Long before I began blogging about the chickens, the gardens, and the bees, my career has been in medicine. Without a doubt, I draw on my experiences in medicine to care for my chickens. Yes, there is a difference between treating chickens and treating humans. However, many things do not change such as infection causing organisms, basic biological processes, wound care, and classes of medication to name a few. I wanted to do a post with some basic information that you might find helpful, specifically when a flock member becomes ill.
I checked my chickens over for mites this past weekend. Mites are nasty little things, almost microscopic to the eye, that can take both mental and physical tolls on your chickens. As the weather warms, these tiny little invaders will take every chance they can to steal a meal from your chickens. When I first learned of them, I realized that I did indeed have a few little mite families living in the corners of my coop! How dare they! I never saw them on my chickens but I sprang to action and have continued on a prevention schedule. I have not seen mites since!
Check your flock first. Mites like to hang out on the fluffy bottoms of chickens. You will most likely notice them at the base of the feathers closest to the skin. My chickens do not have mites, but I did find these two pictures on the internet. This is what to look for:
Chickens take dust baths to ward off pests and mites. However, sometimes they need a little help. I have chosen an organic method of prevention and treatment. I use organic food grade diatomaceous earth (DE). Carefully avoiding their eyes, I dust my birds under their wings and on their fluffy bottoms on a biweekly basis. I also dust the nooks and crannies of their coop with DE, and dust their perches and roosts inside too. Sometimes I even add it directly into their dust bath pot holes in the run.
If you find that your flock is already afflicted with mites, I would suggest treating each chicken with the DE and then thoroughly cleaning out the inside of your coop. The mites like to hide in corners and crevices. Mites wait until the chickens are sleeping and then climb up their legs and feed on their blood at night! Yuck! Lock your flock out of the coop after you treated each chicken. In a one gallon bucket create a soapy bleach solution by adding warm water, a couple of capfuls of bleach and a bit of Dawn dish detergent. Scour the inside of the coop and all of the roosts. If you can, remove the roosts and give them a good scrub. Allow the coop to air dry and then apply DE to every nook and crannies that you see. The Pest Pistol works great for this. Be sure to sprinkle some in the nesting boxes too.
Within a few days your chickens should be feeling better. Be sure to continue to inspect your flock on a weekly basis if possible. A little prevention goes a long way.
Well the flock will be one year old in June. We have survived our first Northeast Winter and we just just hatched our own eggs. I think it is now time that I write the final chapter in my guide to raising chickens. I’ve touched upon these topics now and then with some of the blogs over the past few months. For some of these topics, I am going to refer to previous posts as added references for you. I am by no means an expert in keeping chickens. I am also positive that I am not going to cover all the ins and outs of keeping backyard chickens. However, I do know what I have discovered along our journeys and I am happy to share them with you.
Well it has been seven month since we started raising chickens. I thought that I would share a few tips that I have learned along the way since raising chickens. They might make a difference in how you do things too.
1. Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 1 gallon of water that they drink. This helps to promote gastrointestinal and crop health.
2. Mix food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) into their feed. Approximately 2%. This helps to keep parasites down and also provides the chickens with extra vitamins and minerals. This also keeps pest from living in the chicken’s feeders and eating their food.
3. Buy a Pest Pistol from www.treatsforchickens.com. Fill it with DE and blast the nooks and crannies of your clean coop. This will keep down any mites or bugs that like to bother your chickens. You can also dust your chickens’ bottoms and under their wings too.
4. If your hen ends up with an egg stuck in her vent, gently coat the area with Vaseline and coax the egg out. If the egg breaks inside, then you will need to go to the vet. It can lead to egg peritonitis.
5. If your hen has a prolapsed vent (the inner portion of the vent is sticking out), treat it like a hemorrhoid. Put a mixture of Neosporin and Preparation H on it. Keep her in a warm dark place and limit her amount of food, not water, until the vent returns to normal.
6. In winter or a wet spring while cleaning the coop, toss the dirty shavings and straw from the coop into the run. This helps dry out wet areas and the chickens will turn it into compost very quickly for use in your garden.
I hope you enjoyed these tips. Do you have any to share?
Fashionistas, excellent housekeepers, nurturing to those in need; sounds like a resume that would please any of us.
Good housekeeping skills and keeping a tidy home with everything in it’s place: something that many of us strive to achieve. The other day, I cleaned out the coop and realized halfway through that I forgot to pick up more pine shavings. With other errands to run, I spread what I had in half of the coop and filled the nesting boxes with straw. I figured when I came back, I would add the rest of the shavings to the empty space in the coop. I left the chickens to their own devices for about an hour. Upon my return, I opened the coop to add in the extra shavings. Much to my surprise, the original shavings and straw had been spread out evenly upon the floor of the coop. Everything just seemed to be in place and I swear the chickens knew that. They were happy with their work and were now busy in the run scratching for their next finds.
Classic style is always in. When I think of timeless styles and fashion, classic items never seem to go out of style. The dress that Audrey Hepburn wears in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Jacqueline Kennedy, scarves, trench coats and a good suit all come to mind. The chickens are always a class act. They are the feathered world’s fashionistas. Like all birds, their feathers are always in style. Each one is unique in it’s coloring, shading, and pattern. Feathers are a work of art and when combined they make for classy sophisticated birds.
