Friday, January 27, 2012

Chicken Blues


 Who would have thought it would be so difficult keeping chickens?

This is where I am at:

1. We have lost over 30 birds to what has been confirmed as Marek's virus.
2. They were supposed to have been vaccinated so why did they ALL get it?
3. The vaccine does not give full immunity and there are many strains.
4.. The virus lives for years in the soil so all new birds are at risk.
5. Young birds are especially at risk.
6. But we brought in older birds and they also died.
7. I now have to decide how to best start this all over again.
8. I am ready to bang my head against a brick wall.
9. Maybe goats could be fun.
10. I know very little.

     Ok, so I was all excited to bring in baby chicks from a hatchery. I had planned on keeping them in a brood box until they were older and then would put them in the hen house. But what if I went through all that and they still got sick? I read lots of answer. I talked to the poultry vet at the Dept. of Agriculture and he said I needed laying hens to be safe. He said if I vaccinate the babies a second time the vaccine will not match the first one and will do no good. SO......I called the hatchery to order pullets and they said for 15 hens it would cost me $450.00!!! Well that was not going to work because....WHAT IF THEY JUST UP AND DIED????!!!!

     My mom's boyfriend knows the chicken caretaker at a huge local chicken farm which shall remain nameless. He told me he could get me some adult hens for FIVE BUCKS each. He said he would have to go with me though, because the caretaker did not speak English and I would need an interpreter. Also, it was under the table so I was told to keep it hush hush. Really? Do any of you have to go through this in order to get chickens? Undercover hens sold at midnight by a caretaker wearing a mask? I am at the end of the line though, and so I told him I was in and to please set up a meeting time.

    But I wanted a few more opinions on this decision so I literally googled,


I came up with a Dr. Bruce in Bellevue who had been in the newspaper because of his amazing wisdom in regard to poultry. I called his office and told the secretary my sob story. I asked if he would do a phone consultation. She said he would call me back the next day. And he DID. He said it confused him as to why all of my chickens died and I told him welcome to my world. I explained we babied our hens and gave them back rubs and little vitamins but they still kicked the bucket. I told him I have searched high and low for people selling chickens but nobody wants to part with them. (Or they are afraid to give them to me.) He agreed it is hard to find laying hens because who wants to part with them after putting that much time and money into them to get them to the egg stage? He then asked me how many I was looking for. I told him around 15. He said,

     " are in luck because I am selling 15 chickens who are just getting ready to start laying. You can have them for $8.00 each. They were vaccinated twice and are really healthy."

     I happened to be talking to the vet in the car while Scott was driving. I was smacking his arm and mouthing the word, "JACKPOT."

     This weekend we will go get the chickens. I am a little sad to not have the chance to give some older hens a nice home after living in a factory, but if these chickens live then maybe we can add some of them in. If these chickens die, I guess I am going to have to give up. My neighbor said I could use a small part of her field to house a few chickens. I may end up taking her up on it. She lives right across the road, so I don't see why hers live and mine don't. Such a mystery. It was nice of her to offer though. We will just have to see how it goes.

I just don't think it should be this hard. Dr. Bruce said he has never seen a whole flock die from Marek's. And why did they go one at a time a month apart? We have had the well and soil tested. They died while in their fenced area and while free ranging.  Maybe it's the linoleum in the hen house?

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