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Dr. Pat
Dr. Pat, Bird Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 4244
Experience:  25+ years working primarily or exclusively with birds
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I have 5 ISA brown hens just over a year old that hve been healthy and

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I have 5 ISA brown hens just over a year old that hve been healthy and laying since we got them last summer except for one (the tamest "pet") Maybe a month ago I noticed she didn't look as good as the others, comb not as bright and shaking head occaisionally when others were not. She had lost weight too even though she has an appetite. I medicated her for coccidia, internal and external parasites, even though there was no evidence around the vent or feathers. She seemed to improve a little but then continued to decline. Her feathers look good, eyes bright and no congestion or discharge. She just seems to be shrinking away without any obvious disease that I can describe. Thanks for any ideas,
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 5 years ago.
Thank you for your question.

While worm burdens can be a common cause of weight loss in chickens who are otherwise normal, have you submitted feces from this bird for evaluation or a fecal worm analysis?

Do you have a standard worming protocol or were these one off treatments?

Have you seen any changes to her stools?
How is her drinking and urination?

Is she still shaking her head?
Do you think that this is in any way compromising her ability to compete with food with the other birds?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
No have not sent in a specimen and do not worm regularly. This ivomec was given in desperation as I could not find anyone locally to diagnose chickens and she looked her worse that weekend. Yes she did have some loose stools but that cleared up after the meds and I thought she was on the mend but the weight loss and head shaking continue. She eats and drinks with enthusiasm but apparently not enough quantity. I separate her most of the day so she does not have to compete. I thought I heard her making clucking like she was thinking about setting but wouldn't that be a fattening up phase , plus she has not laid any eggs recently. This is totally remote but I had a small foot bath of bleach water for people to use before entering the sheep barn that I do keep covered but if she somehow drank bleach water it might have been a month ago. All the other birds look great. Do chickens get cancer or things other than the usual barnyard proplems?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Relist: Other.
Not unsatisfied to work with nekovet but the answer took a while and originally I thought I might be getting a poultry specialist so when the option appeared I thought I'd re submit. Nothing bad against the first vet.
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 5 years ago.
My apologies for having to step away from the computer.
I have returned and am happy to work with you on Ruby's situation. That said, if you would prefer to wait for a sole poultry vet (as I do treat multiple species) then that fine as well.
I will opt out assuming you would prefer to wait for someone who is avian only.
Best of luck,
Dr. B.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I guess I will opt out just because of my experience around here. All the bird vets I have ever contacted said they do not doctor chickens specifcally- just "birds" as in exotics and pets. So I thought I might get around that distinction and get a more farm oriented slant on things.Thank you for being available. Lois
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 5 years ago.
My apologies that you have found very few sole poultry vets.
I am afraid that unless a poultry vet is based in industry (+/- public health or research), you will find that most do not treat only chickens. Rather backyard flocks are often managed in a caseload that incorporates all the species.

Best of luck,
Dr. B.
Expert:  replied 5 years ago.
Greetings, I am Dr. Pat. I have worked with birds for many years. I will do my best to help you.

I work with a lot of chickens, small producers, backyard flocks, and pets. The problem with non-commercial flocks is that people are reluctant to seek proper diagnosis. The big companies routinely run lab work and necropsies on culled individuals. We can learn a lot from the industry. They want to make money, and do not see veterinary expense as wasteful. So what happens in the backyard flock is a lot of money and useless treatments are thrown at the hens, with no success.

The problem you have here is to find out what exactly is the cause. There is nothing specific in what you describe, quite literally 100 different diseases can have the same presentation. Luckily there are labs that work with small producers and an start diagnostics for a very reasonable fee. A good large animal vet or excellent bird doctor will know about these.

There are so many myths in poultry medicine and diseases that I do not have the time to go into every detail, but botXXXXX XXXXXne you need facts to do right by yourself AND your birds.

She is in very serious trouble, and needs local veterinary attention. These signs are of a very sick bird, and not specific to any one disease. And that means it is not fair to you or her to guess, there are so many possibilities.You are going to need local help on this, and a scientific and solid diagnosis to find safe and effective treatment. Unfortunately many poultry disease are a combination of viral and other infections and there is no easy way to tell this by just looking at the outside of the bird or even checking a poop sample.

You can examine the bird thoroughly again, including opening the mouth and having a good look in there for mucus, redness, masses or anything else unusual. You can take the temperature gently with a rectal thermometer. Anything above 105F/40C is significant. Palpate the tummy for an egg, fluid, lumps or anything else. Check all the joints for swelling, pain, and mobility.

Move the bird indoors to an aquarium, box or carrier with soft towels or hay in the bottom, no perch, and food and water in low bowls that can be reached easily. Keep her partially covered, warm and quiet.

Do not try to force food or water. You can offer warm cooked rice, pancakes, cornbread, grapes, melon, greens in addition to normal food.

I know it is expensive, but you may not have many home options, because the first thing you need a vet for is to find out what is going on. Treatment is only as good as the diagnosis. If you call around, you may find a vet to work within your means. We certainly try to do our best in my clinic.

She needs to see an avian/poultry-experienced veterinarian ASAP for complete examination, diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Check
for members of AAV in your area.
The expense for this is going to be a lot less than inefficient, ineffective, dangerous treatments, guesswork, and loss of the flock; not to mention possible implications to human consumption of tainted eggs. Many states/governments have poultry diagnostic labs that charge very reasonable fees to test for common diseases.

Because you have others and presumably use the eggs, it is important to have a solid diagnosis and treatment safe for egg consumption. You can check with local County Extension offices, the closest Ag university with a poultry department, or with the closest vet school for a local referral.

If this were my patient, I would start with complete fecal analysis and direct smear, for multiple parasites; bacterial culture and sensitivity of the feces and choana. Depending on the case I might do a fungal culture. Routine blood work is necessary to rule out other issues. I would very likely order a number of DNA tests for poultry viruses as well. Generally I start them out on antibiotics as indicated by the tests (I use human antibiotics that are injectable).

Pet/feed store medications and home remedies are harmful, ineffective, immuno-suppressive, and make them much worse and may interfere with the veterinarian's diagnosis and treatment. Do not use them.

The flock should be on a high quality pelleted diet with extra greens/pasturage. Of late, I have been recommending TOP pet bird pellets (see link below) as they are more appropriate for the pet chicken. Overcrowding, cleanliness, proper water, environmental temperature, humidity, ventilation, photoperiod, and toxic exposures should be addressed. Check this for husbandry advice.

Check for basic care, set up and maintenance. You need to check for fly and mosquito access, as they can carry certain diseases, and check for external parasites. Mites, lice and fleas (in some areas, ticks) can contribute to over-all health issues, anemia, and disease transmission.

She may need injectable antibiotics, calcium and many other medications. Act quickly and good luck.

Here are some sites of general interest:

backyard poultry

backyard poultry statement

Dr. Pat, Bird Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 4244
Experience: 25+ years working primarily or exclusively with birds
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