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PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 3:10 pm 
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Golden Phoenix
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Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2007 10:39 am
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Location: Tarago, near Goulburn
Over the last month, in just one pen, I've had three unexpected deaths and have just found one hen that I'll be surprised if she lasts till morning.

Each death looks like the bird has dropped dead where they were standing. No obvious signs of convulsions, no marks, no blood, no odd angles. All birds are plump and healthy, and all but the sick hen had been observed the day before acting perfectly normally. Apparently she's been indoors for a couple of days so maybe she does just have a cold.

Death 1: 6+ year old Leghorn hen. Unexpected, but not unsurprising - not antique, but not first flush of youth.
Death 2: older, but not antique, Ancona rooster.
Death 3: Araucana cockerel. This is the one making me suspicious, as he was in a quarantine tractor inside the same larger paddock.
Dying 1: Leghorn hen. Maybe 3 years old.

Symptoms of hen - gasping for breath, comb is going blue, one eye closed. Respiratory symptoms, basically. Not unusual for the time of year here, but these are sudden. She's got her head thrown back for air. I would try to treat her but I'm not sure it'll help. She may have an unrelated cold but the timing is suss.

I have two other runs with many chooks and no illnesses or deaths in them at all. Just this one.

The major difference is that this is the goat paddock, and we feed them straw, hay, and lucerne, and some of this is on the open ground. We've been trying to keep it raked up or thin enough to prevent issues, but time and the weather may have got ahead of us. This is the only run with straw. All the others have wood shavings or rice hulls.

And we have had the wettest winter in this region for a good 10 years.

And about three weeks ago, we had a warm week, and then it started raining again. It's warming up, very slowly and gradually.

So I'm suspecting unpleasant spores/toxins from the rotting straw. It's not botulism, I don't think, due to speed of death and the feathers don't pull away easily. The cockerel in the chook tractor was on straw. Another rooster in another tractor no more than a metre away is perfectly healthy and is not on straw.

I'm wondering if something breeding in the straw could cause them to suffocate really fast? If I opened up this boy, would I find anything?


Last edited by infoaddict on Mon Sep 12, 2016 1:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 8:02 pm 
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Dapper Duck
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infoaddict,

Anything is possible, by the sound of what you have described you would have to think that the straw would more than likely have to be the underlying culprit, or on the other hand perhaps the goats are shedding some kind of bacteria what with the extreme wet weather has surfaced and could possibly account for the deaths.?


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 9:12 pm 
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Junior Champion Bird
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Location: Victoria
That is really weird. There does sound like there might be some connection to the straw, but what I have no idea.

I think it's worth opening one up and having a good look. I'd try and take photos of every step so you can go back and look over them to see if there was anything you didn't notice at first. It's always possible there might be something wrong with the internal organs that could help narrow down the cause.

Sorry, I'm no help at all. But I hope you can get to the bottom of the cause.

Good luck. I'd be interested in hearing how you go with it and your current sick hen.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 9:16 pm 
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Golden Phoenix
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Location: Tarago, near Goulburn
Thanks. I really should do it tonight but ... argh. I'd rather better light, esp. for the photos. He should be ok tomorrow ...


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 9:25 pm 
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Wise Wyandotte
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I'm at a loss, but if you wanted to perform an autopsy on the cockerel, I'd particularly pay attention to the liver. Check for a normal size and colour and take photos of any oddities. Otherwise, Azira's advice of taking photos of every step is great.
You might not come to a conclusion as in what exactly killed this bird, but you might at least get an idea what organs were affected and then go from there. Good luck.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2016 12:50 am 
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Golden Phoenix
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Location: Tarago, near Goulburn
Enclosed are pics of the liver. Have documented every step. We process our own roosters here so I'm pretty familiar with the innards of a chook, and I didn't see anything in this one to alarm me unduly.

Except the heart being loose inside its membrane. I see that occasionally but not every time, and I suspect it's not normal.

Will get everything up and noted.


Attachments:
liver and heart.jpg
liver and heart.jpg [ 229.93 KiB | Viewed 3028 times ]
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2016 12:57 am 
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Golden Phoenix
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Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2007 10:39 am
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Location: Tarago, near Goulburn
First pic is shown with a wine bottle for size. He was 2.5kg, and felt solid and healthy in the hand. Couldn't feel his breastbone and certainly it was well-covered in good-looking meat and muscle. (Honestly, it was a crime to butcher him for a PM, really.

Close-up of mouth and beak to look for plaques, excessive mucous, and so on. I also cut into the trachea at a couple of spots (not photographed) and saw no blockages or liquid.

I also cut into the crop (also not pictured) and again, looked and felt normal.

I found him at about midday, cold and in full rigor mortis. Crop contents and contents of gut would indicate time of death no later than 8am-9am, I suspect, possibly even early (sunrise is pre-6am currently).

He was just starting to loosen out of rigor as I was photographing him here.


Attachments:
File comment: A close-up of his mouth and tongue.
Mouth.jpg
Mouth.jpg [ 86.96 KiB | Viewed 3028 times ]
File comment: This is the side on which he was lying on the ground.
Ara PM 2.jpg
Ara PM 2.jpg [ 300.62 KiB | Viewed 3028 times ]
File comment: This is the position he was found lying in on the ground.
Ara PM 1.jpg
Ara PM 1.jpg [ 327.63 KiB | Viewed 3028 times ]
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2016 1:05 am 
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Golden Phoenix
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Location: Tarago, near Goulburn
Lungs here, and the heart and liver cut into.


