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I have a mixed flock of 28 chickens from 9weeks old to almost 2 year olds. Tonight they were all shaking their heads so I treated for mites after googling their symptoms. One pullet was on the floor of the coop with weak legs and weak wing hold. Ill check to see how they are in the am.
 

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Aubrey...how are the birds doing? Were you able to figure out what the issue is?
 

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My bet on the shaking heads was a sound that they were unfamiliar with. Mine will do it when they hear a voice they don't know.
 

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Robin416, that was good info about the head shaking to unfamiliar sounds and will remember that for future. However, when Audreysawesome said she had a chicken with weak legs and weak wing hold I think that was a little more than just an unfamiliar sound. Wish Audrey would get back to us to let us know how all turned out as we flock owners have an empathy about each others' ladies!
 

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Yes, the one might have been something. With so little information I don't usually respond to generalities like that because it could send them in the wrong direction. Not saying anything is wrong with what you said, its just I've been burnt more than once after getting the whole picture. Just not enough information to form an opinion.

But the others are not part of the one.
 

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Robin416 - Yes I agree that is why I suggested RESEARCH Mareks - not that it WAS Mareks. Sometimes it helps to hear stuff enough that the oatmeal eventually sticks to the wall - lol. Personally I go to my vet if there's something of real concern and weak legs and wing hold definitely needs a further check. Just hope Audrey's girls are ok. For all the joys of chicken ownership there's also worries.
 

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I truly get what you're saying. And the implications are certainly there for that as a possible diagnosis but there are others out there that mimic what looks like Mareks. Botulism is one very common one that comes to mind immediately, that one is treatable with support.

My point is, I've been around this chicken stuff for a while now. I try to avoid assuming anything until I have all of the information. Some people are excellent at painting the picture of what they are seeing and there is that ah ha moment when the person on the other side of the screen knows what is going on. Then you have others like the OP who post bare bones symptoms that cover a plethora of possibilities. Until I know more, I usually refrain from saying anything. That's me. I don't want to send someone off on a wild goose chase that might cause more harm than good. Which I am not saying you did. I'm saying that's the way I operate.

Mine also go the vet when its beyond my ability. I have a medical background and that has been a huge asset with these guys. I also have an uncanny ability to "see" something before even the vet sees it. It drove the guy at the barn where I stabled my horses nuts, I'd take s stroll through the barn and tell Dickie such and such is coming down with something. I was right so many times he told me to stay out of the barn.

My own horse was off, I called the vet out. She found nothing, I should have had the blood work done, my bad because that would have given the answer. Everyone thought she was just fine that I was imagining things. Two days later I get the call that my horse had strangles.

One of the best practices is to stop, look and listen. Jumping to at the moment you know something is not right often times causes us to leave important signs and symptoms. Or that what they saw was perfectly normal.
 

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Robin, yep, I hear you! I'm a worrier therefore I will entertain the worst possible diagnosis at the front and trickle down to the lesser possibilities since bird symptoms are all so similar. It doesn't hurt to check the chicken diseases listings and symptoms just to give an idea of what symptoms shouldn't be ignored and if isolation or medication will be required or what ailments have no known cures. Since most of us don't have medical backgrounds it gives a starting place. Since Mareks and Gapeworm are so devastating IMPO and somewhat preventable, I am always incorporating preventative measures. But wild birds are inevitable carriers of parasites or diseases chickens can be exposed to. My vet loves me for being a worrier lol! Knowing what I've done for preventative health helps him narrow down diagnosis altho he's still thorough anyway. I happen to have a vet that loves chickens and would have his hospital's backyard full of them if he were allowed! It does help to know your animals for when there is something "not quite right" and the vet says he wishes all his patients had aware owners. You would be the kind of owner he'd love - so you've gotta stay out of the barn now? lol! Keep up the good work because we're on the same page. I just seem to be more of a worrier than most. Still would be nice to know how Audrey's situation turned out.
 

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"I'm a worrier therefore I will entertain the worst possible diagnosis at the front and trickle down to the lesser possibilities since bird symptoms are all so similar." I had to laugh, not so much the statement itself but that I recognize that heart stopping moment when the sky really is falling but not really.

What my medical background has done for me is the stop, look and listen first. And the ability to identify more easily. While they are in no way similar to us some of what happens can be sorted out in the same way. It also helps me identify what drugs might be of the most benefit if needed at all.

You're lucky with the vet. My new Doc freely admits he knows very little but appears to trust me if I need support. One of my old boys has respiratory issues that seem to be triggered with sudden weather changes. I told Doc about that and he gave me Pred to give Shoester when he's having a tough time. So, with this guy I will have to carry whatever treatment protocol with me if I have to take one in. But I know he's willing to try for my birds.

