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I am a despondent no-good rubbish chicken-keeper and I don't know what to do.

24 replies

cadelaide · 20/11/2011 22:31

I've lost 3 this year, which is saying something as we only had 4. I now have one lonely little Pekin left.

They've all died suddenly, lost one this evening. She was fine yesterday, came out in the morning, fed and watered, scratched about as usual. We went out for the day and they'd gone to bed when we came home. I peered in, all was well so I shut them up.

This morning she wouldn't come out. Very weak, not interested in food. I examined her, she was thin but no other signs of any problem. She did a very watery poo with a little green solid in it, I understand this is a sign of starvation? I got a little water and wet mash into her with a syringe but she didn't pick up. made a nest for her in the coop this evening but when I checked an hour ago I found her dead on her back.

The other died suddenly too. Now I have this lonely bird and I know I have to find her a friend but I've gone off the whole thing. I just don't seem to be able to keep them alive. They were wormed, tonic in the water, high quality food, free ranging for at least an hour a day, treated for mites. It's so disheartening, and poor DS (12) is so sad 'cos they're his birds and he loves them.

I read about people with hens aged 4 and 5 and more but none of mine have ever lived for more than a year. They came from two different sources and were apparently fit and well on arrival.

I sound whiny don't I? I'm just disheartened, and sad.

OP posts:
JaneFeestelijkBierdekijn · 20/11/2011 22:40

I know how you feel. Is it worth talking to the place you got them from and asking about what might have gone wrong?

I've also lost two this summer, as well as 3 last year to a fox and one to sudden death.

One of ours got gradually weaker and died slowly, I presume of starvation, though she wouldn't let me interfere, so I left her to do it in her own dignified way over a few days. Still don't know what it was.

The other died from I think, sourcrop, which meant I could have saved her - maybe? I didn't know at the time though and it happened fairly quickly.

It's an awful feeling. I wonder if they had both eaten hay which I had left around for the rabbits.

You need to loo for potential hazards such as (in our case, hay) things they might have eaten that they shouldn't. Learn about what to do with sourcrop and so on. You might want to find a new home for your lonely pekin, and start your ds on another sort of pet that is easier for your family? A dog or cat maybe? not saying you did anything wrong but different pets suit different people.

We also lost 2 of our 3 rabbits the other week because I stupidly let them run loose and a fox got them. We now have a similar dilemma - get another for the remaining one, or find her a new home. It's hard to start again when it's already gone wrong once.!

cadelaide · 20/11/2011 22:52

Oh hello Jane, fellow guilty-keeper-of-dying-pets. Smile

I think we'll try again, DS does love his birds so.

I didn't know they shouldn't have hay, I'm off to google that one.

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JaneFeestelijkBierdekijn · 20/11/2011 22:56

Aha. Maybe we have a lead to follow then!

Straw is fine btw, hay can get mixed up in their crop and cause a blockage apparently...keeping them in with the rabbits may have been a bad idea of mine.

They are separate now.

Sourcrop is easyish to sort apparently, but when hay has got right far down into the digestive tract it can be too far gone to get it out again.

I am sorry you are feeling so guilty. I feel guilty too. Sad

We have four left, one has a large abscess which I have been treating but isn't going away, so she may be for the high jump next...oh the circle of life.

ChickensHaveNoEyebrows · 20/11/2011 22:57

Hmm. Well, I've been keeping pekins just over 3 years. I have buried 6 of them. Some died suddenly, apparently of something quick like a heart attack. One was PTS as she went off her legs. One was nursed for months with an abcess, and died during an operation (she was my favourite) and one wasted away (probably cancer). Basically, they have a very fragile grip on life, do chickens. So don't feel bad, you've probably just had a bad run of luck. Maybe find a different breeder :)

cadelaide · 20/11/2011 23:05

More like the endless circle of death around here Grin

I almost lost a guinea pig to a cat a couple of months ago, horrific wounds, but I've nursed him back to health so that's a positive.

The dead bantam's crop was empty this morning, but perhaps as you suggest she was bound further along the tract. I took one of the poorly ones to the vet earlier this year but they were as clueless as I am.

OP posts:
JaneFeestelijkBierdekijn · 20/11/2011 23:09

Hi Chickens...sorry to hear about yours.

I want to hear more about this abscess if OP doesn't mind the hijack! Mary's seems not to be going away and I have stopped pulling off scabs as it seems to hurt her.

Our vet does know about chooks but said an op might kill her anyway so it's not worth it.

