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 Post subject: Chickens Keep Dying
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 1:08 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:24 pm
Posts: 27
I apologise in advance for the essay that I am about to write, but I have a serious issue going on with my birds, and I am desparate to find answers. I have been attempting to keep chickens for 4 years. In that time I have bought 12 chickens, at different times. 10 of those 12 chickens have died. The chickens only last at most about 3 years, if that. Some only last a few months. I am seeing some consistent issues among the dying birds. My story goes something like this...

Bought 4 Point of Lay Isa Browns.
1. Dropped dead within a couple of months (guess that just happens)
2. Lasted about 18 months. Developed what appeared to be peritonitis (very swollen abdomen, waddle walking) and died.
3. Lived to about 3. From age 2-3 had constant problems with crop blocking. Then developed egg laying problems and died.
4. Live to about 3.2. Developed tumours that could be very visibly felt and seen in the abdomen. Was PTS.

After the first 2 Isa's died, I bought 2 Point of Lay Silkies from a different breeder.
5. Lived about 6 months - developed bright yellow urates and was slowly dying. PTS. Research suggests yellow urates could be related to liver disease.
6. Developed respiratory symptoms a day after buying her. Lived for about 18 months, though was never fully well. Eventually got worse and was PTS.

Bought another 2 Silkies
7. POL hen. Lived about 18months-2 years. Developed bright yellow Urates and appeared to have same problem as previous Silkie. Did not have contact with previous Silkie who had long died. PTS.
8. 6 week old Rooster. Lived about 2 years. Developed an obvious Bowel blockage. Would scream in pain when pooing. Treated him with lactulose and soft foods. Appeared to get better, but as soon as he free ranged again, problem returned. PTS.

Bought 4 Sussex/Plymouth Rock POL Hens from neighbour
9. Lived for about 18 months, sick with no apparent cause. Was eventually PTS.
10. Lived about 18 months, developed a blocked crop. Same issue as Rooster. Could digest soft foods, but if left to free range, blocked. Then developed Ascites and clearly unwell. Experienced chicken neighbour came over yesterday and she was euthanised and post mortem findings were: Very diseased liver (friable, not good colour). Abdomen full of fluid. Large tumour in intestine, which was causing the blockage. All other organs looked healthy. Repro tract looked normal. Good egg formation etc. Despite having a prominent breast bone, this hen was disgustingly full of fat. The neighbour has never seen so much fat, even though the hen was not fleshy (for a Sussex/Plymouth cross).
11. and 12. Still alive but future isn't looking optimistic. Neighbour where these hens came from still have the hens from the same batch and theirs are healthy and mine are dying.

Sorry about the essay, but seeing issues with Liver disease and blockages of the digestive system, likely tumours, in birds less than 2-3 years old. Anyone know what would be causing such issues?

They were all free ranging, but have had them confined for past 4 months in case they were getting into something they shouldn't have. Yet still lost another one.

They are wormed appropriately and were fed Barastoc Layer Mash ad lib in feeder as well as free ranging. Neighbour says I shouldn't give them free access to layer mash, just give a little at night because of the amount of fat in bird, however worried that bird isn't really fleshy, just unusual fat deposition. They don't get any other treats other than just the odd bit of fruit.

Any thoughts appreciated.

Very sad and disheartened chicken owner :(


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 Post subject: Re: Chickens Keep Dying
PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 4:51 pm 
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Sorry I have no idea about chooks but just wanted to say how sad it is for you

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 Post subject: Re: Chickens Keep Dying
PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 6:48 pm 
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I think some poor breeding may be part of your trouble. I think you need to find a good strong line of fowls to buy and breed from

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 Post subject: Re: Chickens Keep Dying
PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2014 10:53 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:24 pm
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Many thanks for the responses. I don't think poor breeding is the case. The first hens were from a hatchery. The Silkies were from a different breeder, who I have seen their progeny go on to live long lives with other people I know. The Sussex/Plymouth hens were from a very reputable breeder from next door. She is no backyard breeder. She is part of some Poultry Heritage Society (or something along those lines). She writes research papers on poultry, and is part of an international forum/group on poultry. She breeds a number of breeds including rare breeds. Her hens are healthy and live long lives. I could only afford her hens because she gave me a nice neighbourly discount :-D This is the same neighbour who did an autopsy for me. She shared her findings with a group of international poultry vets and their feeling was that my chickens are being exposed to some sort of toxin. But where??? All my neighbours keep hens and they don't have the losses that I do. I am on a small property, but the two closest neighbours are maybe 200 metres away.


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 Post subject: Re: Chickens Keep Dying
PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2014 8:50 pm 
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Hi LJ

I'm sorry I'm a bit late to the conversation, but I have a few questions for you...

