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laurabeth67

Dying chickens

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Back in November I posted about my Barnvelder Bantam who had become poorly and eventually died. She had lost weight and become lethargic but had no other symptoms. Took her to the vet who could find nothing obvious wrong. I wormed the whole flock with flubivet at the time and tried antibiotics with her but she just kept going downhill.

Then in February another one of my new chickens, a Pekin Bantam (approx 10 months) showed similar symptoms, quiet not moving round much and weight loss. This time dosed the whole flock with antibiotics as suspected one of my older hens might carry mycoplasma. But again the chicken, kept going downhill and eventually died. I was not able to take her to the vet because of Avian Flu but sent a video of her in. Equally could not get a post mortem done.

Now a third new chicken is looking unwell, an Orpington Bantam, blueish comb, quiet lost weight. None of them have had respiratory symptoms, they are not egg bound, no problems with their crop. None of my original flock are ill, and some of them are nine years old!

I can only assume it’s something my old existing flock are immune too, could it be Marek’s? The Pekin was slightly wobbly on her legs, but none of them had paralysis of any form. Wondering if it’s the visceral form. A few years back I had a Pekin whom the vet thought might have ocular Marek’s, but she lived till over 6 and never got any worse, and no other hens had any symptoms. 
 

I’m at such a loss of what to do and it’s so heart breaking watching my new chickens being picked off! I have contacted the breeder, but not heard back yet. 
 

Thought I’d post in case anyone has any advice at all. Many thanks! 

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When you say you have contacted the breeder, are these chickens all from the same one? I ask that because poor breeding practice can result in weak stock. In-breeding, so using a related cockerel repeatedly, poor diet in the breeding flock or breeding from young hens can result in birds that die young from an inner weakness, so under-developed organs or weak immune system. Careful breeding will eliminate these traits; poor breeding will amplify them resulting in all stock being weak. Perhaps the reason you haven't had a response is that there have been lots of problems?

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It was a new breeder I used actually as my usual lady was so overwhelmed with requests last year she had no chickens available whatsoever! I can’t help thinking it must be something within the new birds as surely if it was a new virus they’d picked up here, it would’ve wiped out a few of my elderly ladies? 🤷‍♀️
It’s so upsetting as in 10 years of chicken keeping I’ve only lost one young bird, and she was around 2, so not super young. Just feel very helpless watching them all slowly sicken. ☹️
Thanks for your help though. 
 

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I'd tend to agree with Beantree, its a bit suspect that they are all from the same source and if they are a bit 'miffy' then they would fall prey to anything that might be in your set-up that your older hens are used to, although I might expect newcomers to succumb quickly, not nearly at maturity, so that wouldn't be my first thought.  Equally they might just be poor stock, some strains are not good 'doers' but as you have different breeds its probably not that, but it could be poor breeding/hidden breeding faults.  I wouldn't particularly think its Mareks.  It is very distressing, watching a hen slowly decline and die.  Possibly things might be open enough to get a PM done on the orp if she sadly succumbs?  I do feel for you, have to watch and wonder, especially if you have any more new birds.  I am sure you have done this, but just be extra sure you don't have an infestation of lice/mites which can badly effect underperforming birds.

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Thanks Daphne. I will double check for lice/mites but don’t think it’s that. I just can’t figure it out, unless it is just poor breeding. I will take my poor Orp for PM If she doesn’t survive. 

It would be nice to know so I can work out if I can replace them at some point. 

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I have had at least 2 hens die from Marek's in the past. Both had severe paralysis, but equally both had the ocular changes. If Marek's tends to be in your flock, I would expect new hens to die from it sooner, rather than later as young hens are much more susceptible to Marek's.

Purple comb sounds like a heart problem or poor circulation. 

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So, I’ve double checked, can’t see any lice and couldn’t see any red mite in the coop first thing this morning. Vet says she will see her tomorrow. She looks worse today, which has been the previous pattern with them. I’ll try and attach a photo. I asked a friend who also got chickens from the same breeder and hers appear to be fine. Definitely no paralysis and no ocular changes with these chickens. Don’t think they can of eaten anything. Have put some poultry cider vinegar in their water to try and boost her a bit. Not isolated her as think this will be more distressing for her and she’s not been bullied. Am at such a loss. Thanks for all advice.

4E149A1E-FAC3-4640-AE0C-0593A19FE161.jpeg

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A few years ago we had a hen the same purple colour and we expected her to have a heart attack at any moment. She was allowed to free range to give her a first and last taste of complete freedom and lo and behold over a few weeks she recovered. I don't want to get your hopes up needlessly Laurabeth67, but it does look from the photo that she's in a very confined space and could do with some exercise, even if it might be for one last time.

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She’s in an omlet run, think it’s 6ft by 12ft with 5 other bantams. I have not been letting them free range because of the bird flu risk but obviously that ends tomorrow, so will let them out for a bit after that.

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Well I think you should let her run around immediately. My thoughts are it is stress due to confinement and nothing to do with disease or poor stock. Poor little girl looks very stressed and has given up on life. The oldies are more relaxed so can cope. The run is far too small to confine 6 bantams: they need more space than the large fowl in my experience so for your 6 you need 12 square square metres at least and you have less than 8. We have 3 bantams in an 8 m2 run and they are going nuts after 1 hour! Let her out.

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The symptoms started in the first chicken prior to them needing to be confined for bird flu. I had been letting them out when I cleaned them out as well and the vet told me this was a strict no no, so have kept them in. I can understand this might have contributed to their stress however. Thanks for the advice. 

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