We have had chickens here now for … five years? “Add a few chickens – how complicated can that be?” Funnily enough – there is A LOT to learn about raising chickens, keeping chickens healthy and happy, and even helping chickens out of this life when things are just unbearable.
We’ve got one broody hen and one sick hen this week. Princess – black Orpington – who did not make it onto my camera roll – has a swollen face on her right side. She developed this symptom back in the fall when there was a viral infection in the flock. Unlike the others she responded to antibiotics and recovered. So when I noticed she was puffing up again my heart leaped into my throat and I worried that we were in for some trouble.
I decided to ‘hit the books’ and make copious notes to sort out in my head just what we were facing. One book that was recommended was ‘The Chicken Health Handbook’. I downloaded it and have been studying it very carefully. My first impression was HOLY SMOKES THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS A CHICKEN CAN DIE! Every time I read about a new illness I’d picture our flocks having those symptoms.
Eventually I began to sort out how this huge volume worked. Soon five years experience, five years of reading, and one great handbook had me focus my thinking. First step – I gathered all of the first aid paraphernalia I’ve been collecting for critters. Some downstairs, some upstairs, some in the bathroom, some in the kitchen cupboard, in the freezer and out in the tack barn in the paddock. I spread it all out on the kitchen table – took stock – and started my OWN handbook. I’ve found a fairly large tub to keep it all in. Itemized what is there. And even made detailed notes about how and when to use the medications and non-drug therapies. My OWN notebook and all my supplies all in one spot.
I took a serious look at what Princess might be struggling with felt a little more confident in my ability to help her back to good health. There is a great diagnostic tool in The Chicken Health Handbook. She seems to have either a respiratory infection or a weakened immune system that has given out in reaction to stress. (More on that in a minute.) I had already started with some tetracycline in her drinking water. That helped her in November. She is isolated in the ‘Infirmary Ward’. So it will be easy to collect her eggs and discard them. I can give her some of her medicated water directly using an eye dropper by mouth. That assures me she is getting the dose of antibiotics she needs. Five days should do the trick.
I also learned that NEXT time I will not start with antibiotics. There are two great non-drug natural antimicrobials that might work just as well. And I already have both of them here in my kit. Colloidal Silver and Apple Cider Vinegar. Colloidal Silver seems to be very effective in exactly her kind of situation. And there would be no concerns about building antibiotic resistance using that. Apple Cider Vinegar would help if she gets mucous build up in her throat or mouth. So far she has no signs of that at all. I’m feeling much better about my understanding of some of the typical illnesses the flock could develop. And I’m grateful to have found this Chicken Health Handbook.
As I figured out what Princess was fighting I began to wonder what triggered her flare up… Of course … THIS! When we had our first few hot and humid days last month I started to worry that the night roosting room for this flock was too small for the size of these birds. There are nine of them – and they are all large breeds. So in my mind I figured a perch in the airy covered run would be better. Instead – this lead to a nightly pile up. They squeeze themselves as close to each other as possible. The two littlest try to get underneath the bigger girls. And every hen wants to be right beside Norman.
Seems I needed to pause … and think more like a chicken! They obviously felt very exposed sitting up on their perches looking out through the wire walls to the north and the south. And when storms roll through here the rain tends to pelt from the … north … or the south… When the wind blows – like it SURE DID with last month’s Derecho it must have blown them silly in that area. Hmmmm … made sense that Princess’s stress levels soared.
When I went back to the drawing board I came up with this new take on perches in the little night room. There is a wide board that serves as a walkway along the edge of the four roosts that are spaced beside it. This should allow the hens to sort themselves out according to their pecking order – with room to avoid anyone in a nasty mood. (Like Broody Momma who has been in and out of Broody Jail all week.)
Hopefully tonight they’ll be happy to get back to their old night roosts. Ironically Princess will not be able to join them for at least another week. She seems to be feeling safe right across the pathway in the Infirmary.
This week there are six different poultry stops in my day. The Welsummer chicks are in the smallest coop and have the junior run. Princess is in the infirmary. Paddy’s flock has the Clubhouse and free ranges throughout the paddocks and the south woods.
Meanwhile the north woods houses the duck hens – closest to the back field/right in the photo above. You’ll find the drakes there as well. They are next to the hens with their half of the pool run and then the middle section of the woods. And finally Norman’s flock has the south section of the north woods. It sure is magical on these beautiful June days to sit with any of these groups. They have so much space! And everything is so green – and clean – and full of delicious bugs that have them all hunting and chattering away to each other.
A good downpour came through this afternoon while I was working in Norman’s coop. I sat down and watched as the flock snuggled into the bedding and proceeded to all fall asleep around me. The drumming of the rain on the roof signalled that it was the ideal time for a snooze!
I could hear the ducks all quacking behind us. When I peeked out they had turned themselves to face the wind and delighted in the full on shower. Guess it was great weather if you were a duck!
The sun is going down – and I’m typing away while watching a Blue Jays game. Guess I had better get myself back out to tuck the flerd in. It has been a great week around here.
Hugs from the Meadow Mice!