Tough Lessons

So I had this great post written up all about the health woes of my flock we have been dealing with over the past few weeks, it was written in a bit of a lighthearted manner and I was all set to post it up on Friday when things took a downward turn Friday morning. I felt it inappropriate to post about sick chickens in a flippant tone as I was now dealing with the death of one of our hens. So my apologies for not posting much this past week and weekend. I had to figure out what was really going on and focus on the tougher side of this life path we have chosen to travel.

This all started a few weeks ago when I noticed one of our barred rocks was not feeling like herself. She spent a beautiful Friday morning with her feathers all fluffed out, her head tucked over her shoulder and her eyes closed. Much like us humans stay snuggled up under the covers when we have a cold or the flu. She looked miserable.
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I immediately hit the online chicken communities I am a part of sharing symptoms and seeking advice. One thing suggested was that I should de-worm my flock if I had not previously done so. We had the hen in the “hospital” crate, isolated in the house. Come Sunday, we actually saw the hard evidence that this was indeed the course of treatment we needed to take. Tuesday were able to get the flock all dosed with the de-wormer. By that evening our sick bird was back to herself and we returned her to the flock.

With the wormer we used it is required that we toss the eggs for 17 days after the medicine is administered. Well now, if that isn’t painful in itself, Chiquita chose day one of “Toss the Eggs Days” to start laying her pretty pale eggs again. This after an 18 day respite.
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Having to toss the eggs has been a real bummer, but knowing it is for the health of our flock, with the promise of production eventually increasing once they are all healthy again takes a little of the sting away. As we are now at day 14 of 17 the excitement is starting to build a little more with each passing day.

With the treatment also comes the clean-up. It was recommended that I keep the girls confined to the Chicken Yard for a minimum of 2 weeks so I have a smaller space to rake up daily (honestly it has been every other day). Roundworms can live in the dirt and as the girls are shedding these nasty parasites out they can easily become re-infected. So I have been out there carefully raking up and removing as much of their manure as possible rain or shine. Yeah, remember the rains that came through California a couple weekends ago? We received well over 4 inches in just a couple days. All that rain made chicken chores a lot less enjoyable. Especially when I mixed slick mud with old flip flops and did a slow motion tumble into that same mud and manure. Landed feet up with Midge looking on. Was well worth the laugh we had over it. Lucky girl now has a mental video to replay any time she needs a pick me up and my expense.
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Slip ‘n’ sliding aside, things were starting to look up. The flock was on the mend, the sick girl had bounced back. The days of confinement, egg tossing and poop raking were ticking by. And then another girl took a down turn. A week after the first bird turned up ill, our Silver-Laced Wyandotte, Raven appeared to be under the weather. She was walking a bit gingerly, was lagging behind the others and just moving slow. After looking her all over I thought she might be egg bound and tried treating for that a couple of days to no avail. Then I noticed her drinking an excessive amount of water and thought maybe Sour Crop. After a week of trying everything short of a vet visit our poor girl a turn for the worse on Thursday. Over the course of the day she steadily declined. That evening the Kiddo and I took her out to the grass and set her out in the cool evening breeze. She no longer had the strength to stand but her labored breathing slowed to calm and steady, she ate some grass and even managed to take in some of the soft mix food we had been feeding her. Seeing her eat and breathe easier offered a bit of hoe, so we held off culling for one more night.
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I chose to put her in a larger, temp pen on the patio where the temps would be cooler and the air fresher than that which had grown stagnant in our bedroom (a.k.a. the quietest room of the house). I thought moving her out would be a nice break for us all involved.

Friday I found she had passed away sometime in the night. I really knew Thursday was going to be her last night. I felt so bad she had suffered and that I was unable to help. It is such a terrible feeling of helplessness when you are researching, asking and trying everything and all to no avail. But worse is, once we opened her up (of course we did, Midge wants to go into veterinary medicine and we both agree we needed to figure out the cause so we can hopefully prevent the same from happening to others in our flock) we discovered that poor Raven starved to death. Impacted Gizzard. It looks like the worms may have reduced her gut function a bit and then she loaded up on a lot of long grass, was having trouble digesting it. She then started swallowing gravel to try to clear the blockage but it was too little too late. The gizzard was fully engorged with grass and gravel.
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This prevented food from getting in and slowly starved her till she was too weak to fight. That was a very painful conclusion to come to. I am not one to let an animal suffer and it turns out I did just that to this girl.

Knowing this, research was done to figure out prevention and treatment. Turns out prevention is the most important thing not just because you want to keep your chickens healthy, but also because treatment doesn’t have much of a success rate. (Source)

Lessons will, and need to, be learned in order to improve, row and strengthen. It is a tough lesson learned when the loss of an animals life is involved.

Lessons Learned:

1. Annual de-worming of the entire flock is a must, twice a year is not bad either. Just do it in the fall/winter, when egg production is in it’s natural lull so you won’t have to toss so many eggs. Worms not only cause weight loss, lethargy, decreased egg production and death, they also reduce overall gut health that can lead to other health issues. All of which can be fatal and are difficult to treat.

2. De-worming of all new additions prior to integrating into the flock are MANDATORY.

3. Keep the lawn mowed so there is less likelihood of the chickens biting off more than they can handle. Long pieces of grass can become lodged in the crop, blocking things up and cause sour or impacted crop or further down, like in Raven’s case, cause impacted gizzard.

4. Offer free choice grit, just to be sure they are able to get the proper size and amount of grit they need for proper gizzard function

5. Most importantly,
an ounce

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