Sunday, September 6, 2009

And Now for the Sad News

So - it's not all exciting and fun in the farm world.
In my last post, I was so excited about my new silver laced cochins. 7 beautiful little chicks hatched after waiting so long.

Sadly - this past week, we had and outbreak of CRD in our barn/coop - and 6 of my 7 chicks died.
Finally, on Thursday, I took the last two and moved them up to the brooder box, where, at this moment, the last chick appears to be recovering. I have been medicating, and it has a heat lamp - no one is allowed into the area for fear of contamination. Chucky is devastated to have lost her entire brood.

For those of you who don't know a lot about CRD (chronic respiratory disease) - let me fill you in.

It is an insidious "mycoplasma" bacterium that invades the air sacs of the lungs of chickens. In itself - it is not a really bad disease. It is much like the common cold is in humans. However - what it does, is weakens the bird - and secondary infection will often jump in - take over - and the weaker birds will die very quickly.

It is Chronic. Meaning - the birds that survive will be carriers - and will continue to infect your flock forever.

What can you do? Most vetrinarians recommend either destroying and burning your entire flock, then scouring the coop with disinfectant - wait a month - then you can start over with a new flock - which is reasonable if you have a meat or layer flock.
The other option is to live with it (as I am doing because I love my chickens). Try not to stress your birds - treat it when it rears it's ugly head - AND - quarantine any and all new birds arriving at your farm for not One, not TWO - but FOUR!!!!! weeks.

I got it on my farm when a friend gave me some lovely little birds last year - which looked healthy - and I stupidly didn't quarantine them long enough. I introduced it to my flock - and it didn't rear it's head for 2-3 months.

Why did I lose my chicks? Well -they have NO immunities at birth - and it typically takes 26 weeks for young birds to develop their immunities. I had brought in a new group of birds (which I am quarantining for a month) - and we had a little extreme heat wave here, which probably stressed my flock out and another outbreak occurred. This outbreak is currently running through my flock - and will take about 10 - 12 days to subside. Some birds are completely unaffected. Any new birds in my flock that have never had it before are currently ill. I have lost 2 of my cuckoo marans. Everyone that shows signs of illness goes into a "hospital" cage up in my studio and receives extra care.
I have been in contact with a vet and instructed to treat with "tetracycline" based medication.
It works. Most birds who show symptoms are clearing up within 2 days of treatment.
I am also giving the birds crushed garlic to help build their immunities - most of them love it.

So - this isn't meant to scare anyone. It is just a cautionary message to say:
Be Aware! Ask questions when buying birds (is this in your flock? have your birds been sick?)
And don't be afraid to walk away if you don't get the answers you should, because although it is a nuisance - it can also cause a lot of heartbreak. Up until last year - I had never had a single sick bird in my flock - it just takes one lapse in judgment to change everything.

So - now - Off my soapbox.
In the next week or so -I will post some pictures of some of the new birds we do have (that are in quarantine).