Here’s the first bump in the road of my chicken adventure. Within the first couple of weeks of having the hens, one started sneezing. Yes, sneezing! I suppose it makes sense, I suppose all critters sneeze, but a chicken sneezing just seemed strange. The gal at our local feed store (a different feed store than the one we bought the hens from), we’ll call her Lori, is a chicken pro and suggested we give all the hens an antibiotic because poultry illnesses can be very contagious, thus we gave the girls a water-soluble antibiotic for a week. They weren’t laying yet which was good since you can’t eat the eggs when they are on the meds, and when they are off the meds you have to wait weeks or a month before you can eat them. Lo and behold, we got our first egg just days after we started dosing their water. Naturally. Then another started to lay the next day, and then we had three laying then all did except for our Ancona. Aside: for a while we thought she was a rooster since it took her months to finally start laying, and since she has an insanely large comb. See what I mean? Update 10/3/12: her comb is STILL growing. It’s even bigger now, and it gets purplish on the tips because the blood can’t get all the way up there! Haha! Kinda funny.
After we completed the antibiotic cycle, the sick hen seemed to get better then she regressed a week or two later with the same symptoms. We took her to the vet this time and ended up having to give her antibiotics orally (??!?!) for a week. Ever given a chicken a pill? They REALLY don’t like it. Again, there was slight improvement then she regressed. Lori said the sneezing could just be a habit now so we quit worrying. She was laying, eating and drinking so we figured she must be fine. Then one day, about two months after the whole thing started, she came stumbling out of the coop, dragging a wing and foot so we thought she had a stroke (can chickens have strokes??). Lori broke the news to us that the hen would only get worse with her condition leading to full paralysis. After some discussion and additional research, we decided the best thing to do would be to put her down. Everyone agreed that the quickest, most humane option was to break her neck, so that’s what we did. My husband being the stellar guy he is took care of it despite my offer to help (I really didn’t want to). I’m okay with that being “the man’s job.” So that was our first trauma. A bit hard to take, but since we plan to have chickens for many years to come, we figured it was something we would have to get used to.
The moral of the story is: be sure, absolutely certain, that when you purchase chicks they are from a reputable hatchery/feed store, and have been given all the recommended vaccinations (they are usually listed in the hatchery catalog). Of course, our sick hen’s condition could have been genetic but we’ll never know. It’s best to take as many precautions as possible, especially if you are introducing new hens/pullets into your existing flock.
What happened next? Chicken mites. I already posted about that; see below.