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General poor chicken health... Why?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I am just looking for some general advice here. I have a sick chicken at this moment who I can only figure has possibly water belly or something like internal laying. She is a red sex link. I got her and 6 other hens a year and a half ago as already mature layers. They were supposedly 1 or 2 years old. I got them from a lady who had taken them in from a friend because she had space to hold them. This hen and another both have gotten ill in the year and a 1/2 that I have had them. The first hen that got sick seemed to have salpingitis and did lay one puss egg. I opened her up after she died and seemed to have some yoke looking color in her but it was not as bad as I expected. Now I have another hen sick and seems really bloated in the abdomen from keel to vent. Is slowly walking, eating and drinking less. Her comb is turning bluish grey. It seems she could have water belly because she does not seem to be trying to pass an egg, not egg bound and not laying puss eggs. I will likely have to take her out of her misery very soon as I do not think this is something I can help.

 

Out of these seven birds I have had two that have gotten ill to the point of death and occasionally others seem sickish for a day and I start to worry but then they seem ok after. One generally has a poppy bottom. I guess my question is why could this be happening? Do hens commonly get these issues as they got older? I am starting to think these hens are older then I thought because they really are not laying much anymore and I have had egg shell quality issues from the start. Could it just be old age? or could it be something in there current environment? I feed them a good quality layer feed. They have optional oyster or egg shells. I give them small amount of vegetable scraps daily usually. I give them yogurt and AVC on a weekly basis. Clean water everyday and thoroughly clean waterer once a week. We use a deep litter method with straw but i do remove some poo once a week as well as mix the straw good once a week. As far as I know i think I do a pretty good job with raising chickens. The only thing that I think could be better is the air quality. The coop get pretty dusty especially in the winter and I cannot open it up more because I live in MN and we have -30 degree windchills for weeks straight. On days above 0 I always let them out if they want to come out and they free range all other seasons. However, I feel like I have had many issues with poor health of chickens in the last year and a half that many do not have. I have to say it has prompted me to do tons of research on illnesses and how to prevent them and help chickens when they have had problems. 

 

On top of the issues with older hens, last spring, I got 6 new chicks from the same lady (who runs a local small hatchery) who sold me these older chickens. Out of the 5 chicks I got, one developed something like a ligament slipping on the hip when it tried to walk so it could not walk well. Im pretty sure it was not spraddle leg because the chick could hold legs together but it seemed like when it walked it would twist weird in the hips ending on its lower legs and not on feet. And another one seemed to have gotten a infection in the eye and died. 

 

I know this is getting long but I guess i'm just looking on some general advice about chickens since I am fairly new with raising chickens. Is it this common to have all this issues with raising chickens in a year and a half with 13 chickens. Does older hens health really decline so much after only a few years old? could there be an underlying problem I am not addressing that could cause all these illness/deaths? I have not been able to find a link other than I got all these chickens from the same lady. I am starting to feel like I am a bad chicken owner even though most people I talk to do not do anything better than I do. any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!!

post #2 of 8

Well, from where I sit it sounds like you are doing everything very right.  My only question would be on ventilation - how much do you have in the coop?  I'n in Northern Wyoming and no matter how cold it is there is always a window open on the side out of the wind, their overhead vents are open, and the pop door to the run is open 24/7.  Chickens are very sensitive to dampness when it gets cold, even if there is no direct draft on them, and to ammonia levels when closely confined that we barely notice, if we even do notice.

 

I have had 3 Red Sex Links die, all from reproductive issues. One was just over a year old, one about 18 months, and one last month just before she would have been two.  Production birds are bred to produce like Pez dispensers and that really takes a toll on their bodies. They are using up protein, calcium and other nutrients at a prodigious rate, and although it's just my personal opinion based on my own experience with them, I believe their vitality is sapped way before their time.  I know others don't hold with that theory, and that's fine. Some have had Red Sex Links or other heavy production breeds/varieties live and lay happily for years.  But I had issues from the start with rubber eggs, consistently laying eggs far too big for their bodies (one weighed in at over 120 grams, another 113) and shell issues. That just can't be good for them.  I know people like getting those big double yolkers, and huge single yolkers, but wow, can doing that over and over again deplete their bodies.

 

I would certainly agree with you that there's a good bet those birds were indeed older than you were led to believe.  And then to have trouble with new birds you got from her sends red flag warnings all over the place for me.  You might contact your local vet and find out how to go about having a necropsy done if you lose another bird.  Before you can make any concrete decisions on replacing your flock, it would be vital to know if there were underlying health issues or if you now have ground contaminated with some type of parasites or pathogens.  You don't want to get new birds and then just have a repeat.  Many places just charge a nominal fee for this post-mortem exam, and it might be well worth the dollars invested to protect your future flocks.  Oh, and if you decide to do that, don't freeze the bird, just refrigerate it until you know how the lab wants it handled.

 

Then once you have the all clear run,don't walk, away from that hatchery.  There are plenty of other ways to replenish your flock without going back to the same place.

