Wednesday 20 February 2013

3 in 4

Today we had our 3 year old white Silkie hen Angie put to sleep.  In less than 4 weeks we have lost Bantam Wyandotte Amelia, black Silkie hen Jetta and now Angie.  We had a flock of 9 to begin the year and it's so sad to see 6 beautiful girls remaining with no certainty or relief of this nasty run of ill health.
Angie - gone but never forgotten and always loved

ILT Testing

Angie has been sent to the WA Department of Agriculture to be tested for ILT.  There is no way to test for ILT other than post mortem.  It's really sad that Angie will not come back home for a proper burial.  We've only ever had 1 other hen in more than 15 years not come home and that was by nothing more than a poor decision on my behalf.  

I do hope that ILT is not detected.  This would then lead the way to other potentially less serious possibilities eg. fowl diptheria/ wet fowl pox or mycoplasma/ chronic respiratory infection   ILT means no new chickens.  Not unless we want to infect previously healthy birds with a vicious viral condition.  It would mean keeping those hens we do have until they have all passed away  After which we would basically raze the existing pen, wait several weeks and then considered starting from scratch.

Jetta - 9 years of loveliness.  Fowl Pox proved too much.


Fowl Pox

In the mean time we have had Wheaten Pekin hen Alice, black Silkie Farrah and Buff Pekin Holly all with Fowl Pox.  Alice went back in to the pen on Monday 18th February.  We kept her in the house for 17 days to try and stop the spread of the Pox virus.  Such a beauty.  Alice is so tame and gorgeous.  She would bounce out of her hutch once the door was unlocked and come in to the kitchen to preen on the floor, await feeding and have a chat.  If we went outside or out of view she would call and call.  I could hear her screaming from the kitchen, no doubt the neighbours could also hear her at 7:00am as I was feeding the other girls in the garden and I'd come running in the house to tell her everything was okay.  Our dog Madi developed a bit of a fancy for Alice, typical Jack Russell stalker.  Otherwise it was all smooth sailing.  I was really happy to see Alice lay her first egg in more than 3 weeks on Monday.  She's also massively fat (in a healthy hen way) and eating well.  I have great hopes for her and her sister Holly who is equally ravenous and portly.

A Crowing Hen

Our remaining girls Selene, Rosie and Jewel have shown no signs of Fowl Pox infection.  Though both Jewel and Selene are moulting and are ripe for all sorts of nasties.  The only odd behaviour is Selene crowing occasionally.  But that's pretty standard for her.  Being the dominant hen and having her hormones twisted up at the end of the laying season she's inclined to go rogue and lose the plot a bit.  It does her no harm and due to the hit and miss nature of the occasional crowing it does not bother the neighbours in any way. I've seen Selene faux mate with the hens on occasion.  She takes her role as head chicken very seriously indeed! 

Selene - a hen in disguise

Once Again, in Writing

It's really deflating caring for the girls when they're so sick and then thinking about writing it all down on top of the medicating, Vet visits, hutch cleaning, daily hen linen laundering, crop feeding.  It just goes on and on and as much as I love them and would do it all again it does feel pretty awful to then relive it all in writing.  So the Blog suffers as they suffer.  But I do hope to get Angie's ILT results within 1 week and either move forward or deal with a rather bleak future as best we can.          

Friday 1 February 2013

Choking Chicken

Choking Chicken - Plaque on Throat

Wow, okay.  Been a bit difficult to maintain enthusiasm for writing about the girls for a few weeks now.  With Amelia so sick for weeks on end and finally ending in her being put to sleep, I thought I could get back on the wagon and get on to the business of glorifying my baby girls in a public forum.  Unfortunately Amelia's passing has been the launching pad for a whole new run of Vet visits.

Sunday 20th January I thought Holly was a bit odd.  Bit down, bit withdrawn.  I love my Holly but she is a simple hen with simple needs and when she's not stuffing herself full of food or flying on top of the sleeping hutch to check out the literally birds eye view from the open rooftop, she's probably not doing anything good.  I found her on the nest in the morning and then still there hours later.  I picked her up and she immediately started to struggle.  Her breathing croaked out wet, stuttered, hard and strained.  I brought her inside and made her some mashed food to get her interest.  Holly was ravenous but at the same time she was coughing and struggling to eat.  
Finally I decided to crop feed her instead.  She was clearly begging to eat and her crop was empty.  I loaded up the crop feeding syringe but could not get the tube down her throat.  When I tried to insert the tube Holly became very distressed and her breathing was inhibited.  Eventually I thought I would shine a light down her throat to see if I could locate an obstruction.  Sitting like a snake, wrapped around the lowest, visible point of her throat, I could see a rancid, yellow ring of infected material.  My Vet would call it a plaque.  This is the same type of structure which sat behind Amelia's tongue and ruined and eventually ended her life. 
I was fearful for Holly at this point.  She could not eat and her breathing was severely hampered.  I decided to do what I had never done before.  I had a Vet attend to Holly at emergency rates in the middle of the night.  Yep, I'd stepped even further into crazy chicken mother wonderland.  Seemed a bit dramatic I admit.  Cruising down the highway for 45 minutes, singing encouraging radio tunes to Holly and calling my boss to say I may be too tired to come in to work the next day.  
But crazy love led to the saving of a life that night.  Holly may have died had I not taken her.  
After three stints under anaesthesia the emergency Vet located the infected mass and cleared it, scoped beyond it to confirm it was an isolated build up and after about 2 hours I was able to take my droopy, intoxicated little hen home once again.  There was suggestion of leaving her overnight and I think the Vet thought me a bit odd as I pushed and pushed not to wait until the morning to do the various procedures to test Holly's condition and viability.  By the time we were home again, Holly was back on her feet and at midnight I sat with her whilst she loaded her belly with mouthfuls of mashed food.  Bless her piggish appetite.  I then stubbornly slept by her hutch on the carpet to make sure I didn't miss it if she starting having trouble breathing again.  
That was 28 days ago and she is fat, happy, cramming in food all day and cute as a button.  So, so cute.  
I think this is the best outcome I could have hoped for.  I was able to save my girl which was a great lift to my spirits after the difficult run with Amelia.  But there was more to come, three more sick girls so far, in only 5 days.  
Here is Holly this afternoon. She is laying again and massive, gorgeously plump.