Why Are My Silkie Chickens Dying?

Silkies are adorable little chickens. They may be little, but they have large personalities and make an impact on their owners. It is devastating for chicken keepers who lavish care and attention on their chickens to find them suddenly dying. It is essential to determine why your silkie chickens are dying. 

Why Are My Silkies Dying?

Viruses, bacteria, pathogens, and parasites can cause diseases that lead to the death of your silkie chickens. Vitamins and mineral deficiencies can result in death. Silkies have vaulted skulls which makes them prone to sudden death. Parasites and predators can cause silkie chicken deaths.

Keeping silkie chickens can be very rewarding, but it can also be heartbreaking when they keep dying. 

Causes of Silkie Death 

If you have Silkie chickens, you’ll want to know what can cause unexpected death and what you can do to protect your flock. 

Silkie’s Chickens Dying From Marek’s Disease

Marek’s disease is a virulent contagious poultry disease caused by the herpes virus. The virus does not kill every chicken it infects, and some strains of the virus are more deadly than others. 

Marek’s disease can show various symptoms, but the most classic form affects the nervous system. Tumors grow in the spinal cord, nerves, and brain. Paralysis, muscle tremors, head tilts, and paralyzed drooping wings may be seen. 

Torticollis is a painful and unpleasant symptom of Marek’s disease. The neck twists and the silkie becomes disorientated, falling over as they cannot stay on their feet. 

Tumors may grow in the eyes, causing blindness or in internal organs and the skin. The bird often cannot eat and becomes severely emaciated. In addition, they may be trampled or injured by the rest of the flock.

There is no available treatment for Marek’s disease in silkies; unfortunately, it is a difficult virus to remove from your environment once it has gained a foothold. 

Vaccinations should be given to newly hatched chicks to give them immunity to this unpleasant disease. 

Not all hatcheries vaccinate their chicks for Marek’s disease, so make sure to buy yours from a place that does. The vaccination is done by injecting it under the animal’s skin- which can be tough on such a tiny chick. 

Silkie chickens are particularly vulnerable to Marek’s disease and have a high death rate, with 50% or more dying if infected.  

The virus lives in chicken dander, so keeping a clean chicken coop is essential in minimizing the potential spread of the disease. 

Water On The Brain In Silkies

Some silkie breeders prefer chickens with puffed-up crests, but this usually means the chicken has a skull deformity called ‘vaulting.’  

This characteristic is a genetic abnormality and causes health problems that can lead to death. Therefore, responsible silkie breeders do not breed silkie chickens with vaulted skulls. 

The skull abnormality makes the brain or the meninges vulnerable to injury and infection. The injury may be as mild as the silkie sightly bumping its head or getting pecked by another bird. 

Infection and inflammation result in increased fluid in the skull, which puts pressure on the brain. 

Neurological symptoms such as abnormal movements, paralysis, and tremors or seizures may occur. 

If water on the brain is caught early in silkies, it may respond to treatment with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. Unfortunately, in many cases, the chickens die, or the owner chooses to euthanize them. 

Silkie Chickens Dying From Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is a disease in silkies caused by a parasite in the soil. The coccidia parasite attaches to the lining of the intestines. It causes the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea which may contain blood or mucous.
  • Anemia, seen in pale skin color, pale combs, and wattles
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy

Coccidiosis is a deadly disease for chickens, and silkies are especially vulnerable. Older birds may succumb quickly or develop a slow decline. 

Chicks should be vaccinated against coccidiosis to give them the best chance of survival.

Practicing good chicken husbandry and biosecurity measures can help reduce the chance of coccidiosis. If your silkies become infected, you can treat them with amprolium, but it is necessary to treat the entire flock. 

Silkie Chickens Do Not Have Good Cold Protection

Even though Slikies look like they have a good amount of feathers, the chickens are not well-suited to withstand cold weather.

The feathers of a silkie chicken are very soft and more like down than the feathers of other chickens. They also do not have waterproof qualities like the feathers of most other chickens. 

This makes silkies prone to becoming wet and dying from cold in rainy or snowy weather. Therefore, it is vital for their coops to be free of leaks and for the silkies to have an area where they can escape from the elements.  

In freezing weather, silkie chickens may need extra heating. Silkies that get wet need to be dried immediately and put in a warm brooder or recovery box. 

Vitamin And Mineral Deficiencies In Silkies

Minerals and vitamins are essential for chicken health. The deficiency may result in a slow decline, or it may cause sudden death. Low copper levels can result in an aortic rupture in silkies.

Magnesium deficiency causes birds to pant, have labored breathing, and gasp for air. They may have seizures and become comatose. 

An electrolyte imbalance can cause birds to become weak, show symptoms of shock, and die rapidly. 

Many neurological symptoms are caused by vitamin A and E deficiencies in silkie chickens, resulting in difficulty walking and keeping their heads up. Without enough vitamin K, these chickens will bleed to death internally.

Vitamin B deficiency results in numerous symptoms, including digestive, respiratory, and neurological issues. 

Parasites Can Cause Death In Silkies

Parasites such as mites, fleas, and ticks can cause severe anemia in silkie chickens. These pests feed on the chickens’ blood, and in heavy infestations, the chicken may die. 

Predators Kill Silkie Chickens

Predators such as raptors, raccoons, coyotes, bears, martens, weasels, and wolves may kill chickens. The incidence of predation depends on where you live and how secure your coop is.  

Final Word

It is crucial to purchase vaccinated silkie chicks to prevent diseases. In addition, keeping the chicken coop in good condition and practicing biosecurity helps keep disease at bay. 

Avoid silkie chickens with vaulted skulls, and ensure your chicken feed has adequate minerals and vitamins. Take measures to keep predators away from your flock.

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