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Uh oh... poorly birdy

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Hi everyone, very long time since I last posted anything, I don't get online much and our chickens have been a delight for the last couple of years.


We suddenly have a poorly chicken - I have no idea what might be wrong as the symptoms don't seem to quite match anything I've found online.




Henrietta ("Hen") is 2.5 years old and has always been a little bit scrawny and bedraggled-looking compared to her friends. She lives with 2 others who are the same age.

Since August this year we've had gradually decreasing egg production in all of them, seeming to be in line with their age - dropped from 3 a day to 2 a day and then down to one or less. We moved house at the end of September and in our new garden I've noticed we have an occasional visitor of a wild female pheasant. In October the chickens spent a week at the chicken-hotel where they will have been in fairly close quarters with other birds. They stopped laying completely that week, went into moult immediately after we got them back, they all had a really full-on moult this year, and are just about looking back to normal feather-wise now, though we haven't had a single egg since mid-October. During her moult Hen looked a bit thin but that's often the case when moulting. I've been supplementing their pellets with the odd handfuls of mealworms and cat biscuits for some extra protein.


I've mentioned the pheasant, the week boarding and the moult as they are factors that have occurred to me as possible causes of / relevant to the current problem.


I haven't seen the chickens in daylight this week until today due to my working hours. My OH has been checking on them in daylight and I've been doing feed top-ups, replenishing water etc in the dark at night. My OH says he hadn't spotted anything amiss about the chickens this week though he did think the Eglu/run was a bit smelly towards the end of the week.




Today Hen looks quite under the weather. Her feathers are a bit ruffled and dull, her comb is very pale and seems to have regressed somewhat, and she's not been very interested in much. She has appeared a little off balance once or twice - as if she's lost her balance, causing her to put a wing out to steady herself - I spotted that happening twice this afternoon. Some of the time she's had her head sort of back and slightly twisted to the side - don't know if I'm explaining it well - it was causing her front to stick out looking like she had a full crop so I've physically examined her and in fact her crop feels pretty empty, though I have seen her eat a little (and she did come running when the mealworm bag was shaken!). She feels skinny but not emaciated. I haven't seen her poop - did try to catch her at it but unsuccessful.


She's not really "herself" - she usually "helps" (= causes absolute mayhem) when I'm cleaning out but today though she came over and stood by my feet whilst I was putting stuff back in, and had a little peck/explore of the new bedding, she just didn't seem to have much energy.


She is not in any respiratory distress and does not appear to have any nasal discharge or eye gunk. The eglu and run did smell pretty rank today - like a stronger than normal chicken poop smell but also slightly fishy/sour. But I'm convinced none of them have sour crop or impacted crop - I checked all 3 of them carefully.


Of her two friends, one seems fine and the other has a pale comb and runny poop (but for that particular bird, runny poop has been a norm for much of her life).




* They can no longer come into contact with the wild pheasant because we've "wild bird proofed" the entire enclosure in line with DEFRA requirements due to the current AI thing - we have nowhere inside to move them so I took advice from a farming friend - we have tarp'd over the entire roof of the run so nothing can fall through from the sky and used fine-mesh netting to ensure no small birds can get in/out the sides.


* They were vaccinated when we got them as POL birds over 2 yrs ago but to be honest I'm not sure what vaccinated means as in, what they are vaccinated against??


*They are due a worming so I'll start that tomorrow - I usually use the pellets infused with flubenvet but I've also got some verm-x tonic stuff today as I thought it may be easier to check dosing if I give it them soaked on a piece of bread each??


* I've got some Battles Poultry Drink as I read that it can help give them an energy boost and help their immune system


* I've moved the run to fresh grass (no easy job as it's a massive WIR!) and have bleached, disinfected and scrubbed the entire Eglu, feeders and drinkers etc, a really serious, thorough clean.


* If she's still looking off colour tomorrow I'll consult vet - though our local vet hasn't a clue about chickens - but in the meantime anyone have any idea what this could be and what home remedies to try?


Sorry for excessively long post - wanted to make sure I got all the symptoms in and all info which might be relevant to a diagnosis.

TIA for any help/advice that you can offer (and thank heavens I didn't expand the flock 2 weeks ago as I had been planning to do!)

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I'm sorry I can't help with what could be wrong with Hen. It sounds like all the things you have done / are planning to do are good and could help. Although I would say don't bother with Verm-x it doesn't actually kill worms - if you're worried about dosing with flubenvet, some people get the powder and then put it on grapes or something.


Good luck.

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Dosing with flubenvet shouldn't be an issue; you feed them that and nothing else for 7 days, and keep them in the run. The dosed pellets are adequate for this.


I would worm them immediately, don't waste your money on any herbal 'wormers', and get a decent poultry tonic.


Please don't allow your birds to mix with any wild birds or game fowl, AI alert or not. The symptoms that you describe could be anything, and it's hard to diagnose without seeing her. her problems are possibly just age related, but it also sounds as if their run could do with mucking out. sprinkling with ground sanitising powder, and some new litter putting in. It is really best for them to have a covered run at any rate, otherwise the ground will just become putrid and infested with bacteria.

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Thanks all.


Dogmother, regarding the wild game, we never had this problem before we moved, first time in my life I've ever had pheasant visiting my back garden! Other than keeping the chooks permanently in the run (which obviously we are at the moment anyway) is there anything we can do to discourage the pheasant from visiting? I can't police the garden at all times and the chickens do love a good free range.


