This week has been a bit crazy. I returned to work after about three months off. One of the things I just roll with being a seasonal temp employee for the government. I love my job though, so it’s all worth it. I went from lazy mornings and telling the chickens they could stay in their coop until 9am even though Olivander has been crowing since before the sun came up, to actually having to be in a non-zombie state before 7:30am so I can be functioning at 8am like a normal grown-up. I do periodically have to keep reminding myself that I am a grown-up. I have no idea what that actually means or who even thought it was a state to attain, but apparently I’m there. While everything was a bit surreal back in the office, nothing really changed but a few folks retired yet at the same time it felt like I hadn’t actually left. I had planned to spend my Monday (President’s Day here in the U.S.) meal prepping and finishing up chores that I had procrastinated about since my layoff in December. My chickens had other ideas. Olivander was supposed to go his new home at noon. A few minutes before my friend was to arrive and get him, I went out to grab him from the flock and snuggle him (he loved it, don’t worry) and also do a good check over and make sure he’s healthy and no surprises…
SURPRISE!!! Chicken Lice. It was NOT what I had planned to find. I was manhandling Olivander’s beard. He’s an Ameraucana cross, so he’s got the cute fluffy cheeks and tuft beard. I felt hard bits in there and assumed he’d embedded some poop or mud and pine shavings in the fluff. You’d be surprised what chickens can work into their pretty fluffy plumage. Imagine my surprise when I decided to pull it out and realized that it was something much grosser than chicken poop. Believe me, poop is normal, this is not.
Worst thing, is that Olivander has been ready to go to his new home for months, but between weather and life and other grown-up (darn it!) things, he’s just been hanging with his girls. My friend arrived and I had to tell her the news that he had bugs. 😦 frowny face doesn’t even cover it. You do NOT want to pass off an infected bird to someone you want to remain on good terms with or to anyone if you care about the birds health at all. It can be passed from chicken to chicken and can be hard to eradicate. So, my friend showed me how to clip his wings (which needed done for her set up) and I got the jolly chore of dusting ALL 21 of my flock and the run AND cleaning the coop thoroughly. I still have things to finish cleaning up out there, BUT – a week in (give or take a couple days) and the bird are much happier. They seem to have appreciated the invasion of their feather space (seriously up close and personal to the poop zones) and their egg production increased even though it’s been crappy weather. They were much more resistant to the snuggles and dusting this time. I quite happily found NO creepy crawly lice or larva and the amount of eggs are decreasing. What may be making the biggest difference is that one of my other friends, I call her my Chicken Dealer, advised that I could also use cat flea/tick drops on the birds as well to help protect them. I just happened to have a few tubes left over from years ago from when my cats were more wild outdoors cats. One frosty morning this week I went out and got all 21 birds under each wing and a drop at the vent. None of us were thrilled, but it does seem to be paying off.
Moral of the story – especially in winter – do not ignore your chickens health. While I didn’t have 100% infection in the flock, I still had to treat them all based off the fact that it IS contagious. Just because Sesame or Heihei didn’t have any nits or bugs on the first examination, doesn’t mean that they couldn’t catch them. When working with diatomaceous earth (DE) please be sure to use a mask, it is dangerous to breath and be careful with how you dust the birds. If it’s not good for you to breath it, it’s not good for the birds to breath it. Be sure to thoroughly clean your coop before dusting. That means take out all bedding, all poop, all nest boxes. Straw is a nice home for a lot of poultry problems (mites, lice, etc) so if you use it be sure to use some DE. I use a spray in my coop that is a mix of water, vinegar, and grapefruit essential oil. It helps to keep things clean and deodorizes. I also used Poultry Protector by Mana Pro. I scraped everything out of the coop that I could and swept and then sprayed everything down. Now inside my coop is all wood. It was my mom’s playhouse that my grandpa built her when she was a child. Even the floor is wood. It doesn’t do well to hose it down, but were it summer and not amid winter weather warnings, I would have probably done so just to make sure I got it rinsed. But – being frosty, I did the best I could and after all the spraying was done with the essential oil mix and poultry protector, I did a good dusting with DE and then started to put everything back. Once I put the pine shavings into the nesting boxes I gave them a good dust with DE also. Neither you nor your chicken are going to enjoy this process, but in the end, you will have happy healthy birds. Within two days of treatment their egg production went up.
A lot of chicken keeping is trial and error I’m learning. My birds are my pets, silly in a way, I know. They are livestock, but they give me eggs and a few of them are affectionate.
Sweet Cheeks doesn’t have a current picture with me, but she hops up on my lap and puts her head on my arm so I can hug her, as long as my hand is tucked up under her wing. She’s my original lap chicken. Marian will jump into my lap before it is even in lap position. She’s quite the jumper. Alfreda is a “rescue” from a flock that wasn’t kind to her. Her original owners were happy to see her in a new loving home and while she growls (chicken growling is hilarious) she is settling in quite nicely and if she’s picked on too much, she comes running and gets on my lap to hid her head in my arms.
Fingers crossed, I have not lost any of my birds. I am hoping to keep that trend going as chick season is upon us and I get my first batch of new chicks from my local feed store this coming Friday! I’m so excited. I haven’t had the breed before (Golden Sexlink) and can’t wait to see their personalities and name them. Current names that I’m contemplating are Biscuit, Waffle, and Kebab. Until next time. 🙂