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Sick (Weak) Chicken

Richmond, TX



I'm new here and I have a young Jersey Giant hen that is ill. She is not paralyzed but is weaker on her right side. She walks with a limp on the right and holds her right eye closed. Most of the time she just sits on her chest and sort of whines. No coughing or sneezing or wheezing.


She is still eating but not a lot, crop never full. She has been about the same for three days. What could it be and what can I do to help her?

Any help would be appreciated.

Clarkson, KY

I'm not very good at diagnosis, but there is a reference link thread at the top of the forum. The first post, I believe, has a link for diagnosis by symptom. If you can find no sore spots, hot spots, or pock or black marks inside or out, I might guess Marek's. Check that link first though...it was very good for telling you what to look for.

And please check back in and tell us how it's going...G'luck!!

Richmond, TX

Thanks grownut, I had looked at those links, and my hen doesn't seem to quite match the symptoms for Marek's. She was also supposed to have been vaccinated...? Hope that's not it.

Clarkson, KY

I'm glad of that. Hopefully a few of those with more experience will be on later. Have you handled her enough to know whether she has any sore spots? I have seen that sort of onesided-ness in birds when they have puncture wounds, once with a rooster who got metal in his foot and a hen who damaged the inside of her mouth somehow. There was some sort of asymptomatic respiratory thing, but I cannot recall the thread...

Meanwhile at least bumping this up!!

Lodi, United States

Marek's came to mind with me too...the symptoms can be variable depending on what organ system or nerves are involved. I'm not sure the vaccine is 100%--but if she was vaccinated that makes it less likely.

Is she losing weight rapidly?


Oxford, NS(Zone 5b)

Is her poop normal? I'm having trouble on this one because I've gone through the Chicken Health Handbook by Damerow looking at the chart for diseases affecting movement and nothing really fits. Even Marek's doesn't quite seem to fit. Is she drinking? I would get her on an antibiotic personally. I am not big on antibiotic use, but when you can't find other symptoms, it could be an infection that could get worse and at least it would be preventive. I would get her away from your other birds and give a nice high protein treat like cottage cheese, mixed with minced garlic and some olive oil for energy.

Richmond, TX

Thanks all, I have not checked her over thoroughly for sore spots, I'll do that tomorrow. She does not object to being handled. She has lost weight but not rapidly. I know she isn't eating as much as usual but I don't know how much she is drinking. How can you tell if a chicken is dehydrated? Her mouth is moist... Her poop also looks okay.
I have Tetracycline soluble powder, is that an appropriate antibiotic? Also is there any way to take a chicken's temperature and what is normal?
I guess that's enough questions for one post. Thanks again!

Oxford, NS(Zone 5b)

Yes on the tetracycline, one teaspoon per gallon. Obviously you probably don't want to make a gallon, so reduce appropriately. If her poop looks OK she probably isn't dehydrated. That also says her digestive system is working well, which is positive.

I don't know how to take their temperature?! Anyone?

Clarkson, KY

I can only think of one orifice...

I would hold the chicken with it's feet on my palm. A healthy bird usually feels very hot to the touch -unless they've been standing in snow or something. Googled temps but the answers were wild -between 102 and 107 or 39 and 42

Lodi, CA(Zone 9b)

I'm curious about that closed eye. I am curious if it is the right color. Have you seen it when it was open? Did you notice if it was a different color than the other one? How old is she? Point of lay???

Richmond, TX

She is about nine months old and has been laying for a couple of months. In fact she has layed an egg as recently as yesterday. Her eyes both look normal; she just holds the right shut most of the time. I asked about the temperature because I thought her feet felt quite hot, but that too is normal? She is alert and active with her neck (grooming herself) she just has trouble moving about - sort of staggers and catches her balance with a wing. And she "whines".

Lodi, CA(Zone 9b)

What about her comb? Does it look okay?

Ferndale, WA

Hi Porkpal, I have two young pullets that have exactly the same symptoms. They are both eating and drinking, when not doing so they just stand in one spot, and wobble slightly. When they start to walk its as though one leg is injured or shorter than the other. I have them both on antibiotics. They have been like this for going on five days now. Neither appear to be getting better, but, neither appear to be getting worse. It's a waiting game! And yes mine were vaccinated for Merek's and coccidiosis. I removed them from all the rest and all others seem to be fine. They are two months old and have no spunk at all. Haystack

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

Oh you guys. I sure hope the best for your chickens. I also had a hen weak on one side. However, I found a wound behind her wing that may have been sending pain down her side and affecting her walking. She was limping and not walking much at all. Both eyes open though. So really it does not sound the same thing. Please keep us updated.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

If I recall my vet tech training correctly, birds temps vary widely because they are essentially feathered reptiles and environmental temps have a greater effect on them than on mammals. Their homeostatic temp system is not as well developed as mammals. Temps are not routinely taken in vet practice because it is an unreliable indicator.

Usually the first order of business with a sick bird in a vet clinic is to provide warmth... a heat lamp in a corner that the bird can choose to sit under if it needs to warm up or avoid if it feels too warm.

Hope she gets better soon...
Jay

Richmond, TX

Well, I looked her over pretty thoroughly this morning and I can find no injuries, but it would be easy to miss something as she is very heavily feathered. Her skin looks good, her comb is red, her eyes are clear (Just keeps one shut - can open it though). There is a little poop in her rear feathers - possibly from pooping sitting down, but she keeps the rest of her feathers groomed. She moves her neck and wings normally but the right leg is very weak. If I pull on the left she resists strongly, much less so with the right; and the toes knuckle under. I have not been able to tempt her to eat the cottage cheese treat; l'll try a few other hi pro goodies. I will need to move her to a bigger crate to offer her the choice of a heat lamp, it has been cold her recently. Thanks for all your advice.

