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Category Archives: Chickens

I don’t want to talk about it.

I don’t want to talk about it.

By Lauren

No really, I don’t want to talk about it. Just the thought sends the feeling of creepy crawly bugs all over my skin and I want to run screaming  tearing cloths off as I go.  But, this approach helps no one, least of all my chickens. While this all might sound like I’ve lost my marbles, I promise I have not.  Our topic today is chicken mites.

As my 4yr old would say “DUN DUN DAAAAA!!!”

So this is my first experience with parasites personally, which is really a miracle considering how long I have been keeping chickens, AND considering I let my chickens truly free range. Lots of nasty bugs can be picked up from wild birds including the avian bird flu. I do believe that these little nasties were picked up in the wild as my two best foragers were the most infested.  But, Trista has had a go with chicken lice, and after my research on mites I would take the lice any day.  At least the lice are species specific. That means they can only live on chickens.  Mites are less species specific.  Meaning they are happy to dine on any blood that comes their way.  HOWEVER, did you know bedbugs can infest your chicken house? That sent cold shivers down my spine and I had hysterical thoughts of burning the chicken house down.

SO, I walked into the chicken house ready to fill their water.  I have a big waterer that the top screws off of and you pour in the water, so that is what I was about to do. And then something tickled my arm and I looked down and there were a ton of little tiny tiny bugs crawling on me and my shirt!  Needless to say, that shirt didn’t last long and I stomped on it just for good measure.  Then, I called Trista. In the midst of my rant/hysterics she had the nerve to tell me to calm down. Apparently I had done something similar when she was in the throws of lice madness.  I am so sorry Trista, I promise to never give such inappropriate advice ever again.

Ok so after I did calm down I really needed to figure out what the heck I was dealing with.  I went in armed with my phone for documentation purposes. IT WAS SO GROSS!!! There were so many of them! I took as many pictures as I could stand and then ran for my DE.

The scene of the crime.

The scene of the crime.

Is your skin crawling yet?

Is your skin crawling yet?

They were VERY small.

They were VERY small.

DE is Diatomaceous Earth, according to Wikipedia is:

Diatomaceous earth /ˌd.ətəˌmʃəs ˈɜrθ/, also known as D.E.diatomite, or kieselgur/kieselguhr, is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. It has a particle size ranging from less than 3 micrometres to more than 1 millimetre, but typically 10 to 200 micrometres. Depending on the granularity, this powder can have an abrasive feel, similar to pumice powder, and has a low density as a result of its high porosity. The typical chemical composition of oven-dried diatomaceous earth is 80 to 90% silica, with 2 to 4% alumina (attributed mostly to clay minerals) and 0.5 to 2% iron oxide.[1]

Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It is used as a filtrationaid, mild abrasive in products including metal polishes and toothpaste, mechanical insecticideabsorbent for liquids, matting agent for coatings, reinforcing filler in plastics and rubber, anti-block in plastic films, porous support for chemical catalysts, cat litter, activator in blood clotting studies, a stabilizing component of dynamite, and a thermal insulator.

Lots of people use DE as a dewormer, because it is essentially tiny shards of sharp silica, it scores the bodies of soft insects, effectively dehydrating them to death.  Its very safe and quite effective. It’s my go to insecticide in the garden.  Back to the chickens, I coated the inside of the chicken house with DE and then went and tried to figure out what kind of bug I had going.  I went to the house and striped off my clothes and washed them with about 5 drops each of thyme, rosemary, sage and lavender to kill the bugs. Then I hit the computer.  I had pictures of them but it was only so helpful, they were SO TINY!

Just a bit of perspective on how small they were.

Just a bit of perspective on how small they were.

BLAHW!!!

BLAHW!!!

After a few terrifying moments of the possibility that they could be bed bugs, I settled on the Northern Fowl Mite.  Honestly I breathed a sigh of relief because the bed bug possibility was so much worse, I had visions of burning mattresses, clothes and hopefully the bed bugs with them.  I also believe I caught this infestation early.  I think there were only nymphs out there.  I had already used my DE, after reading about the mite, I decided to go to town for poultry dust. It has an insecticide in it, (…) and it is very effective.  The use of the insecticide was because mites are quite happy to live on people or chickens.  I just didn’t have time to switch out clothes every single time I needed to visit the chickens and the kids are really less than reliable.  Mites also live for about 5 days but can lay thousands of eggs in that time. Go here Mite Info to learn more.

I went to visit the chickens that night (I did it at night so I knew I had everyone and the chickens are much calmer if you do it at night) and dusted everyone, (don’t forget your dust mask) and so far we have had a clean bill of health.

Phew!!

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2015 in Chickens, Chicks

 

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Adventures In Incubation Continue

By Lauren

Oh where to begin!

Since my last post on the dismal hatch of seven chicks out of three dozen eggs, and purchase of new incubator, things have not gone as smoothly as I had anticipated. The next batch was very encouraging with 16 chicks out of the thirty-two that went into the incubator.  However that was still only around 50% and while a vast improvement not nearly the percentage that I was hoping for.  Neither was it enough chickens for just Trista and I’s needs for the winter.  I am renovating a shed into a bigger chicken house so in order to help keep it warm this winter I need some extra bodies.  Trista is ready to cull a few of her chickens and also needs bodies for the winter.  So, the “bator” got loaded once again and the wait began.  I somehow became busy with life, (no idea how THAT happened) and neglected to candle at week one. Assuming things were progressing smoothly, lockdown came along and I thought I should check and see if there were any duds in this batch.