 

Please, don't feel bad and don't continue to beat yourself up.  We've all lost birds.  Sometimes we know why, sometimes we have to dig to find out why, and sometimes we just dispose of the chicken and move on.  But it's never, ever easy.  You are doing a very good job by the sounds of it, and your chickens have more going for them in their corner than some others do.  I hope that helps you a little bit.

 

 

kn

 

 

All of these eggs came from Ida, our littlest Red Sex Link.  Poor baby!

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the thoughts/advice! I defiantly thought about that with the breed having more health issues since they are a production breed. I really like that breed for their personality but I will probably never get a high production breed again. I have gotten some really large eggs from those birds and am still getting eggs that are almost double the size as my youngsters are laying.

 

I ended up putting my ill bird out of her misery last night and I ended up cutting her bottom open and she did have a lot of clear/yellowish fluid in the belly in her that had pushed up her organs. Poor Girl must have been so uncomfortably. I have looked into places to do necropsies but did not have any luck last time. I did not call the local vet ,however. I did safe the birds body in the fridge so I may try to get it tested. I would really like to know if it is something that could/ is going through my flock. I am interested in getting some more birds and do not want to keep having issues. My youngsters and the older hens left all seem very healthy now.

 

I have contemplated the ventilation issue a lot. My coop is a 12 x 12ft log building with an upstairs above it. It currently houses 8 chickens so they have plenty of space. When I moved to this property, it was obvious that the previous owners had chickens in the building before but it hadn't been used for chickens in many years. However, I did clean and disinfect everything well. The issue with the building is that it is made of logs and is not easy to add ventilation. It was the easiest most cost effective way to start with chickens since the building was ready with a chicken door, nesting boxes, and a run. The issue is that there are window but they do not open so the main ventilation is floor boards from the upstairs floor/downstairs ceiling that I have pulled up. So the air escapes to the upstairs that is pretty drafty and open window. Also I pretty much open up the human sized door every day unless it is below zero. The coop really does not seem moist or smelly or ammonia in in the winter. It is pretty cold coop though and got to 0 in the coop this winter. I did have some frostbit issues on the combs of my birds last year and this year. Which leeds me to believe I do need to get some more air flow in there somehow. However, I ma not sure the best way to do this without have cold air blowing in on the birds and with working with hug log walls. I have read a lot about ventilation but our building situation is so unique I have never come across ideas that would work for it. I am going to try to take out the windows and some how make them open and close but I am not sure this will help in the winter because they are on the side of the building the wind blows on mostly. Honestly I would like to build a new coop with my own design but unfortunately that is not in the budget now. Until then.... I just hope that it is not anything to do with ventilation causing my two birds to be ill. My young pullet who got ill and died never made it to that coop and was in a small coop with plenty of ventilation. 

 

Anyways, again thanks for the thoughts and advice! I am also open to any thoughts about ventilation you have. :)

post #4 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Katieswan View Post
 

Thanks for the thoughts/advice! I defiantly thought about that with the breed having more health issues since they are a production breed. I really like that breed for their personality but I will probably never get a high production breed again. I have gotten some really large eggs from those birds and am still getting eggs that are almost double the size as my youngsters are laying.

 

I ended up putting my ill bird out of her misery last night and I ended up cutting her bottom open and she did have a lot of clear/yellowish fluid in the belly in her that had pushed up her organs. Poor Girl must have been so uncomfortably. I have looked into places to do necropsies but did not have any luck last time. I did not call the local vet ,however. I did safe the birds body in the fridge so I may try to get it tested. I would really like to know if it is something that could/ is going through my flock. I am interested in getting some more birds and do not want to keep having issues. My youngsters and the older hens left all seem very healthy now.

 

I have contemplated the ventilation issue a lot. My coop is a 12 x 12ft log building with an upstairs above it. It currently houses 8 chickens so they have plenty of space. When I moved to this property, it was obvious that the previous owners had chickens in the building before but it hadn't been used for chickens in many years. However, I did clean and disinfect everything well. The issue with the building is that it is made of logs and is not easy to add ventilation. It was the easiest most cost effective way to start with chickens since the building was ready with a chicken door, nesting boxes, and a run. The issue is that there are window but they do not open so the main ventilation is floor boards from the upstairs floor/downstairs ceiling that I have pulled up. So the air escapes to the upstairs that is pretty drafty and open window. Also I pretty much open up the human sized door every day unless it is below zero. The coop really does not seem moist or smelly or ammonia in in the winter. It is pretty cold coop though and got to 0 in the coop this winter. I did have some frostbit issues on the combs of my birds last year and this year. Which leeds me to believe I do need to get some more air flow in there somehow. However, I ma not sure the best way to do this without have cold air blowing in on the birds and with working with hug log walls. I have read a lot about ventilation but our building situation is so unique I have never come across ideas that would work for it. I am going to try to take out the windows and some how make them open and close but I am not sure this will help in the winter because they are on the side of the building the wind blows on mostly. Honestly I would like to build a new coop with my own design but unfortunately that is not in the budget now. Until then.... I just hope that it is not anything to do with ventilation causing my two birds to be ill. My young pullet who got ill and died never made it to that coop and was in a small coop with plenty of ventilation. 