Lodi, CA(Zone 9b)

I wish you luck with her. It is so hard to see our birds suffer, even slightly!

Sure seems she has Merek's symptoms, I hope not.

I read that the vaccine is only 90%
Not all birds that get it die from Merek's.

Richmond, TX

Okay, I think that I have her problem narrowed down to some sort of injury to the leg. She is eating catfood (ycck!) and is on Tetracycline (just in case) and is now keeping her eye open more. Although she shows no sign of pain her leg must be sprained or dislocated or something. I can feel all the bones intact. I can't find any wounds. A month ago or more someone here described treating a chicken with a broken leg. Does anyone remember that topic?

Bend, OR(Zone 5a)

Dry cat food won't hurt her..... ours lay better when we treat them to it sometimes...

Ginger

Lodi, CA(Zone 9b)

That broken leg chicken was probably me.. I dropped a bale of hay on one of my hens. She didn't limp, she was totally lame.. I taped it back together with Popsicle sticks..

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

Ouch! wow! You are like McGyver!

Bend, OR(Zone 5a)

Yep.. we use toilet paper rolls for chickens/ducks and PVC for goats....(who just love to fling themselves off of spools and break things)....like legs.

Ginger

Lodi, CA(Zone 9b)

How is that hen doing Porkpal? Hope she is on the mend.

Richmond, TX

Well she is definitely holding her own. She is eating and drinking ok and in fact now seems almost normal except that the right leg is almost useless. I can't splint it as I don't know where the problem is. I don't see any wounds, the bones feel whole,and she can move it but very weakly. I'm keeping her separate from the rest, have antibiotics in her water and am offering her high protein treats - so far her favorite is cat food. I guess I need to just watch her and see what develops, unless anyone has any other ideas. Thanks for your concern.

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

Well, that is good news, I hope! Holding her own will do for now. I wish I could help more. Just know you and your hen are in my thoughts. ;)

Oxford, NS(Zone 5b)

I wonder if it is actually a hip problem more than a leg problem?

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

Like out of joint? ouch!

Richmond, TX

How could I tell if it is out of joint? I can feel the "ankle" and the "knee" - whatever they ought to be called - and they're ok . Out of joint might be the answer. So it must be the hip. When I pull the other leg, she resists strongly. The injured one offers very little resistance. I'll try feeling higher up.

Richmond, TX

I just checked her out, and her hips feel the same to me. She also offers stronger resistance to my moving the hip than the other joints - on both legs. The lame leg just seems to get weaker the farther down it goes. The toes are practically limp. I really don't know that my manipulations actually cause her any pain. She reacted much more when I tried to open her beak! Oh well, tincture of time...

Oxford, NS(Zone 5b)

Oh yes, the beak reaction is a good one! I had a silkie with wry neck whom I had to feed vitamin E + selenium capsules. She did NOT like having her beak opened for that. Thank goodness it eventually did the trick and I could stop torturing her!!

I wondered if the hip joint was showing degeneration or something (like arthritis in humans) and thus it was painful for her to put any pressure on the leg because it caused pressure in the hip. But that doesn't seem to fit with the symptoms. Gosh, I just don't know. I'm so glad she's eating and drinking though. If the hip still has strength, but the knee not so much, I might try splinting across the knee and see if she will put pressure on the leg that would go up into the hip and bypass pressure on the knee.

Ferndale, WA

I am very happy to say that both of my very young pullets are doing much better and pretty much walking normal. It took about eight days for them to come out of it, I put them on terramycin (light dose) and for a while was not sure they would make it. Thanks to all for their thought and concern. Haystack

Bend, OR(Zone 5a)

I love a happy ending

Ginger

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

That is very good news Haystack! I love happy endings too Ginger! :D

Richmond, TX

My lame chicken also seems to be improving a little. She moves around a bit more - perhaps she is just hungrier. I tried splinting her knee as CMoxon suggested; and I'm not good at splints, I guess. She just stood/sat there looking like a broken sawhorse. Such a tolerant hen! So, anyway, I took it off and she sort of flops around on one leg and one wing. But she has both eyes open and isn't whining anymore (or is it any more?) So she seems better to me. Maybe after 8 days...

Clarkson, KY

Glad to hear she seems on the mend, porkpal! Please keep us posted.

Oxford, NS(Zone 5b)

Poor girl, sorry that my suggestion flummoxed her! It's like when my parents put a coat on their dog - she refuses to walk - just stands there looking confused. :-(

Sounds like she's getting better though!

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

Well, both eyes open is a step. I am glad she is not whinning anymore too! Sounds like progress!

Lodi, CA(Zone 9b)

Check this out.. I knew it was common with chicks, but mature birds? Weird!

http://www.thepoultrysite.com/diseaseinfo/168/vitamin-e-deficiency-encephalomalacia-exudative-diathesis-muscular-dystrophy

Lodi, United States

Wow! That is interesting. The husband of the vet who wants to try to decrow my roos (yes!) was telling me about a well known problem with choline deficiency in some strains or breeds of chickens. The chicks develope a particular form of lamenesss and deformity. If their diets were supplemented early enough they recovered:

http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp?cfile=htm/bc/206927.htm

Richmond, TX

Those are a couple of scary deficiency diseases! I don't think either is likely in my hen's case. I've always trusted Purina feeds and she is eating "Layena" (plus all sorts of treats recently to tempt her to eat better). Vitamin E is also plentiful in green grass and mine are pastured hens. I'm also quite certain their feed is not rancid so hopefully this is just an orthopedic problem. That choline deficiency sounds gross! I certainly am learning a lot here!

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