Our Entry Into Chicken Keeping - Big Blunder #2

The second set of chickens also started as baby chicks. After the previous experience, we created new security measures to keep the dog away from them even if we became forgetful about the door. Once they were about 2 months old, we moved them to their new coop. At three months old they were locked in the coop at night and allowed to free range during the day in a fenced off area of the yard. They grew into 5 month old chickens and had started laying one egg a day. I was so excited with the little egg bounty that I posted pictures of our first egg to my entire social media world. Then I noticed one day after their morning snacks, one of my chickens was apparently crowing. I had suspected one was a rooster and it was becoming more physically obvious as he matured. The crowing confirmed it however so that meant I had to get rid of him or risk having to get rid of my whole flock. The city allows urban chickens, but not roosters. I checked with some friends and one of them indicated a local feed store would buy roosters. So, I sadly packed him into a pet carrier and took him down there. They bought him, and in an effort to selfishly make myself feel better, I bought two more hens. This is where I committed my next newbie blunder.

I didn't do my research prior and I made two mistakes. I didn't quarantine the new hens to check for illness and I didn't waste any time on introductions between the ladies. I just put both new chickens in with my flock of two. Immediately my existing hens attacked the newcomers. One flew over the fence. That is a story of its own that I will share in another post. The other suffered the harsh rules of establishing the pecking order for several weeks. After a few days, I noticed my chickens all seemed to get a cold. As it turns out, chickens don't really get colds. Thanks to a wonderful site called Raising Backyard Chickens (http://www.backyardchickens.com/), I became introduced to the harsh realities of chicken respiratory illnesses and many different remedies including antibiotics. Here is a site that describes chicken respiratory illnesses and tips for treatment and prevention: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ps044

I tried several of the natural products such as Vet Rx and Braggs Raw Apple Cider Vinegar in the water. They may have worked had I started sooner, but symptoms had already advanced. One chicken was wheezing and the other was sleeping most of the day and breathing with her mouth open. The newcomer had a wet nose and besides infecting everyone else seemed healthy and happy.

At this point I was doing quite a bit of research and soul searching. I really wanted organic chickens and organic eggs. Many of the chicken owners out there recommend culling all sick chickens and starting over with a healthy flock. The problem was that I had grown attached to these chickens I raised. I researched that eggs no longer show any residue of antibiotics after approximately four weeks. The timeline is actually shorter than that for most drugs, but I prefer the four week timeline as a more conservative approach. So, I started with Oxytetracycline antibiotics in the water. I started with 1 tbsp to a gallon of water. I was told at the feed store to increase the dose to 2.5 tbsp to a gallon of water. After three days there was still little improvement in the symptoms. One of my hens was looking worse. So, again on the Raising Backyard Chickens site I learned about Tylan 50. It is an injectable antibiotic that many chicken owners reported was the best remedy for respiratory issues. My hens are small so they received 1/2 cc once a day. Both sick hens received three doses. They recovered fully, but they have not started laying eggs again. My understanding is that the lack of eggs is common after an illness and production should improve with time. However, it seems I may have to face this type of illness again because the affected chickens have likely become carriers for life.

I have to be thankful for all of the chicken enthusiasts who posted instructional videos on how to give injections to chickens. I had given shots to dogs and horses in the past, but chickens made me really nervous. It was not that hard though and I think for a sick animal that doesn't want to eat or drink, it is the best way to ensure they get their medicine.




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