Adolescents & Mystery Disease

Posted by: Altair

Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 09/27/13 12:28 PM

As I write this it may be too late for the bielefelder pullet but onwards: We have a small flock of 3.5 month old birds who are free range. They're on commerical food appropriate for their age, have access to clean water at all times. No overcrowding.

A couple weeks ago a cockerel went down fast, scarcely moved, wouldn't eat and was dead the next morning. His necropsy has not yet come back and the vet was stumped. Animal looked okay (a little cocci) but his heart was ruined which appeared to be the COD. He thought it might be myco but was waiting on more results.

Since then we've been treating the whole flock for 8 days now with an antibiotic which works on myco (can't recall the name specifically, I'm at work).

Today our only bielefelder pullet appears to have the same symptoms, looking weak, eyes closed, not moving much. She looked okay this morning.

The birds have been having sneezing both before and during treatment but no severe symptoms. To me they appear thin but active. They were on amprolium feed up until they were about 3 months old, I think it's time to go back.

I've tried researching heart related infections but am coming up empty handed and it burns me to lose another bird fast and hard, have it be spreading, and not know what it is.
Posted by: Wieslaw

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 09/30/13 07:56 AM

It is hard to "judge" in such a situation. But for me, if something is happening VERY FAST, then poisonning with something is quite probable. I do not think the sneezing alone can kill a bird that quickly.

Intestines totally blocked by worms can lead to death.
Posted by: Altair

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 09/30/13 07:32 PM

I thought worms but his digestive tract was supposedly very good. Still no official results but the vet thought it may have been from a fungi, asper perhaps. We are using an old building that had a portion of rotting wood but I would have never thought of it as a cause.

The bielefelder has held her own but was holding her wings laxly yesterday and today. Many are still sneezing but do not have any discharge, gurgling or watery eyes.

Appetites are good, however the spitzhauben cockerel is very bony. Other than scratch feed, which we've been supplementing with, what are other foods to pack on weight? I'd like to see him and some of the others flesh out before cold weather hits.

I purchased Oxine and will be using it on the coop and birds.
Posted by: Moderator2

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 10/02/13 04:55 PM

It appears you changed feed about 2 to 3 weeks ago? How was their weight before that? They should be growing fast at this point and nutrition is very important. Be SURE the feed is not old or has drawn moisture which could cause molds, even if not seen mold could still be present. I would consider adding a vitamin supplement to their water. Corn would have higher calorie content but it should not take away from their complete ration feed. 18% grower is what I would be feeding with cracked corn as a treat. Good luck to you!
Posted by: Altair

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 10/02/13 07:47 PM

Their weight wasn't bad, some are thinner than what I'd like to see while others aren't bad. I need to actually get a scale. They were on Blue Seal medicated chick start which is 20% protein/3-4% fat and we switched to a grower formula still designed for pullets with 15% protein and 3-5% fat. In addition to scratch I've been doling out cooked egg and soft catfood mixed with the grower crumble. I'll have to get to another feed store for the higher stuff, seems like no one has a good chick/grower selection this time of year.

Feed was bought new. The other other thing I used on them was Ivermectin drops because they were lice-infested and they cleared up fine. A different pullet was acting logey today so we isolated her and she was eating quite well. It's like a new one is sick daily then they get better.

Sneezing is still occuring, but again no other visible respiratory distress. I'm hoping the Oxine will help nip this in the bud after another vet reminder call for results.
Posted by: Moderator2

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 10/03/13 02:15 PM

I generally feed higher protein than most text suggest. 15% is often the suggested number for grower (stage between chick and layer). The egg and cat food should boost that number as well. Try to get cat food with low salt content. Some cat foods have added salt to make the cats drink more water to help pass hair balls so they don't yak them up. Birds can not tolerate too much salt since they do not urinate to remove excess amounts. I know you said you bought the feed new, however, the store or warehouse may have had it setting around. One book I have says feed should be used within 4 weeks of being milled. I think that is a little soon myself but the point is made that it starts to lose nutrients quickly. We have talked a good deal about feed and it may or may not have anything to do with your problem, but its been a good conversation grin
Hopefully this will pass. I know how frustrating it is to not know what you are dealing with. keep us posted.
Posted by: Altair

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 01/19/14 07:01 PM

For the curious, an update. Lost a total of 5 birds, last just a few days ago. That pullet just stopped walking one day, literally, good body condition though hadn't begun to lay like the other pullets hatched the same day as her.

Necropsied two, couldn't spare the expense for more. The vet emailed the following:

Both femoral heads had chronic necrosis (bone was dying) - the femoral head is the part of the leg that fits into the hip joint. Some intestinal roundworms - remind me next time and I'll leave you some Ivermectin for this.

"The poor body condition and skeletal changes in this bird are suggestive of nutritional imbalance (calcium deficiency). The collapsed corneas and urates around the vent may additionally suggest dehydration."

"The bones of the keel, skull and ribs are soft and pliable while the long bones are thin and brittle"

"Histologic findings show evidence of encephalitis" - that's inflammation of the brain with acute hemorrhage.

