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Girls on strike... Help!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ShireHillFarms, Dec 18, 2016.

  1. ShireHillFarms

    ShireHillFarms Just Hatched

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    Newbie chicken lover/member here, looking for some input from those more experienced than I. Recently acquired a mixed flock of girls (3 red links, 3 barred rocks, 4 EE, all living with my Sumatran roo). The RL and BR are older, 18ish months old and were all finishing up their molts when I got them as cast offs from local small egg farmers due to their age. The EE are all younger, around 6-9 months old. I have a small coop I got from TSC with an enclosed nest box and small attached run that they are closed into at night. They have free range of my barn and grounds during the day, as well as free choice access to the coop. They had been living like that for about a month, eating Dumoor 16% layer feed from TSC. I'm slowly switching them to Poulin 18% layer now. Free access to oyster shell, and they get a few handfuls of scratch grains and black oil sunflower seeds in the AM & PM along with a sprinkling of dried mealworms. I'm trying to locate granite grit, but I do live in NH... Granite state? They find it in the yard? I'm still looking so I can provide it in the coop. Kid at TSC didn't know what I was talking about and feed store doesn't have it. ::Sigh::

    Story time. Last week we had a severe cold snap (0° with wind chill temps in the -20°s). My coop is in the barn with my horses, which keeps the overall temp around fifteen degrees warmer than outside, so I tucked everyone in really cozy, and went in for the night to defrost my own self. The next morning I came out to four sick kids, three girls and my roo. Sneezing and gurgling. I immediately quarantined the sick birds in the coop and converted one of my horse stalls into a coop for everyone else. Spent all day disinfecting everything in the barn and coop. Built them nest boxes and roost bars, hung food/water/OS, hung a light in the stall about 6 1/2 feet high. For the past 7 days I've been treating everyone with Oxytetracycline (even the asymptomatic girls, just in case). Three of the four sick kids have gotten better and were allowed back with everyone else in the stall coop two days ago. Since the day I discovered the sick kids and moved them, I've only found two eggs, both from one of my EE girls that didn't get sick. I had a red heat bulb in the stall coop during the frigid days, which I switched to a white UVA/UVB bulb two days ago once it warmed back up. I have it on a timer, switching on at 6am, off at 10pm. I leave it on all day since my barn is really dark and it helps me see too. They've been under the light for 8 days, white light since Friday.

    A lot has gone on with these poor birds in the past week. Cold temps, a house change, antibiotics... My question, after all that, is when might I start to see eggs again? I had been getting 1-3 eggs a day in the small coop before the move, which wasn't lighted, but under the LED bulb in the barn, so it got some ambient light. Does the red bulb give enough light for them to keep laying, or just the white? I did see my roo covering the girls for the first time since he got sick tonight, which was encouraging. I know chickens don't like change, and I can't eat the eggs right now anyway, but I want to know they are happy and healthy more than anything.

    Sorry for the novel! Any constructive thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2016
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    I'm thinking your girls got sick from being closed up in the barn. Chickens need good ventilation and need it dry. A closed up barn is full of moisture. Your coop is probably too small for your birds too.

    When you add extra light to chickens it needs to be increased slowly and needs to be consistent otherwise it will just mess them up. I would stop with extra heat and light and try to get some better ventilation for your birds.

    Egg laying will resume after your birds recover. Respiratory infections can run their coarse in a few weeks or they can kill the birds. Hopefully they respond to the antibiotics.

    Sorry you are having such a rough start. Sometimes with chickens too much care isn't always the best.
     
  3. ShireHillFarms

    ShireHillFarms Just Hatched

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    Everyone seems to be recovering with the Oxy. When I listen to their breathing there isn't any liquid rattle and the sneezing has stopped entirely.

    Is one night enough for them to get sick? I only closed the barn up tight on the night we were due for the negatives, and they were only in the coop for 10 hours that night. When I put them to bed everyone was breathing clearly. I spend a good while checking all the animals in the barn before bed every night as a habit. Other than sleeping they were/are running around in the barn and outside. I have vents in the ceilings so there isn't excess moisture buildup and the window in each horse's stall is cracked about an inch. There are also vents at each end of the barn so we have a cross breeze. I never considered airflow to be an issue since I'm such a stickler about it with the horses. The barn is completely open during the day to allow everything to circulate, and the ceilings in the stalls are open to the loft where my hay is kept and there are even more vents.

    They are no longer in that coop at this point. Once I picked up the EE girls (about two weeks after the first six) I started renovations on a stall since I knew the coop they were in was recommended for 8-10 and I had 11 in there. The plan was always to upgrade them to a larger coop, and the small coop will be used for quarantine only moving forward. In the spring I am going to build a dedicated coop for them, but I have to wait until the ground thaws so I can bury the fencing and support beams.

    The biologist in me says proper husbandry is always the answer. Trying to learn what they need to be happy and healthy, which is why I'm here. I have a degree in equine biology, but avian needs are a wee bit different.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2016
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    [​IMG]

    How long have you had the birds?
     
  5. ShireHillFarms

    ShireHillFarms Just Hatched

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    Nov 17, 2016

    The roo, RL, and BR I've had about a month. The EE girls a little over two weeks. I was told when purchasing the various groups they were all vaccinated and had been disease free.
     
  6. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    It's possible the EE brought something the others weren't immune to. It does sound like you have okay ventilation.

    Prefab coops will always say you can keep more birds in them than you really can, so don't believe what they say. Minimum is 3 square feet but that number is also too small in my experiences, bigger is always better.

    Glad they are improving so quickly. Posting photos of your set up can help people see if there's anything that could be improved.

    Birds get stressed by being moved so that could have contributed to them getting sick, as well as the changing weather this time of year. Hopefully things will improve and calm down for you.
     
  7. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Not sure what your birds were vaccinated for, but I'm not aware of any readily available vaccine against the respiratory diseases like MG.

    Here's what I'm thinking happened.....

    Your EEs are MG positive. Not necessarily the fault of the seller. They likely were asymptomatic, maybe all their lives. Or, they may have been mildly ill as chicks, but recovered. But now, they're carriers. I think 2 weeks is about right for an incubation time, once you exposed your older birds to the new ladies. Moving the EE could have triggered them to become ill, and simply being exposed to them could make your other birds ill.

    I'd be sure you medicated everyone, and research mycoplasma. You may have a flock of carriers now, sorry. Good news is they seem to recover well, and don't necessarily get sick again if they survive the initial infection. But, it can cause a decrease in egg production and fertility, so you may have overall decrease in egg production over the life of the birds.

    If you have a vet willing to treat chickens locally, you can get a bird tested and see if this is what you're dealing with.

    I'd expect it to take a few weeks for production to kick back up after the illness and treatment with antibiotics.
     

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