Thursday 20 December 2012

Respiratory Infection in Chickens

Amelia Update

Picked up Amelia yesterday afternoon.  The Vet described a lump of infectious material, over an ulcer on her larynx about 1cm x 1.5 cm 1 cm.  He was unable to insert a breathing tube during the operation as her throat is no impacted and swollen, so in fact her air supply was cut off during the procedure.  She has antibiotics and anti-inflammatories for the next week to 10 days. 
I noticed immediately that she is not wheezing and coughing constantly and that her face is bright red, rather than a sluggish, dark pink - which was probably due to a reduction in her oxygen levels.  Once back in her hutch, she was able to sit down and tuck her neck in - again, something she could not do the other day as it limited her breathing capacity.  I found her sleeping deeply after an hour or so.

Amelia - Sleeping finally.  She must have been exhausted.
Reunited Amelia with her sister Rosa last night and the two of them had a chat - Amelia is not able to speak properly as yet but it was a genuinely pleasing sign that she is trying to do so.  Amelia had a drink for what must have been the first time by herself in a couple of days.  She looked so happy and relieved.  She drank more deeply than I've ever seen by a hen before.  They both slept inside and this morning I found the two of them eating together - seed, wet bread, boiled egg.  I did crop feed Amelia about 40mls of feeding solution via a tube down her esophagus this morning and this should keep her happy until I get home to her tonight.  I'm not too worried as she is eating small amounts constantly by herself since she has arrived home. 
We have an appointment next week at the Vet.  The Vet suspects there may be an abscess further down her throat but he was not able to tell due to the swelling at the moment.  I'm feeling really hopeful of a good recovery for her.  

Amelia - one day after her operation.  Got her colour back.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Respiratory Infection in Chickens

Amelia Update

Spoken to Veterinary staff who have Amelia and she is feeling much more comfortable today.  She is not 'out of the woods' but is able to return home - no doubt with a few kilos of medication in tow.  We'll see how she goes over the next several days on her new medication. 
Here's Rosa this morning - eagerly awaiting Amelia's return. 

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Respiratory Infection in Chickens

Amelia Update

Amelia's respiratory infection has gone downhill very quickly in the last week.  Amelia went broody and took to her next for most of the day and consequently ate and drank very little.  This made her quite susceptible to the mycoplasma getting a leg up again.  
Amelia - broody and beautiful. 

On Saturday Amelia was taken to the Vet and a sample was taken from inside her throat.  Amelia was swallowing constantly, wheezing and coughing regularly.   Today I took her back to the Vet for her results.  Amelia has four different types of bacteria on the go in her throat.  Streptococcal and E. Coli and two others that I should have written down.  Anyway, the Vet says that he really feels that these are all secondary behind the bigger problem - mycoplasma that won't lie down and surrender to the last 5 weeks of antibiotics.  Amelia was with me all day and she gasped and coughed and struggled all through it.  I have had to crop feed her by running a tube down her throat.  It is so painful for her.  Today she went blue and struggled to keep standing as she tried to get her breath back after a failed attempt (one of about 20) to insert the tube.  It was mortifying. I also noticed a disgusting build up just past her tongue that looked like a deposit of scrambled eggs.  
At the Vet this afternoon the Vet was extremely concerned about this build up on her throat and immediately admitted her for surgery this evening.  He likened it to the build up that can result from Diphtheria - an ulcer that gets smothered by bacteria and thickens rapidly.   So basically this mass has grown significantly in just a few days and now it is obstructing her breathing, preventing her from eating and if it keeps growing at this rate, it will asphyxiate her.  
I have just received a call from the Vet to report that the mass has been removed - leaving an ulcer behind.  Her larynx is in terrible shape and he is very concerned for her.  He has given her steroidal anti-inflammatories and injected her with anti-biotics. He sounds very worried and I keep having thoughts of Amelia's sister Rosie being by herself.  They love each other so much.  When they are apart and then see each other again they run to each other, talking away and welcoming each other back.  They are so beautiful and it would break my heart and Rosie's too if Amelia were to pass away.
I am calling the Vet tomorrow morning for an update.  Less than a week ago this wasn't even on the cards.  Evil, vindictive mycoplasma.  I miss my Amelia.  It's her first night without Rosie in over a year, that makes me so sad for both of them.
Sweet dreams my baby Amelia.  We love you. xx  

Rosie and Amelia - Sunday 9th December

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Grandpa's Feeders - Review

We took the plunge and purchased a standard size Grandpa's Feeder.  It's not cheap but we're hoping it will resolve some years old issues with the girls grain feeding.  