Attachments:
File comment: Lungs in cavity.
Lungs.jpg
Lungs.jpg [ 271.8 KiB | Viewed 3027 times ]
File comment: Lungs cut into.
cut lungs.jpg
cut lungs.jpg [ 332.17 KiB | Viewed 3027 times ]
File comment: Liver cut into.
Cut liver and testicle.jpg
Cut liver and testicle.jpg [ 264.42 KiB | Viewed 3027 times ]
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2016 1:07 am 
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Golden Phoenix
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Location: Tarago, near Goulburn
Other organs investigated.


Attachments:
File comment: Heart cut into.
cut heart (1).jpg
cut heart (1).jpg [ 353.83 KiB | Viewed 3027 times ]
File comment: Gizzard cut into.
cut gizzard.jpg
cut gizzard.jpg [ 295.43 KiB | Viewed 3027 times ]
File comment: Empty except for lungs and kidneys and lots of smaller kidney-like things which all looked identical when cut into - just dark muscular stuff.
Empty cavity.jpg
Empty cavity.jpg [ 287.27 KiB | Viewed 3027 times ]
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2016 1:08 am 
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Golden Phoenix
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Location: Tarago, near Goulburn
Organs intact.


Attachments:
File comment: Liver and heart in context.
liver and heart on context.jpg
liver and heart on context.jpg [ 280.82 KiB | Viewed 3027 times ]
File comment: Guts, gizzard and heart.
Guts, gizzard and heart.jpg
Guts, gizzard and heart.jpg [ 290.45 KiB | Viewed 3027 times ]
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2016 1:10 am 
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Golden Phoenix
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Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2007 10:39 am
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Location: Tarago, near Goulburn
So, I got nuttin' now ... thoughts welcome.

We've still spent the afternoon clearing out all sources of standing water, raking out the old wet straw and spreading it thinly to be sunned and dried, putting down dolomite lime, and waiting to get in a couple of bales of rice hulls to replace the straw. That's about all we can do, really, if this is the issue. Add vitamins to the water and hope ...


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2016 7:29 am 
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Wise Wyandotte
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Location: Plainland, SEQ
I can't see anything on the photos that would suggest anything in particular. All I can see is what you know already - that he died all of a sudden. I guess that, if a vet had performed the autopsy, it most likely would come back inconclusive, unless they took swabs and sent them away, maybe.

Last night, I saw that on facebook some were suggesting aspergillosis. I doubt it, but if it was the case, you should have seen some lesions on the airsacs. Did you pay attention to the airsacs during the autopsy? Anything that looked suspicious?

Another thought I had was fowl cholera (Pasteurella multocida), as it can sometimes just show up as a number of sudden deaths. But I would have expected to see some obvious internal bleeding and an enlarged liver on your pictures. You can read more about it [url=http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/poultry/fowl_cholera/overview_of_fowl_cholera.html]HERE[url/] if you like.

If this doesn't stop after your clean up, I'd call the DPI in for further investigations and peace of mind.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2016 10:58 am 
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Golden Phoenix
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Location: Tarago, near Goulburn
No. I read all the Merck's manuals to get an idea what to look for - lesions, marks, tumours, enlargement - and kept an eye out specially. That's why I cut into the lungs to see if anything turned up inside.

Thanks. If I get any more completely inexplicable deaths in that pen, I'll get the body to the vet and take it from there.

This is a tricky time of year in this region - we can go from 30C to snow literally overnight, it's generally extremely dry and dusty, plus the pollens on top of that, plus frequently very windy, so chooks tend to get whatever's going around. Generally presenting as whatever respiratory nasty is this year's flavour. I tend to bump up the Livamol and vitamins, add extra protein into the diet, pad up their sheds well, and basically nurse them until the weather settles down in November or so. Olde, weaker, or stressed birds often don't make it, and I tend to cull harshly rather than treat because if I just treat, they're next year's infection vector.

So in order for me to be suspicious, it's got to be pretty damn major. The cockerel was the trigger because he wasn't raised here (but was raised in the region, so "hardened off", so to speak), only came here two weeks ago, has been in quarantine in a fully-enclosed tractor with no easy contact with other birds or, frankly, wildlife of any kind (they can see eachother through fine mesh but that's it), and was very young, vital, and strong.

The ONLY common factor between him and the other birds - assuming there's a link - is presence in the same paddock, and straw.

There's a gap between the deaths, too. The first two - two consecutive days - was a good 4 weeks ago.

So I'll keep an eye on things and we'll take it from there ...


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2016 7:58 pm 
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Gallant Game
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I understand Cholera can sometimes hit like this with no symptoms, just sudden death.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2016 12:39 am 
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Golden Phoenix
Golden Phoenix

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Location: Tarago, near Goulburn
Signs should have shown up in the PM, however; lesions on heart, for eg; enlarged liver and spleen, just as starters.

Note: the hen died overnight, as expected - warm and comfortable and not sneezing/oozing on anyone. However, I don't know if her death was related to the others. She was showing clear respiratory distress, which is common for the time of year, and had a peculiar tumour on her foot that I'd been meaning to look at for ages but never remembered at night.

I didn't PM her, I have to say.


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