Wednesday, January 21, 2009

No bugs allowed!

Sorry for not writing lately, I hope I have not offended my two readers. Also I know it would be more interesting if I put up more pictures and I am on that as soon as I replace my batteries in my camera, (note to self, get batteries).

Today I will blog about a health issue I had with one of my girls in case it may help someone else. I noticed one of my hens (Delia, she is actually on the profile pic) becoming weak and not eating a lot, she would often sleep in a nest during the day for warmth. I really panicked the night I found her lying by the heat lamp in stead of being on the perch with the others, since one chicken does mostly what all the others do, a lone chicken is a warning sign. The next day she was still in that spot and had not moved to go lay her egg, the egg also did not have a shell on it. Delia was always kind of lazy but I knew this was not normal and that she was really sick. Delia is also one of my best layers out of the first four red sex-links.

I picked her up to examine her. There was blood on her bum and I noticed she lost a lot of feathers in her bum and vent area. While looking her over I saw lice crawling on her. I have seen them before so I knew what they were. On chickens they are a straw colour or an almost see through light brown. Like tiny tiny ants crawling on the bird's skin. Looking closer I saw she had also lost a lot of feathers on her under belly. It will look different from molting as the feather are not growing back and there will be blood spots or tiny red bumps. No wonder the poor girl was always so cold.

I was upset as this never happened when I had hens before, plus I pride myself on keeping the chicken coop very clean. I later learned that this is common in winter and she probably came with them but they are now a problem because the chickens can not dust themselves as often. Thinking back, I had started to notice that the girls seemed a bit restless and often seemed itchy. I also learned that chickens with their beaks trimmed have a greater chance of being infested by lice, as they can not preen their feathers properly. Delia had her beak trimmed before I bought her, as did all the reds.

I called many different vets around here but there is little support for chickens in this area and none would help. A woman at one of the offices came on the phone with me and told me of a place to buy products for livestock. I went and all I could get was a powder that is suppose to work for all farm animals against different types of lice. I was not too happy about this as I was afraid it might not work all that well but something was better than nothing.

That night when Chico and the girls were on the perch, I went in to dust everyone. I must have looked like a space monster to them with a dust mask and goggles on, I spoke to them and then they were fine. I worn rubber gloves and rubbed the powder into their feathers, some liked it and some did not. I rubbed a lot onto their bums and tummies where the pests are suppose to like hiding.

Two days later Delia was running around again, still a bit weak but much better than the night she was lying on the floor. Four days later I checked her over again and there was no sign of bugs. I will have to dust them again every ten days until the power runs out as lice eggs are not affected by any products, so they will hatch out and you have to kill the next generation before it starts to lay. Still I feel so bad for my girls that these things got at them, I was so worried about big things like foxes and raccoons that I almost lost one to something small.


John Gray said...

nice to see another chicken fan!
oh and a turkey fan too!!!

nobody-but-us-chickens said...

Thanks John, chickens/bantams are my favorite but I like ducks and turkeys also, just at the moment I only have room for the chickens.
I have been checking out your pictures, nice flock you have there, I'll be back.

Don said...

Ugh! bugs!
I am sure everyone who has poultry will eventually run into your problem. One way I have battled with bugs, so far this winter, is to allow the chickens out into the main part of the barn basement where there is a pile of dirt. I sprinkle the dusting powder onto the dirt and then they take their glorious dust baths with the bug fighting stuff.

I like this, because I don't have the stuff in the coop itself in as heavy a concentrate. Oh well, it seems to be working.

You have an interesting blog. I agree, get that camera going!!

nobody-but-us-chickens said...

Thanks for the comment Don. I think a big part of the her getting lice was that we have had so much snow and extreme cold weather, the girls have not been able to go out since November to dust themselves. I'm thinking of placing in a big tub of sand for them to dust themselves in at least once a week. I hated having to use the powder but I had no other choice.

Cottage Rose said...

It`s an ongoing battle, I find the wild birds here bring the lice in.

I also lightly dust their laying boxes.

nobody-but-us-chickens said...

Hello Rose. Thank you for the suggestion, I do put it in the next boxes and I will try to get them a dust bath with the powder in it as well. I think I have a handle on the little pests but I will certainly keep my eye out.

I was wondering about the wild birds, there are even wild ducks that come only a few feet from the coop.