Saturday, June 1, 2013

They're bickering!

Oh the sweet sound of hens pecking at each other. I am so incredibly relieved to see my hens returning to their normal behavior of beating each other up over a morsel of cracked corn. After and during the predator trouble we'd seen, they were also fighting disease, a first for me in my chicken keeping career.

Brownie, our sick Auracana, see those folds in her neck and chest?
Pale comb, closed eyes. Not good.

For the last week or two, I had observed a few things I didn't like very much. First, there were watery poops. Then, there were coughs and sneezes. I saw creases (for the lack of a better word) in the necks of two of the hens, and when I picked up Brownie (my only Auracana right now, and by far the most personable of the flock), I heard a rasping sound when she was breathing.

The two Delaware pullets looked too different for my taste, too. One of them spent too much time sitting with her eyes closed, and see how different the coloring of their comb and wattle is? Something isn't right.
Two Delaware pullets aged 13 weeks

I concluded that most likely, the first course of meds (Amprolium) was not enough to eradicate the Coccidiosis that I've been struggling with for months now. Plus, they had likely picked up a secondary infection of their respiratory systems. This is highly contagious and can lead to a speedy demise in chickens. So I took up veterinary medicine at Google U, and decided to switch to a different type of Coccidia medication (Sulmet) plus a course of antibiotics (Tetracyclin is what I found in the feedstore) for the respiratory infection. I also gave them a tsp of dried garlic powder on top of their favorite feed in a small bowl, which makes them smell mighty fine, but it's supposed to be a natural help in fighting infection. Now we're on day 4 of that course of treatment, and I see no more coughing, no rasping breath, and only a very very few slight sneezes. The sick Delaware pullet is much more active again, too.
Silver sneezed and had runny poops
Huffy, a Buff Orpington, is looking haggard and was coughing and sneezing
Cloudy is looking much perkier again!
Because there wasn't enough going on as is, this White Leghorn named Cloudy, had been spending most of her days sitting on the ground, pooping only dark green bile, indicating that she hadn't processed any food in a while.
This doesn't really fit in with a diagnosis of Cocci or respiratory infection (she wasn't coughing or sneezing either), but rather with being egg bound. I was worried about Egg Peritonitis, and took her inside for a night to observe. She wouldn't eat, not even yogurt or scrambled egg. I recalled that I had found a shell-less egg a few days before, which combined with the fact that she's an older laying hen, might be a symptom of EP, which would be fatal. I sat with her on my lap, gently holding her belly in my cupped hand, for an hour or so, thinking it over. Should I cull her? What to do? In the morning, she seemed to perk up. I intended to let her have a walk with the other hens for cheering, and then if she wouldn't eat, I'd cull. I took her outside, and gave them all a handful of scratch. Low and behold, Cloudy pecked at the oats! I fed lots of scratch and grain-based layer feed (as opposed to pellets), and a day later, found an egg in the nest box that showed signs of strain, a rim of thicker shell and a slightly deformed egg-shape. Cloudy meanwhile is back to her normal self, and is eating fine. It looks like she was just egg bound, phew.

In an effort to support the meds with good housekeeping, I shoveled all the half-composted straw and dirt out of the pen, and limed and raked the remaining soil. This is supposed to help lower the Coccidia load in the soil. I added a few bags of pea pebbles to try and keep the ground drier. I will see how that will factor into my composting rotation, but for now, it only matters to get the hens to recover.

The most important thing from here on out is finishing the schedule of medication, tossing the eggs for a while, a lot of observing and poop-stalking, and as much TLC as possible. Keep your fingers crossed for the ladies!!!

I shared this post at The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

1 comment:

  1. So good to hear they're all doing better! I'll know where to go for free medical chicken advice.
    Stay cool!