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#10042 - 07/17/08 04:42 PM 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
I've been caring for birds for about 17 years now...but I'm at a loss. Here's what's been happening:

I'm wondering if something hasn't been happening in the feed???

First, we lost all 15 chicks that were hatched. They all died around the 6 week mark (Leghorn X Brahma crosses and Brahma X Australorp Crosses). Then we lost a Buff Orpington hen, 3 Black Minorca hens, 1 Leghorn hen...Honestly...I'm to the point of saying "What's next?!"

Fancy and Ugly (the Buff Orpington) died with similar symptoms. No lesions, just bluish black combs and blue faces...heart attacks I'm assuming? Both were healthy weights. Fancy was 2, Ugly was 5. I still have birds that are almost 10 years old...so it can't be age. There are no symptoms, lesions, no depression. One hen died from an egg issue in the repro tract. Egg shells were too thin from her advanced age and cut her up...so I dispatched knowing there was nothing I could do.

Otherwise all birds have died the same way. Most have been hens or young pullets. Had 10 6 wk. old pullets and 4 6 wk. cockerels all die within 2 weeks of each other. No stress, clean water, however I am chalking that up to the hens having feeds switched from a production to a breeder diet. (Dad didn't know any better...gathered eggs and put into incubator during the week I was at school.) We are attempting this again... frown

Any ideas? Is anyone else having this issue? Temps have been in the mid 90s, but none of my Asiatic birds are having the same issues as my others? I would have assumed the Asiatics would have been the prime candidates for heat related deaths?

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#10043 - 07/17/08 05:50 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Foehn Offline
Administrator
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 1968
Loc: New Zealand
Wow! My heart goes out to you.
I doubt a simple change of feed is directly responsible. You'd be much more likely to get digestive upsets if the food change was a bit much for them. I'd certainly wonder though, if there may be something in the feed that is suspect. (melamine issue with dogs and cats) Are you able to get a sample of the feed tested for analysis? Do you buy feed from a reputable source that doesn't have an imported component?
If the feed, or water, is not an issue, it leaves disease or heat.
There is a form of marek's which strikes at about 6 weeks of age. It can affect the heart, but I would think there would be other symptoms as well.

And heat. 95F = 35C I had to convert it to make sense for me. 35C is pretty hot. My hens were feeling last summer's heat at 26C. That's 78.8F!

I do hope you can track down the cause.

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#10044 - 07/18/08 12:46 AM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Uno Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/26/05
Posts: 1280
Loc: Canada
How frustrating! But I tend to agree with Foehn that it is probably not food related.

I have had meatbirds die of heart attacks, but they were not blue. I tend to think if the bird is blue, then the lack of oxygen was the cause of death. A heart attack is fast, sometimes too fast to actually leave you blue. But if you have turned blue, it's likely that some other cause NOT heart failure, was the reason. Are they choking? Do they have a lung infection leaving them oxygen deprived? Have they come in contact with a poison? Toxic plants? Toxic bug? I think centipedes can kill birds. (don't quote me on that)

It just seems too unlikely to have a wave of heart attacks in birds that are not hideously overweight, like meatbirds get. Something is leaving them gasping for breath. If it is heart failure, it is a more slow and dreadful type than a quick heart attack. This just sounds really weird. Wish I had more to tell you. frown

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#10045 - 07/18/08 07:33 AM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
That's the issue! Up until they die, there is no gasping, no lack of energy...it just makes no sense! This is the wettest summer we've had in awhile and I'm wondering if it could be contributing to the issue?

No poisons (I haven't even dusted the coops, no mite issues and while they're dropping like flies I'd prefer to keep all pesticides away), no toxic plants in or near the pens, bugs...there's always the possibility, but it shouldn't be anything different than what they've been going through for their entire lives...

You know...I'm wondering...mosquitoes??? I mean...with this being the wettest season in a while...and being swarmed by mosquitoes everytime we step outside...is there a possibility that they are being exposed to something that could cause this?

As for food analysis...yes, I can hand off some of my feed to be tested at the University. When Fancy died...that was the last straw.

