Monday 26 May 2014

ILT Update

We took our three girls to the bird specialist Vet over Easter for a check up and a long acting vitamin injection to prepare them for the Winter ahead.  Two out of three of the girls are in the middle of moulting and we have been really concerned that the extra stress of dropping and re-growing their feathers would spark another round of the ILT virus.  Having lost 6 out of 9 hens since the beginning of 2013 from this scourge, I am taking preventative measures for our remaining trio as best as I know how.  

Preventative Measures against the ILT Virus

So far we have begun with reinstating the heat lamp back into the sleeping hutch at the end of each day.  As soon as the night time temperature dropped to under 16/ 17 degrees Centigrade (60 degrees Fahrenheit), the lamp went on.  Initially the girls stayed at the end furthest from the lamp but as the nights cooled further to now be around 6 degrees Centigrade (43 degrees Fahrenheit) the two moulting girls have swapped ends and now spend every night basking directly under the lamp.  The third hen, our black Silkie Farrah, is nothing short of enormous (1.6 kilos/ 3.5 pounds) and doesn't need the extra heat so she stays well away.  Having said that, she has moved into her Winter sleeping position which is sitting down on a fluffy mat rather than roosting on the perch.  

Jewel & Alice (left to right)
The Vet examined all of the girls individually, especially down their throats to check for the dreaded plaques that line the throat and bring on chronic laryngitis type symptoms.  We were so pleased to know that all the girls are free and clear.  It has been our experience that these plaques take hold and just never leave.  Our hens Rosie and Amelia had a couple of plaques each and they were the symptoms that brought them both to the end of their lives.  The plaques became more unstable, bigger and more painful, until they prevented the girls from swallowing their food, caused them to lose horrible amounts of weight, brought down their immune systems and led to the awful decision to have them put to sleep.  

Farrah & Jewel
The girls have been weighed to set a bench mark as we enter the cold weather time.  We can continue to weigh them every couple of weeks and ensure that they don't start to decline.  Alice and Jewel should get a bit bigger as they are probably at their slimmest given that they are half way through their moulting.  To keep the girls at the higher end of their weight, we are feeding them something rich just before bed time so that when they do expend their reserves on keeping warm during the night, it should be that they burn these rich food treats first rather than the fat layer that will hopefully keep them protected over the next, several colder months.  Maize or human grade crushed peanuts (just a tablespoon between the three of them) or some nutrient rich mash (we have some parrots who have a special pellet as their staple food and we mash this with boiled water for the hens and allow it to thoroughly cool before serving it).  The crushed peanuts must be suitable for human consumption otherwise they can contain fungal spores which can be dangerous for the hen if the fungus takes hold.  
The girls had a long acting vitamin injection which should give them a boost for the next 6 weeks or so.  Their day time food is also quite strict in that it is all fresh vegetables and a mixture of hen appropriate layer crumble, wheat and crushed maize.  They do get left over meats from our recent meals (nothing off), a little left over pasta or rice (nothing substantial as these can overwhelm their digestive system and get stuck in their crop) and fruit here and there that are fresh and soft enough to be pecked apart.  
The girls water supply has a vitamin supplement in it also.  I am a big farm of the Australian based Vetafarm range. 

We are so hopeful to see the girls through this Winter in good health.  They are so happy at the moment and we are really confident that this will be their year and not the year that the virus gets the better of us again.