What's going on here? Chicks dying.

journey's end

10 Years
Jul 17, 2009
Prince Edward Island
All my hatchery chicks are sick or dying. They're 10 weeks old now. I've lost a bunch of them and of the ones that are alive, half are sick. They have crusty eyes to the point of them sealing shut. They have a little bit of a runny nose too, but not overly runny. Some are gasping for breath before dying, others are just dropping dead. No real sneezing, no coughing. We did a necropsy and there's no blood or mucous in the trachea.

We've also lost one older silkie that was in with them. She was about 6 months old. Another silkie with them was sick, but seems to be recovering.

No other birds have been affected. I have a main flock with 50 or so birds, both purebred and mutts. Ages range from 7 months to 3 years. No troubles at all. A mama hen and her babies that hatched 4 days ago, no trouble either. 2 week old meat birds, same thing. No one else has any eye trouble, no runny nose, no sneezing and no death. My marans in the pen beside the sick ones are fine too.

What's going on? Any ideas?




Yes it sounds like ILT( Iinfectious laryngeal tracheaitis) This is an extremely contagious, highly fatal disease, Where did you get your birds? If you bought them from a hatchery, I think you may have grounds to ask for restitution b/c you will have to thoroughly disinfect their living quarters, feeders, waterers, and the birds themselves, preferably with Oxine at the very least. Or, your older birds may have picked it up from exposure to wild birds, and transmitted it to the chicks. Your surviving birds you can give them an ILT vaccination, which will help them to survive and they will not be carriers. There are different types of ILT vaccine and with some they are carriers. www.firststatevetsupply.com carries the vaccine and he can advise you. To positively confirm it though you need a necropsy done by a professional; that is the only way to tell. There is not always blood in the trachea with ILT, although uisually at some point there is. Most states will do it with a vet's referral for free or a small fee. Start any remaining healthy birds on a strong antibiotic, maybe oxytet, or at the very least 4 tsp duramycin per gallon of water. ILT is a virus but the anitbiotic will help to combat any secondary infections they may have. It is a very serious disease and they do suffer so you must act quickly. Any necropsies should be done within 24 hours of death. It could also by coryza, I have never experienced that, although I have read that it is not usually as fatal and birds with coryza have an odd smell. We experienced ILT in our flock about five years ago and we actually did have several birds recover and they are not carriers, although we went to some lengths to save the flock, including disinfection, vaccination, quarantine, medication, and prayer. Also,if your state ag department does the necropsy, they will advise you whether or not ILT is a mandatory cull in your state. Make sure whoever does the necropsy covers all bases, b/c the first necropsy we had done, the vet simply thought the bird had been attacked by a predator, who had torn up it's throat. That's what ILT does, it disintegrates the throat lining. It is awful. Sorry, I'm done. Just want to make sure you know, b/c I would like to try to save anyone else from what we went through,.

That's what it sounds like to me. I would get your healthy birds as far away from the sick ones as possible, and make sure you take measures to avoid cross-contamination. You should always isolate new birds coming into the flock for at least three weeks, before you release them with the others.
We had isolated these ones for weeks before putting them in the barn. They've been here for almost 10 weeks now. ILT incubation is far less than that so I don't think they'd have brought it from the hatchery. I never suspected wild birds, but why the little ones? None of the others are even remotely sick. And the little ones don't go outside, just the main flock. The guide I read for ILT says that under 14 weeks is less likely to come down with it, yet mine are pretty mch all under 1 weeks!?

I'm really hoping it's not ILT because I'm pretty sure our province (I'm in Canada) does mandatory culling. It would be a sad irony, that the flock is due to be vaccinated for ILT in 2 weeks
Well, that's too bad. We had chicks get it and die from it. I hope it's not ILT, but if it's something else I'd like to know what. If that's what it is and it's not a mandatory cull there, go ahead and get them vaccinated, go for it. The vaccine is easy to administer. it's just an eyedrop, and it can do magical things to some of the sick ones. Oxine is wonder stuff too; ten times better than bleach. You can mix it with water, and mist the birds with it. When we did our flock we had friends come over and we actually had fun; made an assembly line for vaccine, mist, mark the leg with wax crayon to indicate they were done, replace in pen, grab the next one. We were placed under quarantine by the State, but the State vets were a tremendous help, were very supportive and gave us lots of free advice. if you do have to cull them, please start over b/c it will make you feel better. But before you do, I read that a good way to sterilize is to till lime into the soil of their quarters. You can't put the chooks back in there, of course, til the lime is well tilled under the soil.

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