Why we Bought the Grandpa's Feeders

  • The girls flick their seed all over the place and waste a lot of it,
  • The seed is difficult to clean up completely (it gets in to the sand) and so provides a regular source of food for rats at night,
  • The food is exposed to the rain and has to be thrown out at the end of the day if it has gotten wet,
  • Every night we have to thoroughly clean up the pen to remove excess seed, it would be great not to have to do this and 
  • We currently have to remove the seed bowl every night and bring it inside the house, it would be nice not to have to do this but still have the seed kept safe.
Here it is - installed and ready for customers. 
In order to get the girls interested we fed them their usual variety for the day, until every thing was finished except for the seed in the new feeder.  There was a lot of frustration from the flock.  They were very afraid of the feeder and not hungry enough to get past that fear.  Closer to sunset I went out with a treat, crushed peanuts.  They were so excited.  I poured a couple of teaspoons straight in to the feeder.  Overcome by their hunger and excitement, several of them stood straight on to the feeder's stand and ate happily.  
The next day one or two ate from the feeder but it still is a point of concern.   

Day 3:
The girls showed some tentative interest in the feeder, though mostly this was in how they could eat from it without properly standing on the foot plate.  This was proving rather frustrating as this is technically impossible and the closest they could get was one foot completely on and the other foot mostly on.  At the very end of the day, after some time in the garden, they were all returned to the pen and the only food available was from the feeder.  They completely forgot their fear and jumped straight on to it and eat heartily.  

Day 5:
Oooooo.  A couple of the girls got straight on to the feeder when they got out of the hutch this morning.  Only for a few seconds though. Interesting.

Holly - the pioneer of the feeder.  First in, well fed. 
Day 6:
Now we're talking.  The girls were completely fearless on the feeder this morning.  Even the Wyandotte bantams were in to it and they are the most timid.  Hopefully in a few days we can move to phase two.  There were four girls feeding at once this morning.   

Day 9:
Moved on to phase 2 - where the feeder is part way up so the girls activate it when they step on to the foot plate.  They are very upset.  The footplate bounces and the lid makes a sharp noise when it shuts.  They have avoided it all afternoon, even though they have been ravenous.  So I placed three of them on to it and held them there until they started eating.  They ate and ate and ate.  I'm not sure when they'll get over this latest obstacle.   
Angie - On strike from the feeder

Day 13:
Oh they are hating that bouncing footplate.  Each afternoon I am holding hens on to it until they start eating.  But then they step off, it makes a noise and the girls all run away and we start over again.  Not sure how much longer to keep pursuing it.  The girls eat their greens and their corn on the cob in the morning and then seem to spend the day trying to eat from the feeder without actually standing on the foot stand - which isn't possible.  I really want to make this work as it will make it so much easier when we go away and people need to look after the hens, less work and almost no mess to clean up.  That's one of the fantastic parts of this feeder - almost no mess at all.  I would say maybe 1 teaspoon of feed escapes the feeder per day - and the hens eat most of that anyway.  
Holly and Alice - they've turned their back on the feeder. 
We used to find rat droppings scattered in the pen each morning and over the last several days there has been none or almost none.  This is fantastic.  And the clean up at night is 75% less at minimum.  Even if the girls never get used to that foot stand, it will have been worth it for the feed saving and the rat starvation.  

Day 17:
Yes, okay, we relented.  The girls weren't even eating the seed from the feeder unless we were holding them on to the footplate and then stopping the footplate from banging closed once they stopped standing on it.  We kept coming home to find hopelessly hungry hens and it was driving me up the wall.  I have relented and put the feeder back in to phase one mode - lid up, foot plate down.  
The girls are thrilled and are eating relentlessly.  