I'm attempting the hatch again when I get home...putting the eggs in the incubator...hopefully we'll get something. Here's an odd thing, Fancy had laid the day she died. *shakes head*

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#10046 - 07/18/08 02:04 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
C. G. McCary Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 04/04/07
Posts: 613
Loc: Alabama
It could be the heat. In Alabama, I deal with mosquitos (they will eat you alive here) and high heat as we are in the mid-90s F and have been for weeks. And as I related last August when we had 100-105 F for weeks, and I did everything I could because I was afraid of losing birds - heat with high humidity is a cause for alarm (and the humidity over about 40% is enough).

I'm telling you if I didn't have my open roost with a fan blowing on them at night, I do believe I'd lose some to this hot weather. If your birds aren't accustomed to the high heat and humidity (without regard to what breed they are), that could certainly be your cause-- many times, I think to myself, "I couldn't survive out here for an hour . . .how can they?" I am shocked I haven't lost any. In one run, I have an occillating fan 24/7 and on another run, I have a powerful fan blowing under one of those sunscreens . . . I see my birds actually running from the sun shade to shade & we are not yet to our hottest months-- this is not normal average summers anymore.

In the hottest months last year, I took [what I considered] extreme measures: I ran the hose and literally created a stream of water about a half an inch deep that ran across a small part of my run during the day. The birds, all of them, stood in the water all day!

I put out ice blocks in 2 liter soda bottles under bushes for them to stand next to, also ice in their waterers & used the fans & had my open roosts . . . all this . . . they still looked like they were suffering in the heat. My run too, has some areas that are in permanent shade . . . but you need circulating air . . .

I say all this not knowing all the conditions in Oklahoma . . but having lived in Missouri and also traveled in Iowa, Arkansas & Oklahoma during summer months, I KNOW that ya'll in the midwest can have it just as hot and humid as we do here in the SouthEast.

I know how well you take care of your birds from knowing you on here & I can't believe that disease or feed problems are ravaging your flock . . . it has to be something like the heat to be so widespread and kill so efficiently . . this is just my take on what is going on and comparing it to this heat here. CHRIS

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#10047 - 07/18/08 03:00 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
That "would" explain the adults, but what about the chicks? I had a chick, well I say chick, a 6 wk. old in the back bathroom just to see if it would survive. It survived longer than the others, but still died mysteriously???

The male is 9 years old in that particular pen, and the hens are 5-7. I would blame the hens, but I've had chicks hatch perfectly healthy from hens that were as old as the dirt they walked on. It just makes no sense.

On the brighter side...I found a small little blue...chicken thing. I think ya'll call it D'Uccle??? It's booted and has that little muff or beard...and it's blue. It's feathers look awful, but I saw it running after my car and I caught the little sucker. Only question is what to do with him? LOL! (He was working his way towards the road when I found him.)

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#10048 - 07/18/08 03:03 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
The shade is just so abundant up there, and I do have a box fan running during the day. During the night we open up the coop and put the labrador inside the pen to keep them safe.

I would have assumed with heat stress that the Asiatics or ANY of my birds for that matter would have been panting...but it's just not happening? Not with the Brahmas, Cochin or the Leghorns or Minorcas! If I had seen panting...it would have made more sense, but the pens are entirely shaded, there's a nice breeze blowing through...I think I might need to send one off for necropsy. I just wonder which one it will be this time???

I've been expecting for YEARS for Mr. Mom to just drop over dead from the heat, but he hasn't done it yet! lol! One tough old bird...

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#10049 - 07/18/08 06:13 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Bushman Offline
Ruler of the Roost

Registered: 07/25/07
Posts: 1047
Loc: Wisconsin
There are a number of reasons chickens can fall over dead with no apparent prior symtoms. Avian TB comes to mind. I don't believe it spreads to other species, but you might want to research that one.
_________________________
Pilgrim in a foreign land and true believer.
1st John 5:11-12

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#10050 - 07/19/08 07:47 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Richard in MA Offline
Flock Leader

Registered: 01/23/07
Posts: 332
Loc: Massachusetts
I would definitely recommend sending a bird out for pathology. To me, it seems to be something disease based. The increase in mistire can cause a predominance of molds resulting in aspergillosis. That can cause their respiratory systems to fail. Without a full work-up you will only be able to continue guessing. I am doubting it is the heat or the diet. We have had many days in the 90's with relative humidity over 50%. That is very unusual for Massachusetts and the birds, while showing signs of stress, have made it through without a loss. Send the next one out and you should be able to finally put an end to the mystery and hopefully the deaths as well.