THEY WERE ALL EMPTY!!!!!!!!

This is in the new incubator, with near perfect temperature and humidity.

WHAT ELSE COULD HAVE POSSIBLY HAVE GONE WRONG???????

Well as the process of elimination moved further up the line of possibility, we come to roosters.  I have been doing a bit of reading on what can go wrong in the fertility world and there are many variables.

For example

Has there been any illness in the rooster or the hens past.

How many hens does your rooster have to cover? Does he have to many?

Are the chickens nutritional needs being met?

Are your chickens back ends overly fat?

Have you trimmed the feathers around the vents of both rooster and hens? (Yes this can make all the difference.)

How have the eggs been handled prior to incubation.

The list could go on, as you can see its not just a matter of sticking a rooster in with hens. Although that had been my general impression. I have since learned a great deal and at this point I do believe I just have a “Dud” rooster! So, while he is pretty and does his job of protecting and herding the hens around really well, and leaves the humans alone (the youngest kiddo is not hell bent on killing him as he tends to be the one hunted by roosters around here on account of his short stature) the buff rooster will not be coming through the winter with us.  I do hope he enjoys his last summer!

This all brings us to today, and I am so please to tell you that I acquired some hatching eggs from a friend and we had a really great hatch. I put forty in, and candled at week one. I only had to take out two eggs. (Its pretty normal to have to remove a few that have not begun to develop.) SO out of thirty-eight eggs we hatched thirty-five!!!!! THATS 92% HATCH RATE!!!!! Can you tell I was pretty tickled with the outcome of this hatch?

An Americana cross chick

An Americana cross chick

The cuteness is almost to much to handle!

The cuteness is almost to much to handle!

Those cheeks!!!

Those cheeks!!!

Just look at all those FUFFY BUTTS!

Just look at all those FUFFY BUTTS!

I have really learned a lot  about all of this incubation business and am most certainly addicted.  Can’t wait so see what the future will bring!

Lauren

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Chickens, Chicks

 

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Sour Crop 

By Trista
Last night while doing my nightly Chicken chores. My hubby points out a hen looking “not normal”.  She had an enormous crop and not just crop her whole chest was completely swollen.  Now, the hen seemed unfazed as she was still engaging in a vigorous round of tug a war with another hen over some “chicken scrapes” I had put out.  As I made my way over to the “abnormal” hen, I could actually smell her before I could reach her.  It was foul! I picked her up by her legs and a brown, incredibly nasty, liquid started to run from her beak.  The liquid smelled worse than she did, if at all possible.  I have never seen such a condition in chickens before and I had no clue if it was some contagious disease.  So being as my chickens are for the purpose of egg production and meat, I felt that the nasty smelling critter had best be culled!  I will spare you of those nasty details as it was was not a pretty sight!
After cleaning up and coming back inside, I did what I usually do in these situations; I called Lauren.  She too was stumped. So I did some research,  and this is where I found sour crop!  It is described as,
“A chicken having a large squishy balloon like crop, where a blockage of some kind has caused a build-up of food and fluid that starts to ferment and fungus can start to from.  You may smell or hear gases escaping the chicken. ”   (They are not kidding)
The cause of Sour Crop can be improper emptying of the crop,  recent antibiotic use, a fungal infection or worms.
Treatment can be very difficult as it is usually fatal. Although caught soon enough antibiotics can work if the underlying cause is addressed.
Unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight to come grab a camera to better document the situation, but I will tell you it is quite unmistakable…the smell will give it away.
-Trista
 
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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Chickens

 

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Spring Is In The Air

by Lauren

Well, this is more of a failure story than anything else, but they finally hatched!

What? How is hatched chicks a failure you ask? Well this is the first three of a total of seven. Now had I been hatching a dozen I would have said ok, not bad. But there were THREE DOZEN EGGS IN THERE! To say I was miffed was a radical understatement. This is the third batch of eggs I have put through the incubator that I inherited from my mom. At first glance it looks like quite a technical unit. But the problems with it are many.

First batch major humidity problems. Chicks need a constant 60% humidity during incubation and higher through hatching. The reason being that a chick has to rotate inside their shell in order to hatch, and if the humidity is too low, the inner membrane will shrink and the chick will be unable to maneuver into hatch position. It also has to do with how easily they can pip and unzip their shells. Those are technical terms by the way.

Back to my problem. The incubator I have is a forced air and uninsulated. And here in the almost desert, in January, the air in the house is so dry I had a terrible time keeping the humidity up. My first batch we didn’t have a hydrometer. So I bought one at Home Hardware and started over. Well my house temperature goes up and down quite a lot according to the exterior temp. So when I came home one day and checked the eggs to see a temp of 44C I was disapointed. Ideal temp is 37.5C and 41C is lethal. So that batch was totally cooked. Literally.

Thinking I had the problem licked with further adjustment of the thermostat I tried again. This time a friend transported hatching eggs from Edmonton for me. Plymouth Barred Rocks. I had grand ideas of taking the best dozen of these hens, getting a Rhode Island Red rooster and making some Red Rocks. Great layers, big eggs, hardy breed. Until hatch time came along.

AND ONLY SEVEN HATCHED.  GRRR…

Well my patience has been tested with this incubator and I give up!! I am not fighting withe it anymore. Trista and I went together and bought a new one.

I am collecting eggs as we speak for a test batch. Then I will try again to see if I can find some fun breeds to hatch.

Wish me luck…..

Lauren

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Chickens, Chicks

 

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