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#13298 - 09/25/04 09:05 PM Please help ... hens dying

Hello, I hope someone can help us. First I'll give you some history:

Two years ago, we had 18 hens, and let them free range, but had a horrible slaughter (cyotes or a pack of wild dogs), from which only one survived.

Shortly after that, we "rescued" five hens from an elderly man (two Buckeyes, three red hens). I don't know the age of the ones we rescued, but we currently only have two of the rescued hens remaining. One Buckeye died last year during a very hot summer (not unusual), one red hen mysteriously dissapeared (we suspected cyotes), and one Buckeye died a month ago. She is one of the ones I'm writing about now:

Also, last Spring (2003) we purchased some chicks, and had twelve chickens (up until a month ago), and two guineas which live with the chickens. Our "girls" are in a protected coop, with an adjoining covered run. They have a wall of laying boxes, two inside roosts and one perch in the outside run. We line the laying boxes and the earthen floor with wood shavings.

For feed, we use Layena and scratch, and change their water daily. Occasionally, I'll add electrolytes to their drinking water. We also let them out to run free every evening until they go back into their coop for the night.

About a month ago, our Buckeye hen "Bubbles" developed what we thought was bumblefoot ... limping badly, had a sore on the bottom of each foot, wanted to sit instead of walk. I cleaned her feet daily, treated them with triple antibiotic and wrapped them. I kept her in a brooding pen with a thick layer of wood shavings to cushion her feet. Every day the other hens would cluck around the little brooder pen and talk to her. After about five days, she stopped limping and seemed much better ... so I let her out to peck around with the other girls (wearing her bandage booties of course). When it was time for them to go to roost, she didn't go in, and I found her sitting under the porch. I had to get her out and put her back into the brooder. I was very surprised to find that she'd died the next day. Since this was one of our rescued girls, we weren't sure of her age, so I was saddened and concerned ... but not alarmed.

Until now ... One of our younger girls is a Black Giant, and she is one of the 2003 chicks. She has appeared to be molting for the last month or so (looks pitiful), but yesterday when I let them out for their evening "romp" she was lagging behind and walking very slowly. So slow, that I could reach out and touch her ... and she's sick if she's that slow, because she's always kept her distance. When the girls went back to roost tonight, she wasn't there ... and sure enough I found her sitting under the porch area. I picked her up (very skinny) and placed her in the brooder, but I feel sure that she'll also die within the next day or two. :-(

I have noticed that there seem's to be an awful lot of feather loss from the chickens and guineas. However, my leghorn (the lone survivor of the slaughter) has obviously been molting, because she's sprouting new feathers. Can several molt at about the same time?

My common sense tells me that our problems probably came from the "rescued" hens ... because they're the ones that have died ... up until this one, she's one of our babies.

Please ... any advice? How can I help them and how can I put some healthy weight back on them? Could it just be internal parasites? I've tried finding a vet who will help with chickens, but I can't seem to find anybody here in the Waco area.

#13299 - 09/25/04 11:04 PM Re: Please help ... hens dying

Greetings Tambar-
Welcome to The Classroom.
It is unfortunate that your 'arrival' was not under better circumstances. However, be assured your choice to be here will prove to be a good one.
While you are waiting for a reply to your posted questions/concerns, I'd like to suggest you try the search function. You'll find it located in the upper right corner of the page. Keep the 'options' open and do not enter a member number. Try 'searching' feather loss and /or weight loss and read through the past posts. You'll no doubt glean some information.
I wish you the very best outcome for your present situation and for the future of your flock.


#13300 - 09/26/04 04:48 AM Re: Please help ... hens dying

The best way to deal with any problem is to diagnose what it is. If you have a bird die, it should be necropsied. Sometimes the cause is obvious, sometimes not. If you don't feel comfortable doing a necropsy yourself, almost any veterinarian that knows bird anatomy should be able to help. Maybe they would even let you watch so you can learn to do a necropsy yourself. If you have a bird you want necropsied die on the weekend, refrigeration is better than freezing if possible.

If nothing obvious is showing up on the necropsy, tissue samples may have to be sent in. That's where your state diagnostic lab comes in. Most states I think the lab will be part of the state department of agriculture. Some states provide diagnostic services for free or my state (Ohio) it is a very nominal charge. I think last time I had a bird necropsied by the state is was something like $10-15.

First thing I would do Monday morning is contact either your county extension office or your state dept. of agriculture. They should be able to direct you to a poultry veterinarian or specialist. Even though the state vets deal mostly with the big commercial farms, I am always amazed at how patient and helpful they are with those of us who just maintain small backyard flocks.

Good luck with your flock.