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#10051 - 07/19/08 08:19 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
C. G. McCary Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 04/04/07
Posts: 613
Loc: Alabama
The heat I am referring to is several weeks of 90-100 F that continues with no break & the nights hot too -- a number of days is no big deal.

I notice the chicks taking shade also & panting here.

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#10052 - 07/25/08 03:04 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
We've hit the 100s and no deaths this week. I'm attempting another hatch to see if it WAS the drastic change in feed for the Leghorns.

I just wish I could see symptoms before the birds die. It makes no sense for them to just drop. The Minorcas (except for the egg in the repro tract) all randomly dropped either in the coop or out in the pen. The Leghorn chicks always seemed to die during/after a rainstorm, and the other birds just randomly dropped like flies as well.

We're down to 2 Minorca hens and a rooster. (If the rooster dies, that's it. I'm done with Minorcas; I'll move on. For a hardy breed it just isn't standing up to the elements like the Brahmas and Cochin.)

Bushman, I'm wondering with the TB wouldn't there be respiratory symptoms? or at least hemorrhaging in the trachea?

The heat index is 110, and at night it gets into the 80s. (Makes me happy!)

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#10053 - 08/23/08 08:07 AM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
No more dead birds since Fancy died.

Have a Langshan cock that's gonna get taught a lesson if he doesn't back off though...

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#10054 - 08/23/08 01:56 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Kbaiko Offline
Chicken

Registered: 05/24/08
Posts: 98
Loc: Arizona
Glad to hear your good news. It's so hard when you loose a chicken. When you don't know the reason, it's even worse.

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#10055 - 09/02/08 11:08 AM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
Well, we've had one more death. The Langshan cockerel. No symptoms, no panting. Just death?

I'm noticing, and this could be coincidence...the deaths always seem to happen following a rain. When I say rain, I mean, even a light shower. The bird died the day after we had rain. Coincidence?

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#10056 - 09/03/08 04:46 AM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Shoofly Offline
Flock Leader

Registered: 05/05/05
Posts: 252
Loc: Florida
I had a similar situation about a year ago. Are the birds very thin when they die, or do they have a lot of "meat" on them?


I lost several in a row and it was just like doomsday, only every day. frown

Have you taken a float in for your vet? I do a "group poop" where I collect little bits of morning poo of as many birds as possible and then my vet takes a look under a microscope. For about 20 bucks, its worth it.

I don't know if you want to do that though, some folks don't do the vet thing with their chickens! M

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#10057 - 09/03/08 04:14 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
It's not that I wouldn't mind doing it...but I don't think the vet will know what he's looking at?! lol! He's not big into birds...so chickens would be a little out of his league.

Birds aren't thin. Have a nice body set. It's literally as though they are walking, then drop dead??? Makes absolutely no sense to me?

They're definitely not overweight, but NOT underweight in the least. The odd thing is...the hens are still producing eggs, have a nice red comb when they die?

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#10058 - 09/04/08 10:15 AM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Bushman Offline
Ruler of the Roost

Registered: 07/25/07
Posts: 1047
Loc: Wisconsin
So the next time one dies, freeze it immediately, and send/take it to a state laboratory for a necropsy. Check with your state dept. of Agriculture. Why continue to live with a problem like that?
_________________________
Pilgrim in a foreign land and true believer.
1st John 5:11-12

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#10059 - 09/05/08 03:33 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
I did! I sent Fancy off after deciding not to deal with it any more. Everything came back negative! Absolutely nothing wrong with them? It makes no sense!