Re the run just to be clear it is cleaned thoroughly, regularly, and until we moved they were on wood chips which I changed/replenished several times a year. I scatter diatomaceous earth weekly. Since we moved they've been on grass a)because they seemed to love it and b)because I simply haven't had a chance to order wood chips. I'm not used to keeping them on grass and it may be I should have moved the run sooner rather than having it in the same place for 2 months. I've still been using the diatomaceous earth. This week is the first time the run/eglu has smelled like this! It was part covered before (and I used to find that a good rain washed the wood chips nicely but clearly that isn't the way it works on grass).


I think I'm going to go back to wood chip as soon as I can get it organised. But anyway it's been moved to fresh grass for now.


Hen seems much the same this morning. I'm going to call the vet when they open at 11 and see what they suggest.

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If I remember correctly pheasants can carry Blackhead and also worms, so they need to be discouraged from the garden. If she has got worms and has no appetite she won't eat the Flubenvet pellets so will need vet treatment.


The fishy smell is probably due to feeding cat biscuits which has protein derived from fish extract. We once fed young chickens with growers pellets containing fish extract and the stench 24 hours later was incredible!

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Bit of an epic day...

I phoned my usual vets at 11am and they said the only vet with any avian knowledge is away and they wouldn't give me an appointment.

They suggested I phone Swindon Exotics. So I did. Spoke to a lovely avian vet there who agreed with me that driving for over an hour to see him with a critically ill bird wasn't in the bird's best interests. He said I should phone the local vet again, get them to see her and he would telephone consult with them if needed.

I phoned the local vet again and they flatly refused to give me an appointment. So I phoned the next nearest place that's open on Sundays and the lady there was much more helpful, took my number and went off to speak to their vets to see if they could help. When she rang me back she said they couldn't help but she'd phoned their other branch for me and they luckily happened to have an avian specialist vet on duty today so they'd reserved me a slot.

It was still a half hour drive but our birds are used to short rides as we board them several times a year so not too stressful. Took all 3 down to get checked out.


So, the good news is the vet didn't think it was a virus, bacteria, or parasites though he said I was doing the right thing worming just in case. Her presentation didn't seem to quite match any of the diseases we'd normally need to be on the lookout for. He pronounced the other two perfectly healthy and very well looked after. And they gave him the run around as he put them on the floor in the surgery to see their walking and then they wouldn't be caught.


The bad news is he didn't think anything could be done for Hen. She had deteriorated a fair bit this morning, had stopped drinking and eating and was very weak. He said her circulation seemed very poor indeed, and after a thorough examination, he thought she had heart failure. He thought it was more likely it was just her time rather than a specific disease given the other two seemed so healthy. As she has always been a scrawny and sorta fragile-seeming little bird, I wouldn't be surprised if she's just got elderly faster than the others, in the same way that some people arent so long lived as others. He said he thought she wasn't going to last more than another day and whilst she didn't seem in any pain, she clearly wasnt having any quality of life. So we did the kindest thing and PTS.


So, instructions are to just keep an eye on the other two and phone him if anything worries us but he thought they were in very rude health (and both obliged him with loud squaks of indignation at being examined and extremely healthy looking poo all over the surgery floor!) and other than not being in the first flush of youth anymore, he thought there was nothing to worry about. Fingers crossed that he's right and they continue to be OK...

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I'm sorry to read about Hen, it was good that you managed to find a decent vet with good knowledge so at least you know that the others are fine and don't need to worry about them and far better for Hen to be helped to pass away now rather than fade away and maybe feel increasingly uncomfortable in the winter weather.

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Thanks. Glad we did find this vet, had no idea there was an avian specialist hiding away so nearby. It's quite a new vet surgery so I guess that's why we weren't aware of this guy. We've kept their phone number for future use!


Even though he said the other two are perfectly healthy I'm in mega paranoid mode, making sure I do everything perfectly for them, and checking on them loads. When I got in from work tonight I went down the garden to check them and accidentally woke them with my torch. Of course they both thought it was "midnight feast" time and came out for snacks and drinkies so muggins here stood there in the cold for 20 minutes providing torchlight for their snacking antics until they both decided to go back to bed :lol::roll:


And the whole time I'm stood there I'm studying their combs trying to decide by torchlight if they're the right colour (impossible to tell :roll:) and trying to catch them pooping to see the quality of their poop. Honestly chickens will send me permanently round the bend one of these days... :shock:

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:wall: I've got a new problem. Losing Hen, who was very much the lowest ranking chicken, as somehow really upset the pecking order. How it can be "upset" with only 2 birds I don't know, you'd think we'd just have a boss and a minion.

Wilma has always been the boss. She's still the boss but for some reason feeling the need to be extra mean to poor Petula. Petula is very timid and I guess she must have taken confidence from having Hen around in the past

she is now so frightened of Wilma that she's getting well out of the way with alarm noises whenever they are anywhere near each other, whether Wilma is after her or not. I've watched Wilma for a lengthy period yesterday as I was home. She is going for Petula and trying to feather pull. :evil: In the evening she's making a fuss about letting Petula in to the eglu and during the day Petula is hiding in the eglu and Wilma is going for her if she tries to come out. When I stand in the run she is more confident and comes out but stays behind me with my legs forming a barrier!!

I am worried she isn't getting access to food and water.


I think tomorrow I'll shut the eglu so neither of them can get in it for a bit and keep a close eye on things and see if we can get them to sort it out. Meanwhile I've stationed temporary alternative feed/drink stations close to the eglu door as I can't be there to police things today.

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