We’ve been having chicken trouble lately. You may have read about our field pen chickens getting out lately. Well, we rounded them back up and got them back where they were supposed to be, and suddenly they all got sick.
Let me just say that there is nothing worse about farming than losing animals–except losing more animals.
We don’t use medicated chicken feed and we don’t worm our chickens. (Or rather, we’ve never wormed before.) We give them electrolytes in their water when they’re babies and otherwise just water, chicken feed, fresh fruits and kitchen scraps. We use free-choice oyster shell grit but they hardly use it. There’s so much sand in our soil, they probably don’t need it. Over 7 years we’ve lost some to predators and a few to accidents, but this was something new. Something we’ve never seen happen to our chicken house chickens.
They stopped eating, became lethargic, and their feet would curl up so tightly that they couldn’t walk or stand up. We moved them all out of that pen and into the grass under a tree. We filled water pans and started dipping their beaks and some we even used a dropper to get more water into them. They started tottering around picking at the grass and then got exhausted and just fainted wherever they were and we would have to carry them back out of the brutal sun and into the shade, over and over again.
They started to improve. We added electrolytes to their water. We wormed them. We added liquid vitamin mix to their water. We changed feeds. Slowly they got better, but we lost several along the way last week.
I called the vet and our Extension agent briefly, and they had suggestions but not solutions over the phone. It’s a tough call. Do you make a formal vet call, at $100 to $200, for a $3 chicken? Even considering the cost of the feed we’ve put into them 10 chickens barely equal the cost of the vet simply pulling in our driveway. But we’ve made the choice before that it’s about learning more than about the cost-benefit analysis.
This time, since about half of them seemed to be responding within 2 days, we chose not to call. I scourged our books and the internet and checked on them over and over again. We kept carrying them out of the sun and feeding them by hand and forcing electrolytes into them with a dropper when nothing else seemed to work.
We lost 11. We saved 15.
The couple of mature hens in the chicken house never got it. And the couple of field chickens that kept escaping the pen never seemed to get it either. We’re doing some extra sanitizing around here and I’m still researching like crazy, but if you have any ideas I’d love to hear them. Maybe they encountered a pathogen or a harmful plant in the field pen?
Do you worm your chickens?
Do you use a chemical wormer or a homeopathic wormer?
Do you use it on egg producers or only non-egg producers?
Do you have a chicken health resource you’d love to recommend?