 

Anyways, again thanks for the thoughts and advice! I am also open to any thoughts about ventilation you have. :)

You do indeed have a unique coop setup, and I can see your dilemma!  I sure would have put that building to use if I had it!  And you certainly aren't overcrowding them - they have plenty of room in there. The only thing I could even think of would be to remove the windows completely, cover the openings with good quality hardware cloth, and then fabricate some sort of shutter system so the window on the downwind side could be opened a little or a lot, depending on the weather.  If it's super nice, (for me that's anything above 10 degrees!  LOL) then both could be opened.  If it's nasty, just open the least drafty window partway. Other than that, even your ventilation seems to provide the correct way for moist air to escape, and since the coop is nice and dry and there is no ammonia smell at all I think you are probably good there.  So you're kinda back to the original suspicions about the type of bird and the place you got them from.  As I said before in my first post, it certainly seems like you have thought your setup out very carefully and have done a great job providing for your chickens.

 

 I'll do some more brainstorming...I know that there are lots of people on here who have lots more experience with different types and styles of coops than I have. Maybe I'll PM a couple of them and ask them to wander over and see what you've described. In the meantime, good luck with them!  I'll be following this with great interest.  But at this point I just don't see that the ventilation is part of your problem.

post #5 of 8
It does sound like the two that you culled and opened up had some kind of internal laying or other reproductive tract issue. Pretty common in those breeds as mentioned. Other then that, have they ever been dewormed? Heavy worm loads can cause slow decline of health.
wife to long suffering husband who has built more miles of fence, barns, coops and enclosures then one man should have to, two teenage boys, current flock of 13 assorted hens, 1 big red roo and a list of other assorted farm animals. 
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wife to long suffering husband who has built more miles of fence, barns, coops and enclosures then one man should have to, two teenage boys, current flock of 13 assorted hens, 1 big red roo and a list of other assorted farm animals. 
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post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blooie View Post
 

You do indeed have a unique coop setup, and I can see your dilemma!  I sure would have put that building to use if I had it!  And you certainly aren't overcrowding them - they have plenty of room in there. The only thing I could even think of would be to remove the windows completely, cover the openings with good quality hardware cloth, and then fabricate some sort of shutter system so the window on the downwind side could be opened a little or a lot, depending on the weather.  If it's super nice, (for me that's anything above 10 degrees!  LOL) then both could be opened.  If it's nasty, just open the least drafty window partway. Other than that, even your ventilation seems to provide the correct way for moist air to escape, and since the coop is nice and dry and there is no ammonia smell at all I think you are probably good there.  So you're kinda back to the original suspicions about the type of bird and the place you got them from.  As I said before in my first post, it certainly seems like you have thought your setup out very carefully and have done a great job providing for your chickens.

 

 I'll do some more brainstorming...I know that there are lots of people on here who have lots more experience with different types and styles of coops than I have. Maybe I'll PM a couple of them and ask them to wander over and see what you've described. In the meantime, good luck with them!  I'll be following this with great interest.  But at this point I just don't see that the ventilation is part of your problem.

 

 

Thanks again for the input. It is funny you brought up the shutter idea because my husband also mentioned it just yesterday. That could work. It would have to be plastic though since I did not want to block out the light when it was closed in really cold windy winter days. I defiantly will be working on get some more ventilation options in that coop when it warms up a little more. I can see it will be good for the summer too. Hopefully things will be better as far as chicken health goes when these older girls move on. Everyone is good and healthy now as far as I know. I am open to any other suggestions you my find or come up with. Thanks!

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cafarmgirl View Post

It does sound like the two that you culled and opened up had some kind of internal laying or other reproductive tract issue. Pretty common in those breeds as mentioned. Other then that, have they ever been dewormed? Heavy worm loads can cause slow decline of health.

Yea I will probably never get that breed again. Although I do like there personalities. They are so friendly and adventurous. They are the only birds I have that will venture out in the snow too. However, I have had a lot of issues with reproduction. One of the birds I still has gets puffed up and egg bound sometimes and then she end up laying a massive egg somewhere random and looks so tired after she does it. The egg also has a circle on it which mean there was probably another one in there too! 

 

If they did have worms.. wouldn't I see this in them when I opened them up? or in there poop? I did deworm the whole flock last fall with safeguard (I think it was called) I also give them ACV in water once a week. 

post #8 of 8

Yeah if they were carrying a big load of round worms or tapes you'd see that in their gut when you opened them up.  There's other worms they can get of course but those are the common ones you can actually see.

wife to long suffering husband who has built more miles of fence, barns, coops and enclosures then one man should have to, two teenage boys, current flock of 13 assorted hens, 1 big red roo and a list of other assorted farm animals. 
Reply
wife to long suffering husband who has built more miles of fence, barns, coops and enclosures then one man should have to, two teenage boys, current flock of 13 assorted hens, 1 big red roo and a list of other assorted farm animals. 
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