Isn't that what they say to us about keeping ourselves healthy? I don't see that its any different with these guys. Our the dogs or cats, or whatever it is we have sharing our space.

Chickens are a lot of work and worry sometimes, are they not?

Oh wait, before I forget. I've had birds become paralyzed, one leg only. I saw it probably four times during the time I raised Silkies. Everyone cried Mareks but that couldn't be right or all of my chicks would be dead or dying. Then I thought, these birds all have one thing in common, one particular male was the parent. And he had been down on his legs for a bit when he was young. Once that line died out, so did the paralysis in the one leg. So, not only is disease a possibility but genetics.
 

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Robin416 - You say so eloquently what I feel and think but can't put into words like you do. We must be kindred animal spirits. I grew up on a farm and as my son says, "you can take the girl out of the farm but you can't take the chickens, whoops I mean, you can't take the farm out of the girl!" Love animals, trained animals, nursed animals - every farm animal except pigs or turkeys. Dogs and cats were farm staples along with chickens, geese, ducks, sheep, cows, rabbits, goats, parrots, canaries, budgies etc. Love them all so much that I could never be a vet. Animal ailments and pains are just too much for me. On the farm if an animal tore its skin or went limp or whatever, it was to be put down because there was no time to lose nursing illnesses on a working farm - ugh. You get a little hardened to it, but not really deep down inside.

You raised Silkies! Oooo - we've got 2 of the little darlings. A breeder I order some other heritage from told me rain was good for chickens and to let them out in it. I never thought that would be good for Silkies but one of them slipped out into the rain yesterday and looked like a little drowned rat and of course I worried. Next morning she was fluffy and sassy as ever foraging around. I watch and worry and worry and watch - and learn about my girls.

As for vets, my FDA friend said vets have to know as much about human patients as animal patients which is why the drugs are so similar. My vet is cautious about using human medicines or OTCs as they can have adverse affects on animal organs etc. I told him I give a drop of PolyViSol baby vitamins to my chickens during stress times like molting, brooding, weather extremes and he was hesitant because it's not approved for fowl. If that's the case then I shouldn't feed my chickens Greek yogurt as it doesn't state "safe for chickens" on the packaging - you get what I mean? Vaseline shouldn't be used on chicken combs because it doesn't state "safe for chickens" on the jar either! Same with Ivermectin yet I wouldn't be without it 3x a year and he ultimately was glad I use it. My vet and I are learning from each other and glad he has more exotic bird knowledge than only dogs and cats. He originally opened the animal hospital advertising exotic birds as well but over the years it was dogs and cats that took over his practice. His whole office is always happy to see me when I bring in a Silkie. Other customers think I'm bringing in a fluffy cat til they see the 2 legs below and a beak coming from the fluffy face - so much fun.

Yes, there are many ailments that can cause weak legs or droopy wings or shaking heads on chickens. Still I'm of the opinion to start with the worst scenario and eliminate from that on down the list. I've read so many blogs of people who went through Mareks or other ailments and it is so sad the hope they get when for a little while it looks like the hen or chick is getting better and then gets worse and the owners are hoping hope beyond hope to nurse the little darlings. So sad. But I learned from them and share their heartache.

Audreyawesome - how goes your flock? Anything to share? Good wishes for you :)
 

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It feels like I'm reading about my alter self. You get it because you are it. In the early going no one would take the risks and steps I have with the birds, it was forbidden, not possible, a waste of time. Because they all were living in a time that was. What has brought the possibilities to the for front, believe it or not, are the back yarders. That person gets a chicken and it becomes more than a chicken and wants to do the right thing. Thank you, backyard chicken people.

When I first started you never helped a chick hatch, that's a weak chick, it will never make, it won't ever be anything. Can you imagine leaving a baby struggling because its stuck in the egg? Well, not you, but you get it. Every time I see someone say that I can't keep my fingers from the keyboard to say that is wrong. No shavings in the brooder? Bunk. What does Mom raise her peeps on in the coop?

Yes, Silkies were my primary. I sold the breeding flock a year ago last month. I kept my oldies, most are in the 8 year range. And just so you know, some Silkies love a good mud bath. I don't have her as an avatar here but I had one little girl that headed straight for the first mud puddle.

I try to get people to back up, slow down and calmly relate what they see. Sometimes that's like getting blood from a stone. And if they can't be bothered to be more succinct, I ignore them.

