I’ve recently been faced with a pandemic of sorts here at my farm. And I have learned some extremely valuable lessons in the past month.
Mine is a story of caution and near defeat but one that might just help save someone else’s flock and needs to be told.
First and foremost: ALWAYS know where your new and replacement birds are coming from. This is where my story began.
Several months ago we decided to get 4 new laying hens to add to our standard flock. I reached out to the farm where I got our original 10 chicks and she had layers available. When we got there, we discovered that these were not her own flock but that she had gotten breeding stock in from somewhere and that was what was for sale. These poor girls looked so ragged, but we took them anyway.
We did a short quarantine and did not see any signs of trouble. Second lesson is this…. Double or triple what you think is a safe time for quarantine of new stock. At LEAST 30 days if not longer.
About a month later there was some sort of disturbance in the coop which was evident by the bedding in the roost area being very disturbed and thrown about. I couldn’t figure out why they had fought under the roost bars but didn’t think much more about it.
Two days later, I had one of the bantams with a swollen eye and what can only be described of as a "sneeze". He was immediately separated and brought inside for a saline cleanse and to be watched. It got better quickly and he didn’t show any other signs of concern and was moved out of quarantine and over to the bantam coop. I had been meaning to get him moved over there for some time even though he grew up with the original group and did fine in the larger coop. This was mistake #3.
The next morning, I found one of the new hens dead under the roost. She didn’t have any facial swelling or any other signs of distress. Just a mystery death followed by 4 more the next day, 3 in that coop and 1 in the bantam coop. These did show signs of infection post-mortem with eye discharge. My relatively small hen population took a substantial hit as all losses were hens. In total I was unable to stop the spread before I lost 4 standard hens and 5 silkies. I was able to save one silkie hen and she has now been inside the house for 2 weeks recuperating.
How did I stop the spread? I did a thorough clean out of both coops and started a daily rinse with our Coop Care All Purpose Cleaner (get yours here) to hopefully lower the pH of the habitat and create an environment where bacteria could no longer live.
I also added our in-development product which is a water acidifier along with a vitamin supplement and eventually I was able to locate some Tyclosin and added that also to their waterers making sure that they have fresh, clean and treated water daily.
In the past 2 weeks, we have not had any additional birds show signs of infection. The hen inside is showing improvement although it is very slow. Her eyes both swelled shut and one in particular had large amounts of pus that needed to be removed daily. But I am pretty confident that she is on the mend.
What could this have been?
After speaking with a vet, we are pretty confident that we had an outbreak of Infectious Coryza.
Infectious coryza is an acute respiratory disease of chickens characterized by nasal discharge, sneezing, and swelling of the face under the eyes. It is equivalent to our common cold and it is found worldwide.
In developed countries such as the USA, the disease is seen primarily in pullets and layers and occasionally in broilers. In the USA, it is most prevalent in commercial flocks in California and the southeast, although the northeastern USA has experienced significant outbreaks. The disease has no public health significance and cannot be transferred to humans.
Early treatment is important, water medication is recommended. In more severe outbreaks, although treatment may result in improvement, the disease may recur when medication is discontinued. Preventive medication may be combined with a vaccination program if started pullets are to be reared or housed on infected premises.
- If you can’t raise your own replacement/additions to your flock, ALWAYS know where they come from and make sure you are getting healthy animals.
- Quarantine, Quarantine, Quarantine and then Quarantine some more!
- Never move birds from one coop to another without sufficient quarantine time.
- Have a plan for not only the occasional hurt or sick bird but also a much larger event.
- Act quickly - Be ready and have some of the basic supplies on hand.
- Stock your emergency kit ahead of time. Some of the products that I will always have on hand now include: VetRx, Blu-Kote, Saline Rinse, Terramycin ointment, Nutri-Drench, Tyclosin, and the Coop Care product line.
What have you found to be some go-to products for an emergency? I’d love to hear from you!