At this point I'd like to revist the reasons we bought the feeder and whether our needs are being met:
Alice - back in business with the feeder
  • The girls flick their seed all over the place and waste a lot of it - fixed!  The feeder is brilliant, amazing even at keeping food in place. 
  • The seed is difficult to clean up completely (it gets in to the sand) and so provides a regular source of food for rats at night - fixed!  There is maybe 1 teaspoon of seed, mostly less to clean up each day.  There has been no sign of rat activity for over a week now.  This is the first time in over 5 years. 
  • The food is exposed to the rain and has to be thrown out at the end of the day if it has gotten wet - fixed!  It has been raining hopelessly for a couple of days now and the food has not gotten wet so far.  To be clear our chicken pen roof is part plastic sheeting/ alsonite and the feed sits under this section.  However this never properly protected the food previously but with the added protection of the lid, side plates and narrow opening on the seed access point, the feed has remained completely protected so far.  
  • Every night we have to thoroughly clean up the pen to remove excess seed, it would be great not to have to do this - fixed!  Clean up of excess seed now takes less than 20 seconds and is thorough and complete rather than partial and 
  • We currently have to remove the seed bowl every night and bring it inside the house, it would be nice not to have to do this but still have the seed kept safe - fixed!  We completely close the lid and leave the unit in the pen.  
 So I'm going in for 4 1/2 stars.  If something can be devised to cushion the closing of the lid - such as we have on our 'soft closing' kitchen sliding drawers, then this could be practically perfect in every way.  

Sunday 9 December 2012

Celestial Sunday - Part 6

Egg Peritonitis

I had a vile run of egg peritonitis in my chickens and the first off the line was my Celeste.  I first met my now long term Vet after taking Celeste to the local dog and cat Vet and getting referred onwards.  There are very few poultry competent Vets in Perth.  I could feel a grinding sensation in Celeste's gut and knew something was wrong.  Celeste was diagnosed with egg peritonitis.  

I have tried to find a decent, reputable and easy to understand on line article about what this is but so far nothing matches the requirement.   Pretty much the egg does not make its way successfully along the chain and the liquid contents (yolk and white) settle in the abdomen.  They begin to cause inflammation, resulting from an infection caused by the egg contents stagnating in the abdominal space.  It also results in egg being produced which have a flexible, weak, rubbery shell - not a shell at all actually, it's like extra thick tissue paper at best.  Often call soft shelled eggs. Celeste was more than three years old when her symptoms began. 

We went through some odd treatments.  I recall taking Celeste in to the Vet to get her abdomen drained.  Basically the Vet stuck a rather large gauge syringe in to Celeste's abdomen and this prompted beer coloured liquid to drip out like a tap - a cup of it spilled out on to the surgery table.  I was horrified but it gave Celeste a lot of relief at the time.  I remember she was unable to make a sound but by the time the draining was half way over, she was chatting away again.  

How to give oral medication to chickens

I also gave her eye dropper fulls of anti inflammatory liquid.  My biggest piece of advice to anyone giving chickens oral medication is to avoid pressing the hens eyes when holding the head still.  So, so important.  I gave Celeste liquid medication dozens of time and she lost her sight almost completely months in to the treatment.  I'll never know if maybe I was pressing her eyes when trying to keep her mouth open and permanently harmed her.  

Odd moments in the battle against egg peritonitis included;
  • When soft shelled eggs were on their way, they would cause Celeste huge pain and long drawn out pushing sessions.  The very best way to deal with this is to (and I recently had to do this with one of our elderly hens so I know it's not just silly, sentimental, mumbo jumbo), wrap the hen lightly in a towel - for warmth and to contain her and sit with her on your lap if she'll stay or at least close to you to allow your body warmth to keep her additionally cosy.  I had our latest hen wedged between the couch arm rest and the left side of my torso.  The egg usually comes out within the hour.  Just keep her warm, quiet and comfortable.  So Celeste would be wrapped up in front of the tv with me, laying a rubbery shelled egg on my lap - it was like a home birth of sorts.  
  • Celeste became egg bound (egg stuck just prior to exit) and I found her wandering the backyard, pushing every couple of metres and complaining loudly as she wasn't able to enjoy a scratch in the garden.  I took her into the house and popped her on my lap.  I waited for her to push and then pressed with a mild firmness behind where I assumed the egg was.  When the egg did not come out I stopped and waited for her to push out again.  On the third go the egg shot out like a bullet.  It flew out more than a metre beyond her and she made a sharp squeal to announce its departure.  I showed her the egg and she stared at it and then back to me and then back to the egg, chatting away to me.  Five minutes later she was back in the garden and very pleased that she no longer had an egg blocking her.  It was as though something very inconvenient had stopped her having fun.  She never let anything bother her long term.  
  • The constant infections finally wore down my girl and I remember sitting in the waiting room of the Vet to finally have her put to sleep (she was emaciated, exhausted, blind and couldn't stay awake more than a minute or two at a time).  But she would open her eyes and yell and carry on at the top of her voice - this was standard Celeste language for either; I'm bored/ I'm hungry/ I want to be in the garden/ I want to come inside.  Then she'd go straight to sleep.  Couple of minutes later she would bolt awake and start screeching again.  It was so gorgeous.  Even at the end nothing could get her down.  