They (Cornell) think the encephalitis could have predisposed the bird to the signs that followed, ie weakness and loss of body condition. They are still doing some testing on the femur and the brain, so I'll let you know when those results come in. The chicken tests came back negative for EEE and West Nile.
Posted by: Wieslaw

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 01/26/14 04:16 AM

Thank you for the update. Extremely interesting!
Posted by: Altair

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 01/26/14 07:29 PM

Interesting, yes. Extremely frustrating, more so. They were good birds, barely getting into their own. They were my husband's wedding present to me. I can't agree with the deficiency hypothesis only because of it's unlikeliness. We use(d) commercial ration and different brands.

I'm reading up on avian encephalomyelitis. If that is the case I am debating vaccinating the chicks we're hoping to get come spring.
Posted by: Uno

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 02/12/14 09:48 PM

Altair, I am sure I am not going to tell you anything new, but have a few thoughts.

I like to give my birds a splash of apple cider vinegar in their water as it is believed to help with the uptake and absorption on calcium. I provide grit and oyster shell, the oyster shell being a source of calcium, plus the AC vinegar, just to cover all bases on helping the birds have healthy bones. Do not put apple cider vinegar into metal waterers, it will destroy them and cause them to rust!

If this bone problem is happening to just one breed in your hen house, and not ALL your birds, I would suspect that it is genetic, an inherited trait, as opposed to anything you might have accidentally caused.

At the time you started noticing problems, were your birds free ranging on grass? I see you are from Vermont and I am not familiar with the state of your grass by September, but here where I live in Canada it can be very mature, dry and tough. Birds that eat too much tough grass and tree needles are prone to blocked crops. A blocked crop can slow the passage of nutrients into a bird. If your birds are free ranging on tough, dry growth, you have to make sure they have lots of grit available to help grind that stuff up and move it through their system. Total blockage of the crop (impacted crop) is often fatal, leading to slow starvation that you don't notice until it is too late. However I also doubt this was the problem.

I keep a flock of mutts, they get pretty much no special treatment. They start life on unmedicated chick starter and as soon as they are big enough not to choke on a lay pellet, that's what they get. I have very few problems. My experience has been that chickens, for the most part, are pretty tough and durable. I suspect that the birds you got had problems that you did not cause! Sorry to hear of these troubles.
Posted by: Altair

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 02/14/14 09:25 PM

I'm with you on genetic faults; they're all rare breeds. Thanks for the tips, I used to drink cider vinegar shots daily myself. We'll be supplementing the flock with birds from a different breeding program come spring. "Excelsior" and all that.
Posted by: Uno

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 02/15/14 12:14 AM

Altair, I realize I gave you bad advice.

Grit does not stay in a bird's crop and cannot help process anything in a crop. Grit does its job in the gizzard, where it is needed for birds to process hard seeds and grains.

But still, when my birds have too much long, tough, stringy grass and fir needles, they have crop troubles! It pays to pick your birds up and handle them, feel their weight. Sometimes they can look and act normal and be starving to death before your eyes and you don't notice until the day they drop over sideways.
Posted by: Altair

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 03/23/14 06:54 AM

Originally Posted By: Uno
Sometimes they can look and act normal and be starving to death before your eyes and you don't notice until the day they drop over sideways.


True. My inlaws just lost a llama to an illness (perhaps worms). One couldn't see how thin he was through the mass of fur. By then he was too far gone.

I've come to the hypothesis these birds may have had lymphoid leukosis; paleness, green diarrhea, going light, bone issues. We are purchasing chicks this spring, marking the first time I've personally owned fowl of different ages.

What would be the best way to handle the chicks to become resistant? Some sources say raise them apart until the younger are 5 months old; another source says to brood them close to the adults as chicks to encourage gradual resistance over time.

I'm in the camp of gradual exposure early on but do value other's input.
Posted by: Foehn

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 04/16/14 02:44 AM

My thoughts are to breed your own chicks and try to keep your flock closed. Of course you will need to bring in a new rooster from time to time, but in that case, you would need to quarantine him for a while.
By breeding your own chicks, you will be able to cull for non resistant lines, and also some diseases can be scanned for.
Heritage breeds of birds seem to be more naturally resistant so worth considering when you first establish your flock.
Buying initially from commercial breeders may also mean the birds at least are immunised against Mareks. Always ask.
Posted by: Altair

Re: Adolescents & Mystery Disease - 04/16/14 08:12 PM

Well said. Someone familiar with leukosis remarked the symptoms did not really resemble that condition. With no real evidence anymore I've even considered poisonous plants in the environment (lungwort, bindweed, amaryllis) and got rid of them. Frankly I'm tired of guessing. Onward!

The remaining 6 of 11 seem to be fine (knock on wood), the pullets are laying great and will be a year old in July. Next year when they're 2 we hope to try and hatch from the hens. They are heritage types, rare ones, so quality and natural chutzpah is our goal. Between the mystery condition and this bleak, endless winter, they're earning their stripes.