Sunday, 22 May 2016

Chicken lice - treated with Pestene and Imidacloprid

I blame myself. I didn't check the chickens properly when I brought them home and I introduced them to the others on Friday and all day Saturday!

We had some practice social experiments, where we put the Wyandotte with the others and she was immediately bullied by Cacciatore, but when we put Cacciatore in the small cage, Cacciatore was bullied by Spotty, our Speckled Sussex!

So on Saturday I added them all together and watched them like hawks, separating Cacciatore when she was too vicious to Snowy (which is what my daughter named the Wyandotte). As the day went on I was happy to see them eating well, drinking well and walking around the enclosure. Bubbles was quite placid with them and Mary avoided them, hiding up in the coop.

I had dismantled the puppy pen to make an extension of the enclosure, and whilst I was inside I heard chicken squawks of distress. I run outside to see poor Snowy with Spot mounting her back, his beak holding onto her neck (like roosters do when mating) and she was entangled in the fence. I ran outside to disentangle her and as I parted her feathers I noticed tiny creatures on her skin scurrying away as I parted her feathers. I nearly dropped her in horror. Were these mites or lice?

After I separated Snowy, I grabbed Spotty and examined her - she had lice too! I put her with Snowy and examined Spot, who had no lice, and Cacciatore who also had no lice. I needed to find something to treat them straight away! Off I went to Petbarn to get some Pestene which I applied to the two chickens, though I don't know if I did it correctly.

I had never done it before so I went to youtube to see if I could find somewhere to show me how to do it, and this video was quite helpful.

We went out for dinner and I returned home and did the rest of the chickens, and it was quite easy to catch them as they were all in the coop already. They didn't like it but it needed to be done (and in fact I did it in the sandpit)

Now, I need to go and clean out the rest of the cage, and pick up all the loose feathers I had left lying around on the ground. I will redust the chickens in a few days but hopefully that will treat them. I don't think the infestation was bad - I didn't see clumps of nits on any of the feathers, but I will have another look at them tomorrow.

Edit: I take that back, there were nits - I felt them last night but didn't realise they were nits!

I wondered if you could use those flea things on them, like they do on cats and dogs with the drop on the back of the neck. I saw that someone had asked the same question on Backyard Poultry Forum, and they had used them. I went to the pet shop and got some Advantage, where the active ingredient is Imidacloprid (a very effective pesticide).

I got the formulation for kittens, which is a 0.4mL dose of a 100g/L imidacloprid solution. I figured that there are about 8 drops in 0.4mL, which means each drop contains 5mg.

Imidacloprimide is moderately toxic if ingested and low in toxicity via dermal exposure. Toxicity can be seen in 50mg/kg doses ingested (in rats) and this is way below that so it shouldn't be an issue in the chicken meat. However, the thought is rather sobering.

It lasts for a long time in the ground (and apparently is used in tree pesticides and is taken up by trees rendering them toxic to a number of insect pests, such as locusts). However it is also very toxic to bees, and in some places it is not allowed to be used due to the affect on the local bee population.

So from what I can find on the internet, it seems to persist for a while, lasting up to 4 weeks (which is good in that when the nits hatch they will die) but that's a long time for it to hang around!

Well, none of my chickens are laying, so that's not so bad. HOWEVER, we were planning on eating Spot this week, so perhaps I shouldn't have dosed him!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Chicken Diaries - Week 19

I had my first aggressive interaction from Spot on Monday.

I had cleaned the coop in the morning, but I had come out again to do some general gardening and play with the chickens, and I was also talking on the phone to my mother. Mary was hiding up in the coop again, so I went to go check on her and I noticed a huge chicken poop so I went to go get something to clean it up.

Something bumped into my leg. It was Spot. I thought he was walking backwards again. But no! He had his hackles raised, and he leapt at my leg, with his claws outstretched, kicking me and squawking! He did it not once, but four times! And it was uncomfortable, not painful but rather uncomfortable that I admonished him for it. He stopped and then went back to his normal self, but that was surprising.

I was upset that he was so aggressive which only strengthened my resolve to dispose of him, but when I read up on the internet, I started to feel a bit guilty.

