Respiratory and digestive illness in Poultry

Asked August 21, 2020, 11:55 AM EDT

I have been having trouble with a batch of young hens. They where 9 weeks old when I got them this past spring. Shortly after getting them, they came down with a respiratory virus accompanied with diarrhea. We tried vitamins and electrolytes, Apple Cider Vinegar, a round of Corrid and finally with the recommendation of a vet a round of Tetracycline antibiotics. Of the 7 pullets, 4 seemed to recover. Three where dispatched. About a month later, one more became ill. Acted dumpy and lethargic and had an unusually hot body temperature, with bright green liquid manure. She passed within 24 hours of becoming ill. After each loss we were careful to disinfect the coop, feed and water dishes with bleach and replaced all bedding. During this time we were also raising an additional 16 chicks. We moved them into the coop building at 8 weeks (this was after the loss of the first three chickens but before the 4th. Yet they had a separate run and section of the building. When they where 12 weeks old we combined the flocks and everything seemed good. Then the fourth one got sick and died, then about a week later, for the first time one of the young chickens got sick and also passed. (similar symptoms Unusually hot, diarrhea, and lethargic, no respiratory symptoms.) Our vet ran a fecal analysis and they tested positive for hook worms, so we did a 5 day treatment of Safe Guard dewormer. Two weeks later we added a rooster to the flock. The Rooster was separated from the hens for a period of two weeks as precaution and remained healthy. So he was added to the flock. Another week or so went by and one of the original hens started showing respiratory symptoms again. Sneezing, nasal discharge, runny watery stool, no food in crop and over all weight loss and poor condition. Soon after I noticed sneezing in a few of the younger birds, and the rooster. Two pullets also exhibiting unusually high body temperature as well. We tried Vet RX, vitamins, probiotic, nutridrench and again reaching out to a vet started a round of SMZ antibiotics. Most of the birds seemed to be recovering. As we were expecting to end the antibiotic suddenly I had two more hens from the younger flock get unusually hot and lethargic. This time exhibiting no respiratory symptoms. I continued the antibiotic at the vets recommendation for another few days. Then switched to a water with a crushed clove of garlic, apple cider vinegar and Nutridrench. These two have recovered. The original sick chicken is the same and we will be dispatching her soon. I am writing because the vet and I are stumped. These illnesses seem to be popping up randomly and continually in the flock. Now my main goal is to find out if this virus will eventually run it's course and then we'll be good, or if this is more serious and should we dispatch the flock and try again next year. I appreciate any guidance and expert in poultry could offer.

Allegan County Michigan

1 Response

Unfortunately this can happen when you introduce a lot of new birds to a flock and have birds housed together of different ages. We recommend quarantine of at least 21 days before introducing a new bird. Of course the best practice is an all in and all out policy, where you order all your birds at once, and they all leave at once. I cannot give you a definitive diagnosis of course, you would need to contact the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, and send a carcass in for diagnostic analysis, there is a fee associated with this. Without a diagnostic test any treatments are really just shots in the dark, if they have a virus then antibiotics are useless. Treatments like apple cider vinegar, garlic, etc. have no scientific research or basis to work against any disease, most of this is just rumors or stories you see on the internet. I would recommend discontinuing their usage. Vitamins and electrolytes are helpful but will not cure a disease caused by a pathogen.

Again your best option at this point is to call the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic lab and discuss options with them. (517) 353-1683