On my last update, I shared with you that I had lost one of my four beloved Buff Orpingtons. Since then, tragedy has once again visited my coop and “Lil Comb,” my smallest Buff, also died. She developed loose droppings on a Sunday afternoon, but during the day she scratched and foraged with her companions and other than her abnormal stool, she didn’t appear ill until late in the day. Before she died, she rapidly declined — she was gasping for air and her comb turned practically white. I frantically called my father, a retired veterinarian, and pleaded with him for any advice or treatments I could do. Being the kind, understanding vet that he is, he had me do a couple last ditch resuscitation attempts. We both knew it was too late, but I’m an ICU nurse and watching her die without doing something was heartbreaking.
After losing half of my flock, my attitude of not using medication unless necessary was completely abandoned. Now I wanted to treat my last two hens for all possible illnesses! I thoroughly cleaned the coop and run, destroyed the old bedding and discarded all of my accumulated eggs. My father advised me to start medicating the last two for the most likely culprit (and easiest to treat) — Coccidiosis. For one week I followed the recommended treatment and again I saw no abnormal behavior or symptoms until I found Henrietta setting in the run one morning practically lifeless. I panicked and called four local veterinarians until I found one who knew something about chickens and could see her immediately. I loaded her up in a pet carrier and headed for the city … I know she’s just a chicken, but I’ve had these girls since they were a day old, and I did not want to loose another one! After Henrietta was checked in, weighed and examined, the vet came up with a variety of scenarios for why my chickens were dying. She gave me the option of running a number of laboratory tests, but stated that they would be costly and the treatment would most likely be the same regardless of the results. She ended up prescribing a broad spectrum antibiotic and Henrietta and I headed back to the coop …
After a couple of doses of the medication, she was back on her feet, scratching and clucking once again. Because at this point it looks as if she’s recovered and things seem to be getting back to normal, I have found a little humor within the tragedy that has afflicted my flock.
- I had to sign a HIPAA form at the vet’s office — for my chicken! I understand the importance of a patient’s rights and protecting their privacy, but I really don’t think Henrietta could care less …
- Chickens think antibiotic capsules are interesting, exotic bugs and will swallow them whole.
- Henrietta’s medication bottle had her name on it … “Henrietta Nickols” (For some reason, I find that very entertaining … )
- In honor of Henrietta’s recovery, my daughter, Lydia, painted a portrait of her and gave it to me as a gift for Mother’s Day. That definitely brought a smile to my face!
My advice to anyone who is interested in getting into backyard chicken farming is to contact your local county extension before your flock is ill and ask for a list of veterinarians in your area who specialize in poultry. Then if you are faced with a sick hen, you’ll be able to obtain quick, knowledgeable advice and stand a better chance of avoiding a tragedy…
On a much happier note, my young flock is thriving and very much ready to be outside. My husband is building an awesome chicken tractor (more on that later), which I’m going to use as a temporary coop for the chicks before I introduce them to the older birds.
I’m hoping good health will once again return to the coop, and I’ll go back to enjoying the daily antics of my little backyard flock. I can’t wait — I miss the eggs!
Visit my website at …the garden-roof coop.