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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 20627
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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My bantams have been dropping dead one by one over the last

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My bantams have been dropping dead one by one over the last week. I cannot find any symptoms except their heads turning yellow shortly before. My vet is clueless but suggests something with the liver. It must be highly contagious.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee ones today.

Now it sounds like the girls haven't been giving you much in the way of hints in deciphering what is causing these deaths in the flock. True sudden deterioration and death of multiple birds would suggest a toxic or infectious condition. That said, the instincts of the chickens can thwart us here because they do a very good job of covering up when they are sick. This is because as a prey species, attention to your illness will make you a target for predation. And too often we only see signs of struggling when their condition is just too advanced for them to hide any longer. Therefore, bird instinct means we do also have to consider any other non-acute disease that could silently manifest over time.

Now if your birds are developing jaundice of their skin before dying, then this does suggest (as your vet suspected) that the liver has failed at that point. In regards ***** ***** agents that could induce this, the top concerns would be Viral Inclusion Hepatitis (Adenovirus), TB, and intoxication (ie sulphonamides, certain plant or chemical agents, etc). As well, we can see jaundice prior to death associated with late stage Infectious Bursal Disease, vibrionic hepatitis, fatty liver syndrome (often secondary to other disease), and deficiency of vitamin B12.

In regards ***** ***** which is decimating your flock, while it isn't nice to think about, you could consider submitting any recently dead birds for post mortem. If you speak to the vet, they may be able to perform the autopsy in the practice. Alternatively, if you live near a vet school, vet lab, VLA, or agricultural college, they too likely can help you in this manner.


If the vet performs the autopsy and cannot find an obvious visible cause of her death, then they can collect samples to submit to the lab for the pathologists to evaluate. The pathologists will be able to examine the tissues under the microscope and determine the causative agent that lead to her death. As well, if bacterial or viral causes are suspected, these can be cultured to determine what is present and what treatments options there may be for the remaining birds. This will both give you closure on the loss, but also help you know if this is something that threatens the whole flock. And once you know the causative agent, you will be able to potentially protect them effectively.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.

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