My Hens are Dying

flowersnhens(Maine 4)July 31, 2009

Hi there,,I don't know whats going on,,,but I found 2 of my hens dead in the coop 2 days ago. They were huddled together when they died. Today I found 2 more hens huddles together,,still alive but not doing well at all. I am clearly going to lose them. Then I went out later and found another chicken dead. There is no apparent reason for their deaths either. They do not show signs of Gape worm, or anything like that. I keep their coop very clean,,so it shouldn't be something they picked up from filthy surroundings. What could this be?? and what should I look for??

THanks, flowersnhens.

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OMG! I am sorry-Were all the hens vacc.? if not it could be Mareks Dis.? Have you checked their feed,water? I would immmediatly take a hen to the vet-Mareks can wipe out your entire flock--don't wait!! Do you have alot of wild birds in your area that you feed. OMG I don't know what else to tell you-act quickly! Please let us know what is going on-I hope someone here can help you more than I can-w/o anymore information. Did they seem sick before? Do they have any symptoms, anything at all? Get the hens out of there, dispose of the hens that are gone (bag them)-use gloves, throw those away too-Disinfect the coop,waterers,feeders--everything.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 4:13PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

I'm so sorry you lost your girls. :(

I also lost some hens this year, 7 so far--and they went from perfectly normal and healthy, to dead in 2-3 days. I was at a loss as to what it could be until finally another symptom popped up with the last hen, then I knew it was a bacterial disease called Fowl Cholera. I had an email from a breeder friend today wherein he confided that he had lost 5 hens in the last two months, same circumstances as mine. I've also heard from other people who have mysteriously lost birds within a few days, despite treating them with Sulmet.

My breeder friend spoke with another chicken expert, and was told that there is a strain of bacterial disease now that is resistant to Sulmet--a sulfa-based antibacterial that I (and my friend) had been using. The fact that our treatment with Sulmet did not help led us in the wrong direction and made us think that the illness was viral.

The chicken expert advised us to use either Corid or Albon for bacterial illnesses instead of Sulmet. They are different enough from Sulmet that they work on this new strain. I'd advise you to get either Corid or Albon ASAP and treat ALL of your birds. Here is a chart with more info on the medications:

In my case wild birds and possum visiting my back yard were the disease vectors, and this year has been a bad one for a LOT of people. In addition, I'm using Oxine-AH to disinfect both my coop AND treat the birds (with a fogger), it's safe for them to breathe and ingest through their drinking water. Oxine-AH kills bacteria, viruses, molds and fungus. More info on Oxine use at Shagbark Bantams, here--scroll down to 'The Many Uses of Oxine':

Best of luck!

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 5:23AM
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flowersnhens(Maine 4)

HI there,,Well, mine were not showing any signs at all before they died. I just let them out this week to free range. They have been in their run for most of the spring and summer so they do not destroy my vegatable gardens. I let them out because I felt sorry for them being stuck in the run for so long AND their egg yokes were not orange anymore,,just that pale yellow like you get in the grocery store,,NO THANKS !!. I am cleaning and disinfecting hoping to get rid of whatever it may be. I lost one of my polish hens that I have had for about 7 years!!. uuugh. and a white silkie rooster that I got last year to replace the silkie rooster that I lost after having him for about 6 years. Uuugh!!. I also lost 2 buff orpingtons. Most of these birds are only about 18 months old. One of the RIR's that was showing signs of illness yesterday while huddled with the other one actually is fine today. I find that odd. She is out and about acting normal. I don't know if there is some sort of plant they could be eating that is toxic to them, but I have had free range birds for years and never has this happened. ONe factor MAY be that it has been incredibly damp,,LOTS OF RAIN this year..ridiculous. Most of june and july rained !! Today the sun is out and it is gorgeous. Thank God !! Anyhow, I will keep you posted.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 8:25AM
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Have you close neighbors? Do your chickens wander off your property? Could it be something toxic? If it were spring time I would suspect treated crop seeds. I certainly would take one of the dead birds to your vet and have them examine it to find the cause. Then you will know and have an idea of how to prevent this from happening again-or at least treating it.

