Posts Tagged With: chickens

Broody McBrooderton

Really??? So on the heels of the mite/lice problem we figured out that one of our hens was uber-broody (she wouldn’t budge from the nesting box, as noted in the mite post). What else could go wrong with our little hen family? Ugh. We let it go on for two months, mainly cuz we had no idea what was up with her until about one month into it. Once we figured it out, we began the process of trying to break her but to no avail. We constantly kicked her out of the nesting box, taking the eggs with us. We banned her from the coop. We kept her in a wire cage (terrible!) for a few days but this girl was DEE-TER-MINED. We finally gave up and went to our local feed store totally exasperated with this whole “raising chickens thing” (AGAIN) and sought advice. Little did the clerk know I had already determined what we needed to do but was secretly hoping for another alternative. Oh, sure, it exists but it involves chopping the hen’s head off. Not an option. What was the dreaded alternative, you ask? Buying a very young chick (or two) and stuffing it under Broody McBrooderton at night after she was asleep. In the morning when she awoke, she would think Chicken Santa had been there making her broody dreams come true. Of course, there was a chance she would reject the chicks (i.e., kill and dismember one of them or both) but what choice did we have? I left the feed store with a cardboard box, two peeping four-day old chicks (Barred Plymouth Rocks, I’ll explain) inside, after being assured that the odds of one of them being a rooster was only 5-10%. Remember this…

Why Barred Plymouth Rocks? Mama is a Cuckoo Maran, feed store didn’t have Cuckoo Marans, so they suggested I go with a breed that had similar colors, voila – Barred Plymouth Rocks.

The first day or two after Chick Christmas was a little stressful. Mama was a bit unsure of what was going on and another hen attacked one of the chicks. No, I’m not making this up but I do wish I was. This led to an entire drama of segregating the coop to separate mama and chicks from the rest of the flock, as well as the little chick limping around for a few days. Then it involved separating the chicken run. I admit I’m really questioning at this point whether this is worth all the trouble. I can buy eggs at the Sunday farmers’ market for $4.50 a dozen.

Here are some pics of how I segregated the coop and run, as well as one of the chicks upon their arrival at their new home:

Coop and run segregation complete, relief settles in, mama is doing great with her brood. I have two days of peace then one of the other hens is attacked by a hawk. Really, Universe?? Those $4.50 Sunday Special eggs are looking even better at this point. See “Hawk Attack!” post for more chicken drama!

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Chickens Can Get Lice?!?

Note: I’m playing a bit of catch-up. Disregard the posting date and know that the lice arrived immediately after the mites. Good times! Yes, poultry can get lice. I thought only elementary school children were prone to these yucky little bugs, but once again nature threw me, the novice chicken keeper, a major curve ball. And yes, this happened right as we were resolving the mite problem.

Remember the hen I mentioned in the mite post that wouldn’t budge out of the nest box? Well, turns out she was having another issue that I will cover after I tackle this lice post. I noticed when checking near her vent for mites there were also larger bugs, a gross yellow-brown color, hovering there—LICE. Since we were already treating for mites I thought the DE would work on the lice. As we resolved the mite issue, the lice refused to abate no matter how often we dusted her with DE. We tried for a couple of weeks but to no avail.

Notes re: lice: They are not blood-suckers like mites. They dine on dried skin, feathers and scabs on the bird, but they will ingest blood if it’s available from irritated skin. Lice spend their entire lives on the host bird, which is good news in that they don’t invade the coop. You will find them on the skin and they deposit their eggs on the base of the feathers—gross. More good news: they are host-specific which means they won’t jump to humans.

Usually, if one hen has lice the chances are good that others will as well. If you find lice on one, be sure to check all of your birds. Chickens will get pretty annoyed with them if they get bad enough, so watch your birds for excessive preening as that can be a cue.

So what did I do? Bought m’self some Poultry Protector, an all-natural spray to rid birds of these foul little creatures, among others. The active ingredient is citric acid, so you can apply it directly to your birds. It works REALLY well, we found. A few applications to the affected areas and within about two weeks they were gone. The hens were so happy!

As with mites, lice seem to be a cyclical problem so be sure to check your flock often for any critters. Pale combs and wattles can be a sign of pests, FYI.

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Chickens Sneeze?!

Here’s the first bump in the road of my chicken adventure. Within the first couple of weeks of having the hens, one started sneezing. Yes, sneezing! I suppose it makes sense, I suppose all critters sneeze, but a chicken sneezing just seemed strange. The gal at our local feed store (a different feed store than the one we bought the hens from), we’ll call her Lori, is a chicken pro and suggested we give all the hens an antibiotic because poultry illnesses can be very contagious, thus we gave the girls a water-soluble antibiotic for a week. They weren’t laying yet which was good since you can’t eat the eggs when they are on the meds, and when they are off the meds you have to wait weeks or a month before you can eat them. Lo and behold, we got our first egg just days after we started dosing their water. Naturally. Then another started to lay the next day, and then we had three laying then all did except for our Ancona. Aside: for a while we thought she was a rooster since it took her months to finally start laying, and since she has an insanely large comb. See what I mean? Update 10/3/12: her comb is STILL growing. It’s even bigger now, and it gets purplish on the tips because the blood can’t get all the way up there! Haha! Kinda funny.

After we completed the antibiotic cycle, the sick hen seemed to get better then she regressed a week or two later with the same symptoms. We took her to the vet this time and ended up having to give her antibiotics orally (??!?!) for a week. Ever given a chicken a pill? They REALLY don’t like it. Again, there was slight improvement then she regressed. Lori said the sneezing could just be a habit now so we quit worrying. She was laying, eating and drinking so we figured she must be fine. Then one day, about two months after the whole thing started, she came stumbling out of the coop, dragging a wing and foot so we thought she had a stroke (can chickens have strokes??). Lori broke the news to us that the hen would only get worse with her condition leading to full paralysis. After some discussion and additional research, we decided the best thing to do would be to put her down. Everyone agreed that the quickest, most humane option was to break her neck, so that’s what we did. My husband being the stellar guy he is took care of it despite my offer to help (I really didn’t want to). I’m okay with that being “the man’s job.” So that was our first trauma. A bit hard to take, but since we plan to have chickens for many years to come, we figured it was something we would have to get used to.

The moral of the story is: be sure, absolutely certain, that when you purchase chicks they are from a reputable hatchery/feed store, and have been given all the recommended vaccinations (they are usually listed in the hatchery catalog). Of course, our sick hen’s condition could have been genetic but we’ll never know. It’s best to take as many precautions as possible, especially if you are introducing new hens/pullets into your existing flock.

What happened next? Chicken mites. I already posted about that; see below.

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