It seems I have accused Calvin, the rooster, of a crime he did not commit.
You may remember that Calvin and four or five hens were huddled outside, in the dark and cold, on Saturday when we found a dead hen in the hen house. All the chickens outside were very subdued; lethargic even. Calvin was quiet and not his usual blustery self. There were a few drops of blood on his comb and wattles. I immediately accused him of murder.
Wrongly, it seems.
It is not unusual for Calvin to be a bit beat up. He gets into it with Lord Byron, our other rooster, on a regular basis. Usually, Calvin immediately retreats when confronted, but not always. And then he gets a bit bloody. He is a good rooster in the sense that he is protective of his hens -- Lord Byron has most of the hens in his flock, but Calvin watches over the hens who have the lowest standing in the flock.
Sunday morning, when we opened up the hen house there were no more fatalities. But, there were two hens inside who showed no interest in moving. Another hen drooped in a corner of the chicken run; not running, not eating, not moving when I prodded her with my finger.
I was concerned. I researched chicken diseases since I am convinced that there is some kind of virus moving through the flock. Most chicken diseases are respiratory in nature. None of our hens are coughing, or have drippy beaks. From a respiratory standpoint, they seem fine. I checked them for spots on their combs (there is virus related to the chicken pox that poultry get) but didn't see anything conclusive. Over the course of the day, they perked up and all of them were scratching and pecking by Sunday evening.
Monday was similar. No more chickens have died. If it is the poultry pox, most of the flock will survive and then they will be immune for the rest of their lives. Most virus' are carried by wild birds -- and there are wild birds in and out of the chicken run constantly. Free food -- why would they pass that up?
Today, Brett said there were three hens who wouldn't come outside when he fed a big bucket of scraps. I'm afraid we are going to lose more chickens before this is over.
Treatment is non-existent for poultry pox; either they make it or they don't. So, we will wait and see what happens. Hopefully, we won't have a significantly smaller flock when this is over.