Friend needs HELP with some disease

(Zone 6b)

Here is what she says. I hope someone can tell me what to tell her. She and her sister have chickens and they often are buying more at the flea markets in IL. They've had them a few years. Okay, here is her question to me.

"Just wondering if you know anything about chicken problems. The chickens are dying. Lost 3 yesterday with another one on the way out and more that are starting to look sick. It seems to start with one eye kinda runny or scabby looking and then they stand there and open their beak and sorta gulp with head up in the air. Like they can't breath very well. I have no idea what to do. Am afraid it is going to wipe them out. The only thing different that we've done is feed them japanese beetles. It's also been horribly humid with high heat but they have had water and shade. Any idea what is going on?"

SW, AR(Zone 8a)

You can start by telling her that from the more places she brings chickens into her flock the higher the chances of bringing a problem into her flock.

Chickens are very susceptible to respiratory problems. Your friend has probably imported a disease into her flock from a flea market purchase–no telling the conditions a flea market chicken was living in. She might have purchased someone else’s problem.

How are the quarters, clean, well-ventilated? They need to be. How’s the diet? How’s the water?

“Lost 3 yesterday”
Tell her to decide to cull or treat. I would cull. If she decides to treat, the ill birds need to be separated from the healthy ones. And she needs to watch the supposedly healthy ones like a hawk. . . heh, heh.

Then she needs to know precisely what the disease is so she can treat for it. She might find a vet to make a diagnosis and prescribe a cure, but I doubt it. Most vets aren’t interested in treating a chicken, but she might sway one if her pockets are deep enough.

Tell her to make future purchases from a reputable hatchery or a chicken-keeper she knows and trusts. She and the chickens will be better off.

(Zone 6b)

Thanks Adam. As far as I know they have very good living conditions. They free range and have a beautiful area to roam around in. They are locked up at night for their safety. They were all healthy until this hit them.

(Zone 6b)

I heard from her today and she reported that a few other people with chickens she talked to were having the same problem. The problem is gnats. There are huge swarms of gnats that have hatched out and are attacking the chickens.

She bought something to keep them off her birds. That is all I know at the moment.

SW, AR(Zone 8a)

Gnats will pester chickens immensely, possibly to death in certain circumstances. Friend would have noticed gnats, it seems.

Once upon a time to break-up a Black Australorp I shut her up in a rabbit hutch. Gnats worked on her so bad I had to set her free. She didn’t go back to her nest though. She went straight under an out building and started dust bathing.

Are Friend’s chickens where they can take good dust baths? Do they have plenty of room, places to seek refuge from the gnats? She might note where her chickens dust bathe and sprinkle some wettable sulfur in the area.

(Zone 6b)

I have been reading about these gnats and they are Buffalo Gnats. They will kill chickens, they fly up the nostrils and get get in their throat and choke them to death. They can wipe out an entire large flock in one afternoon.

Spraying them with vanilla and water solution seems to be one of the answers that actually works. Any kind of bug off. Fans also are suggested. Keeping your chickens indoors where it is dark is also another, as these bugs like sunlight. Really anything that keeps bugs off, whether it is essential oils or mosquito repellent would help.

Those gnats are quite dangerous indeed, and about the size of the end of a pencil lead. Good news is, they are only there three weeks and then I guess they die.

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

I have never heard of them.

(Zone 6b)

Yes, they can attack people and livestock too. She said there were huge swarms of them, but she didn't realize they were what was killing the chickens. Other local people told her what it was. She lives in southwestern Illinois.

Glad I don't live up there I guess, even though it is beautiful country. They've had a lot of flooding this year too, so it was good breeding ground. Good news is their lifecycle is only three weeks. Poor little chickens. She said they'd just put their beaks in the air like they were choking. It can kill them quick too.

Reminds me of the movie "African Queen" where they were attacked by a swarm. If I remember correctly they called them gnats in the movie too.

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

So, how do people protect their animals?

(Zone 6b)

What I read about chickens said that spraying them with vanilla and water seemed to work best for some reason. Some said it is best to keep their chickens in their coop, esp if it is dark in there, as the gnats prefer sunlight. Fans in the coop are helpful.

Any kind of bug repellant might help. There are essential oils you can use too.

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