Grit Blogs > Faithful Homesteader

Chicken Illness, Death and Lessons Learned

Faithful Homesteader

I had to say goodbye to another chicken this week, and I think this one was the hardest of all. When I lost chickens before, things happened so fast that we didn’t even really have time to try to save them. This time it seemed like we were doing good when we were able to get a diagnosis from the veterinarian. We knew what we needed to do. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough; but I did learn some lessons along the way.

Barbiehealthy - Copy

Our chicken Barbie had not been with us long, and soon after she came to us she went broody. We tried to break her, but she was stubborn. When we got her to stay out of the nesting boxes she decided to hang out on the roost, but she was definitely still broody. I think this is where all of our problems started. She did have opportunity to eat, drink, and take dirt baths, but we don’t think she was eating near enough and we are sure her immune system was weakened. We will definitely try harder to break our broody hens in the future.

We next had an outbreak of worms and as we were treating things we attributed anything unusual to that. After a little bit of time, we took in another poo sample to the vet to find out that Barbie had coccidiosis. We started the treatment for the whole flock and for the first day it looked like there was improvement, and then there wasn’t.

We mixed up a batch of Corid with half a tablespoon in a gallon of water. We used it until it was gone. We didn’t know that you should make a fresh batch each day. We had been successful in the past without doing that. If we ever have to deal with this again, we will make the new batch each day using two teaspoons for every gallon. I don’t know if this is what would have made the difference or not. All the other girls were good, but she still had the problem.

Since she was having such issues and seemed so low on nutrients, we tried to give her some electrolytes. But I learned after the fact that electrolytes with Thiamine in them are not good while chickens are fighting  coccidiosis. We stopped as soon as we knew. Again, I wonder if this would have made a difference, but we were certainly desperate to get nutrients into her.

We ended up taking her to the vet and it showed that there was some improvement, but she still had a lot of the coccidia. He gave her medicine that was supposed to go more directly to her gut, but again she seemed to have slight improvement and then relapsed.

She had become very skinny and it seemed like she had trouble eating. I ground up her food and gave her soft foods like pumpkin and yogurt. I tried not to give her too much yogurt, but it was one thing that she would actually eat. I ended up turning her food into liquid and we started giving her food and water by syringe. We tried the Corid again, using a fresh batch every day.

She was a real fighter and she gave me hope that she would pull through, but in the end she just became too weak. I bonded so much with her because I nursed her for such a long time. I love my chickens, but she was the first one that I actually professed my love to. I prayed so hard that she would pull through and when she didn’t I was just devastated.

It still hurts, and when I watch the other girls doing their thing without Barbie it doesn’t seem right. I miss her, but I will remember everything that I have learned along the way. I always want to do better for my animals who are my only babies.