How to put an end to Egg Peritonitis

If I had my chance again, I'd find a Vet who would perform an operation to remove her ovary.  A week or two and she'd be well on her way to recovery.  There'd be no months of pain, inflammation, medications, abdominal drainage, perhaps no loss of sight.  Most of my other hens have developed egg peritonitis in their first year or so and if I were breeding my girls, I would at least wait until at least they were 2 years of age before breeding them.  Many things will have taken their toll on a hen by two years eg. cancer, egg peritonitis (Celeste was unusually late in her presentation), diabetes, and it prevents genetic problems getting passed on to the chicks if you wait out the majority of the bad conditions and breed from the healthiest stock.  
Hens like Celeste taught me so much and her sacrifice and difficulties served to provide the hens that have come after her with greater happiness and better health.  Whenever I give my hens oral medication and I carefully cup my hand around their heads, carefully avoiding the eyes - I have Celeste to thank for this.  

Celeste - egg on the way.  My little champion. 

Sunday 2 December 2012

Respiratory Infection - Amelia Update

Stupid, relentless mycoplasma.  I think I jumped the gun on saying that Amelia was improving.  She found a legless lizard (pre battered by the dogs so it was very much DOA) and proceeded to try and eat it in peace in the pen.  She was relentlessly pursued by Selene and Rosa who wanted it all for themselves.  Amelia was out of breath and wheezing so hard.  She had only been chased for a minute or maybe two at the most but it was too much for her.

Her breathing was wet, hard, stuttering and laboured.  She was gulping down fluid and was deep red with a hint of blue.  It seems that when ever she exerts herself, even a very small amount, that she is quickly pushed to the edge of her limits.  She did however manage to eat the lizard in one big piece - so the chase was not for nothing. 

By the amount of food her and Rosa are eating, they both seem to be laying or on the verge of laying eggs again.  Which is usually a healthy sign.  I'm thankful that Summer is on the way as I don't think she could survive Winter weather at the moment. 

I've  been in touch with the Vet who says to continue with the anti biotic powder in her water.  He feels she may need another 2 or 3 extra weeks to get control.  I had this ridiculous dream last night about not being able to find Amelia, so it's obviously weighing on my conscience.  Perth weather has lost the plot and gone back to Winter storms, just as we're less than 2 days out from the start of Summer.  Little Amelia is outside in the cold and I'm worried for her.  I picked her up (after some initial avoidance on her part) and gave her a hug this morning and a bit of a talking to.  Not certain she appreciated either but hopefully my sub conscience got the hint and I won't be looking for her tonight.  

Amelia - November 2012.  Snacking on mash

I was reading a poultry magazine earlier this week which did a whole article about mycoplasma in chickens.  I was really interested obviously, as I thought I'd find some useful information about Amelia.  Unfortunately it was pretty ordinary.  The advice ultimately was;
1. Not to get a hen with mycoplasma to begin with,
2. Quarantine all new hens for 2 weeks to detect any problems (Rosa didn't show symptoms for nearly 6 months and Amelia only croaked for the first two days and then nothing more for months also),
3. Generally don't bother with Veterinary treatments etc as they may not be effective on the particular strain of mycoplasma (the articled mentioned 4 known strains) and
4. Although you could get the hen tested to detect what strain the infection is (I had Ruby tested for a throat infection for a bit over $100 and this uncovered three, simultaneous infections) you probably wouldn't bother for your home chook as it's very expensive. 

