Intro to Our Coop and a Concern

Mama Helen

Jul 25, 2016
Pittsburgh, PA
As a frequent reader of BYC threads for some time, I finally decided to join. Anytime I Google to find info about a particular chicken situation or problem, my best advice always seems to appear in one of BYC threads.

"Mama Helen" is actually the name of our oldest hen. When I asked my family what name to use, my younger girls suggested it. I have four children ages 23,21,16, and 14. the older two are college students, and the younger two are in high school. We have an active household which also includes 8 cats, two golden retrievers, an African grey parrot, three red-eared water sliders, a rabbit, and a guinea pig as well as the chickens. Several years ago, we also had three Nubian milking goats. The "kids" were recently discussing the possibility of repairing the old goat shed and getting two new kids. We've had a busy summer, so maybe next year....

I've had chickens for over 25 years. We usually kept anywhere between 6-12 hens and a rooster, sometimes more if our free-ranging hens surprised us with some young. That was until last summer when an acquaintance asked if he could purchase a few young hens. The only young hens we had were ones my 14 and 16-year old daughters had watched hatch (Mama Helen hatched them) and had cared for, so I let the decision up to them. They agreed, but the older one was upset and in tears shortly after her two "babies" left with a new owner. I think at the time she was so surprised by the offer that she didn't have time to consider the decision.

After a week or so of my daughter feeling guilty for "betraying the trust of her young hens," as she put it, we decided to get a few young chicks from a well-known farm about an hour from us. In the past, we had primarily stuck to Plymouth barred rocks, white leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and black sex-links with an Araucana thrown in every now and then. We left with 24 chicks of all different breeds. Thus arose the need to build a larger chicken coop with room to grow (last year's big summer project).

I think our old hens were so outnumbered by the new ones that they never put up any fuss when these additions were mature enough to join the established group. All was well until last fall when a dog killed two of my favorites, a molted Java and a silver Sebright. We waited until right before Easter this spring to pick up some new chicks. I was able to get another java, but not the Sebright; however, we left with another big group of all different breeds of chicks. Around Mother's Day, we made a third trip to get three long-awaited Sebright chicks. as you may have already guessed, we came home with another group of various breeds. Our count had risen to 70 chicks!

All was fine until last Wednesday when one of my young hens (from the March group), was on the floor in the coop when I went to "tuck in" our chickens for the evening I knew something was wrong. She could support weight and even stayed on when I lifted her onto the perch, but seemed to favor her one leg. The next day she was limping, so we put her in a small cage since our chickens free-range during the day. I thought maybe she had caught her leg somewhere or sprained it and just needed to rest it for a day or two. The limp was worse on Friday. By Saturday, she couldn't put any weight on the foot. Two days later, both legs were splayed in opposite directions like she was doing a split, She has no use of either leg. Our hen is alert, eating, and doesn't appear to be in any pain. I suspected, after reading several threads on BYC, that it might be Marek's but was hoping I was wrong. We took Olive to the vet on Monday, and the vet felt fairly sure that's what Olive has. The vet drew some blood and sent it out to verify if it is Marek's, but results haven't come back yet.

My girls were devastated when the vet suggested euthanizing Olive. Instead, we brought her home with some liquid aspirin for chickens and an antibiotic. The vet said that many times there's an underlying infection with Marek's so that's why the antibiotic was prescribed. I'm also trying colloidal silver and Hypericum. My new silver Sebright seems to be stricken, also as of Tuesday morning. I'm a little concerned about one of our polish cochins who seems to be listless today. We got her when we picked up the Sebright. So far, it seems that only the younger ones are showing any symptoms. I'm concerned and upset about them all, though. The girls named almost every chicken They are the ones who usually make sure the chickens have food and water and are accounted for each night. They are also the ones who have invested a lot of time in all of the chicks. (I usually get the great job of cleaning out the coop.
) We know all of their different personalities. These aren't just chickens. They are part of our family.

Hi and welcome to BYC - thanks for joining us and sharing your story. I'm sorry to hear about your issues with some of your flock. I hope that the treatments do the trick.

Best wishes
Thanks. I found a lot of interesting in a thread entitled "The Great Big Giant Marek's Disease FAQ" posted by Nambroth. It answered a lot of questions. I've probably more than 15 hours doing research on the topic since I first found our Olive limping. I've been reading everything I can find.

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