What's killing them??

Common poultry diseases and conditions, advice on what they are and how to treat them.
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What's killing them??

Postby bacchus51 » Thu Feb 14, 2019 10:01 am

Hi, I have owned chickens for about 10 years; starting with poultry rescue hens then moving to pedigree breeds as the rescue chickens had a lifespan of less than 3 years. Almost all of my chickens have succumbed to the same fate. I have tried numerous lotions, potions and powders but without success, though only 2 of my Barnevelders have become infected in last 5 years.
The symptoms are: pasty vent, reduced appetite, gradual wasting away, later unsteady on their feet, then appear tired and listless, then in last 24 hours they smell bad, then death. Whole process takes 7 - 14 days.
I allow them to free-range on our suburban property, dose them with eprinex every 3 months, coxiprol also 3 months, red mite cream on legs as required, scrub their coop every 6 months then spray with virkon solution.
Have saved a couple by giving antibiotics if I notice symptoms early.
If someone can put a name to whatever this disease is, then I can treat chickens accordingly.
Thanks for your help.
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Re: What's killing them??

Postby nhb » Thu Feb 14, 2019 6:00 pm

Sounds like you are doing pretty much everything you can do for them, there is a wasting away sickness but sorry I can't remember the name of it. I have lost one bird I believe to this sickness, but by the time I picked up on it I was to late
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Re: What's killing them??

Postby Marina » Thu Feb 14, 2019 10:27 pm

How old are your chickens when they start to waste away? Is it one at a time or do they do it all at once?

Marek's disease can manifest itself as a wasting disease. Their breast bone will become more and more prominent until they are only feathers and bone. The last stage is smelly dirty bum. Once that stage is reached it only takes a week or two until they become weak and eventually die.

Do you observe a 6 week egg withholding period after each dosing with Eprinex? If not your hens' eggs will have a higher level of residues than store bought eggs. For half of the year you shouldn't eat their eggs!

Dosing them with Coxiprol every 3 months means that every 3 months their immune system is subjected to a huge challenge as they loose all their immunity they have built up against coccidiosis and have to start building it up again from scratch. Adult hens have to be immune to coccidiosis. They built up immunity while they grow up. If they aren't immune as adult hens you have to treat them every fortnight. 2 weeks egg withholding after each coccidiosis treatment means you won't be able to eat their eggs at all.

Do you see where I'm going? Medications are there to cure diseases - not to give your hens a challenge and to throw away all the hard work their immune system has already done. You also make sure the parasites are able to become immune to the treatments we have available so one day they will no longer work.

I'm not sure what you mean with red mite cream. I've never heard of such a product.

So please - do not use Coxiprol ever again on adult hens who show no symptoms. The only adult hens who may need a treatment with Coxiprol are rescue cage hens as they have never been in contact with their excrements so haven't had a chance to deveop immunity.

The only thing you probably need is something to kill red mites - and these live in the nooks and crannies of the coop, not on the chickens. DE (Diatomaceous Earth) is what I choose to use but get the proper stuff, not the the stuff in a plastic bottle.

If you ever notice worms Aviverm or Flubenol are the medications of choice. Or give chopped up pumkin seeds (the green ones from the bulk food in the supermarket) as a preventative.
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Re: What's killing them??

Postby bacchus51 » Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:44 am

They develop this illness at any age and always only one at a time. Because I don't know what the ailment is, I tend to over-react and throw the whole chemist shop at them.I used to buy them in as 18 month rescue hens but now as pullets, so I don't know whether they had been dosed for coccidiosis. But thank you for your advice on Coxiprol, one dose is enough in their lifetime.
The cream I bought is actually for cow's teats and contains a mild Manuka anti-septic. I use it instead of petroleum jelly and it works well.
I sprinkle 50/50 mix of diatomaceous earth and flowers of sulpha onto roost and nesting box bedding.
If it was Mareks disease, the whole flock would get it at the same time as it is highly contagious. Also limbs are not sticking out in different directions. However the other symptoms are similar. Rescue hens used to die one every 6 months on average, but only 2 of my Barnevelders have had it in the last 5 years. Second one has it now.
The smell that emanates just before death is very peculiar and unmistakable. I do not associate it with a dirty bum. Maybe a fungal infection in crop??. I can detect it within half a metre of bird.
Have not noticed any worms since using Eprinex, but I do have Flubenol and Aviverm in stock.
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Re: What's killing them??

Postby Marina » Mon Feb 18, 2019 8:31 am

Mareks takes one at a time. The virus has changed over time. Most cases are now caused by vaccinated birds being kept with unvaccinated birds.

Mareks used to be called 'Range Paralysis' and usually wasn't deadly. The vaccine was the live version of the turkey virus but that was a long time ago.

More and more potent vaccines have been developed and these days Mareks is always deadly. Vaccinated birds and those who have developed immunity naturally are life long carriers and shedders of the virus. This means all commercial hybrids are lifelong carriers and shedders of the now deadly Mareks virus.

We backyard breeders breed and select for natural resistance but that is not always successful.

Even adult birds can develop Mareks when their health is challenged - like having to develop immunity against coccidiosis again from scratch. 'Popular' times for adult birds to succumb to Mareks are when they start again to lay after winter.

What your birds have is not bacterial - those are the diseases that spread like wildfire under the right conditions.

It could be Mareks, it could be fungal considering the smell you describe.

Fungal diseases are given a boost by treatment with antibiotics but otherwise they usually only occur in weak birds or old birds.

Commercial hybrids are not bred for a long life - all that counts is the number of eggs laid during their first 18 months of life. What comes after that does not matter.

I have had many deaths from the wasting form of Mareks. The weight loss occurs over weeks in younger birds, over months in older birds, until the breastbone feels like cardboard. They then become unsteady on their feet and eventually can no longer walk. None of the 'usual' signs like paralysis. They still eat well! Their bum becomes dirty and smelly but the smell is not that bad that I smell it from a couple of metres away.

I have heard of vent gleet that has a putrid smell. That is a fungal disease and I have yet to hear of a successful treatment that doesn't involve hundreds of Dollars (for systemic anti fungal medications) and multiple trips to the vet.

Whatever it is - if it only affects your rescue hens I wouldn't be too worried. They have reached the end of their life span at 3 or 4 years of age, some even earlier.
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Re: What's killing them??

Postby llvonn » Wed Feb 20, 2019 6:32 pm

You can always send your birds to be officially autopsied by Neil at avivet. Avivet do offer that service.http://avivet.co.nz/services/.
I have had him do an autopsy for me - it was very interesting. I would contact him and find out the costs and details.
He may also offer advice on managing the flock. It would also be best if you send as much detailed information - video may also help.
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Re: What's killing them??

Postby Rachmaginga » Fri Apr 12, 2019 7:47 pm

Hi I am very new to chickens but this sounds horrible! What came to mind first for me though was are they eating poison? Rat poison, garden fertilizers or even plants that they shouldn't be eating? I imagine the smell is from the intestines dying. Poor things, hopefully mine don't get this.
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