Yes, most of what we use is not approved for chickens because no one has bothered to see if they work. Until the past few years chickens were not thought as anything more than food or egg production. I think that's going to change as long as there are people that keep them as more than a chicken.
 

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To: Robin416 - Yep - chickens are not just pets - they're our family. Even friends and relatives ask how our flock is doing because they know we love and enjoy them so much! We got 2 more friends involved with chicken raising plus gardening to raise veggies for them and give them a place to dig and dust-bathe! We're a little chicken co-op exchanging experiences, best flock products, and health issues with each other. Such a blessing to us.

Wow - 8 yr Silkies! I heard of one reaching 17! And sounds like 10-12 may be the average? My oldest is only 3 but already the alpha leader of another 2-yr Silkie, and an Ameraucana pullet, and a Buff Leghorn pullet. She acts tough but they just run or jump over her when she gets bossy. As boss she's too small to hurt anybody and yet is respected. Silkies are hardy gals and not the prima-donnas you'd think they should be with all that lovely fluff. I have Black and Partridge colors - White is not an option for our backyard. I had my juveniles in diapers in-house before they were old enough to introduce into my old flock. A chore washing those fluffy butts every night but still less tedious then caring for a human baby.

Noticed that too many newbies get addicted to chickens with the multiple choices of breeds and acquire more fowl than can be reasonably handled in the room available for them. Ruffles me when I see chicken housing and pens advertised for 8-10 chickens when I wouldn't confine 2 bantams in the space advertised! You wouldn't keep a dog or cat confined all day in just 4x6-ft of space with food and water dishes taking up some of the space. Or keep a cow or horse confined in a stall day-in/day-out. Animals poop and need to have clean living space not contaminated with accumulated waste, spilled feed, or no exercise room. After the newness of ownership gets tedious some animals become neglected or sick. I sincerely wish for anyone contemplating any pet to tackle it with the same preparation and thought as having a human child - it is a commitment for the life of the living being. As a human child shouldn't be confined in a house day-in/day-out with no outdoor exercise, so should it be with pets who need to run and jump and dig and dust-bathe and forage etc. Yes, chickens can be easy to have, but they do need responsible caretakers.
 

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Ditto everything you said. And I also hear the frustration you feel when the birds/animals are suffering due to a lack of information that can be depended on. It drives me nuts.

The feed store employee that knows nothing about chickens recommending drugs or treatments they have no business recommending is another one of my gripes.

But two things that can brighten the fact that sometimes things didn't go the way the should have, the owner and their willingness to fix the deficiency. I have to believe that sometimes when the owner is defensive it was more my blunt approach to the subject and that they actually feel bad that they listened to the wrong person.

With the explosion in popularity of keeping these guys there was still a lack of true information out there about them and you had to dig deep to find the right answers. Its going to take those that have had them for years to help those new to them. Even with self educating before making the leap there are so many holes in that information.

Silkie girls can be quite vicious. Allie is about 7 now and she can be awful to the other girls. She'll grab one by the wing and swing it around and then walk around with the feathers hanging from her mouth.

Just like pedigree dogs, highly bred Silkies don't live as long as many do. My King, my first Silkie, is 8 1/2 now and is looking aged. His normally laid back easy going ways has changed to a crotchety old man. I find the one most amazing to still have is Head Tuck, she will be 8 in a couple of months. She suffered a head injury when she was a pullet, she still struggles in times of stress. But dog gone, she's still looking good.
 

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To Robin416 - After owning chickens off-and-on for 50 years, I still find it a learning experience each time because a chicken is not just another chicken. The breeds are so different and I needed re-educating - what breeds can be mixed, specific nutrition for certain breeds, etc. So, depending on breeds and size of flock, there were holes in my prior info that couldn't be applied to later flocks. It's a constant learning process and I don't mind reading others' recommendations or experiences as occasionally something will hit an "Ah-ha!" moment with me.

As for vicious Silkies - our 3-yr alpha attacked the 2-yr Silkie and sent her to the vet. The alpha isn't normally crotchety. The bigger hens warded her off but the injured Silkie had bleeding toes and some missing toenails. She's ok now but one toe will never grow a nail. My vet said it was the outside front and not as critical as the other nails and he said I did the right treatment before seeing him. The alpha Silkie was moulting and she was nasty. All my hens get peculiar at moult plus the Silkies get more aggressive during a broody period. The injured Silkie isn't aggressive but doesn't take abuse from the alpha any more and puts her in her place. We isolated the alpha in-house for a week and monitored her diet, vitamins, with quiet time til she calmed down. They seem to have it all worked out without drama now.