1) Have you housed the chickens in the same pen/location throughout this entire period?

2) In-between each batch of chickens, have you thou roughly cleaned your pen out to clear any lingering germs, bad micro-organisms etc...

3) How often do you clean your pen out? Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly or Annually???

4) What do you feed your birds? I mean list everything that you give them, including brands of food.

5) Are there any other animals on your property that are able to go into the same areas as your chickens?

6) What weeds & do you use any weed sprays/weed killers on your property?

That is just a few questions I have for now, but I believe your answers may start to shed some light for the questions you have.

I am actually thinking they are exposed to a toxin as well but if you could just answer my initial questions, that will be a start.

Cheers
Chicka-Dee


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 Post subject: Re: Chickens Keep Dying
PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2014 7:45 pm 
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Good questions C-D than657 for me as I am learning

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 Post subject: Re: Chickens Keep Dying
PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2014 10:24 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:24 pm
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Thanks Chicka-Dee for taking the time to think about my issue. I will answer all your questions in case you or someone has a light bulb moment.


Hi LJ

I'm sorry I'm a bit late to the conversation, but I have a few questions for you...

1) Have you housed the chickens in the same pen/location throughout this entire period?
Essentially yes. I have a large, permament chicken pen, and they were let out every day to free range wherever they pleased. In the last 5 months I have confined their free ranging to a small garden area in case they were getting into something while freeranging. I lost a hen 4 months after confining her in this area, however given the size of the tumour she had, I would suspect she was already getting sick before I confined them.

2) In-between each batch of chickens, have you thou roughly cleaned your pen out to clear any lingering germs, bad micro-organisms etc...
I haven't had batches. I started with 4 and when 2 died I bought another two, then so on. So my pen has never been empty. My chicken pen is quite large (about 4 metres by 7 metres) with a dirt floor, so can't really disinfect it.

3) How often do you clean your pen out? Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly or Annually???
I have a poop board under my chicken roost. I clean the poop board and pick up poop from the dirt floor twice a week. The more hens, the more I clean it. I keep it pretty clean. Sometimes I clean it every second day.

4) What do you feed your birds? I mean list everything that you give them, including brands of food.
I have always just fed my birds free access to either Barastock golden yolk pellets, or Barastock Layer Mash. Mostly the Mash. They get the occassional treat of apple or banana or pear, and maybe the odd spent Brocolli head out of the garden. That's it, because they free range all day.

5) Are there any other animals on your property that are able to go into the same areas as your chickens?
I leave the gate to my chook pen open during the day for the hens to come and go as they please, so I always have plenty of wild birds going in there. Magpies, finches, doves, etc. Where the chickens free range, I sometimes have cattle grazing. Where they are confined now, nothing else can get in except wild birds

6) What weeds & do you use any weed sprays/weed killers on your property?
I have looked everywhere for suspect weeds, but couldn't find anything that was on any list of toxic weeds for chickens. Neighbour looked also and found the same. Maybe once or twice a year we did use roundup around the fenceline of my house. Technically the chickens could get to it, but I usually kept them locked up until it dried. I don't use chemicals where my chickens are confined.

Of interest, I was talking with my vet and she thinks I may still have a disease... either a retrovirus like Lymphoid Leukosis or Mareks. However, I haven't seen the typical Mareks symptoms in any bird, and most of my birds were meant to be vaccinated. With Lymphoid Leukosis, from my reading, you don't usually get such high mortality.. so I don't know..


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 Post subject: Re: Chickens Keep Dying
PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 9:52 pm 
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Location: Salisbury
Did your vet do a blood test?

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 Post subject: Re: Chickens Keep Dying
PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2014 7:06 pm 
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Yes yes good point there Bill they can test for all diseases know in poultry and then treat as needed


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 Post subject: Re: Chickens Keep Dying
PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2014 9:23 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:24 pm
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The vet didn't do the autopsy this time.. just the neighbour. Kicking myself that I didn't get the vet to do it though, because it was all arranged and I was to take the hen in alive for the purpose of collecting blood, but we opted for the cheaper version for the first autopsy in case it was something else simply identified such as eating bits of metal from around the shed, etc. Next hen to get sick is going to the vet though. Do you know if Mareks and Lymphoid Leukosis can be diagnosed through a blood test though? I didn't think LL could be diagnosed that way. My vet is very willing to help me, but they just don't have much experience with poultry. I am not getting any new hens until the remaining hens live out their lives. If it is disease, given I have a dirt floor pen and they free range everywhere, how long should one wait before my property would be safe to have chickens again? I understand Mareks lasts a long time in the soil. I know you can't disinfect against Mareks, but out of interest, does anyone have a way of disinfecting a dirt floor chicken pen?


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