My chickens didn't get sick all at once. It started with one hen, then a few months later another, and so on. Being new to raising chickens I wasn't sure if it was a disease, a natural process aging chickens sometimes went through, something in the gardens poisoning them, or what.
I took one hen to my veterinarian. He examined her and gave her an antibiotic shot and she died that night. I tried giving affected hens oral antibiotics without success.
I consulted with another vet at our local rabies vaccination clinic and described the symptoms. He suggested it might be coccidiosis. He provided me with a medication, Amprolium, to combat the next infection.
This disease first manifests when a hen stops laying eggs although she'll look healthy and active. A gradual decline begins as she loses condition.
Her comb shrinks, eyes grow a bit dull, her tail droops, and the area under her vent is stained with white diarrhea. The affected chicken walks with legs slightly splayed as her abdomen fills with blood. Eventually the hen weakens and is unable to walk. Then she dies.
Some chickens recover only to die with a second bout or they may become immune.
Broody Girl seems to be immune. The disease generally affects chickens under three years old.
When Jessie came down with the infection I was ready with Amprolium, which I mixed daily, 1/2 cc or ml sucked up into a hypo then dispensed into one quart of water.
The medicated water replaces the hen's drinking water. I sometimes try to isolate a really sick chicken in a separate hutch. However, the Amprolium added to all the hens' water can act as a preventative for those not yet affected.
Medicated chick starter feed contains Amprolium for preventing outbreaks in baby birds. Next time I raise chicks I'll be using the medicated feed.
The Amprolium/water mixture must be made fresh each day as the effectiveness of the Amprolium dissipates within 24 hours with exposure to air. I store the bottle of unused Amprolium in the fridge.
The medicated water is administered for five days. Jessie recovered and is now a healthy, active chicken.
It seems chickens are most susceptible to coccidiosis either going into or coming out of their moult...at least that's been my experience.
Coccidiosis is caused by the coccidial protozoan organism. It's spread by droppings, so keeping a clean coop may help somewhat. However, studies have shown that birds kept in pens with wire floors where their droppings fall through actually have more of a likelihood of suffering from coccidiosis while those in contact with their droppings tend to develop an immunity! Go figure...
My theory on this conundrum is that birds kept in pens with little contact with sun, soil, free-ranging, and not living normal chicken lives have compromised immunity and succumb more easily to the disease regardless of feces contact.
The coccidial bacteria also resides in the soil for years.
Amprolium is not an antibiotic. Instead, it's a thiamine blocker which deprives the coccidial bacteria of thiamine thereby causing them to die and allowing the hen to recover.
In the event of overdosing a hen with Amprolium she will need to be given a thiamine shot to restore her balance of this nutrient. Therefore, it's important to give the bird medication for no longer than recommended. Five days is how long I was instructed to provide the medicine.
Amprolium is available on line, from Amazon, or through a veterinarian. I was unable to get this medication from my local feed store.
With Amprolium in my fridge, I'm well-armed for the next outbreak. I'm determined that my current small flock of six sweet hens will not have to suffer the ravages of this debilitating disease.
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Some of my happy, healthy hens.