Have been an avid reader but have never posted before except asking about Baytril.
I picked up our six girls on 6th June this year and we were over the moon with them. We also bought 50m of Netting and all the electric fence paraphernalia to keep foxy out and overall have spent well over a grand. What the heck we thought the chooks will be fun and eggs to boot!
Set everything up and we were well chuffed with the whole set up and the girls personalities developed as the days went by.
We did notice some funny bright yellow foamy droppings from day one and were reassured that it was just little mishaps as they were coming in to lay. See here for a picture:
We were having so much fun with the first six girlies that we decided to get another four and make it a round ten! The order was placed and I was due to pick them up a week ago today.
The Sunday before (13th July) we noticed that one of our girls was looking decidedly lethargic but when trying to pick her up she would bolt across the lawn as usual - nothing unusual there then we thought! But over 24 hours she looked worse and I noticed very watery trots too - which weren't immediately apparent - because they were so fluid they ran straight into the lawn!
Off to the vets we went and an enteritis was diagnosed and Baytril was dispensed but it made no difference and the next day I noticed a 'sloshy' crop. We kept her in the house away from the other girls as a bit of s"Ooops, word censored!"ping was going on after picking up the new girls two days previously.
Back to vets we go and see a different practitioner. This time a sour crop is diagnosed and it was drained and flushed there and then. I was to continue with the Baytril. Nothing then seemed to change - no better, no worse.
Then on Sunday morning the girl was decidedly poorly looking and her comb and wattles were turning blue. We immediately rang the vets and the duty vet advised that he could offer no further advice over and above what had already been done and suggested referral to an avian specialist.
So off we trot to Swindon to a specialist referral hospital and saw a very well qualified avian specialist.
He immediately recognised the symptoms and diagnosed Blackhead disease and didn't give our girl 48 hours but treatment commenced immediately.
Blackhead is a very important disease in Turkeys with a high level of mortality but less so in chickens. Cases are becoming more frequent. It is caused by a protozoal parasite called Histomonas meleagridis. Although direct chicken to chicken spread is possible it is very difficult in reality and infection is more likely to be spread by chickens ingesting infected eggs of the caecal worm Heterakis. The Histomonas is ingested by the Heterakis worm in the chickens gut and the chicken then passes infected worm eggs in its droppings which are then picked up by other chickens when ranging and scratching about for tidbits as they do!
Infected worm eggs can survive in the soil for possibly up to 4 years and they can also get eaten by earthworms which then also become infective sources for the chickens.
The Histomonas infects the caeca (blind gut) of the chicken and cause ulceration, inflammation, possible bleeding and swelling. They also enter the tissues and move through the circulation to the chickens liver where they cause necrosis and liver damage. Liver damage causes the sulphur yellow droppings mentioned earlier.
We left the vets with bottles and bags of medication. However it was very difficult to come to any conclusions regarding treatment as nothing is licensed for treatment of Blackhead disease in the EU and therefore the UK. This makes treatment nigh-on impossible.
A bulk dropping sample from our coop has confirmed the presence of Heterakis worms in our girls.
We have been advised that our garden in now permanently contaminated and regular worming will be essential. It is not clear whether we will be able to stop further reinfection with Histomonas or infection of any new chooks as worming is not carried out permanently and therefore the mere ingestion of worm eggs would infect the chickens with Histomonas immediately.
All together a very naff situation to be in!
So, here we are with 10 chickens. Only 3 of which are laying and we have had them 7 weeks! I suspect that the Histomonas and worms have affected them so severely that I doubt some of them will ever lay at all! Daisy, the really sick chook, is hanging on for dear life but is deteriorating and looking sadder by the day - we are injecting 10ml of saline under her skin twice daily to keep her hydrated as she is not eating or drinking and she has been wormed but there is doubt over whether it is actually working its way through her system - the reason her crop was 'sloshy' was not because of sour crop per se but because her bowel is so congested that basically she was full to the brim and nothing was going through her!
So please, please, please be very astute to your girls daily habits and watch out for any changes. Especially look for yellow foamy droppings - they are characteristic of Blackhead disease and when they are present it is proof of the condition. It is NOT a whoops with a yolk as often thought!
Please also be aware that Verm-X is not effective. The avian specialist advised me that recent research shows that having a tinkle against a wall is just as effective at worming as giving Verm-X.
If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or reply here and I will do my best to help but I can only advise on our experience.
Please wish our girls luck!