Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Goodbye to another Hen

I posted a few weeks ago about one of our 3 hens, Hazel, dying.  She was over 3 years of age and since she hadn't seemed ill, I thought it was just a fluke.  The next day in my usual fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mode, I bought those 4 baby chicks I have been photographing like mad.  Everything seemed great until 2 days later I noted another of the Hens appeared ill.
I was completely panicked.  I had sick hens and although we were keeping the chicks separate, they were in the same yard just separated by chicken cloth.  I was sure the whole flock would be wiped out because of my stupidity. Lucy died within the day.

Then I noted Ruby our last hen had diarrhea and next my youngest son complained of stomach cramps and within a few minutes was having diarrhea.  Oh my god!  I was typhoid Mary and had transmitted this illness to humans.  I tried to recall the countless friends and neighbors who had stopped by to see and hold the chicks since we had purchased them just a few days before.  People we didn't even know stopped by because they heard from a friend who heard from a friend....
What if all of them became ill?  What if my dream of neighborhoods full of backyard chickens came to a screeching halt because of my flock?   I imagined widespread fowl-borne illness and the government putting a ban on all backyard chickens.  Not just Denver or Colorado but world wide.  The CDC issuing warnings against all fowl...
Luckily my son was fine by noon and as  far as I know, no one else has been ill. I am not allowing anyone touch the chicks.  They can watch from gate and go no further.  I spoke with a Vet in Fort Collins about Ruby, she recommend seeing the chicken and would probably prescribe antibiotics.  In my other life I am a Physician Assistant and have been for more than 20 years.  The longer I practice medicine, the more suspicious of modern medicine I become.  
There are many things that can give a chicken diarrhea, only a handful are caused by bacteria.  Antibiotics only work against bacteria, not viruses and even in the event it was a bacterial causing her illness, it isn't always easy to determine which antibiotic to use.  Antibiotics kill off good bacteria, our so called "normal flora" in our bowels and they run the risk of causing a whole new type of diarrhea.   Since Ruby seemed very perky I decided to try some home remedies for a day and see how she did.
I am happy to report the Ruby and the 4 chicks seems to be doing well!  
I have been giving her whole milk organic yogurt. I read about this on Backyard chickens and several other sites, and did it only sporadically but now will be faithful.  Ruby loves it, although the chicks seem a little stymied about any food that isn't their chick starter. As they get older I am sure they will love it too. 

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