Hi all, My name is Ben. As a family we decided we would make a few changes around home and make a bit more effort to be 'green' We planned for chooks, but also started a worm farm, veggie patch, herb garden, composting and working the natural path over the enhanced path. Please, if your interested, sit back and enjoy a read, it most likely won't be short, we have learned much, and after learning so much from this forum, I thought I would share our experience. I should warn, many experience owners will see our mistakes and think "that was not a good idea" or "I would not have done it that way" We are very new to this and only got our first chickens in October 2012. Starting green also meant starting cheap hahaha, I didn't want to spend large amounts of money, so everything below is home made, and most of it is from free material I either had or was given. Well, it was up to a certain point, but I will get to that later. We started with a coupe, a old trailer frame from a paddock. 1200mmx2400mm I had some old tin at home. I wanted something suitable for about 4 chickens. We can have 6 (no roosters) but we didn't want to cram them in there. I wanted to be able to close them up at night, but open a door and let them roam during the day. This is some progress shots of what I cobbled together. The floor was salvaged from two old pallets. Then inside, the nesting box was made by a friend as a trade for some old Army gear I had that I no longer needed after leaving the Australian Army. Fair trade! We have since put a lid on top with a cut out in the rear. That was phase one, so we then had to go pick up our chickens. We bought/rescued four Isa Browns from a local egg farm here in Perth. Compared to cage birds they were in good condition, but certainly not ideal. We were on our way! Each of our family members named one, meet Rhonda, Olivia, Noodles and Nugget. This was Noodles, day 2. Of the four birds, we got three eggs in the first couple of days, the first normal, and then two 'rough' ones, then no more. We were told they were in moult and would be off laying, as well as a change in food and environment. It took until December until we had another one. Very happy to see a nice brown smooth egg, 69g! The kids were over the moon! Even layed it in the nest One day, Nugget didn't look too good, so we left her in the shade with some food and water, but by the afternoon one of the boys ran up to tell us there was an emergency. Nugget had died. We were not sure of the cause, we had her for about a month or two. We had been told these high intensity type birds can be prone to this so we never had a necropsy done. Just buried her in our front garden. Our boys introduction to loosing a pet. We later suspect what she died of. After about a week, we found a local lady selling some wonderful coloured birds, we ended up buying; 1x Caramel Rhode Island Red x Blue Austrolorpe called Latte', (approx 17 weeks) 1x Golden Laced Wynadotte we called Mocha, (approx 17 weeks) 1x Silver Laced Wynadotte we called Pepper. (approx 14 weeks) After much reading on here we made a secondary temporary pen, and brought the little pullets in there with all the creature comforts. The older birds free ranged around the pen and all seemed well. Latte' Mocha and little Pepper the day we got her Day 2 digging into some grower crumble. We were very proud! While the younger birds were in their pen, I decided to upgrade the run, some the renovation began. We made a fence to contain them when we had visitors, added some wire and planted two Passionfruit vines. Also posted in some coppers logs and hung a 3m shade sail, then topped it off with a little gate. We still let them roam the yard, but had more control of it. We would let the little birds roam in the morning while the older ones were closed up and slowly introduced the two groups. Worked well with no unexpected fuss. Also made some internal changes, adding a bigger roost (which I had to train the birds to use), concrete floor to make cleaning easier. Life was good, and Sunday morning had never been better.Getting one egg a day. Then we spotted a cat in the yard, stalking the younger chooks while on free range. After a watchful few days, we actually had 4 cats now visiting our yard...and non cat proof chicken run. After much deliberation, we decided to enclose our run. I didn't have the needed materials, so we had to buy it. There goes the 'free' theory! We have decked it out as best we know, and keep them in there most of the day unless we are outside to keep an eye on them. Here is a few shots of the current run as of this morning. Notice the chickens like Passionfruit hahahaha we have gone through a few protective measures to try keep those vines alive long enough for them to stand a chance! The outside entertainment area! Extra shade Here is Rhonda and Noodles, full of feathers and looking healthy, but still not laying. and here is Latte' and Mocha, nearly full sized. Here unfortunately, it all takes a turn for the worse. Little Pepper began to shows the same signs as Nugget did about two weeks after worming. My wife loves her so much this time we decided to take her to the Avian vet on the second day. We showed him the photo's, he had a look at her and says that he is almost 100% confident the little SLW has a disease called Marek's Disease. He gives us some information and we come straight home to make her comfortable and hit google. We are devastated to learn about this, and how our flock most defiantly all have it and that the ground we have is most certainly infected with it and that there is little hope for Pepper, or any other bird that shows symptoms. We believe the rescue birds had been vaccinated, but the new pullets were not (see, you experienced people were right further up the page! Pepper showed the classic signs, after all the research I had done, I had never heard of it, and honestly it really has put a damper on our experience. I took photo's to share with the vet, but I will also put them here for those un-knowing, like we were. She was very reluctant to leave the coupe, so we separated her from the others, she would put her head up, gasp and close her eyes She also began to walk on the top of her left foot, as we learned, the paralysis was setting in. This got worse over the next day. I will spare the image of her poop, but the uriates (?) was a yellow and not white, which the vet said was liver issues. We had very little hope, we tried to find everything we could on helping her, even though it was and still is grim. We found the St Johns Wort theory, and for the sake of a few dollars we tried it, with no improvement what so ever. We called the vet today with some questions. Can she recover or are we prolonging the inevitable? He said that in some cases, their immune system can fight the virus, and they can recover to some degree. How much depends on what nerve damage is done and how long it has been. His words were "if she does not turn the corner in the next day or so you need to consider culling it" SO there was some hope, but it was slim. If she does go into remission, will her leg get better? He said "Yes, but better is a scale of varying degree's, if the swelling in her nervous system goes down fast enough, she could gain, some or much of her leg use back, but the longer the damage is there, the less likely she will be able to use her leg again." The later, "if she is still fighting it, and you want to spend the time nursing her, go for it, all is not lost yet, but be prepared that a full recovery is very rare" We have her in a little ICU at home and are going to give her another day or so before considering culling her. As for the future, we want to keep chickens for sure, but how we go about cleaning our land (if it's even possible) before starting again once this flock has lived it life, or if we can still add to the flock and accept the loss rate I don't know. It is still early days and I am still reading all I can about how manage a flock and land with this history. Thanks for reading, I will be sure to keep this updated, firstly with Peppers progress and secondly with how we look after our flock. Cheers, Ben and family.