I have so many birds, but every one of them is special to me. I miss the way they 'talk' to me at feeding time, how they love to get on my head or shoulders looking for their special treats. Hope what ever it was that it has past. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 10:03AM
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flowersnhens(Maine 4)

Okay,,well, the coop is cleaned and I sprayed with bleach. I had nothing else but bleach. I am thinking of using a fogger. I noticed there are mites out there..UUUGGGHH. I had them on me when I was done cleaning. Tiny Tiny little dark colored bugs. Much smaller than a flee. NOW: How can I get rid of those??? I know to put adams flea and tick spray on the chickens,,but does it actually work?, but if I fog the coop, I am wondering if they will be able to sleep in there tonight.??? I can't win !! What makes me nervous is that somebody else posted about mites and said she actually got rid of the chickens because she couldn't get rid of the mites. OH HELP ME PLEASE !!!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 11:10AM
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flowersnhens(Maine 4)

Hi AGAIN,,sorry I am posting like a maniac today,,but I am freaking out. I was thinking the hens had mites and I went ahead and fogged the coop. The coop is actually a small barn, big enough to use a fogger, about 12x16. The barn will be closed up until 5:00 and aired out for a few hours before anyone goes back in. The instructions said to air out for 30 minutes before entry. Okay, So I checked my hens and I found no mites at all. Just white skin. Combs are red,,NOT PINK. I read that there is a certain kind of mite that will only attack at night, so now that i have used a fogger, do you think this will get rid of the mites in the barn??? If they are not mites,,what else could they be??? They are either black, brown or red...My eyes are failing me in my 40's. Oh, the joys of growing older. any ideas or suggestions on this is very much appreciated. Thank you all for your quick reponses on my earlier post. =)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 4:18PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

flowersnhens, I posted more instructions & info in your new thread, check it...

One thing with your birds caught my attention--two of them were crested breeds (Silkie and Polish) who are especially vulnerable to any swelling of the brain. One thing that causes swelling to the brain is Botulism, otherwise known as Limberneck/Crookneck. There is a treatment for the head swelling ONLY of Crookneck using a Vitamin E and Selenium mixture, let me know if you want it and I'll email it to you. But take note that it is NOT a cure for Botulism itself, merely a treatment of the brain swelling side effect.

If you've had wet weather, please consider Botulism. Botulism isn't bacterial itself, but a very toxic byproduct of the bacteria's growth. Wet, moldy feed or conditions are perfect for it. Make sure you EMPTY your feed storage container every time, don't mix new feed with old. If you suspect moldy feed, throw it away and get new. No insult to your chicken keeping practices, the feed could well have gotten moldy at the feed store, not at your place. Also, all it takes is a bit of organic matter trapped somewhere and decaying, to harbor Botulism--it can then be eaten by the birds as they scratch and peck around, or transmitted to the bird via an insect the bird finds & eats, or by water. It's nasty and potent. Please read MSState's page on Botulism:

MS State also has a list of diseases and parasites, symptoms and treatments here:

There may be more than one reason for the deaths (maybe with your Polish it was just her time?), such as Botulism from moldy feed/coop combined with an opportunistic problem such as mites, which together weakened them enough to kill them. I also lost hens that were in their prime, while my older birds remained untouched. Other people I've talked to have the same thing going on, so SOMETHING different than the norm is going around this year.

I'd say at this point, go whole hog. Take the shotgun approach and treat for EVERYTHING. Treat for worms AND mites, and simultaneously treat for bacterial diseases (I'd use Corid or Albon, NOT Sulmet as there is a new bacterial strain resistant to Sulmet), then clean (and I mean muck it out TOTALLY)/sanitize/disinfect the coop and spray it down for parasites. This process should take care of parasites, fungus an bacteria. Unfortunately, nothing can be done about most viruses treatment-wise, but you should be able to get everything clean enough to make things inhospitable for them.

