Update #5 (June 5, 2012) Last evening, my DH spoke with Dr. Gast regarding our experience and test results. Since yesterday was the final day of her treatment, she was symptom free, and her feet were healing nicely, he recommended returning her to the flock. We asked about testing the rest of the flock, but he said it wouldn't serve any purpose unless we first isolated each of them from each other for MG's incubation period, and then tested, and then culled every one that had it. Since our chickens never leave our property and we would rather not cull anyone when they're not even acting sick, it wouldn't serve us much purpose. He also confirmed what his colleague had said about the strain she had being common to our area in both wild and outdoor domestic bird populations. However, he also provided the number to the Commonwealth Veterinarian's office where Persephone sample was analyzed as he said they'd be able to tell us more with regards to the distribution. So after speaking with Dr. Gast, he called the Vet's office (and actually got through). The Vet reported that MG is not easily classified as a wild or domestic strains due to various strain's prevelenance and distrubution in some areas. They did say that what Persephone had turned up more often in northern VA (which we're 5 minutes from the border of) wild bird populations than domestic, but was still extremely common in both. They also mentioned something that we had not heard/encountered regarding MG thus far: some chickens carry very mild forms of MG as part of their normal body flora the same way that some humans carry Staph aureus. They suggested that this was likely the case with Persephone, that she has always had it (and always will), but that it actually posed very little risk to other chickens/birds or herself due to its apparent low virulence. This was due to the fact that no other flockmates had yet exhibited any symptoms, which very much surprised Dr. Gast and the Commonwealth Vet. They reported that had this been MG introduced to the flock from an outside source, we would've had multiple (if not all) birds showing symptoms within one week. So what does it all mean to us? Well, we packed Persephone off to the flock again last night (and she was quite happy about it, but Remy was frickin' ecstatic and stayed by her side all evening). She's eating, drinking, and laying like she always has, except now she can roam the yard and run through the creek and dig up my gardens with the rest of the flock again. We're planning to keep keeping our chickens outside, so I guess we'll always be running the risk of someone picking up a more virulent strain of MG, but such as it is and for what we do with our chickens (hobby/pets), we don't see any point in culling all or any one of them at this time. Of course, we will continue to monitor everyone. Update #4 (June 4, 2012) Many apologies for the delay, but what a clusterf**k it was to get our test results last week! We live in WV, but are dealing with a VA vet (they're located a whole 10 miles from us just over the border). So when the vet took the blood sample and put it in the hands of one of the techs to send to their lab, our address apparently asploded their brains; they sent it to the wrong lab (one who was not certified to perform the test). So as per usual lab process, that lab forwarded it onto the VA Commonwealth Veterinarian's lab. What that meant was a two day delay, because it didn't get to the lab who could run it until Saturday (May 26th). They ran the sample, then reported it back to the lab that had forwarded it to them on Tuesday (May 29th). It wasn't until that evening that our vet found out what had happened (they had no received word yet), and then the lab didn't want to report the result because the chain of custody was for Dr. Gast (and he was on vacation all last week). So they managed to get a hold of Dr. Gast on Thursday night and he called the lab to release to results to his office on Friday. I was traveling from Wednesday through Saturday, so I couldn't share here anyway...hence the ridiculous delay. So the final verdict is that Persephone is POSITIVE for Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG). We asked whether it was a domestic or wild strain, and were told that this was not able to be differentiated due to its wide dispersal. What they could tell us was that it was a strain endemic to our area and the most common one found when testing domestic and wild avians throughout our region. They did note that her mild symptoms and quick recovery indicated a strain originating (somewhere along the line) from wild populations due to more domestic strains typically being significantly more virulent due to constant antibiotic exposure. We will be discussing our results and options and getting recommendations from Dr. Gast later today. So the bottom line is that she's got it and will have it for the rest of her life. She's still doing well, and resumed laying daily since May 31st. Her bumblefoot is also cleared up and her feet are healing well. To date, no other flock member has exhibited symptoms. Update #3 (May 24, 2012) So my DH left work early and took Persephone to see Dr. Gast, and here are the highlights of that visit: -Her airways are clear. He heard no gurgling, burbling, rattling etc. when he listening to her lungs. -Since we've had her on antibiotics for a few days now, he could not do a throat swab (and get a reliable result), so he collected a blood sample, which was being shipped that same evening to a lab for analysis of Mycoplasmas that chickens are susceptible to. We should receive results either today or Tuesday (thanks to the holiday weekend). We're hoping for today. -She was slightly anemic (supposedly not enough to be concerned about and likely due to whatever is ailing her) and he was concerned about her weight (which was 5lb 1oz) However, she's always been one of our two smallest chickens (our DOM being the other one). She's still eating her feed and getting all sorts of fruits and veggies and insects besides, but we were advised to make sure that doesn't change. -He asked about the rest of the flock and we reported what we've seen, no signs/symptoms of illness in anyone else. Everyone is behaving normally and laying regularly (even Persephone dropped another, perfectly normal egg once she was home from the vet's). This seemed to really puzzle him. He said that even with a mild strain of MG, by the time any bird showed symptoms, most of the rest of a small flock was already infected. He said that in his experience, other flock members started showing similar symptoms within 4-6 hours of the first chicken, and definitely within 24-48 hours. We were already at 5 days at this point with no one else experiencing anything like Persephone. To put it mildly, he was stumped on that point and wondered if MG was actually the issue. Persephone at the vet, poor chicken. So the good news is that maybe MG isn't our issue. The bad news is that what the heck else could it be? A ruptured air