It’s a hard thing to watch a sick chook. And something that I was hoping to escape from having to witness so early on in our backyard chicken journey. But on Friday one of our chooks, Buttercup, wasn’t herself – she was slow, sitting around a lot. Saturday and Sunday saw her progressively get worse. While she was alert some of the time, the rest of the time she was sleepy, not eating and unsteady on her feet, and by Monday morning she wasn’t able to stand. So much for waiting to see if it got better. After some discussion with some chook loving friends, and borrowing an animal crate, I packed her up and took her to the local bird vet.
While hoping it was something simple and fixable, unfortunately it wasn’t. The vet went through all the things it could be – head injury, leg injury, ear mites – observed her, had a look at a stool sample and, after also asking a colleague came back with what no chook owner wants to hear – that it’s most likely that she has Marek’s Disease. While my chooks were vaccinated at 1 day old, this is not a sure way to avoid Marek’s Disease and unfortunately there’s no cure. While the vet couldn’t be certain, it was clear that she was unwell and unlikely to recover. Coming back from the vet empty handed was awful, but having to watch her suffer any further would have been worse.
RIP Buttercup – we’ll miss you.
For more on Marek’s Desease, take a look at the Marek’s FAQ page on backyardchickens.com.