There’s a time in each year
That we always hold dear,
Good old summer time…(Tin Pan Alley, 1902)
Time flies in the summer and so do other things. Bugs that take wing are an old timey scourge and an irritation that still plagues us today. Memories of warm days, picnics and the nectar of dripping sun scented peaches and raspberry lemonade…wait, why are the raisins moving around the carrot cake? Flies are dirty and they spread disease they are BAD for poultry and BAD for us. Despite some Internet claims, chickens do not eat flies they eat the larvae but not the flies. The key is to PREVENT flies from finding your home a great place to eat out. So get rid of all that poop. No poop = no flies.
But the birds keep producing the stuff. Keep cleaning twice a day and do not allow any poop to build up. If you have a dirt run, get the tiller out and turn it over.
Throw pine needle (never straw it carries molds and fungus) mulch in the run. You can usually get this for free. The pine trees don’t charge and they don’t complain if you rake up some of the needles they were throwing away anyway. The mulch should be a few inches deep and you will be surprised at how great the run looks. I would not mulch with commercial dyed bark mulch. It is not made to be used with livestock.
Fly Trap and Repellent
Take a soda/water bottle and cut off the top maybe 3 inches down – doesn’t really matter, do what makes you happy. Take the lid and invert it back into the base. Fill the bottom with any sugary solution, just enough to attract the flies. The flies get in and they can’t get out. The birds can’t get in either, but set the fly trap where they will not fiddle with it. You know chickens.
Soak the peels of lemons and oranges (or lemongrass stalks) in ¼ cup of vodka. This takes at least a day of soaking you can put it in the sun to get things going. Pour it into a spray bottle and fill with clean water. You can adjust the strength. It’s safe. Its lemon and orange, you can’t mess it up.
Lemon peel fly repellent/cleaner: Boil the peels of 2 lemons in enough water to cover. Add 2 cups water and the lemon juice from the lemons. When cooled, this is your cleaning solution. The coop will smell delightful to you, but not to the flies.
Using lemons as a disinfectant is an old-fashioned solution, but science is a persnickety practice and every Joe has to run tests on when, how much, what concentration, what day of the week, the time of day the lemon’s name, etc. So, I like to clean my coop with Oxine and use the lemon juice as a fly repellent…covers all bases. Heck, find a cleaner you like just don’t use the store brands that are made for house cleaning. Use those made for livestock areas.
Also, don’t count out sticky fly strips. We all know these delightful streamers. They are cheap and gosh darn it they work.
Gross. Mites, lice, ewww. Check birds for these little buddies. Often, wild birds will be your infestation source. Your fowl will take a dust bath and then the sparrows will too in the same hole. Bingo lice. Keep an eye on swallow nests in barns as these cute bug-eaters are also bug wearers (a friend had to rescue a swallow chick that was covered in mites). Remove empty wild bird nests and dust the area with livestock permethrin powder. Every so often check around your birds’ vent (also muffs and crests) area for eggs and bugs (great pictures of what to look for here). Obviously do not use some old timey strategies here – no toxic kerosene and NO torching barn corners. Tragic fires have occurred because of this “method.”
Do you ever play with your birds and then feel itchy? You guessed it lice or mites. They won’t bother you so stop fussing…scritch scritch. Use Poultry Protector in combination with a livestock dust. The Poultry Protector works great AND it kills the eggs. If you are organic, then use the Poultry Protector only (however, it is a contact killer, so you need to repeat the spraying a lot), unfortunately any bug that survives the spritzing by hiding will emerge to live and breed. I’ve also heard folks tout the success of clean, non-toxic (no paint, chemicals etc), cooled wood ash dusted on the birds’ vents and tossed into dusting areas.
If your birds are feeling Hot Hot Hot and they are not music fans, it is hot out. Provide shade, fans, AC, whatever. Spray down the barn roof and the pen. Get a thermometer to check barn/coop temps – you may be surprised. Heat stress is deadly. Provide dusting areas and wet them down. Ranging birds will naturally seek out cool places to do their work, so they are at less of a risk.
