World’s Most Expensive Chickens

So I haven’t posted for a while; it’s been busy. And the chickens are partly to blame. Three chickens have been to the vet in the last week.

IMG_0143

The three hens that went to the vet: Miss Red (digging in grass), Squawkers, and Bawk Bawk

We lost Squawkers at the first vet visit. She “crashed” one day (became lethargic, droopy, clearly sick) and I took her to the vet immediately. After an exam and x-rays, they determined that a massive growth in her stomach area was essentially crushing her internal organs. There was very little to be done at that point, so I had her euthanized. 😦

Taking no chances, I decided to have the vet look at Bawk Bawk, the black sex-link hen. Bawk Bawk came to us with a distended crop, which I had thought was simply normal for her, since the guy who had sold her to me didn’t seem concerned about it. But the diagnosis for her was a crop yeast overgrowth, so she’s now on two medications, twice per day, to clear it up.

Seeing as how Bawk Bawk is a feisty, lively girl, the process of catching her and administering medication in the morning has become something of a circus show. At night, it’s not so bad, because she’s asleep and easy to catch, and as a bonus, Byrd is home to provide an extra hand or two.

Just when things were looking up, Miss Red suddenly got lethargic and started having diarrhea. After an overnight stay in our bathtub and yet another trip to the vet, we were sent home with dewormer. Miss Red has perked up considerably since then.

I think the only chicken I have NOT spent over $150 on at the vet is Cackle. She’s moulting right now and looks something awful, a bit like she ran into a hedgehog, because of all the new feathers coming in. But she seems to be normal aside from that. Fingers crossed.

I really need to find a new chicken vet.

First, I don’t like this vet because they are expensive. Chickens are “exotics” and therefore every trip is guaranteed to be over a hundred dollars.

Second, I don’t like this vet because they provide way too many options and very few up-front answers. The typical visit goes like this: 1) The vet examines the sick chicken and asks a bunch of questions. 2) The vet makes four or five possible diagnoses and suggests at least three different treatment options, all of which are expensive. 3) I try to figure out which of these treatment options is the most reasonable/logical; the vet plays coy when I try to narrow it down, using lots of words like “could” and “might.”

And even after all that, I’m never sure if I made the right treatment decision. I sort of wonder if the vet is doing this because either she/he is trying to get me to spend as much money as possible, or else she/he doesn’t really know enough about chickens to determine the “best” course of action.

I mean, consider Miss Red. Sure, her symptoms could have pointed to quite a few things. But I got the following options from the vet (on top of the $60 “exotic” pet exam base fee):

  • Stool exam for worms: $60
  • Stool smear for bacterial infection: $40
  • X-rays for tumors, infections, etc.: $130
  • IV fluids and tube feeding for “exotic”: $120
  • Deworming medication: $20

I stood there and puzzled over all these options while the vet and vet tech said that each of these things “could” help or “might” give us the answers we want. I kept asking what the problem was most likely to be. I mean, why do an x-ray when it’s probably worms? Why do a stool smear if it’s probably a tumor? But the vet wouldn’t give me any real answers, just more “could”s and “maybe”s.

Finally, *I* had to decide. I picked the stool exam, basing my decision on my own uneducated guess that worms was a likely culprit.

The vet did this, and found “a” parasite on the slide. Was this enough evidence that worms were causing my chicken’s ailments? The vet didn’t sound very convinced and kept suggesting that the x-rays “might” show us more. But once again, I had to make the decision, and I decided to take a conservative course, buy some deworming medication, and see how Miss Red did over the next few days.

In this situation, I think–I hope–I made the right choice. Miss Red is doing 300% better, eating a lot, clucking and pecking and scratching, and the diarrhea is gone. But it bothers me that the vet offered so many expensive treatment options without any real guidance or evidence to indicate that the treatment was necessary.

Maybe the world of avian veterinary care is just really different from that of cat/dog veterinary care? Or maybe I need to find a different vet.

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7 Comments

  1. November 7, 2009 at 1:45 am

    This sounds a lot like a vet we used to go. They did the same thing, a bunch of options and no real suggestion which one to take. I hope things settle down and you find a vet who works out better for you!