The Adams spray WORKS, I use it all the time. Spray the heck out of their tail/vent/undersides (and anywhere else you see mites)and massage it in deep, down to the base of the feathers. But it works BEST when combined with the oral/exterior Ivermectin treatment (see the 'Health' page on my site). And bleach is dandy for cleaning, just make sure the birds cannot be affected by it or ingest it.

Don't panic or freak out, your birds need you. :) Hang in there, you aren't alone!

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 11:37PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Botulism (the disease) is caused by Clostridium botulinum (the bacterial organism) mostly caused by the production of Botulinum Toxin (A proteinaceous Neurotoxin, also known as Botox). While the spores are very resistant to heat (this organism is why we can with pressure cookers) the toxin itself can be destroyed by raising the temperature to about 175 F for 5 minutes. Cook there food thoroughly and botulism problems will not show up. Once your animal has ingested botulinum toxin a ventilator is really what you need.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 12:12AM
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Could it be their feed? You might want to check with your feed store or state agricultural extension to see if anyone else in your area is having this problem.

I'm not an expert about chickens, but don't they like dust baths for the specific purpose of keeping down mites and other unwanted bugs?

Perhaps you could offer this as well.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 6:39PM
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For mites I sprinkle a little Sevin dust in with their hay bedding then when I drop down dirt for their dusting pleasure I mix some Sevin (not much) in the dirt, they dust and mites be gone. The rooster gets a small dose of Revolution puppy spot, one drop under each wing and one by the vent and he's good to go.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 8:02AM
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flowersnhens(Maine 4)

Hi there,,,Well, as far as dust bathing, they free range and have plenty of areas for dust bathing. I am afraid to use sevin dust. I don't hear good things about it. Any comments from anyone on that is appreciated. I have not lost any more chickens for a couple days,,,so I lost 4 all together. I ended up fogging the coop after taking out all of the bedding and replaced it with fresh shavings after I aired the place out (after fogging). I thought the bugs were gone,,BUT when I went in there yesterday morning I came out of there with the damn things all over me. Would this be mites? I mean, HOW DO THEY get all over me so quickly?? Do they fly? do they jump??? WHAT THE HECK???? Obviously the fogger didn't take care of them???? LIke I said, I checked the birds and nobody seems to have any mites ON THEM. Wouldn't they be quite visible if they did??? I looked under there wings and on their backs and chest area and didn't see anything. If I go out to the coop and simply collect eggs and come in to the house,,they get in the house and it drives me INSANE !!!!!. I can't put up with this. !!!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 8:26PM
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My first thought was botulism too. Ergot poisoning from moldy grain?

Mites.........that's what mite dust is for in the sprinkle cans.

Rodent bait?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 2:02AM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

flowersnhens, I've copied and pasted my response to your other thread, here below:

What type of fogger did you use and what chemicals?

I HATE finding evidence of mites/worms on my birds, it creeps me out. :( In my opinion it is IMPERATIVE to not only spray/dust the birds, but to also dose them with an Invermectin-based paste wormer, both orally AND using a dab rubbed in each wingpit. I got this treatment procedure of treating orally and via the birds exterior straight from my vet, and it's always worked quickly, without fail, for years. That way they are fully covered and the mites will be GONE, quickly! Here's what I do for both, scroll down to 'Dusting/Worming' and also the 'Mites' section:

Also, here is how I 'Clean/Sanitize' the coop on this page:

I love the little steamer, it just leaves no doubt that the little buggers are DEAD. :) But the steam DOES have to reach them. That's why I like to steam clean the coop, then spray it down with either the Adams spray or dust it with Sevin. I'm also in the process of trying out using Oxine AH to both fog the birds and coop.

Velvet ~:>

I'm just going to reiterate: sweetie, you simply MUST take heavy duty action when you have a mite outbreak. Now is NOT the time for herbal preventives or hit-or-miss things like DE in their dust baths--you HAVE to treat each bird thoroughly, and don't miss any. Ditto for the coop, roosts & nests. If Sevin is all you can get, USE IT. Mites can and will kill your birds, and it's a nasty way to go. Sevin is a great product when used correctly and when needed, and now is the time for you. I hate to see you so distressed. :(

Mites do not fly or jump, it sounds like you just have such a nasty outbreak that they are everywhere. Bird mites will crawl on humans, but they PREFER birds. That's why they crawl on you but don't bite you.