So sorry Head Tuck suffered a head injury. That vaulted skull of Silkies is so delicate and really makes them not "quite right" if injured there - another reason I've learned not to mix them with large or aggressive breeds. Silkies are hardy bantams but that skull of theirs is an Achilles heel. I don't look forward to any of my girls getting old as it seems to make them crotchety, combative, or frail in old age. I watched a youtube video of an owner filming her older hen hoping she was getting better after vet visits but she died anyway. It was sad but in actuality I learned from her filmed experience. Same with other filmed experiences of owners fixing splayed legs in chicks, treating bumblefoot, sour crop, etc-etc.

Had to re-home a wonderful 3-yr alpha Leghorn after a severe moult. 2 new pullets were added while she was behaving listless and didn't try to be alpha during her moult. But after her moult she was a bully. Since the flock dynamics weren't going to change, I re-homed her with a friend before she could injure a hen. The breeder suggested isolating her off-property, then put her back in the yard so she'd lose her alpha spot - but with 2 Silkies it would be too easy for her to get pushy again. She's a big Leghorn who's even larger than my current Leghorn. She's re-homed in a good place now and at least not someone's dinner! She was a gentle humane leader with the Silkies for so long but after the moult she got way too aggressive with them. We monitored the interaction for almost a week before deciding best to re-home her.
 

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I figured out something a few years ago, this molting thing can be very painful for them. Or I should say, is very painful for them and depending on how large the molt the more painful. I never would have figured it if I hadn't picked one of my girls up and she screamed. She was normally a docile, laid back girl. She was absolutely full of quills but until I picked her up I didn't see it.

I've watched since then and if I saw one having issues with the molt I gave the bird its own room. My old coop was set up so that they were still part of the flock but protected if need be.

Allie and her moods appeared to have to do with hormones since her aggressiveness seemed to have a cycle to it. Sweet as the day is long then she turned in to Frankestein all of sudden. It would last a few days and then just stop.

You've noticed what I did, its us, the raisers of chickens that are doing the studying and figuring out the answers on our own. And it seems to be more of those that keep them for pleasure alone that are figuring this stuff out. Have you ever tried to tell a long time breeder who raises birds for showing something new?

Even advances in medical care for our four legged, from cats to horses has grown in leaps in bounds in just the last 20 years. I expect to see the same thing when it comes to the birds.
 

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To robin416 - Our new Leghorn is going through her first big moult. It was painful for us to see her with those sharp barbs especially around the vent area. One of the Silkies is moulting too and just not herself. Moulting hens have sporadic appetites and just seem to fuss more or nip their flockmates for no reason. We've got a bucketful of moulted feathers to rake everyday! They'll be back to normal by end of January - sigh.

Since every pullet we acquire has a quarantine time in-house in a 4x4' portable pen before being introduced to the flock, we have no problem bringing them in because of issues that require removal from the flock. They love the extra attention from us. We use chicken diapers except on the ones recovering from vet visits or the ones moulting. When we remodeled the house, we laid ceramic tile floors and NO carpets especially for the girls when in-house. We also love the 50' long 2-ft-high rabbit fence roll to separate the yard. Especially good to separate a new pullet from the flock before total immersion.

Our girls love the extra large nestboxes with the round hole entrances to use as sleeping boxes rather than perch roosting. They use the perch enough during the day. Read once that round hole entrances are their favourite. It makes for extra cleaning every day but we're used to it as part of morning chores. We use organic Poultry Protector every week in the nestboxes and once a month on each hen and worth it.

Hope newbies are getting good info from backyarders. I love the blogs though some are incomplete, sporadic or not helpful, but there are a few excellent ones. Our sixth sense about "knowing" our birds will help to weed out the junk info. There are on-line vets also but how can one diagnose without seeing the bird or doing lab work since so many ailments have the same symptoms? A mystery to me so there I go to an in-person vet every time!

The Silkie hormone cycle is a good point. They are a broody bunch and can get ill sitting on their imaginary nest for weeks at a time. One broody cycle lasts about 3-4 weeks. We've stopped trying to break them of it. Rather, we get them out foraging 2-3 times/day to eat, dust-bathe, or drink before they rush back to their nest. We tried separating them from the coop but they stress too much. With summer broodies, we open the back of the nestbox to circulate air so they don't suffocate. This method worked well for 3 years and they're happier for sitting out their cycle. They return to normal after the imaginary brooding is done. I love Silkies but they are not conducive to backyards because, if unaware, can lose them to dehydration from intense brooding. I've read that in barnyards the Silkie cocks sometimes brood eggs for his hen while she gets nourishment but that's the ideal. In a backyard environment with no male, a setting hen must be monitored.
 
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