It's been 40 days since we got our chicks, and we are having an epidemic. The chicks have gotten some sort of upper respiratory infection. They get puffed up, lethargic, and lose their appetite. It appears to slowly be affecting most of the flock. One chick has died, several more are very sick. A few chicks seemed to not be well early on shortly after we got them, and we moved them inside to the infirmary in the house and paid special attention to them, hand feeding and watering them, and soon they appeared to get better.
Then they got sick again when they were outside in the chicken coop. At first it was just one sick chick, then suddenly two weren't normal, and we were worried. Then overnight six got sick... Time to panic! We called a thousand vets, it's tough to find a vet who deals with chickens. And of course this happens on a Sunday, and right before Thanksgiving, too... We continue to hand water the sick chicks with an eye dropper. They have lost their appetite, and we can't force them to eat...
The local feed store sold us some antibiotics and some antibacterial solution, too. We started with the antibiotics in their water; maybe later we'll do the antibacterial solution, but not now. Today we gave all chicks a good dose of antibiotic water from a dropper, even those who appear to be healthy. Some of the healthy chicks loved drinking from an eye dropper - we just had to hold it in front of them and they gobbled the water. Several of them drank the medicine-water heartily from a mug which we set on the ground. The sick ones we had to force them to drink. Poor birds. The guinea keets are all fine, as are the two biggest chicks. The infection affects the small and weakest birds first.
We did finally speak to a local vet who deals with livestock, including chickens. He told us upper respiratory infections are common if we bought from folks who may have had an infected flock. We didn't know the people from whom we bought the chicks - they came from an auction. He said the mother hen we bought could have been a carrier of the infection, even though she appears to be healthy. The vet confirmed we are doing everything right - medicating the birds, keeping them warm, all we can do is wait and hope the chicks get healthy again. He did say the chickens would be strong and resistant when they got better from this infection.
Who knew raising chicks was so much work?!