    BTW, does Bawk Bawk go around armed with a funny-looking ray gun? 🙂

  2. 12dogsblog said,

    December 23, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    At least they treat your chickens.

    We had a chicken who’s toe got stuck in a door. These were my young son’s pet chickens so off we go to vet. Me, my son, and the hen bleeding on one of my inside towels. After showing the receptionist the chicken and explaining what happened, the receptionist disappears into one of the exam rooms and then comes back saying that they don’t treat avians.
    To which my son, on the verge of tears, says, “You aren’t going to help Lucky?”

    I can still hear that vet telling me, “I am NOT a chicken doctor. I am ONLY doing this because it’s your son’s pet.”

    This vet is a great guy. Funny. As soon as he peeped out and saw my son he gave this chicken all his attention including having my son help him fix it’s toe. We only saw him once more about chickens when his Vet Intern told us how to treat the baby chicks. His response was that she was about to get married to a great guy with big buck and he guessed this was the last day of practicing country medicine. Apparently she was headed for a luxury vet practice.

    We’ve been lucky when it’s come to medical care for our chickens. We got straight answers and the right advice but since our vet has retired? It’s not been easy…

    You can get pretty good advice for chickens from the feed stores and from the County Extension folks. You might check the vet school if there’s one close by. They might even help with the surgery.

  3. 12dogsblog said,

    December 23, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    ack ack ack not “…who’s…”

    sigh

    was in a hurry and didn’t proof read

    ack.

  4. daisydog said,

    January 6, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    I am sorry I missed these posts!! I didn’t realize you were still posting on this space. Any way my 2 cents. I had a vet who I used to take my rats to, she was considered an “exotic” vet. We became friends and she would come over for dinner quite often. We had frank discussions on vet care and things. I was fascinated. Anyhow the jist of all this is that she hated treating birds. She said that most of them by the time they exhibit severe symptoms they were almost beyond saving (espcially exotics like parrots etc). I respected her knowledge, but it also made me realize that sometimes they just do the best they can. That being said I think a “livestock” vet (there is a name for them) might have more experience with cchickens and the like. If there is one near you it might be worth trying to pick his/her brain. BTW I spent alot of money on pet rats…..

    • sleigh911 said,

      March 6, 2010 at 9:12 pm

      We were trying to catch some domestic-gone-ferrel chickens so we didn’t have to wait around for them to mature, but I’m having second thoughts!! We probably could get a livestock vet here, but I didn’t really plan on the chickens needing extensive veternary care… Thanks for providing eggs, err, food for thought!

      • March 7, 2010 at 12:03 pm

        The feral hens that I integrated into the flock are actually doing very well. They’re the hardiest of the bunch, and the most reliable layers too. They’re just not very cuddly, and they’re a bit more work to keep in our yard (they’re used to flying over fences and roaming in a wider area, so we have to trim their wings, whereas the other hens are fine staying in the yard). On a farm, they’d probably do fine with a few weeks of initial confinement. Even a feral rooster would be a great guy to have, assuming you don’t have neighbors who hate crowing roosters. They are beautiful and tough and loud. All of the feral roosters I caught went to farms to be flock guardians.

        As for the vet–well–part of my problem seems to be that I keep taking in defective chickens. Also, I’m a novice at the whole thing, so I consult with the vet whenever a chicken gets sick (I don’t yet know how to treat symptoms or diagnose common diseases). And, I treat my chickens like pets, whereas most people treat them like disposable critters (i.e. dinner) as soon as they become more hassle than they’re worth. Plus, there are no cheap chicken vets around here. All of this adds up to big vet bills. I expect the bills to drop off significantly as I get more experienced with chicken keeping.

  5. Lynne said,

    June 12, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I am in the Uk and also have a chook with sour crop (Yeast infection) on nystatin and baytril, I had to tell the vet what the problem was and what meds were needed!!! and ask for a tube for the syringe so I didnt drown the poor thing. I’ve just administered her first dose, what a performance and i am sure some went in her lungs anyway. She was rattly for a time afterwards and I thought I’d killed her, she went “dead” for a minute. I had to tap her a bit to bring her round. I’m scared stiff to do it again. Must be a better way of administering these meds…any ideas. PS I gave her yoghurt but she don’t care for it that much.


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