I agree they have a fragile grip. Poor darlings. I might try rescued ones next - at least you know they can't be any worse off with you than in their previous conditions.

Cadelaide - you did a marvellous thing with your guinea pig. I am giving you the bad chicken keeper's medal of honour for that alone. Smile Brilliant stuff and I bet it wasn't easy.

cadelaide · 20/11/2011 23:16

Hijack away Smile

You know, I nearly gave up on the pig but my Sister told me they respond well to nursing and it would seem they do. Awful wounds around his head, you could actually see his jawbone for several weeks (sorry, tmi), but with the help of antibiotics and twice daily salt baths and tube feeding and blahblahblah he's healed beautifully. And you know what? I love him, I really do. Nursing does that, doesn't it?

Thanks so much both of you for your supportive comments about the hens. I shall soldier on and find the Pekin a pal.

Or should I get two. Oh bloody hell, the fighting thing again.

OP posts:
JaneFeestelijkBierdekijn · 20/11/2011 23:20

LOL, yes every silver lining has a cloud Grin or, should I say, one door opens and another load of chickens start scrapping!

I'm in awe at your guinea pig nursing experience. Yes, nursing does inspire love. I found that with my chicky with the abscess, the bit with the maggots was the worst, but I felt bonded to her by shared trauma.

I wish you luck and good faith. You are clearly a very good person and it will be alright. Smile

hiddenhome · 21/11/2011 10:49

Sour crop can be dealt with with fresh maggots.

Sudden multiple deaths are usually due to infection. There's usually nothing you can do.

You could get your remaining chicken onto a broad spectrum antibiotic.

I would suggest trying another breed of chicken. Something hardier. Rhode Island Red or I have two Light Sussex and they're pretty good.

Please don't give up. I lost two of my cochins within a few months of each other. They came to me from the breeder with problems. There's nothing you can do in this situation. Experience is a great teacher.

Clean and disinfect the whole place - including water/feed containers. Swill down and disinfect. Leave it a couple of weeks and try to locate another breeder. Don't use the breeders again - if infection is present any future birds will be affected. I've had birds from two different breeders and both breeders had problems. You really need to shop around.

Breeders with problems - signs of:

Many different birds free ranging and mixing in with each other.
Poor hygiene.
Damp conditions.
Birds looking seedy or not very energetic.
Breeder who seems sloppy and no very organised/professional.

The good breeder that I found:

Different breeds segregated into small flocks.
Everything clean and well organised.
Light, airy environment - not all scruffy and damp with poo everywhere.
Knowledgeable, confident and competent appearence of breeder.

Go around and see the different people that are out there.

If you live near the northeast I can recommend somebody.

Chickens are great to keep, but it can be frustrating at first. Birds die quickly and seemingly easily, but that's just part of being a bird I'm afraid. Some are more hardy than others.

ChickensHaveNoEyebrows · 21/11/2011 10:54

Jane, my girl had an eye abcess. Despite many treatments, antibiotics and removal of the eye cheese , she died on the operating table during an op to remove the eye. It was an obscene amount of money, but she was my favourite girl and it was worth it IMO to give her a chance. Sadly, she didn't make it and I howled when the vet phoned. Still, I learned a lot from nursing her and understand a bit more now about what can and can't be cured.

We've had impacted crop here, and I had to make a chicken sick. She was not happy

mummymeister · 21/11/2011 15:18

I have kept chickens for the past 8 years and it is a series of ups and downs. Ups when you get the ex batts and they go out for the first time or the babies hatch in your incubator and the downs scaley leg, red mite, infected eyes, egg bound, he who shall not be named etc. On Friday "he who shall not be named" took 8 including my 2 fav aracuana grey boys that i have had for a couple of years and 2 teenage chickens as well as a hand reared buff girl. the highs just about cancel out the lows but it is hard work and they are such dependent animals. don't give up - get some more and start again.

cadelaide · 21/11/2011 22:31

Thankyou mummymeister.

Sorry he took all those on Friday, it's an awful thing to find in the morning (farmer's daughter, been there!).

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mummymeister · 23/11/2011 09:43

Cadelaide - yesterday was an up day. my last remaining aracuana boy (who will now be known as Houdini ) toddled down the driveway, stood outside my door and let out his funny strangled crow - fantastic! He is now safely in an ark a bit worse for wear with not many feathers but so good to see him - i cried - how pathetic is that !!!

