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February 6, 2011
I have lost four hens in the past week. Three of the four had literally wasted away to nothing. The fourth died and seemed to still have some meat on her and looked healthy(?) On previous ones we checked for mites and lice and found nothing. Tonight we decided to cut open the latest one. There was literally not one bit of meat or muscle to her. We didn't find any worms. We have no idea what the insides are supposed to look like, but nothing stood out to us. I feel so horrible that our hens have basically starved to death without us knowing. We don't pet them or hold them or check on them that closely other than to feed and water them, but we usually can tell when one of them is acting sick. We only noticed the first one as sick. She was lethargic and her comb was more white than red. Her death didn't surprise us, but the other three were surprises. The only thing we found was in her bowels. It looked like a fairly large mass of grass/ hay. If she were the only one, I'd say she was plugged up somehow, but there were three others to die in a similar way. We give them oyster shell and crumbles and corn. They also have a square block of "stuff" to peck at to keep them happy and entertained (seeds, etc.). They have plenty of dirt to "bathe" in and their coop is clean. They get water everyday. They are about 2-2.5 years old -not young but not overly old either.
February 10, 2009
What does their poop look like? Is it greenish and runny? Are they staggering or even just sort of limping around when they seem to be starting to get sick? This could be Mareks, but it could also be other things… chickens are so confusing because since they are such good examples of being prey animals, they try desperately to hide any kind of illness or injury at all. I don’t know where exactly you are located at, but if your extension office is any good, they may be able to help point you to your state college veterinary school, or whoever in your state/county runs the extension office. Your vet may be able to point you in the right direction too, to a place where you can get their poo tested or else even getting a postmortem done. The postmortem would cost quite a bit, but depending on how many hens you have, and the cost, you may consider it, it all depends.
How many do you have? I don’t actually call my vet to come out, nor to take any chickens in, but she will sometimes discuss things with me, and ‘think aloud’ about things, it really sucks that vets have to be so careful, they won’t often say anything that could be considered a diagnosis of course, too risky! If they’re wrong (and with chickens that is very possible) you might sue them! NOT!!!
I lost a few hens in a similar way this past spring, though not exactly. I suspect Mareks myself, but am not sure. These were Golden Comets and also some of my oldest hens. I think the sex linked, (I call them color coded!) anyway, I think they are just less hardy and more prone to disease and such. Totally my opinion of course, None of my other chickens seem affected, so I just rolled with it. Sorry not to be more helpful, it is irritating and confusing, but that’s how it goes with chickens. *sigh*
December 14, 2010
Inspect the crop for recently eaten food and the gizzard for content and grit. From your discription they have starved to death. Mother used to warn us not to feed the chicken grass clippings as they could become crop bound. Long strands of grass that can't pass from crop to gizzard. The intestines should be full of content.
February 6, 2011
Thanks, BEG. They are Rhode Island Reds- all four of them. None o'llf our Auracaunas have died. I know they were all vaccinated when they hatched, but I don't know for what. We have never wormed them and suspected that was the problem until we cut her open and found no worms. We had about 25 of them in that pen, with younger ones in another area until they are producing. These hens are on their way out in the near future, but I never wanted them to suffer. I also want to make sure we get whatever this is under control before any of the younger hens are moved. My plan is to clean out and disinfect the coop before any are moved anyway, but I'd like to know what I'm dealing with. I haven't seen any green poop or diarrhea out there. I just went out again and looked at what we saw when we opened her bowels. It was mainly an egg-sized clump of green hay/grass and a little other stuff. Sorry to be graphic. We dissected her out in the field and then left her for the wildlife. They usually make quick work of it. I think it's hardest because we didn't cut open any of the others to know if there are any similarities or differences to diagnose a problem. If we lose another one, we'll check. I do know that when we saw the first one was sickly, we picked her up and took her to the water and food and she had no interest in it. Then they just kinda lay down like they are roosting or nesting and "go to sleep". I'll research Mareks and see what I can find.
February 6, 2011
Ross- there was nothing in the crop. The grass/ hay was in the area just prior to being expelled. They most definitely died from starvation, just not sure why. There was nothing in any of her intestines or any area of digestion except the final "stage". I think it might be lymphoid leukosis. I looked at Marek's but thought the girls were a bit old for it, even though it is possible. I also looked up what their insides should look like and ours didn't look near the size of the pictures shown or the nice color. Ours was all dark and quite small (atrophied perhaps from starving). It also said that L.L. doesn't necessarily show signs before death or may show some signs such as the ones we have dealt with. Thankfully it's easy to get rid of from the coop with most disinfectants. Unfortunately, there is no way to stop any infected hens from dying. I think I saw that about 20 percent of an infected flock ends up dying. I will assume this is it until the next one. I'll check the insides if we lose another and see if it is the same and adjust my opinion or verify it as the case may be. We plan to lock the girls outside and disinfect the coop this week to see if that may help at all.
Ross- We did have one girl with an impacted crop once. I was able to massage it to the point that she was able to eat again and she is doing fine now almost a year later. It was quite noticeable as the problem with her. We don't let them free range so they don't have access to green grass, but we do use hay for their litter/ bedding. The mass I found was the color of old, dried hay, not fresh green. Thanks for your help!
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