Yesterday a friend came over and between us we culled thirty eight week old chickens.
I have hatched and grown on some birds for someone who wanted them as the nucleus of a flock to run alongside (well, after) his beef cattle, to clean parasites up from the pasture. And on Thursday, we saw that six off them were exhibiting the symptoms of mycoplasma, a respiratory complaint that kills a small percentage of birds and leaves others less prolific layers. Birds who have had symptoms are also carriers for life.
After speak to my Poultry Guru, I decided that they had to go - I couldn't in all honor pass them on to someone else.
It was not the most horrible afternoon I've ever spend, but it came quite close.
All the rest of the birds are on a five day course of antibiotics that will hopefully nip its spread in the bud. Apparently many small flocks have it at one time or another - it is endemic in the wild bird population and I have had a few cases before. But I think that this round of it came in with some stock I bought a few weeks ago.
I have been going over and over in my head what I could have done differently - hygiene, quarantine, etc.; but there's nothing I could have changed. Large producers vaccinate - it can be done in the shell when they are developing apparently. But the best small people can do is treat when you see symptoms and cull if they don't get better quickly.
I am never, ever buying birds in again - it will be hatching eggs only from now on and I'll make sure I dip those in sterilising solution before I put them in the incubator.
Tomorrow, we have told B's parents that we will be at a neutral venue near Chester if they want to see the children. We sent a card recorded delivery to them on Monday and have had no response. We are getting to the end of the road with it now - we will go along anyway and if they turn up, they turn up. And if not, not. At least we will be able to draw a line under it.
Now, I'm going to bed