18w pullet who has lost her balance, I think

Common poultry diseases and conditions, advice on what they are and how to treat them.
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18w pullet who has lost her balance, I think

Postby eae » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:31 pm

Hi all,

This is the third pullet of the same hatch of Houdans who has had the same symptoms. The other two showed when they were about 9w. We quickly dispatched the other two, not knowing if it was a curable situation as we had a lot of young chicks around at the time. We didn't want to risk keeping unwell birds around.

I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas as to what this might be, disease, congenital problem, or a mineral deficiency of some sort.

Yesterday afternoon we noticed this pullet walking strangely. She had her head pointed down and tail up, rather than her usual very upright stance. I caught her and had a look over and didn't see anything obvious so decided to just watch her. Within a couple of hours she was struggling to walk and if I sat her down on her feet, she would sort of bob backwards and forwards, flap her wings about and such, eventually either face planting or ending up on her side. I isolated her in a small run, and checked on her a couple of hours after that - by that point she could no longer gain her balance at all. Immediately falling over when placed on her feet. She's not willingly eating or drinking, but yesterday evening and today I've got about 200ml of water with ornithon and honey into her with an oral syringe. I've offered her boiled egg and cooked chicken. She didn't willingly eat any of it, but if I managed to get a little into her beak she would swallow it. She can move her legs, feet, toes and wings, but either has no strength or control in them, or has a balance problem.

She's been free ranging with the rest of our flock since about 4 weeks of age. They have access to plenty of water, Peck N Lay in the feeder, fruit off the trees and appropriate scraps from the kitchen. I've not sprayed anything in many weeks (although spraying has never caused issue in the last several years) and I can't think of anything else. Our 20 other birds seem to be in perfectly good health.

The fact that this has happened to 3 houdans seems to point to a sensitivity in that line or perhaps a deficiency from the parent birds.. but I really know very little about such things. I would think that it would be a bit much of a coincidence though.

Thoughts anyone?
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Re: 18w pullet who has lost her balance, I think

Postby Marina » Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:48 pm

My first thought was Mareks but usually they eat and drink with great appetite - as long as they can reach the food. Also the progression of her problem seems a bit fast for Mareks.

If it is poisoning she'll either die pretty soon or recover. Some birds (and also some breeds) have got preferences for cetain things so it may well be that your Houdans fancy nightshade berries or Kowhai seeds (or something else that's poisonous) which your other birds don't touch. Just in case it is poisoning I'd keep her isolated for a while longer just to make sure she can't get any more of what caused her condition.

If it is a spider bite (I believe I've lost 2 pullets to white tailed spider bites as both my husband and our daughter got bitten and needed medical attention during thta same season and I also saw (and killed) a huge one in the chicken house. I also found an unusual swelling in one of the pullets when doing a post mortem) then you're lucky she isn't already dead and she may come right.

If it is indeed Mareks then there is nothing you can do for her in the long term. I loose a lot of my chicks to Mareks and yes, some lines are susceptible and others aren't. I have, for instance, lost all my Silkies a few seasons ago, while some crossbreds that grew up with them were not affected at all.

At 19 weeks your others should be almost past that age when they are most affected by Mareks so fingers crossed the current one is the last one.
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Re: 18w pullet who has lost her balance, I think

Postby eae » Mon Feb 27, 2017 3:16 pm

Thanks, Marina.

We do have 3-4 small kowhai trees on our property. One of which the houdans and several other young birds like to hang out under, so it may well be something like that. If memory serves though, the ones who got sick at 9w hadn't yet ventured into that area of the property, but I also may just not have noticed.

She is still with us today. No change in her lack of movement, but she's still feisty as when I go to pick her up and spins her head all around the place when I'm holding her. She takes a good several minutes of quiet holding and soothing noises for her to settle down and stop struggling. Still not interested in eating or drinking, but I've been keeping up the ornithon/honey mix as much as I can - I think I end up with more on me than in her though. She ate maybe a teaspoon of yoghurt this afternoon. Not much to keep a bird going for long though. She has a pile of pellets in front of her beak if she changes her mind.

I'll be able to keep this up until Thursday, then I'm out all day Friday and won't be able to check on her. Thursday afternoon will have been 5 days - if she's not either died or showing improvement by then, I suspect she'll be up for the chop :( We started with 4 houdan pullets, and after this one we'll only have one left.
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Re: 18w pullet who has lost her balance, I think

Postby Marina » Tue Feb 28, 2017 9:43 pm

That's a shame but Houdans aren't the most robust chickens around. Hopefully the remaining one will be strong and healthy.

We've got 2 kowhai trees and most chooks don't touch the seeds. However, there once was a pullet who, when let out for the first time, made a bee-line for the yellow seeds. I caught her in the act, she had eaten a few and I locked her up again. I didn't notice any ill effect in her so a few seeds shouldn't matter. However, had I left her to it she would have gorged herself on the seeds and the result probably wouldn't have been pretty. I don't know what effect kowhai seeds would have on birds and I only mentioned this as an example. I wouldn't fret re the kowhai trees - we've had chooks free ranging for 16 years now and at times the soil is littered with the seeds and nothing has ever happened.
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Re: 18w pullet who has lost her balance, I think

Postby Kracka » Thu Mar 09, 2017 11:36 am

I've some lines of birds go down to problems more than others - all running within the same group - for a few years it was my Hamburgs to what I suspect was Mareks (for this, it seems eventually you get left with the birds that are more resistant)
then more recently has been my Silkies to what I think is a mineral deficiency (only because a particularly bad example came right when I fed him Ornithon - which you can't buy now, but any avian multi vitamin/mineral should help)
so you're basically doing everything I would try, then its a wait and see
can be really frustrating though
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Re: 18w pullet who has lost her balance, I think

Postby eae » Thu Mar 09, 2017 6:56 pm

She got the chop a week ago, sigh. After a couple of days of syringe watering, her appetite came back and she was eating a lot of boiled egg, pellets and grass. She never did seem to get back to drinking though. So after 5 days total and 3 days of big eating and with no improvement in her movement, we figured she wasn't going to improve. Disappointing as she was a lovely natured and beautiful bird. They all are though, aren't they? So, we're now down to a lone Houdan. I don't think we'll be trying them again, even though they're lovely. My 13yo son chose these guys, so he's pretty gutted that they've had so many problems. He's asked for more faverolles next season (we have two pullets - one with full beard and muffs, she's gorgeous!), but it appears they are even harder to get hold of than the Houdans were :shock:
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