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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 28469
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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I have two chicks that seem to have a complete loss of

Customer Question

I have two chicks that seem to have a complete loss of coordination. When trying to stand they will flip over backwards and can't get up on their own. I have had this happen before and have tried to save them with no luck. Any idea what causes this?
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 months ago.

Heidi, you appear to be describing avian encephalomyelitis (epidemic tremor) which is caused by a hepatovirus and usually affects chicks at 1-3 weeks of age. Clinical signs include initial depression and then progressive ataxia ("drunken sailor") with tremors of the head and neck, hence the lay name of "epidemic tremors". The mortality rate in 1-2 week chicks is about 40-60%. Birds that recover are immune but have permanent ataxia. This disease is confirmed post-mortem. Other differential diagnoses include encephalomalacia resulting from vitamin E deficiency (rare nowadays with improved starter feeds), toxins such as lead, Newcastle disease, and eastern equine encephalitis.

The hepatovirus is extremely resistant in the environment, lasting months in the soil and is easily spread by fomites (objects, materials). Vaccinating breeder hens at 14 weeks of age before they start to lay can be helpful but isn't commonly done in backyard flocks. Please speak to your avian vet for more information concerning vaccination where you live. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 months ago.
Hi Heidi,

I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?

Dr. Michael Salkin