Suffolkblush · 23/11/2011 10:49

Agree with hiddenhome that your chooks might have gotten an infection... did you ask the vet about Coccidiosis? It's an disease of the intestine - hence the hens go off food and have nasty diarrhoea. It's highly infectious, but can be treated if caught early enough. Before you buy any more chooks I'd worm your remaining girl just in case and and maybe give her a dose of Coxoid just in case... it's administered in drinking water and given directly to your hen.

I'd also give the coop a thorough clean out and use Stalosan F or Bi-OO-cyst which are a broad spectrum disinfectants - they are anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal.

If you notice that one of your hens is ill try and separate her from the others. I've got an old rabbit hutch that I use as a sick bay!

Sounds like you've had a bad run of things but don't give up! xx

Some potential references for you: (they have a shop where you can buy the treatments above)

dogindisguise · 28/11/2011 14:21

I'm sorry to hear that. I am feeling despondent two as I have lost two hens both aged under two recently, one in August and one on Sunday, I presume to some kind of infection. With the one who died on Sunday we hadn't even noticed she was under the weather until Friday.

Would it be worth trying a hardier breed, perhaps a hybrid? Though having said that, the two I lost were hybrids, and it's possible that being bred to lay large quantities of eggs could put a strain on their bodies.

Could it be worth finding a farm or poultry vet? I once took one of our hens (who later recovered) to the vet but he is pretty clueless really when it comes to chickens.

dogindisguise · 28/11/2011 14:22

sorry, typo, should read "I am feeling despondent too..."

cadelaide · 02/12/2011 17:11

The thing is dog (may I call you dog? Grin ) the Pekins fit our tiny garden so well. We had a couple of large fowl hybrids but I felt they need more space and they totally wrecked our li'l plot.

What we need is some tough cross-bred little bantams.

OP posts:
cadelaide · 02/12/2011 17:12


I should add that the hybrids went on to a happier home at my parents' farm.

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lostinwales · 02/12/2011 17:25

I feel your pain, it's so awful when they go. We have lost our three ducks this year, they were picked off one by one from the pond by what appears to be an mother otter (she was seen one time walking away from the pond just before we found Duke), it's put me right off. This week in all the awful weather (was going to say fowl weather, bad pun, Grin) I came home and found one of our two finches dead and one of our two budgies as well. I'd only been out an hour but there had been some awful gusts. They were in separate cages and had different food so we can only guess it was fright that killed them. I don't know what to do as the birds left need companions but can't go together and I'm so upset by coming in and finding them dead I don't want birds at all anymore. Stupid dying creatures Sad.

cadelaide · 02/12/2011 17:27

Now that's exactly how I feel.

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clangermum · 02/12/2011 17:42

I think if you have one chicken and try to introduce another it can be difficult, as the one on home turf might pick on the newbie (although I guess temperament and size can alter this). We had one left and introduced another one, as the first seemed very lonely after losing her companion. We were advised to plonk the new one in the sleeping bit of the coop while the oldie was drowsy. By the time they trotted out in the morning they were best mates. No idea if it would have been the same introducing them any other way, but we've never had problems. They were about the same size and build.

clangermum · 02/12/2011 17:46

giving mine poultry spice this time of year too

cadelaide · 02/12/2011 18:24

Oh yes, we've been through terrible fights in the past, introducing newbies is a science, or maybe an art, I dunno.

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JJsMumma · 02/12/2011 22:25

Hi there, we have lots of chickens and luckily, touching wood, we've only lost two in a year - one to Merycks disease, this one died about two days after getting her from the breeder, and one got taken by a badger - she was a beautiful lemon partridge pekin.

Our friend keeps pekins (we have a x breed one and a cockerel left on the pekin side) and she has had a few sour crop problems - if you notice the crop isnt going down, syringe them some olive oil until it goes. Also, some cider vinegar in their water once a week will help things along. Try not to let them free range if the grass is very long, or wet, or both, as the longer and wetter it is, the more it will clog up the crop and cause problems.

As for introducing chickens, I'd recommend getting three from the same breeder, ones that are used to each other, and letting them all free range with the old existing one, then cage up the old one in the coop and slowly introduce them in - they'll soon start nesting together. Be on standby with some violet healing spray, anti-pek and even a water gun to stop them fighting, plus some vaseline and bandage if one gets nipped too bad. Introducing new ones is a painstaking process but it is worth it in the end. If you don't feel chicken keeping is for you, maybe you could put her up for adoption in your local pet food warehouse??

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