Hey everyone,

I have a nearly 4-month-old chicken. I am fairly sure she's female—since day one she's been a little smaller than her two siblings (one female, one male). Starting in December, she became unable to balance herself, staggering and stumbling, and couldn't roost with the other two. I started dosing their water with polyvisol and puting nutritional yeast in their feed, which did nothing, and in January started giving them rooster booster (vitamin B12 and K, from the feed store), which in combination, I think, with putting her and the others outside to get some exercise during the day, helped quite a bit. She was getting around fine (though not perfectly), but about 3 weeks ago she started getting worse. She would spend most of her time sitting, walking 10 steps and falling down to rest again. She was losing weight from being unable to access food and water frequently enough, and her right leg was much weaker than the left; she couldn't put any weight on it at all.

I put her outside in a dog crate (covered with cardboard and a tarp), locking her in with food and water. She kept knocking over the hanging water dishes trying to drink from them, so I put her back outside, but her brother, the new reigning rooster, started picking on her—standing on her and pecking at her neck when she couldn't get up. So she's been living in a cardboard box in my living room since Monday morning, with booster-dosed water and flock raiser. She can barely even sit upright unless I wedge her against the side of the box. She doesn't seem to have control of her legs, and not much over her wings. She has an appetite, and she'll eat and drink, but can barely get to the food and water. She spends most of her time flipped on her back, usually lying on one wing, or on her side.

At this point, I think it's time to cull. I can't afford to have a vet euthanize her, but I'm considering getting a necropsy done to see what's wrong—I'm worried it's Mareks, though the chicks were hatched at home and should be clean (although I suppose my hens or rooster could have been carriers). Does anybody know a vet around here that can perform a necropsy? Or is that something that can be done through an extension service? I'm pretty new at all this, and I still don't even know how I'm going to kill her. Any thoughts are welcome.

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Speaking from the Extension side of things...we don't have the capability nor expertise to do that kind of work. There might be a vet in town that can, you may have to call around - maybe one outside the city would be more familiar with chickens, though given vet rates i doubt many people bring them chickens.  You might try posing the question to an online chicken vet site I found at: bird.justanswer.com ; I googled poultry diseases.  At the risk of sounding unconcerned, which I'm not, my gut instinct is that as long as this bird has been afflicted, if the other birds where at risk of transmission they would probably already be showing symptoms.  Joran.

Thanks for your reply, I appreciate the advice. I can't really can't afford what a vet will probably charge, but at the same time, I'm about to move and I'm afraid of moving Mareks with me, or infecting any new birds I get.

I know the vet at the Southwest Veterinary Center in Corrales works with birds. I took a hen into him once. I don't know if he would do a necropsy, but he may be able to direct you. As for putting her down, I'm sure he would do that.

Yes, Dr. Levenson put down my hen and disposed of her for me ($50) and I bet he would be eager to do a necropsy--he is a curious guy.  But, really this sounds like a neurological issue to me, which likely will not be apparent just by looking. 

I'd call Rio Bravo Veterinary Clinic.  Most vets will just send the body to the state lab for a necropsy.  I do recommend it, since it'll give you peace of mind.

Danielle, RVT

Thank you both for your replies. Do you know how much a necropsy might cost? I'm culling my poor bird tonight—she's in visible pain—and I'm going to put her in the fridge until the morning, when I can call the state extension service—it says online I can ship her to them through a courier service, but I can't afford it if it will be over $50.

Where do you live? The state lab right off the UNM Hospital parking lot.  You might save money by dropping the body off yourself.  They try to keep their costs from being prohibitive to farmers so call in AM.  I am sorry you are having to make this hard decision but you are making the right one for the animal.

OPPS they moved but still not too far. http://128.123.206.6/animal-and-plant-protection/veterinary-diagnos...

The deed's been done :(

Thanks, I didn't realize it was in town—thought it was associated with NMSU. I'll give them a call in the morning.

Sorry about your no good awful rotten day. I hope you don't have Mareks, again, sorry about your girl.

Thanks :(

Just an update—I called the extension service and spoke to a pathologist, he said it probably isn't worth it to spend $100+ dollars to see if it's Mareks, especially since if it is, there's nothing to be done for the other birds, and I agree. I'm just going to say that this bird was weak since she was hatched, and ultimately she just couldn't make it. Hopefully it's congenital, not viral. Thanks for your advice and support, everyone.

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