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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 30360
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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Tuesday morning when I went to let the chickens out of the

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Tuesday morning when I went to let the chickens out of the coup I noticed her flapping around on the floor of the coup. She was unable to stand. So I got her and let her walk around outside. She finally was able to start walking but kept falling over using her wing to gain her balance. At first I thought she had injured her wing. I separated her from the flick and kept her isolated. Hoping rest would slow her to start feeling better. She stopped laying. She is eating, drinking and pooing good. However this morning she was unable to eat and drink on her own due to falling over so I helped her str
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Could be a lot of things that cause lethargy. The Expert will know how to help the bird. What is the bird's name and age?
Customer: steady herself and she was able to eat and drink. She is resting now
JA: Is there anything else important you think the Veterinarian should know about the bird?
Customer: She just turned a year. As a note she is always my broody hen. Not sure if that matters or not. She is broody about every 6-8 weeks and she is molting. Currently getting her feathers back. Her name is*****

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. Unless there were a history of considerable injury to her leg(s), pelvis, or spine - and this usually involves a predator - Betty Mae's weakness/ataxia ("drunken sailor") is most worrisome for Marek's disease (herpesvirus). Ingestion of a toxin and other infections that can affect her central nervous system such as paromyxovirus, West Nile virus, and the equine encephalomyelitides need to be considered as well. Please review this site: and let me know if you're seeing other signs of Marek's.

Customer: replied 28 days ago.
Thanks so much! I reviewed the article. I was wondering about MD myself but am unsure how she might have gotten it. I have 9 hens and a rooster that I got mail delivered at a day old. They got vaccinated prior to delivery. I have never introduced any other birds to the flock. They do not free range and have a nice size run for their exercise. Could she still have MD with her history? Another thought. My rooster is a lot bigger than her. Could he have hurt her accidently? She is a smaller favorile. Thank you

You're quite welcome. Yes, I always consider rooster injury although I would expect to see external evidence of that - skin wounds and disrupted feathers. Vaccination against Marek's can't prevent infection but can lessen morbidity (severity of signs). The herpesvirus is so ubiquitous where chickens have congregated it's nigh impossible to avoid; hence, vaccinating in ovo or at a day of age even though vaccination isn't completely effective. Please continue our conversation if you wish.

Customer: replied 28 days ago.
question of the day. If she starts getting better can I put her back with my flock? Could they already have been exposed? Should I get her checked by a local vet? Thanks

Certainly, because all of your birds have already been exposed to any infectious agent that may be affecting Betty Mae. I would never argue with having a vet look at her but you'll need an avian vet ( who knows what to test for. Please note that the expense in doing so may not be commensurate with Betty Mae's value as a production chicken.

Dr. Michael Salkin and other Bird Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you

Thank you for your kind accept. I appreciate it. I can't set a follow-up in this venue so please return to our conversation - even after rating - with an update at your convenience. You can bookmark this page for ease of return.

Customer: replied 28 days ago.
Thank you. Is there anything special I can do for her to help her recover?

Yes, I like the idea of bringing these hens inside as shown here:

The chicken chick site is a good one for the lay person as it's overseen by an avian vet(s).

Customer: replied 28 days ago.
Thank you! You have been extremely helpful!

You're quite welcome. Thank you for your kind words.