So here is a bit of a story but I swear it has a point at the end!
So a little background on myself:
- I'm a new permie
- I've been raising poultry for only 3 years
- I raise both broilers and layers.
- I have no farming background.
- I'm self taught.
- I have a background in biochemistry
- I use non-traditional methods to raise my flocks
Recently (a week ago) I had one of my broilers die. She was about 5 weeks old and I found her just sitting by her waterer, not moving much, not eating, just drinking like crazy. No previous signs of illness (Maybe some diarrhea). I have a flock of 75 so it's difficult to figure out if a dropping is abnormal and if so what animal it might belong too if the illness was not presenting in any other way. I thought that maybe some of the others might have been huddling because they where sick ... turns out they where just cold.
I freaked! I thought it was going to be a crazy viral illness that would take out my flock, my little business would crash and burn, and it was all my fault for being a terrible caretaker. I called all vets in my area (so like 2 because I'm relatively rural) and was waiting to hear back from them while I frantically researched ways to mitigate the spread of disease. By this time she had passed. No one was able to give straight answer (not surprising via phone diagnostics) and no one seemed to have much experience in poultry. I had to send my bird off for analysis on the other side of the province and I'm waiting for results. On the plus side there is an excellent program that allows flock owners to do this for relatively cheap: $25+shipping for a full necropsy. I'm still waiting to hear back about the results but I'm pretty sure I figured it out a day later when I found paintballs in their run (another story...) and found out that if an animal were to eat them they could cause severe dehydration.
Today, on this beautiful autumn day I decided to take a break and sleep in; this meant that my boyfriend let the chickens out and fed them this morning. After my leisurely morning I went to collect the eggs and to my horror I found a hen lying dead under her perch. No previous signs of illness, no questionable droppings to be found, no sign of distress/attack... just dead. My backyard flock has been so happy and healthy I could not reason what it could be. I had already sent one bird away for analysis so I could not longer use the same program I had before (limited to one submission per year), so I decided to put on my 'big girl panties' and do my own necropsy. Just one problem... I didn't know how to do one.
I googled it and found the resources I will include below. I used whatever little information I had plus my basic knowledge (suuuuper basic) of dissection and chicken anatomy.
To my surprise I was able to figure it out pretty fast - yolk peritonitis is pretty easy to spot. It wasn't pretty but I did it. It could still be something else but I can now feel pretty assured that a disease isn't about to rip through my flock and that I'm a terrible chicken mamma. Still learning, but not terrible.
So the moral of my story is:
To ward off my anxiety induced freak outs, save time and money, as well as feel like I'm an actual professional in my business endeavours, I'd like to become more educated about poultry health and wellness. I think that an important tool in that tool box is the ability to identify health problems and disease post mortem as well as have a solid foundation of the understanding of chicken anatomy beyond just the basics.
Does anyone have any resources in this area that they would like to share? I love books myself and would love any recommendations. I found one YouTube video on anatomy and a necropsy but the audio keep cutting out. I know there would be a huge field on the identification of poultry diseases and health problems but being able to have video resources to identify the basics on your own would be HUGE to me (and I bet others).