Wheezy Chickens

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by TwitchChic, May 22, 2018.

  1. TwitchChic

    TwitchChic In the Brooder

    May 22, 2018
    West Michigan
    Forewarning, this is going to be long lol

    Problem: My two Buff Orpingtons are breathing roughly. The more they move, the more the raspy wheezing increases. There is NO discharge from the eyes or nostrils. No other symptoms (except one just started showing signs of vent gleet yesterday). They are active, eating, and laying. None of my other birds show any symptoms of anything.

    This started in late March when we started our thaw/freeze/thaw/freeze, cleared up for a bit once everything froze again, then came back with the warmer (wet) weather.

    Background: When this first started, I had three Buffs. One morning after letting the birds out during one of the first thaws, I noticed one of the Buffs hadn't moved from her spot near the coop. I caught her, she was gurgling and had a stinky liquid running from her beak. I put her in a cage on the front porch, ran inside to visit Dr. Google, and within 5 mins, she had aspirated and died. Upon inspection, her crop was swollen and hard. Everything pointed to an impacted crop.

    Over the next couple days, I noticed the other two Buffs (only them) starting to wheeze a little. But then we froze over again, and they seemed fine...until we thawed again. I have no idea if the two are connected or just coincidence, or what.

    Living Conditions: I personally feel like I'm dealing with a fungal issue and this is why.

    Late last summer I moved the coop without thinking about the wet season. The coop they are in is a TSC Pre-fab, with a built on run that I put plastic up on during the winter. Our property is almost all clay (so major drainage issues) and at an incline. At the top of the incline there is a corn field, bottom a lake. So lots of run off. I [stupidly] put the coop at the mouth of the biggest run off at the top of the hill. Down the hill the run off has carved a large groove through the property to the lake that is reminiscent of a creek during the spring months. The coop is directly in line with that, but about 50yards before the groove starts.

    I noticed it for the first time during a rainy spot in the fall and had an "Oh crap!" moment, but the interior of the coop seemed to stay dry, the water seemed to go around where the coop was, and we were in the process of building a much larger coop, in the driest area of the property. The new coop was to be finished this spring (It's actually finished now), and once winter hit, everything froze. I use the deep litter method in the run, adding new pine shavings weekly during the winter.

    Well once the thawing started, the area got really wet, but the inside of the run still "appeared" dry.

    (I'm going to note here, that my chickens are free range, even in the winter if they so choose. So if there's not 6+ inches of snow on the ground, they are not in the coop or run.)

    When we had our final (well almost final, Michigan always has one more snow storm in her) I went to dewinterize the coop, and shovel out all of the winter's shavings. That's when I discovered that 2-3" down, everything was sopping wet....and yes, one corner (where the food spillage occurs) had mold growing. (I felt like crap when I found that!)

    My chickens had stopped roosting in the coop once we warmed up. (Shortly before I did the spring clean out). I'm assuming this is why. They knew it wasn't safe, which is what has me thinking this is the cause of the wheezing. They have a sheltered spot near the house where they roost (4 hens and 1 rooster), and they still go into the coop to lay.

    I'm also going to add that since our property is between a corn field and a small private lake, we have a TON of wildlife coming through. We have Herring, Geese, Ducks, Cranes, and Egrets on the lake all the time. The chickens never go anywhere near the lake (opposite ends of the property) but this time of year Geese rest in the corn field, and the rain run off crosses our entire property. We have flocks of wild Turkey (they usually travel close to the lake) plus all the other birds.

    [Also going to note, for those concerned about the wet conditions, the new coop is 8x12, raised up on sand, with drainage tile buried, and has a poured cement floor...it's dry.]

    My Issue: I have not moved these chickens into the new coop because I have 8 wk old chicks in there. (Plus some in the house still). I had planned on turning my focus from just a backyard flock to focusing on a breeding program, and raise one breed of chickens. But if this is not fungal, I don't want to get the chicks sick and breed a contaminated flock.

    I've debated on culling my small adult flock, I don't really want to, especially the ones that show no signs of sickness, but will if need be. I've contacted a couple semi-local vets to see about getting one tested for Aspergillus, but I was quoted a $115 office visit, and $300 for the test itself. That just seems insane for one test, especially if it's not that and I'm left still not know what it is. The state vet's diagnostic lab only charges $16 for the test, but require the blood sample be taken, prepped, and sent in by a vet. The vets I talked to said they would not do that because it required "too much blood"?

    I could send one into the state vet for a necropsy for $200, at least then I'd know if it's something else and what I'm dealing with.

    If it's fungal, I can just burn the old coop and put everyone into the new coop. If it's MG, I can burn the old coop and cull the older chickens, but since they free range, is the entire area going to be contaminated? Will it be contaminated anyways because of the local wildlife? I also keep reading that most backyard flocks have come into contact with MG, so should I not even worry about it? Maybe cull the ones that get sick, but keep the ones that don't in hopes of breeding more resistant birds? I don't want to be an irresponsible breeder. Maybe I should just give up on the idea of breeding to sell, and just close my flock. None going out?

    I almost wish the two buffs had more symptoms so I would know what to do!
    Last edited: May 22, 2018
  2. Wyorp Rock

    Wyorp Rock Enabler

    Sep 20, 2015
    Southern N.C. Mountains
    Since you plan on breeding getting some testing and/or necropsy will give you the best answers so you know what you are dealing with and you can make plans for moving forward.

    Photos of your hens and the vents would be good.
    You had mold growing in your coop, so your issues could be from that.
    Check the crops to make sure they are emptying overnight. You could try antibiotics to see if that makes a difference.

    If your older girls have a respiratory disease, likely your youngsters have already been exposed unless you have been very strict with bio-security.

    A lot depends on your future goals for breeding. If you are keeping a closed flock, then you may be able to manage or cull birds as symptoms appear. If you are breeding to sell, give away, trade or show birds, hatching eggs, started pullets, etc. then testing is the most responsible route to take.

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