Tuesday 26 March 2013

Bubbly Eyes in Chickens

Bubbly Eyes in Chickens

Don't ignore frothy, bubbly eyes in chickens.  Bubbly eyes are something I had only seen in one of my hens and it was for 48 hours in my biggest, porkiest and most sturdy hen, Jewel.  She woke up last Winter with a bubbly, swollen eye.  Panic, drama, Vet visit, medication.  Next morning - back to normal.  

In January I had three hens in five days with bubbly, swollen eyes.  This was due to Fowl Pox and ILT virus.  Angie had swollen, gooey eyes for days and I firmly believe that gentle cleaning really helped to get her eyesight back in order.  

Cleaning Bubbly Eyes

You'll need three things;  
1. Make up remover pads - the snazzy, more expensive type that don't fall apart and leave fibres and fluff behind. 80 pads cost about $3.50.  
2. Bottle of saline solution for eyes.  I got this at the chemist for $5 for a big bottle.  
3. Bottle of fake tears.  The kind you can get from the chemist for people with really dry, irritated eyes.  I got a bottle for $7 that should last for days and days.  

You'll need to keep the hen still.  I find it easiest to wrap the girls in an old, clean towel so that just her head is poking out, whilst at the same time allowing her to maintain a standing position.  

Take a fresh, clean make up pad and squirt on enough saline solution so that it is quite damp, almost dripping and therefore soft, gentle and squishy on the hen's eyeball.  Gently, calming and slowly, wipe any dirt or infected build up away from the hen's eyes and off and away from her face altogether.  Do not press firmly on the eye at any point. 

Throw out the make up pad once used.  Only wipe the eye with the clean and fresh area of the make up pad - do not continue to wipe over the eye once the pad is soiled or dirtied.  Be prepared to use 3 or 4 pads for each clean.  Once the eye is clean, place 1 or 2 drops of the fake tears solution in the eye.  I did this 2 to 3 times a days for each hen.  Each clean should take about 5 minutes to complete - gets easier and quicker as you practice more.  

You'll know that the eyes need another clean when the eye is either stuck closed from a build up of infectious material or wet, matted and clearly preventing the hen from being able to see from that particular eye.

Most of all - take your hen to your bird knowledgeable Vet for a professional diagnosis.  She may need anti biotics, anti inflammatories or other medications.  Your hen's health and comfort is completely in the hands of her owner - do unto your hen as any normal and responsible person would do to their dog or cat please. 

Hen's have hissy fits too

I had a funny moment cleaning Alice's eyes in this bout of illness.  I had the bottle of fake tears, ready to add a couple of drops to Alice's eyes after yet another cleaning and she lashed out and grabbed the bottle by the nozzle, pulled it away from me and hissed like a snake.  She clearly hated the process however her eyes went from wonky, shedding, frothing and blinded to clear and bright and beautiful after about 5 days of 2 to 3 times daily of careful cleaning.  

Baby Alice - at the end of her fowl pox and eyes in tact

Saturday 2 March 2013

ILT in Chickens

We have Infectious Laryngial Trachaeolitus

We have the results from our girl Angie's autopsy from the WA Department of Agriculture.  It is really upsetting for us to have it confirmed that our flock definitely has  ILT.  This means that we can not introduce any new hens.  If we do so they too will contract ILT.  Basically what our girls are in for are rounds of respiratory illness - decreased lung capacity, plaques in their throat (deposits of infectious material that block the throat and impede feeding and breathing) and a bloody hard time generally.  We've agreed that we're not going to go to the ends of earth to keep the girls alive who do present with severe symptoms.  Which is really awful because there are times when going to extremes has resulted in some great success in bringing our girls back to health.  But it's not fair when we know that they are likely not to recover well, to push the girls back to us, just for our own gratification.  It must be about the girls and not about ourselves.    
We are fairly certain (as there are only two possible sources) that the ILT came from the bantam Wyandottes we bought from the Perth Royal Show in October of 2011.  It's quite upsetting as the person who sold them has no doubt passed on other hens in the past 18 months and this includes passing on ILT.  It's kind of strange that the Department of Agriculture don't seem to have an interest in the source of the virus.  I also feel badly as we should tell the breeder, which is going to be difficult.  

Rosa - gorgeous bantam Wyandotte and likely source of ILT contamination

In the mean time

But whilst difficult times may be in store for the girls, it also may come by gently, miss them altogether and they may have years of happy life ahead of them.  ILT tends to strike during times of stress - broodiness, molting, changes in seasons (particularly when Winter arrives), getting sick by other means.  We need to keep the girls in excellent condition - lots of healthy but also bolstering food, we are getting a heat lamp installed in the sleeping hutch by installing power in the pen (the hen's Uncle is an electrician), the girls are being wormed regularly (Holly is hopeless [as well as beautiful] and seems to keep getting worms on board no matter how much I treat her for them), they have vitamin solution in their water, daily fresh vegetables and greens, the sand in the pen is getting sieved frequently to keep droppings to a minimum, I'm washing the fluffy bottoms of the laying hens as needed to keep everything dry and fresh, ice bottles in the water on the +35 (95 Fahrenheit) degree days, nights in the house for extra feeds of high nutrient, high protein mash - just the usual minimalist approach to poultry care (with 200+ layers of love to dress it up).  

(left) Selene, Farrah the Silkie and two Pekin bums in the background

I have fat children - and I LOVE it!

The Vet we took the girls to in Wattle Grove commented that my girls weren't exactly petite.  Most parents would be offended to hear their children were fat - I was thrilled.  I know that if my girls were not in prime condition that I would not have the six ladies left that I do now.  We have six beautiful girls and as we are unable to get any more, so it's massive lashings of love until the end.  

4 out of 6, clockwise from left: Jewel, Holly, Farrah and Alice

A solo hen is a sad hen

We're already concerned what will happen when we only have one girl left and although this may be years to come, it's really sad to think about.  We've agreed that we'll be one of those obnoxious pet owners who takes their hen EVERYWHERE.  I think I feel most upset about this prospect at the moment.  Hens are overwhelmingly social and flock craving creatures.  A hen by herself is going to be really miserable unless we take over and make ourselves her new social circle.  Unfortunately my workplace has recently banned all animals (do not get me started on that) and I've joked (sort of) that I'll have to find a new job, as I can't stand the thought of having a girl all alone at home for 10 hour stretches.  

Anyone know of a chicken day care please?