I would love to see someone tell that to a dog owner.  My feeling is, if you're not going to ever bother getting medical treatment for a pet, then either don't get them at all or have them quickly put to sleep with the greatest dignity and kindness possible if their condition is such that the animal is clearly in a chronic state of suffering.  Having pets is a responsibility, not a right and pets have the right to a responsible owner. 

Saturday 1 December 2012

Alice in Wedding Wonderland

December 1st is a big day for a little hen.  Today Alice officially enters the world of the Commemorative Wedding Chicken.  

We bought Alice in April this year.  Such a sweet hen.  She is very friendly and gentle but also curious and quite a chatterbox.  Alice's colour is known as wheaten (dark brown/ orange neck and much paler feathers for the rest) and she is again a Pekin bantam by breed. 

Alice had a bumpy start with us.  Alice and her sister Holly came with a grotty bug on board - Coccidiosis.  This resulted in blood in their droppings and dragged down their immunity generally.  It seems to attack the gut and results in lethargic and sickly looking birds.  It is also contagious.  We had our flock tested but they were thankfully uneffected, as Holly and Alice had been living in the lounge room- in a proper chicken hutch!  Not on the carpet or couches, I do draw the line somewhere...eventually.  Though I admit to allowing them out on to the carpet to play each day and that we may have taken a lot of video footage of their play time.  

Alice - August 2012
Alice and Holly had to have liquid medication, 3mls twice a day, for 7 days to deal with the Coccidiosis bug.  The first time Alice was given her medication she inhaled most of it.  I got a phone call and could hear her gasping for breath, coughing, struggling and on the edge of life.  Our regular Vet is nearly an hour away from home and they advised by phone that she be taken to our nearest Vet immediately.  Unfortunately they were in surgery so could not see Alice.  Off again only this time Alice had to go to a Vet that I really don't trust.  I took a hen there once and this Vet gave her the wrong medication, did not given her water or feed for more than 12 hours (surgery was not on the agenda, so there was no excuse for this) and charged me more than $400 for one night of errors, pain and ill treatment.  To say I was trepidacious was an understatement.  But there was no choice, Alice was suffocating.  

I don't think the Vet was terribly impressed with our attitude.  I insisted that they take instruction from our regular Vet over the phone and would not take their word for it that they knew what they were doing.  Basically the treatment when a bird has aspirated liquid in to their respiratory system is to place them on oxygen until the symptoms are firmly under control.  Little Alice was only a few months old and I can only imagine how helpless she would have looked receiving the treatment.  After a couple of hours she was okay to either stay overnight (no thank you) or go home to us for constant supervision and a supply of antibiotics to prevent any potential infection.  She coughed and spluttered here and there but she did improve over the next several days.  The dreaded part being that we still had to keep administering the liquid medication for the Coccidiosis treatment twice a day.  I got put in charge of this and it felt like I was trying to juggle blown glass with concrete gloves on, such was my level of anxiety that I was going to destroy poor Alice with one ill timed liquid dosage.  But we got there in the end.  She did not get a secondary infection and the Coccidiosis was cleared from her system - confirmed with a test of her leavings.  

In September Alice started to lay.  The sweetness of her diligently taking to the nest to lay her small and beautiful 40gram eggs, warms my heart.  Me going crazy because some of the eggs were initially streaked with blood.  It must be a confusing and uncomfortable time.  She would have been about 7 months old at the time.  

In October I decided that she may be the perfect candidate for 2 friends of mine who are having their wedding today.  Alice was nominated to be their Commemorative Wedding Chicken.  She is the loveliest little hen and I don't think I've known such a sweet nature in quite some time.  We love to pick her up as she chats away.  I'll say something to her and she'll chat back everytime.  Such a sweetheart.  

So I welcome Alice to the exclusive Commemorative Wedding Chicken group and wish the couple she represents a life of happiness, love, strength, unity and health for all their lives.

Congratulations L and B on your special day.  xx

Alice - 30 November 2012