- Cold/cool fresh water at all times. Put buckets in the coop and out yes, birds are that lazy. Roosters may not drink enough if they do not have easy access to water. They are working all day and can become dehydrated while tending their flock.
- Clean water bowls daily. Scrub them. Leave in the sun to dry every few days sun is a disinfectant. Scientists agree with this, it really is.
- Avoid heat foods. Limit corn, bread, sunflower seeds. Those are winter foods. Watch that the birds don’t get too fat as well. Weigh the birds and feel for excess fat around the keel and back they just feel chunky. Ask a poultry person if you are in doubt. Treats are the main cause of weight gain (surprise). Chunky birds are hot birds and they are more susceptible to egg binding and internal laying.
As our cockerels mature, some breeds bulk up enough to cause feather loss to the backs of hens. The feathers get pulled out as the rooster tries to get a foothold on the slippery back of the hen. This is a serious welfare issue and not something to gloss over. Hens can be injured and are subjected to chronic (and painful) stress. Trimming spurs and toenails on the rooster are only slightly beneficial as it is his weight that pulls on the feathers. Hens that have been plucked at are risk of sunburn. Unprotected chicken skin is very sensitive.
- Relocate the boys for a bit (not the easiest or best option).
- What we did. Make, or purchase, a chicken saddle that rests like a cape on the hens’ backs. They attach by elastic ribbons that loop over each wing. Hens get used to them very quickly and they make a world of difference preventing injury, sunburn and further treading.
Wounds and Issues
Activity levels pick up in the summer as the flocks are foraging and their curiosity surpasses that of the cat that got killed by it. With antics in full swing, have post-curiosity consequence materials on hand (refer to “Ask the Vet“ for holistic products. Spend those lazy days clicking through eFowl as the store has some great integrative and conventional options as well – eFowl Poultry First Aid Kit. Chickens heal quickly, but it is hard to notice injuries under feathers. Always keep wounds clean and 100% fly free. Inspect the injuries twice daily to be sure of healing.
Pick up and handle the birds regularly and if any bird seems off or sluggish deal with that immediately (as in yesterday). Clean bird wounds as you would with any other critter. Never use any cream or ointment that contains an anesthetic (lidocaine), the label will say With Pain Relief. These caine products are toxic to birds. With egg production at its peak make sure the girls are producing at a normal rate. Egg binding and internal laying are deadly. Catch them early. Hysterectomies are performed in chickens (my hen, Emily, had one: http://sites.tufts.edu/vetmag/winter-2015/an-eggs-tremely-close-call/). That is the last resort, but sometimes the only one.
- Repeated nesting with no egg (sometimes seen in pullets and their first egg)
- Unusual squatting and sitting
- Straining on the nest with no egg, or with egg material and other signs that the egg has broken inside the bird.
Remove the hen and apply baby oil or cooking oil to the vent. Warming the abdomen can help as well. If the bird continues to strain without results she will need immediate veterinary attention. A chicken, and any bird or reptile or fish, is not simply popping out an egg, they are giving birth. Our hens give birth nearly every day! This is quite a biological drain. It’s amazing things go so smoothly. Hens are not making your omelet’s ingredients, they are making the container for a new chicken! This may explain those sour looks when they see you stealing the eggs.
Internal Layer Symptoms:
- Repeatedly sitting on the nest but never laying.
- Squishy abdomen – that is where the eggs are going.
- Hen can develop peritonitis this is life threatening.
Veterinary treatment is the only solution if caught early enough, they will stop the laying through the use of hormones. Usually caused by genetics and in breeds that are bred to produce “too much.” Any hen can develop this though, and sometimes it comes with cancer.
Well, that’s it for me. Sun is out, chooks are waiting, raspberries are ripening so fast you can hear them and those tomatoes won’t stake themselves.