat some food. We limit the amount so that they don't overeat. Within several hours the crops are emptied.
Their vents look relatively normal, maybe slightly distended as their abdomens are swollen and firm.
Their excrement is a pool of clear liquid with small greenish and whitish blobs of material included. Yesterday there was about a half cc of blood on the floor. This was certainly not from an injury; it was part of a defecation.
Hope this has given you some more leads.

This is ascities. The purple combs make this an emergency if you wish to save them.

Draining their abdomens won't cure them, but they will make them considerably more comfortable. This is a quality of life measure, not so much a treatment- whatever the underlying situation - whether heart failure, liver failure, or egg yolk peritonitis - all cause ascities.

The poop is a function of the hens not having enough room in their bodies for the organs to function, digestive tract included. They're not getting enough oxygen because the fluid is pressing on their heart and lungs. I haven't seen blood in poop from this myself, but their one chance is to remove the fluid from their abdomens. Not a cure, and of course any time you poke with a needle there's a chance for infection. But the alternative is they drown in their own fluid.

Needles can be found at farm supply stores in the cattle section, usually. Look for 14 or 16 gauge, 1" long needles. I've only had one hen I've had to go after with a 20 gauge needle and syringe- all the others have done what the hen in the video does - one poke and it all runs out. Personally I don't bother with the syringe anymore, it's like putting a needle in a water balloon and letting the water slowly drain out. If you want to measure the amount of liquid removed, drain into a large bowl.

This is a video that will show you how to do it in one poke and explains about it.

You won't believe what came out of this hen "How to drain Waterbelly" ascites - YouTube
 

1720BlueBell

In the Brooder
Dec 17, 2020
10
28
30
Thank you Shezadandy.
Ascites certainly describes the condition of their bellies.
The video was informative, clear and helpful. We will get the recommended needle this morning and give draining the abdomens a try.
The University of Florida pdf "Common Poultry Diseases 1" suggests the condition could be Lymphoid Leucosis. Anyone have experience with this malady?
 

coach723

Free Ranging
6 Years
Feb 12, 2015
6,799
11,393
611
North Florida
Reproductive problems in laying hens over the age of two are not uncommon, particularly in breeds that were bred for prolific laying. I have and, have had, quite a few sex links, both red and black, and the incidence of reproductive problems has been higher among them than among some of my other breeds. When a bird has reached the point of the abdomen being swollen, they are usually beyond cure, it's about comfort and quality of life. Ascites can accompany many conditions and is a symptom of the underlying cause rather than a disease in itself. It can be cancer, infection, organ failure, or a combination. Cancers can cause strain on other organs and cause organ failure. Often the definite cause is not known until necropsy since symptoms can be very similar. If it's ascites, then draining can make them for comfortable for a time. Sometimes with infection it's not fluid but infectious matter building up in the abdomen (pus) and it will be very hard and no liquid will drain. I've lost birds with ascites that accompanied cancers, and I've lost birds to cancer that did not get bloated but rather just slowly wasted away. I lost a couple to fatty liver disease, in which ascites was the only visible symptom. I've also lost some to salpingitis who had very bloated abdomens that were very firm and it was not fluid, but infectious material. This is why necropsy can be helpful.
Some of us do our own informal necropsies to look for obvious abnormalities in organs, or you can send the body off for a professional one with lab work which can identify bacteria and virus's if those are suspected.
 

1720BlueBell

In the Brooder
Dec 17, 2020
10
28
30
Thank you coach723.
If the malady is Lymphoid leucosis and we wanted to eliminate LL from our flock, I imagine we'd have to start over from scratch with all new birds, as the virus contagious.
Getting new chicks from a hatchery that is LL free would be wise. The U of F pdf mentions LL can be present in other fowl, including doves. We have dozens of Eurasian collared doves coming to our bird feeders at times. Their population possibly carries the virus. They may have gotten it from our hens; our hens may spread it to them.
If these two sick hens die, I'll certainly necropsy them. I'm intensely curious about wisdom that can be gained from "the entrails of an owl". Perhaps The Bard said that?
 

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