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).


Jenny Holden said...

Oh Tammy, that's such a shame. It's easy to beat ourselves up when things like this happen, but it was just a mistake and we all make them. How were you supposed to know that those healthy looking chicks carried an illness? I hope that your little survivor recovers and grows up into a strong bird.

I was actually just logging on to tell you that a lovely little parcel just arrived a few minutes ago. It contained no less than four beautiful little Shetland Sheep! We have a slight casualty in the form of a broken leg, but easily fixable. Thank you so much, I'm really thrilled and have put them in my "treasures" cabinet where they can see out and watch the houshold goings on. They are really special. I'll have to blog about them x

Tammy W. said...

Hey Jenny - glad you got the package.
We have a hard time shipping the sheep - legs keep breaking, so I'll have to try something new. A bit of epoxy glue should fix it up just like new. Hope it will help you get over your loss as well.

Nancy K. said...

I am SO sorry to hear your sad news! What a horribly sad thing to go through. Thank you for sharing it though ~ I will be sure and ask the people I'm getting my chicks from about CRD and the health of their flocks. I have so much to learn!

Do I need to quarantine my new chicks completely away from my current birds? I was planning on fencing off a smaller area in my Cochin pen for the new babies. That would keep them safe but allow them to see the adults and the adults to get used to them. But it would allow beak to beak contact, through the fence. Perhaps I should rethink this...?

flickerslair said...

Oh Tammy, I am so sorry to hear this. I can't imagine a better person to be nursing them back to health. Good luck.

Tammy W. said...

Hi Nancy - I shared this information to possibly help other chicken fanciers avoid the problem I now have.
CRD is very widespread from what I have been reading. When the birds are healthy - they look quite normal. When they get sick - you'll know.
As for quarantine - personally - I now keep my quarantined birds in a different part of the barn with no access at all to the other flock for a minimum of a month. Because it's airborne - it passes quite easily in a short distance by sneezing and coughing. Quarantining is a precautionary measure - some people do it, others don't. I can only say that not quarantining long enough that one time has cost me a lot of birds - and a lot of problems.

Juliann said...

Tammy I'm sorry to hear about your chicks.
Everyone in my area has a some tyep of respiratory in their chicken flocks. Wild birds here carry it, so unless the coop are bird-proof, it's impossible to keep it out.

We tried hard culling, quaranteen, and the "scorched earth" approach many many times.

It really plagued me when I had rare birds. The more exotic, the more sickly they tended to be. I would treat them one time, that was it. Chronic birds were culled. Eventually, after some years, we stopped having any signs of it, other than the occasional sneeze. The show lines were unstoppable, I guess they had a resistance bred in due to their exposures.

I wish you luck in getting a handle on it. It is heartbreaking to find that swollen face on a favorite hen.

Tammy W. said...

Thanks Juliann (and Heidi) - you are right on with this problem. I'm not prepared to kill all my chickens, so it's just something I have to deal with. Some are showing no signs at all - others have minor signs - and some just downright die like the chicks. It's frustrating - but hopefully education will help others.

Michelle said...

This post and the comments have been a real education, and for that I thank you. I do hope you save the rest; it sounds like they couldn't have a better chicken nurse!