You may indeed have mites in the house also, I'd consider bug bombing the house.

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 5:00AM
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flowersnhens(Maine 4)

HI Velvet: I have ivermectin on hand,,and I will be buying sevin dust today and some food grade DE. Uugh, I hate dealing with this chemical stuff,,but if it works,,,it is worth it. The Chemical in the fogger is Cypermethrin. It obviously didn't work. I thought it did until the following day when I came out of there with the damn things on me again. UUUUGH !!!.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 7:04AM
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flowersnhens(Maine 4)

You know,,I am discouraged by Beeliz' post about how she can't get rid of the mites. She said she "powders, dusts, and cleans regularly and the Mites NEVER go away. If this happens to me,,I am going to have to get rid of my hens too. I can't even enjoy having chickens and at this point do not want to even go out there to collect eggs, which they have been mostly laying in the WOODS now that they are free ranging again. Tomorrow is my day off,,and I will be tackling this problem again with Sevin dust, and Ivermectin.,,and maybe some food grade DE. I have NEVER had this problem before,,and I am wondering if maybe all the rain that has fallen in the past 2 months might be a factor???

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 8:50PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Don't forget, beeliz is fighting a different kind of bug, NOT mites.

As for your fogger, a quick Google search revealed that it intended as an INDOOR fogger insecticide, and is of the pyrethrin family, just like Sevin. The indoor fogger you used however, breaks down quickly when exposed to sunlight, water and oxygen--so maybe it's not the best choice for a coop.

Keep any type of dust or spray for insects AWAY from honeybees if you have them. I'd also go and treat their nests in the woods. Of course, you can't hope to hit all of their nesting spots, that's where the Ivermectrin comes in, and also the Adams spray with IGR that lasts three months. :)

I don't know if rain is a factor in causing a mite explosion, but if the birds have to be kept in close quarters it can certainly help them infect each other with parasites. Just like people being indoors a lot with each other in winter helps spread the common cold.

Fun fact: Pyrethrins, the insecticide in Sevin, is an organic compound made from chrysanthamums! :)

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 4:25AM
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No, Sevin is a carbamate based insecticide, not a pyrethrin. carbamates are organophosphates, something totally different than pyrethrins.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 10:14AM
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Try diamacetous works mechanically to scratch the exoskeleton of insects..thus causing them to dehydrate and die. I havd had poulty forever, and I find that the DE is the best and not toxic for my birds...since it's virtually impossible to keep wild birds away from your's virtually impossible to prevent an chance infestation of try's safe...has minerals that the birds can absorb in their feed and it makes a wonderful addition to their dust baths!..Hope you don't have any more of luck.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 1:46PM
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The biggest thing people overlook when dealing with mites are roosts and cracks in the walls and ceiling. I always clean the entire coop with a power sprayer with hot water. All cracks are sealed with paintable silicone. Walls, ceiling and wooden equipment is painted. Floors get 2 coats of porch/floor paint. The greenhouse, cages, equipment gets a good power sprayer cleaning between breeding sessions (about 3-4 times a year).

Had only one outbreak in the last 5 years on 8 Cochin used 'smear' on their feet and face areas. It took three treatments 4-5 days apart.

The 'smear' is a made by:

1 cup of finely chopped stinging nettles
1 cup of finely chopped comfrey
1 quart jar

Put the chopped ingredients in the qt jar and fill with cool water. Let it set out in the sun for 3-4 days. Mix some of this liquid with powdered lime to make a paste. 'Smear' it on affected areas. The liquid can be use without the lime. Put it on daily with a Q-tip around the vent and face. The feet can be dipped in directly into the liquid.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 10:02PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Ack, calliope is right! I was thinking of the Ortho rose granules I used to use on my roses, for some reason I had that stuck in my head. That stuff was based on pyrethrins. Sorry!

Never post when you have the flu!

