Chooks – The Agony and The Ecstacy

Okay…this chook journey has not quite been what I was expecting it to be…On Friday 13th December, Bella, one of the Ancona girls started getting sick and continued to go down hill. She ended up with severe diarrhoea and a slight rattle in her chest. By Monday she was really bad, I’d changed her diet and done everything I could except worm her. That day I also found that Minnie had hatched two of her ten eggs. By Tuesday we had four little chickadees. I’d written on the bottom of the eggs and according to my notes we had one Blue Barnevelder and three Gold Laced Wyandottes. So Tim and I finally got round to building our two small pens on the inside of the chook pen for our broodies and their chicks. It was pretty hot, but we got it done.

Bella came in, sat in the nest box and stayed for a while before leaving. She really wasn’t looking good and smelt worse. I was recommended some drops to give her, so I did. But on Tuesday morning she was dead. By the time I’d removed Bella’s body and stuck it in the freezer (Capital YUK, but it had to be done – weather was hot, dirt was cement like and we decided it was better to freeze her than have her decomposing on the back step waiting for burial. Needless to say I put her in the freezer outside, the one I don’t use all that much) and fed them, Myrtle, one of the big black Croad Langshans started neck stretching, honking like a goose, shaking her head and struggling to breathe. At first I thought she might have something stuck in her throat, but it was not to be.

That day I also bought ten more fertilised eggs to put under Scales who’d finally gone broody. I put them under her and checked on Myrtle who was getting steadily worse. I was concerned that the girls had something contagious and it was going to go through the entire flock, so I took her to the vet.

I was given three options: 1. have her chest radiographed 2. give her anti inflammatry drugs and antibiotics or 3. euthanise her and let the vet do an autopsy

I wasn’t going to spend $$$ to have a radiograph done – I like Myrtle, she’s a good layer, but she’s not a well loved family pet, she’s a ‘production’ animal. I didn’t much like option 3 either, so went for option 2. In hindsight, I should have gone for option 3 because she is a production animal and it was better to have one put down and autopsied for the benefit of the flock. Another reason I should have gone with option 3 was she died 15mins after the two injections!

The autopsy didn’t show up anything to be worried about and neither did the one test I had done. There was another test we could have done, but with the dollars mounting up and at $200+ a test we chose to only have one of them done. The only thing the vet could conclude that it was a viral condition and we just had to wait and see. With cost of the vet bills I could have easily replaced the girls I’d lost and got a few more!

In the course of all this I made an interesting observation – both Myrtle and Bella had been among the handful of chooks to get sick in the first couple of weeks after getting them. Ara the Araucana had died, but the others, Myrtle, Bella, Minnie and Welzy had all recovered. But now, in mid December, Myrtle and Bella were also dead. Is it a coincidence or is it somehow connected. Whatever, it was one of those things that make you go mmmm. The rest of them are now on antibiotics and the vet says we can’t eat the eggs for 28 days!!!

So we in the space of 24 hours we had the ecstasy of new life and the agony of death, and can’t eat our organic, free range eggs – the reason we have chooks in the first place! Talk about a rollercoaster ride.  I miss Bella and Myrtle and their eggs, but the chickies are so cute, little puffs of fluff on legs and they make me smile, a lot.

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