by Marley

I have 15 hens, no roosters. My girls are 2-5 years old. I keep them in a coop with a 50' by 50' yard to run around in. A few years ago I had 2 chickens with bumble foot. I watched how to treat them online & both got better. Since then, inspected my hens whole body every couple days to check for any signs of poor health.

About 6 months ago, one of my hens suddenly stopped eating and started getting diarrhea. The poop built up & was stuck to her feathers. I came back the next morning to find her breathing heavily. When I picked her up she started to vomit, started convulsing & died in my arms. I have been even more observant of their eating & drinking to make sure nothing happened to the others.

But a week ago, when I went out to feed them in the morning, another hen was laying there dead. When I picked her up I noticed she had some poop built up in her feathers like the other hen but not as much. Both of these hens vent was clear & didn't appear to have anything stuck.

So now today, I noticed another hen sleeping a lot. So I went to take a closer look. Her comb is swollen & pale, her feet are all swollen, similar to the bumble foot, but the entire foot has swollen areas. One of her eyes is closed & looks a little swollen too. She's also losing feathers but the dozens, but has not been molting or pecked by other hens. Im expecting her to die today.

Any ideas of what I should do? Please don't judge, I try to take very good care of my birds, they are my family.... I did call around to all the local vets but only one would even see a chicken & they told me that it would cost a lot of money to see her.... which I would be happy to pay except, they also said that they are not experts with chickens & probably couldn't help but could just help to put her down humanely.

Added info: The hens that have gotten ill are NOT the same that had bumble foot. Their breeds are: Wyandotte, Sexlink and the one ill today is an Americana. I have 2 broody polish hens that have been quite aggressive.. many of the hens are missing feathers from the polish hens pecking them on the nests.

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by: Sharon

My experience with sexlinks and other Production breeds is that they only have a couple of good years of life, then they decline into extremely poor health. It has to do with their genetics, not their care.

Sexlinks are not necessarily made up of Production breeds, but usually are.

I can tell you are a diligent chicken keeper, so don't suspect that this in your fault. I would imagine that you are having fewer problems with your Polish and Wyandottes?

Production breeds are mass produced for producing meat & eggs fast. The laying hens start early & lay a lifetime of eggs in about a year and a half. In the factory setting these breeds are used briefly for egg production, then replaced about a year from when they began to lay. There is no need for them to live long lives and they really can't.

The wild ancestors of our domesticated chickens layed 12 - 24 eggs in a year. We have selectively bred for thousands of years and come up with breeds that can sometimes lay more than one egg a day.

Adult chickens need fresh greens daily for good health. If you're having trouble with your long lived breeds, I would look into diet.

If you are wanting a lot of eggs, Production breeds are great and you get the best egg/feed ratio for your money. You just have to deal with them wearing out and replacing them every year and a half or so.

Heritage breed chickens are generally long lived. The hens will often take breaks from laying during the winter, when daylight hours are short, during the molt & in hot weather. These are natural cycles for hens to conserve their energies.

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