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 5:47AM
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Geesh Velvet. That stuff is sure getting around. Hope you are feeling better soon.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 11:56PM
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kcchiefsfan(5b Indep MO)

Speaking of the problem wild birds can cause chickens, is there some kind of trap to catch sparrows?

They have been getting into the chicken house and there is really no way to keep them out. They get into the food and leave dropping around it and we are afraid they will pass disease or parasites to the girls. I thought if there were some kind of trap that had a funnel type opening we could catch them and I would drown them and maybe eventually they would quite coming around so much.

My heart is out to you, flowersnhens.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 4:17PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

I was wondering about a non-lethal way to keep wild birds out of my coop just the other day. Of course the big thing is to keep spilled food cleaned up so it doesn't attract sparrows and rats. The thing I came up with is a contraption that closes off the big door except for a small opening at the bottom of the larger door, something along the lines of a cat flap.

Chickens might be trained to go through the flap, where sparrows would not be strong enough to push through it. Whether leaving the flap off entirely would foil sparrows or not, I don't know. They can be pretty crafty.

I wish you'd use a non-lethal trap and just catch and release them elsewhere, drowning is unnecessary and might create another disease vector for you. Ask your county vector control office for ideas, they may also have live traps to loan you.

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 8:17PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Apparently in many states it is highly illegal (i.e. a felony) to release invasive species like house sparrows. It's probably not worth many years in jail to let them go.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 3:49AM
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mxbarbie(pnw BC 5)

I was having the exact same problem with bugs in my chicken coop. I could open the door pop my head in, grab the eggs and be back out in seconds. By the time I got to the house I could feel myself just crawling with little bugs. So we cleaned out the coop, pressure washed the whole inside, dusted with mite powder, put in new shavings, checked all the birds(nothing on them). So I thought that should do it. Wrong. next day, still crawling. I caught a couple on my eyebrow, they were teeny little round greyish bugs. Could barely see them without a magnifying glass.
It took me 2 days of being creeped out to finally find the little buggers. They were all over the outside of the coop door and the overhang above the door. Caked on the handle, latch, door frame EVERYWHERE but in the coop. No wonder I was covered in them. It was like walking thru a shower! ((**shiver**)) yick!
I don't like to use chemicals if I can get by without it, but I found a can of KONK in with my garden stuff (pyrithin based) it's for plant and veggies but it works by direct contact with the bugs. I sprayed the whole inside and out side of the door, door frame and the roof overhang and now they are all dead. YAY.
I've been looking for any moving things for 4 days now, still no signs of any more.
So check the door area. There's nothing worse than feeling crawly! Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 11:41PM
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I have about 16 free range/large backyard chickens and a turkey. I have had them for 3yrs, turkey for 1yr,only losing 2 or three chickens. In the last month I have lost four to an unknown, one to a cat/ possum, puncture wound found, and now the turkey looks as if it's on its last leg.
They have been all been slow, somehow usually making it back to the coop, neck going limp, slow hard breathing and every hour flapping, uncontrollably. At first I thought it was a fluke, now I know there is something seriousley wrong.
It has been raining non stop for a week. The third hen we had to kill, because we noticed maggots around the vent.
My turkey I have been giving water to with an eyedropper for two days, under a heat lamp, trying to keep his body temp up.
Today although it is now holding it's head up, and his eyes are open, he just does repeated motions like it is drinking water, still laying down. He is not changing color. Still feels cooler than I'd like
His stool is liquid with almost no color, almost pure chalk.
Any ideas??
I am very worried.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 1:04PM
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M aybe you got bad batch of feed

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 4:54PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

It sounds like you have some kind of disease making the rounds...turkeys are susceptible to Blackhead (doesn't actually cause their heads to turn black), more about it here:

Chickens can get it too, but it's more difficult for them to contract. Wet weather can also create conditions favorable to mold and botulism, check for signs of molds in their living area and feed. Great page on diagnosing based on symptoms here that may help you narrow it down:

The uncontrolled flapping to me points towards a neurological issue. I would also say see about treating with an anti-protozoal medication--with several possibilities, it's time to call the vet!

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 5:09PM
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