hen loosing sight and balance

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Freedom! self reliance : One Thread

My sweet adorable Polish-crested hen started going blind about a month ago. She runs into things and can no longer judge distance. She closes her eyes a lot. In the last two weeks she has been loosing her balance. She also seems to have something like narcolepcy. Her head lowers and she seems to fall asleep then wake up again. Her appetite is fine and poop seems normal but she is definately going down hill and no longer lays eggs. She won't leave the safety of her (very clean) chicken coop anymore. What's wrong with her? I do feed her treats every day like a little fresh banana, watermelon, tomatoes and lettuce along with her lay mash. Is that bad for them? I just got three new chicks yesterday. Should I have them separated from her?

-- Nancy Parinello (nparinello@starband.net), June 21, 2004


This is an update. I took my chicken to the bird and exotic pet vet and he said he couldn't see anything wrong with her eyes like scratches on the cornea or cloudy lenses but he gave me some ointment and antibiotic drops to put in her eyes three times a day for a week. He thinks the weakness (loosing her balance and head lowering) is from malnutrition and dehydration because she can't see her food. He suggested I try giving her lots of protein in the form of meal worms and catfood. So I bought worms and dry catfood that I soak in electrolyte infused water. For two days, three times a day, I have been opening her beek and putting the food in and she eats it. She will drink if I gently lower her head into the water or if I put her into a shallow pond. When she feels the water on her feet, she drinks. She seems to be getting a little stronger but her eyesight is not getting any better! I'm suspicious that this "show chicken" was the product of too much inbreeding and went blind from that. Any comments? She's almost two years old.

-- Nancy Parinello (nparinello@starband.net), June 24, 2004.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but when my chickens start acting like that they usually die within a couple of weeks. I don't take mine to the vet though. I wouldn't keep her seperate from the other birds unless they start pecking her. As far as the treats, they certainly aren't bad for her. My birds get all our table scraps except meat. If you have hand fed her and she has gotten better please let me know. Good luck.

-- Margie (skeutz@bluelight.com), July 12, 2004.

I've noticed the "narcolepsy" when chickens are really ill. Also the staying inside, particularly in a nest box at night. Chickens try their best to look like they're fine so the other chickens won't pick on them and so predators don't single them out. By the time they act like that, they're quite ill. I've found that giving them special care can sometimes make them better. For hens, I usually suspect some kind of reproductive tract problem. Laying all those eggs is not easy on them. Often, the vet can't figure out what's wrong with them without very expensive tests, and even then, sometimes they still don't know or there's nothing they can do. For example, I have a hen who tested positive for some viruses. You really can't do anything for a virus besides give them antibiotics for a secondary infection. And they don't know that there's an active infection, only that they either had it and fought it off, or they currently have it, or they're just a carrier. Another thing that happens often is metal poisoning, such as lead or zinc, because chickens will eat a shiny screw (galvanized has toxic levels of zinc) or items with too much lead (such as an item painted in a country without restrictions on lead paint). So it is worthwhile to test for metal poisoning or to see if a blood test shows an active infection. What I do for infections is the following:

- Get appropriate antibiotics, such as cephalexin or baytril. If the digestive system has shut down, give them shots. You must know how to do it properly. Injecting into the bloodstream a few times can kill a chicken. You want to inject in the muscle. I was also told that baytril destroys muscle tissue, so you don't want to do it over too long of a period of time or in the same spot all the time. For hen, you must wait a period of time before eating eggs, such as a month after the last dose, depending on the antibiotic. The FDA says you should neer eat eggs from chickens who had baytril because they worry about resistent bacteria; however, a meat chicken can have it and the meat be sold within about 3 days. Go figure!

- Bring them in the house where's it's warm and private. Use a heating pad for dogs (plastic one that they can't soil) if needed. Warmth helps them heal, because they have a high body temp and metabolism, so that means they can use their energy for something besides staying warm.

- Feed them food they love to coax them to eat. It varies depending on the bird. Mine love baby bird food in a bowl, yogurt, tomatoes, melon, strawberries, mango, greens, whole grain bread, low-salt whole-grain tortilla chips, oats and other rolled grains, and so on. (Parsley, red peppers, avocadoes, and rancid nuts are poisonous to chickens.)

- Force feed with baby bird food if they're not eating and they're getting thin. You have to know how to do it correctly. If the crop gets too full, they can regurgitate and choke to death. When a chicken is very sick, their digestive system can stop working and food doesn't move through.

- If they're on antibiotics, feed yogurt or acidophilus liquid. You can get probiotics for birds, but one of my vets told me that tests had shown some have harmful bacteria. He also said that the types of bacteria that live in each individual bird can be different: what can work for one individual may not work for another.

- I've found supportive herbs to be helpful, such as milk thistle extract. It is clinically proven to heal the liver. If a chicken has had a chronic infection, the liver can be damaged. I recommended to a women who had a parakeet, and it lived for a year after the vet said it would die. She thought it was a miracle. I put about 5 drops in their water. www.avianmedicinechest.com has some good herbs. They'll recommend some to you. They even have herbs that are supposed to clear toxic metals. I'll sometimes put vitamins in their water, too. However, be careful that you don't put a lot of bad tasting stuff in it all the time, or they won't want to drink it. Other herbs I've used are echinacea or echinacea/goldenseal, and Essiac for cancer (don't know if it will work yet).

I've had chickens who made amazing recoveries. I have two birds who have had peritonitis for months, and seem very happy. So I know with some care they sometimes can pull through. Good luck to you.


-- Cheryl (me@example.com), September 03, 2004.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