It can't be poisoning, otherwise ALL of the birds would have it right? Why just one or two out of a pen? It just makes no sense to me whatsoever!

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#10060 - 09/12/08 04:31 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
1 more... Raptor. Our only son from Mr. Mom. We were saving him for the "just in case" factor as a back up breeder.

We also lost an AWESOME Brahma pullet that I intended on showing at the fair...stupid thing put her neck through the fence and broke it in an attempt to get free. I mean HONESTLY!

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#10061 - 09/12/08 09:29 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
2 more. However these were KILLED by something.

I will post in a new topic as I'm afraid these others were either disease or nutritionally related.

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#10062 - 09/17/08 12:40 AM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Uno Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/26/05
Posts: 1280
Loc: Canada
Have you found out anything more? More deaths?

I read recently that the position of the bird tells you if it died of heart attack. Most birds, for most reasons, die face down. It is NOT normal for a bird to be on its back for any reason..unless death by heart attack. Apparently heart attack is almost 100% certain if you find the bird on his back. That's what I read anyway.

When I think about it, I have found dead meat birds on their backs. But all others who have died in the hen house were face down.

Once I saw a bird keel over backwards. A cockatiel. It was waddling along the hallway when the 2 year old I was babysitting snuck up behind it. The kid just tiptoed silently on her fat kid feet, the bird waddled on a bit then stopped as if it sensed a presence. The kid bent over low and I thought she was going to stomp on the bird. Instead, when she was about an inch away from the birds head she let out this huge scream. The bird just fell over. Plop. Little bird legs up in the air. Death by toddler! Kid just watched for a moment, bird got back on its feet and waddled off. Apparently this was not new to either of them. Only backwards bird I ever saw that got up again. eek

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#10063 - 09/19/08 09:08 AM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
LOL!

Well, we DID find something out. Something else killed 2 birds. So we moved ALL the birds from the "Murder Coop." When moving the birds around, some were heavy as a bowling ball, and others were so light they should be dead by morning.

We took out ALL feed from Stillwater Milling. I hopped in my car first thing the next morning and found a new feed store that makes it's own feed right on the premises. I bought 200 lbs. of this feed. Now, I'm serious. The lightest of these birds, a HUGE RIR x whatever hen should have been dead within a day of moving her. Instead, she's got color back in her comb, is walking around and is being the boss again.

So, it's the feed. We're going to be taking a sample to Chelsea to get it analyzed by their nutritionists and see if they can't tell us what was missing.

The feed protein is up by 1% so unless something was missing in the feed...there's no reason for the 1% of protein in the feed to make that big of a difference.

Now the issue is, I need to contact Stillwater Milling. Too bad they won't pay for the birds I've lost!

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#10064 - 09/20/08 12:04 AM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Foehn Offline
Administrator
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 1968
Loc: New Zealand
Hope it doesn't turn out to be something like melamine in the feed. China is having yet more issues with it, this time in baby formula and NZ has been implicated because of a 43% shareholding. Unluckily for NZ, the Chinese Govt. didn't want a scandal during the Olympic games, so despite our good company trying to get an immediate recall as soon as they discovered it, it didn't happen.

Unless your feed has been sourced from local produce, then it could contain any number of harmful products. Interesting that your birds seem to have been starving on it.

I suggested an analysis back in July.

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#10065 - 09/20/08 01:07 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Jrsygntbrdr1 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 2601
Loc: Arkansas
Yes, but see at THAT point we thought it was a disease. Because at some point I heard coughing and then nothing.

Now that we KNOW something is up with the feed, we will be getting that checked out pronto. After 15 years of using this feed, this is the first time we've ever had an issue with it.

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#10066 - 09/20/08 07:14 PM Re: 20 birds dead in 3 months!
Uno Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/26/05
Posts: 1280
Loc: Canada
Anyway you can find out if others in your area, using the same feed have had simialr problems? Maybe a call to the local vet, asking if anyone has reported sudden poultry loses that they feel are food related? Even if you get the receptionist...I find the local vet receptionist has her finger on the pulse of the animal community. You might not be alone in this, and if you want the company's attention, strength in numbers. Good luck.

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