Thursday, July 26, 2012

Under Quarantine

Two new pullets, Dove and Luna, before they got sick.
We brought two new pullets home about a week ago, and this time we made sure to keep them quarantined from our other hens. But it appears that in spite of our precautions, we have a respiratory disease spreading through the flock.

The new hen, a blue orpington tentatively named Luna, seemed healthy when we brought her home. We also brought one of her flockmates, a sympathetic and totally impulsive decision because the pullet was runty and tiny and L fell in love with her. She's a little lavender orpington L has named Dove. She seemed healthy, just small, and very sweet and attached to L. But two days later, the blue began to show symptoms of a respiratory illness--and it began to look like Coryza, a particularly nasty, common poultry disease. One source told me we should euthanize our entire flock now, and start over in a few months with new healthy hens.

I looked at Pearl, and Clover, and Violet, and knew I really wasn't ready to do that yet. Though the hens are likely to recover, they will be carriers of the disease for life. That means L won't be taking any of them to the Fair to show.

At first I wasn't too worried because I'd kept Luna isolated from my other hens from the beginning. But somehow, the germs made their way to the in-residence ladies. Yesterday, while watering the garden, I noticed Thelma seemed to be sneezing. Or coughing. She was making these odd gurgling sounds. I pulled her out of the main flock and placed her in a run by herself, next to the run where the two new hens are.

I think she feels like little Miss Persecuted, poor thing. I headed to the vet supply store and bought some Tylan (an antibiotic) and some heavy-duty disinfectant. I carefully dosed three waterers, and carried them out to the coop and run. I was beginning to feel like some sort of hospital worker facing a pandemic, wearing gloves and a mask, using disinfectant on my shoes, and feeling paranoid about every little speck of dirt that I saw in the house.

I had a meeting yesterday evening, and K and L left to go clean stalls at the barn. When I returned, Thelma had ramped up her determination, hopped the fence, and found her way into the coop to roost with her flock. I felt terrible when I plucked her sick little self off the perch and put her in isolation again.

Then I stood there full of indecision. The other hens have likely been exposed, so maybe I should just put her back in with them so that she feels a little better with company and we get it all over with at once. I vacillated like a metronome, but in the end, left her in solitary confinement with food and medicated water. She's not really drinking much of the water, so I've added a little mango-peach juice to hers to see if the sweetness will attract her.

I've locked the hens that seem healthy in the coop so that they can't tromp around through the runs and pick up the nasties. They are really not.happy. Violet charges the door every time I go in, and they all seem confused.

I'm feeling terribly guilty for bringing a sick hen into the flock and for completely wrecking L's plans for fair. L has been very gracious and stoic about it, but I can't help but feel just awful. I'm worried about the hens.

Beyond feeling guilty, though, there's not much to do now but wait and see how everyone does. 

1 comment:

  1. So sorry to hear about your troubles and now am a big fan of your site. I raise meat chickens for resale at farmers markets and our last flock of the year became sick their last month. We are sure that they contaminated our small layer flock, as one of the hens is sick. Do you know how many months we should wait, after cleaning the area, before we can introduce a new flock to the barn? Would two months suffice?