sac was brought up, but he said he would've "heard" that in her breathing, even if it occurred five days ago. Her breathing had sounded perfectly normal. For now, the plan is to wait for the test result (the wait is already killing me!). They sent my DH home with several sterile swabs, too; in case anyone else does show symptoms we are to get a throat swab and bring it to them (they're open 24/7) before treating. In the event her test comes back negative, we're going to swab the rest of the flock anyway and submit for analysis (which is subsidized by the Federal government and therefore only $5/test...news to me!) to see if anyone is carrying this nasty little bug. So for now, we wait. *twiddles thumbs like crazy* At this point, it's like If we don't know what we're dealing with, we can't make plans to deal with it (correctly). Update #2 (May 22-23, 2012) Within 24 hours of starting the chlortetracycline in water (sold as Duramycin-10 at our local TSC), our wellie's symptoms had significantly improved. No rales or any kind of gurgling when breathing normally. Following further treatment and cleaning of both feet for bumblefoot, minor stuffiness was noted when she panted (but only while laying on her back during treatment). She laid another, perfectly normal, egg and continues to eat, drink, and behave normally. Bumbled-feet also looks significantly better, swelling is down and both wound clear of evident pus/infection and do not seem to be bothering her. 48 hours after beginning treatment with the Duramycin-10, no further gurgling, sniffling, rales, etc. noted, even when placed on back for treatment/cleaning of bumblefeet. Sneezed once and coughed once while panting (due to elevated heat/humidity that moved into our area). All other behavior normal; no egg today. At this time, we plan to continue to keep her in quarantine and complete the full 14 day treatment. We are currently waiting for the vet to get back in touch with us regarding the cost for PCR testing (which is available through their laboratory) for MG and other potential CRD-type diseases/infection. Testing requires a blood sample as a throat swab will not be sufficient for analysis of some non-MG, respiratory ailments that have an outside chance of being part of our issue. *BR, in quarantine on the other side of the garage due to bullying/feather picking our BA last week, is doing fine. No evidence of symptoms/infection and despite isolation, continues to lay eggs daily (I really think she's nuts). We will be starting to re-introduce her to the flock on Saturday and hopefully she will amend her ways. If not, back in quarantine for another week, and if that doesn't work, she's dinner. **The remaining four chickens, out in the coop/run, also exhibit no signs/symptoms of illness and continue to lay with usual frequency (excluding the roo, of course). Update #1 (May 21, 2012) My DH contacted a local livestock veterinarian who actually knows poultry (thank goodness) and laid out everything mentioned below. He believes we're dealing with a case of Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG), one of several nasties that often end up under CRD. He recommended switching treatment to chlortetracycline in her water, since the Tylan injections haven't significantly reduced symptoms yet (and apparently the injections would have yielded pretty fast results if effective). She should significantly improvement within 2-3 days, but if not we have to bring her in for a shot of Draxxin. However, from all of the reading on MG, she'll forever be a carrier though probably will not display any further symptoms for the rest of her life. Also, if she's got it, most if not all of the rest of the flock has it, too (or soon will). The only way to get them free of it is to cull them all...not that it'd do any good since it's apparently endemic to the area, exceedingly common in wild birds, and unless we get chickens who aren't carriers (vet mentioned that over 50% of chickens in US do carry it and it is passed through eggs to chicks) and kept them indoors, always, they're eventually going to be exposed. ARGH!! Background Story (May 19, 2012) On Saturday morning, our 10 month old welsummer met me at the run door with the rest of the flock (expecting breakfast), except that she was breathing like she had an epic snout full of gunk (gurgling and rattling loudly). I immediately removed her from the flock and fed/watered her separately in our quarantine cage in the garage. She ate and drank perfectly normally and poked and boked at me like nothing was wrong, other than the gurgling. Upon giving her a thorough once-over, my DH and I found the following - NOTHING. No eye, sinus, or nose swelling or discharge. No comb or wattle discoloration. Her feces looked normal. No parasites. She did have a bad case of bumblefoot that she had apparently been hiding very well, which we treated and are continuing to do so. While treating her, of course, she wasn't happy about being turned upside and flapped and struggled enough to get her breathing rate up, which lead to panting. While panting there was no longer any gurgling/wheezing and I took the opportunity to look down her throat; healthy pink and no sign of gapeworms. By that afternoon, she seemed to be breathing much better and with very little gurgling at all. She also laid an egg, which appeared to be normal. On Sunday morning, we observed no change in her condition, so we went to TSC to get Tylan and began treatment with 0.5cc injected into the breast muscle. Soaked and re-bandaged her bumblefeet that afternoon and it again caused some panting, though no evidence of struggling for breath and no comb/wattle discoloration. She sneezed once and blew a minor quantity of clear fluid on the floor. As of 8:45PM last night, just after dark and everyone had gone to roost, she was on her makeshift roost in her cage snoozing quietly. This morning, at 5:30AM, I checked on her before heading to work and there was a broken soft-shelled egg in the center of her cage and a second, normal egg, in the corner. Not only are the two eggs in less than 9 hours an anomaly, no one in our flock has ever laid a soft-shelled egg. But then again, maybe that's just stress-related? I've been reading and reading and reading, and so far, the only disease that seems to fit with what we've seen so far is avian infectious bronchitis (IB); chronic respiratory disease (CRD) seems the second best fit. But we have no experience with anything like this and could certainly be wrong. For now, no one else in the flock is displaying similar symptoms to the wellie, though I heard our BA cough once yesterday and she's been occasionally laying eggs with some granulation on the shells over the past two weeks (which she never did before). I could be spooking at shadows, though, because everything I read indicates that chickens don't ever truly recover from respiratory problems if they're viral and will always be carriers and should therefore be culled. I really don't want to have to kill our six chickens.