Lost a hen this week


The first part of December 2014 I bought a well bred hen at a charity auction. She went back to Koopmans’ Kleine Dirk 3 times, in other words inbred. She was a late bred and only brought up one pair of youngsters later last spring. Handling her after weaning those youngsters, I thought she was on the thin side and I made a mental. She was moved to the main loft later that fall and handled very well, like the proverbial million bucks. Still in the back of my mind there was that nagging doubt. She was kept as a spare breeder hen.

The middle of January this year a summer bred pigeon I got from Eijerkamp came out of quarantine. We were not sure if we were getting a cock or a hen, so no specific plans as to pairing had been made. IT turned out to be a HE and was paired to the spare hen.

They paired quickly, the hen only laid one egg. Again that bit of doubt in the back of my mind. It was early in the year, the days were still short, her hormones weren’t raging yet, hey she handled really well, her breast was pink and didn’t have a flake on it, feathers were smooth and silky, all these thoughts went through my mind.

A few days later I saw some dark damp droppings on the floor and she wasn’t eating right. Just temporary, I thought as she was back eating normal the next day. She became listless, sitting in a corner of the avairy for several days, she was eating normally but wasn’t taking her regular turn sitting on the nest.

I moved the egg under a pair of feeders after 10 days and waited to see if she would lay again. She never did, Enna came to the house and asked me to go up and have a look at her, she didn’t think the hen looked right. She was sitting in a corner of the loft, the hen not Enna, all hunched up, this time when I picked her up she was thin, I was going to put her in my back room for the night as the weather was quite cold at  the time,  by the time I got back with a basket she was gone.

She was wrapped in a damp newspaper and a plastic bag and put in the fridge. I wanted to know what happened. Next day I called my pigeon buddy and we took her to a poultry veterinarian where she was posted. Nothing out of the ordinary was observed accept for some very small white spots on the heart and a somewhat slightly discolored spot on the liver. The tissues were sampled and smears were cultured overnight to check for bacteria.

The next morning we heard back from the vet and were told that she had found some Salmonella and E-coli growth on the petrie dish, these bacteria do not belong in the organs and had caused septicaemia (blood poisoning) which was the cause of her untimely demise. A sensitivity test is being done.

We concluded that she was probably a one of as the rest of the loft looks and acts 100%, but she could also be the canary in the coal mine. That’s why the sensitivity check, just in case. After a short discussion on her history as outlined above we concluded, that the most likely scenario was that, she lacked vitality (remember that doubt in the back of my mind) as she was inbred. This meant she had a very weak immune system due to her lack of vitality and could not deal with the stress of breeding.  There was no need to treat the rest of the flock, just keep a careful eye on the birds.

This hen had been vaccinated for Salmonella last spring and again last fall, also for PMV and pox. Having a weak immune system she did not build up immunity. Vaccines are not 100% effective and this is one of the reasons why. I’m not treating the rest of the flock.