#13301 - 09/26/04 05:18 AM Re: Please help ... hens dying
Bill Ludwig Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 07/17/02
Posts: 2582
Loc: Ohio
Hello Tambar

I wish I could tell what is causing this and provide an answer but I dont know. I will try to answer some of your questions and make some suggestions.
It has been my experience that birds of the same breed and age will molt on about the same time table. Generaly in the fall when the days start getting shorter. They will not all molt at the same pace. Some will molt quickly (a few weeks) while others may take months. At a time of molt chickens need larger amounts of protien. I would suggest cutting the scratch from thier diet for now since it has less than 10% protien. Another cause for feather loss could be mites. You can use the search as TC suggested to learn more about that. To check for internal parasites you need to gather some droppings and take to your vet. Most wont charge you an office visit just a charge for the test. Keep in mind however that it is NOT recomended to use a wormer on a sick animal. For you sick gal in the brooder pen you could try adding some poultry vitamins to her water and tempting her to eat with high protien foods. Her layer rations are good but if she isn't eating them a couple suggestions that get good results are scrambled eggs and plain live culture yogurt with some layer mixed in. You can also try mixing a little milk with the layer ration but dont let it set so that the milk spoils. Good luck and welcome to the coop.


#13302 - 09/26/04 07:50 AM Re: Please help ... hens dying

Thankyou all for the information.

We have only fed them scratch about once a week, so it's not a daily thing, but we won't feed it anymore until we've got this under control.

I will take a sample to my vet on Monday morning, and I think he'll at least let me know if there are any parasites present. Also, I will call our county extension agent as suggested. Hopefully, our Black Giant "Blackie" won't die. She's on her feet this morning, so I took her a little saucer of scrambled egg, which she is eating. I will also get some yogurt today to try and give her a boost, and add some vitamins to her water.

I know that our vet sends animals to Texas A&M for examination sometimes, so I'll ask about sending Blackie if she does pass away.

Again, thanks so much!! :-) Keeping my fingers crossed.

#13303 - 09/26/04 08:00 AM Re: Please help ... hens dying

Thank you TC for the suggestion. I wasn't sure how to find information on here at first, so you were a big help.

I suspect that our girls may need to be wormed, but will make sure before doing so. Most of them look healthy and are doing good, so hopefully they can be treated once we determine the problem.

I did notice that one of my chickens has been pecked around her tail feathers, some blood present this morning. This is the first time I've seen this on her, and I know that she needs to be separated from the others, but don't really want to put her in with "Blackie" ... I'll get her tonight when she's on the roost and check her out better. I may put her in with Blackie afterall, because she's already been exposed to whatever the problem is anyway.

I'm pretty certain that the guineas are the ones being agressive. I've seen them chase and pick at the chickens at times, but this is the first I've noticed blood. I may have to find another home for them. However, they are good guard dogs as far as outside threats to the flock.

Thanks again, Tambar

#13304 - 09/27/04 03:46 AM Re: Please help ... hens dying


If you need to have nercropsy done on a bird yes send it to A&M. The cost is $15. Also here is a link to the Texas Vet Medical Diagnostic Lab web site with all the information on it. TVMDL

#13305 - 09/28/04 07:48 AM Re: Please help ... hens dying

Not sure of your problem, but for the Guineas, I have found them to be very agressive with fowls. Even when reared by them. My last lost killed all the black and white poultry on the place. Their adoptive mother was black and white (Silver Spangled Hamburg), and any that came near her they pecked it to death.
Maybe you could give them some meat scraps. They get protein from this. Stops them pecking at others. Most battery hens peck each other to get the blood from the feathertips. Just a suggestion. I feed meat scraps to my hens, plus loads of greens.
There is a disease which causes carbuncles on the feet of hens. Not sure of what it is called, but any bird that has this is not allowed to be shown as it is contagious. According to Oz show rules.
Hope your girls recover.
cheers Jan

#13306 - 09/28/04 03:31 PM Re: Please help ... hens dying

Well, my vet examined the stool of my sick hen. He said that she does have Cappilaria worms, and possibly others. He said that they're difficult to treat, but to go the the local TSC store and get the wormer to put in their water. The only product the store had was Wazine 17 ... and it states that it's not to be used on chickens producing eggs for human consumption. It also says to retreat in 30 days.

Please ... is there a better product? What do I do now? I know that I'll need to treat all twelve of our girls, but what should I use and how long will we have to wait before we can use the eggs again? I know that some of you have said NOT to worm a sick chicken. ???? Is it possible to get her healthy enough so that she can be wormed? She's not the only one who is underweight, so I'm at a loss here.

#13307 - 09/28/04 05:30 PM Re: Please help ... hens dying
Emmy Offline

Registered: 07/20/04
Posts: 64
Loc: New Jersey
I am sorry to hear about your plight. From what I know, Wazine 17 is good for round worms in chickens but will not actually work on cappillary worms. For cap. worms Levamisol is recommended but unfortunatly it is difficult to get a hold of as most feed and supplies that I have come across only carry Wazine. I do know that it can be ordered from Smith Poultry and Game Bird Supply. I have not actually had to use Levamisol so I cannot speak on its efficacy, hopefully someone more experienced can assist you but I hope this helps. Good Luck!

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