Cleanliness is next to godliness. My chickens LOVE to be clean. They enjoy a freshly cleaned coop, sparkling drinking water and a good dust bath. They also prefer to have a dry run as opposed to a wet soggy run after the rain. They do not like to be overly muddy or wet. My chickens also smell fabulous. Their smell reminds me of sweet hay and warm downy feathers. Their smell makes me feel good and comforted much like a child smelling their beloved blanket.
Good pest control is never overrated. Chickens hate bugs. Critters like red mites hide in the corners of their coop until night fall. While the chickens sleep, the mites crawl up their legs to feed on their blood. They can also get fleas, parasitic worms and all other sorts of nasties. The diatomaceous earth that I have mentioned so many times before on this blog is my pest control hero. Whether I put it in their feed, dust their coop or dust them, their comfort is my goal. Some experts even say that chickens will stop laying eggs if they are stressed out by bugs.
Be kind to those in need. Don’t always look out for yourself. The chickens truly do have a flock mentality. They all stick together. When they are free ranging during the day, they stay within audible and visual distance of one another. There is something said for safety in numbers. They share their food and water with one another. Once in a while, they will share treats. On cold evenings, they snuggle and huddle together for warmth. Togetherness is always better than being alone in the world.
Chickens have figured out the basics of a happy family and a happy home. Their happy home reveals love, friendship, camaraderie, partnership, shared meals and beautiful eggs. We are blessed to have this feathered family living right next door.
I had a terrific time on the West Coast and now I am finally home. I missed my family and those chickens. My husband, the chicken sitter, tells me that they all were good and he was able to take care of them without any problems. I think he actually might have even enjoyed it.
I got in really late and woke yesterday morning to a dusting of snow on the ground. Even though it was cold, I was excited to see my chickens! As usual, when I let them out there was a race through the door. They didn’t even seem to notice me. I was a little bit saddened. Maybe, they had forgotten me. No sooner had that thought entered my mind when Chocolate came over and gave a quick nuzzle. However, even he soon left for the scratch that I had just thrown into the run. Just like I always think my kids grow when I am gone, I swear my chickens grew too. Their combs are becoming a deeper shade of red as they enter adulthood and complete chicken puberty. Does this mean that as my chickens age, they too don’t need their mother as much? At least, they won’t ask me not to kiss them in front of their friends!
We are expecting rain for the next few days and since the chickens spend the majority of time inside the coop I wanted to tidy things up. So despite a fine drizzle in the afternoon, I cleaned the coop. To my surprise, I found no red mites at all. The food grade diatomaceous earth did the trick!
Today the chickens are 20 weeks old. This means eggs any day now. I added fresh straw to the nesting boxes and even added the nesting blend that I ordered in the mail. It smells so good, like aromatherapy for chickens. Who knew such a thing existed?
So, returning to this rainy, cold, soggy weather sure put a damper on the weather high that I was experiencing after returning from Southern California. However, I do have to say that despite the current nasty Cape Cod weather, my heart was warmed from seeing my families again, and that is something that no matter the place can only happen with them.
|A nice clean coop, hopefully mite free|
Well apparently I did! I cleaned out the coop yesterday. While scraping out the nooks and crannies, I saw two areas of red mites, about 20 in each spot. It took me a little while to recognize what they were. They were so tiny and microscopic. I could only tell they were mites because they were crawling. Apparently, mites like to hide out in the dark corners of the coops. At night when the chickens come in to roost, the mites crawl up the chickens’ legs and bite them. Aside from driving the chickens crazy, they made me go nuts.
Studies have shown chickens fed DE have an increase the amount of eggs, decreases the mortality rate, keeps mites away, helps to dry up droppings, helps with flies and decrease worm loads in the GI tract. It also found that hens fed DE in their diets laid eggs with more albumin and yolk . I also love that my hens are getting the valuable trace minerals. In the feed, it keeps insects from spoiling the feed too.
In the newly cleaned coop I sprinkle it into the corners, edges, in the nesting boxes and onto the floor prior to adding a fresh new layer of bedding. We never have had a pest problem inside the coop and we live in a very wooded area! This product as been a terrific addition to my backyard chicken experience. I love that something easy and natural is so beneficial.
As a word of precaution, DE should only be used in well ventilated areas and should be avoided getting it into your eyes, nose and throat. As you research DE, you will surely come across literature that discusses the health risks associated with accidental inhalation. The condition is called Silicosis. Silicosis is a medical condition of the lung that occurs with regular repeated inhalation over a period of many years. Silicosis can also be caused from the use of sand (silica dust) in the coop and run. So please take precautions when using sand or DE.
Update 6/11/2013: Please click here to read an article that I wrote for Community Chickens on DE- chock full of even more information, including precautions that you should take if using DE with your flock.
Poult Sci. 2011 Jul;90(7):1416-26. doi: 10.3382/ps.2010-01256.
Effect of diatomaceous earth on parasite load, egg production, and egg quality of free-range organic laying hens. Bennett DC1, Yee A, Rhee YJ, Cheng KM.
RESULTS OF THE USE OF CODEX FOOD-GRADE DIATOMACEOUS EARTH WITH POULTRY, C.S. Mangen, DVM, San Diego, California