7.01.2015

Sometimes You Win One

"If it's any of these other things, there's no cure" said the vet. "But her symptoms could also, possibly, be toxoplasmosis, brought on by eating infected dead mice." [And good word, we've plenty of mice this year. More on that later.]

Twisty chicken head - eep!
Our smallest Ameraucana was no longer roosting. She could eat and drink, no problem. She gobbled down mealworm treats, and attacked pieces of fruit with gusto. She would, however, twist her head around to almost backwards whenever stressed in the slightest, and her equilibrium was off, making hopping up or down difficult. Off to the vet. Our regular guy was out of pocket, so we took her into the city, and were lucky enough to get a vet who not only knew avian medicine, but also had his own flock of hens. I decided to take the long-shot and work with the hen as if she had toxoplasmosis, and readied myself for days of force-fed antibiotics.

So, toxoplasmosis: most know it as something that can infect cats, and can pass in their feces. Toxoplasmosis infection can also pass through a human and harm a fetus, so that's why you see all the warnings about not letting people clean cat litter boxes while pregnant or immune-compromised. Toxoplasmosis is also carried & passed by other mammals, including raccoons and mice.

"Veronica" spent three long days in the recovery cage. She felt lonely, and let us know loudly and often. We'd move her from room to room to be with us, but far enough away that she wouldn't feel stressed by our movements. The fourth morning, she was showing some improvement, so I let her out into the general population. That evening, she was climbing up the roost ladder partway - still not getting up to the roost, but much better than before! I brought her in for evening meds, and put her in the recovery pen so I could easily nab her for morning meds the next day. She wasn't twisting her head so much this time, either. Gave her meds the next morning, let her out again. Last night, she was on the roost! She was having a bit of trouble due to two other hens trying to get her to move, but she was hanging on as best she could. Brought her in again for the evening meds, and back into the recovery pen until morning, when she'd get her next dose. She didn't twist her head around once during the carry into the house, nor when I took her out of the cage this morning.

It's a sad thing about modern, mass chicken breeding: they're not bred for longevity and health, so veterinary medicine is still catching up on how to manage complicated or long-term hen health issues for home flock owners. As we saw recently in the U.S. with the poultry bird flu, oftentimes the easiest way to solve the problem is to kill the entire flock, sanitize the housing, and start anew. Sometimes, however, you win one, and that's Veronica this time.

More on poultry and toxoplasmosis at this link. Since our birds have full run of our acreage, there's continued risk of toxoplasmosis, but less risk than if they were in an enclosed area. Think the mouse issue will be in the next post. It's been biblical around here.

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