Every morning when I let the girls out, I always watch them for a few minutes. Mostly to make sure everyone is feeling good, happy and acting themselves. I pick each of them up almost on a daily basis. Just to check-in. About 2 months ago, Tilly was not acting her normal self.
Tilly seemed sad. Her head and tail were both down. She was sluggish and not pecking at the ground like everyone else. I continued to watch her for a few days and she became worse. She started sneezing, breathing like she had something stuck in her throat and had a runny nose. Tilly was definitely ill and not getting better. I became worried for a few reasons. First, she was our head hen. We like her in that order. She keeps the girls calm and when she free ranges, she never goes too far away from the coop. Second, she was just a baby. She had so much more life to live. Third, we were raising them entirely organically. This meant no medications. Fourth, she was a beloved pet.
Initally I read all my chicken references on hand. The diagnosis was still unclear. Cape Cod being small and rather rural, I was unsure that I could even locate a veterinarian with chicken experience. After making a few phone calls, I was able to reach a vet that does treat birds and has started to spread over into the realm of chickens. She was about a half hour away.
I caught Tilly, and put her in a Pampers box. She was quiet the entire way. While checking in and waiting in the waiting room, she only wanted to be held in my lap. She nuzzled into my arm and closed her eyes. This was not my Tilly. Finally, we saw the vet. After her exam, it was not entirely clear as to what was going on. Therefore, the vet decided to deworm the entire flock and give Tilly an antibiotic for a respiratory infection.
Tilly was on the antibiotic for 5 days. By day 4 she seemed to be getting better. Afterwards though, I noticed that her crop became rather enlarged, soft and squishy. After extensive internet research, I figured out that Tilly developed a sour crop from the antibiotics she was on for her respiratory infection. I subsequently treated her with Nystatin for 10 days.
Tilly’s crop was distended for about 1 month. It has since then made a full recovery. This is the point at which I started giving the chickens the weekly yogurt and adding apple cider vinegar to their water supply. I feel that both are adding to the overall digestive health of our chickens.
What about raising the chickens entirely organically? Well sometimes life takes those unexpected turns for the worse. If I hadn’t given her the antibiotics which did violate organic chicken raising, then we would not have Tilly. The antibiotics saved Tilly for that I am sure. We still have our chickens on an organic feed. So our eggs will have an organic component. I’m just glad that Tilly is still with us.