Roosters can be teenagers too, with raging hormones. They can have periods of aggression intermittently as they try to get used to their hormone urges, and as they mature, these urges settle and they may or may not become more docile. Also, with these raging hormones, they are trying to mate with all the females as well - some of whom are not quite mature enough yet to be impregnated so they go running. Sounds a lot like what Mary's doing doesn't it! Sussex chickens are slow to mature, and Mary is younger than Spot, so has been clearly trying to avoid Spot's amorous attentions. I have seen him strutting around the other two and demonstrating himself, so he's definitely playing up to the ladies.

And now I'm slaughtering him for it?

I don't know if I want fertilised eggs. Eating fertilised eggs seems wrong! And when he attacked me, surely he would do that to other attackers too, like cats and birds of prey? But, he is noisy, and it's only a matter of time before the neighbours kick up a fuss.

Bubbles only put on 27g this week (compared with 66g last week). At 1213g, maybe she is slowing down in terms of weight gain, meaning she might be a bantam!
Cacciatore put on 26g this week (compared with 28g last week) and is now 1039g. Still putting on a little bit of weight! Definitely a bantam!
Look at Mary, now weighing 1635g. She put on 76g this week (compared to 114g last week)
Spot is hard to keep still. Here he is running away! But the stable weight was 1805g, which means he put on 78g this week, which is about half of what he put on last week (141g last week)
So on Tuesday I went to Misty Gums Poultry to go get another chook, as a replacement for my rooster who will soon be soup. Paul said he had some Speckled Sussexes that might be the right age, as well as some White Wyandottes.

I was pretty keen for a Speckled Sussex, so Paul gave me one of his girls, who still looked quite young, but a decent size. As I turned to take my treasured pullet away, he asked me if I couldn't be tempted to take a second one? I shook my head with a smile, and he sweetened it with the offer of a discount, a large discount. I hesitated. What was wrong with her that he was selling her so cheap? He took me to show me - it turned out this little White Wyandotte had deformed feet, but was otherwise perfectly healthy. Reluctantly, I shook my head, but when he knocked the price down to $15... I decided I'd take her. So I ended up with TWO chickens!

I have them separated so they won't be killed as they establish a pecking order. I read that you should keep them separated but be able to see each other and then gradually introduce them. Also, I should keep them separated in case of parasites or diseases. I hope to integrate them on the weekend!

Monday, 9 May 2016

The Chicken Diaries - Week 18

We have come to the conclusion this week that Spot needs to go. He has been terrorising Mary, who won't come out of the coop unless he's not around, and we ended up having to give her free range time OUTSIDE the fence so that she could forage in peace without being hounded back into the coop by Spot. Spot with his collar loosened has put on weight again, so I will not tighten the collar again as we are now in the process of fattening him up for slaughter.

Spot weighing in at 1727g this week (1586 last week) - at least he put on 141g this week compared to not putting on any weight in the previous week! If you ask me though, he looks a bit thinner, but that could be just how his feathers are sitting. I still think he's a handsome chook. I am thinking that 2kg is the ideal weight for eating...
Bubbles is looking very sleek lately! I used to think her feathers were a bit all over the place (like messy hair) but now she looks smooth and tidy. She weighs 1185g this week (1119 last week) has put on a nice 66g since last week.
Finally Cacciatore is over 1kg weighing 1013g (985g last week) ! She put on 28g this week. I am wondering if she is a bantam she seems to put on very little weight compared to the others.
My big girl Mary has cracked 1.5kg (1549g) when last week she was 1435g. She has put on 114g this week. Which is good since she only put on 28g the previous week.
We are onto our 2nd big bag of chook feed - we're still eating pullet grower. They are still loving their oat grains and I am still a big failure when it comes to getting them used to the treadle feeder - I am starting to think that was a waste of money.

There are a ton of earthworms underneath the coop! I don't know how they survive there without the chickens eating them! I was moving the bricks around (they are stepping stools for the chooks to get to the feeder) and when I lifted up the brick a whole bunch of earthworms wriggled back into the ground. The rest of the coop is still littered with feathers and some droppings as well as a fair dose of hemp (I have been sweeping old hemp litter into the coop to put on top of the dirt). I was wondering if it was bad if I didn't clean out the inside of the coop because of all the worms eating things in there but I realised that not many people put their chicken coops straight onto dirt because of the risk of burrowing predators and rodents. So far we have been very lucky

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Chicken Diaries - Week 17

I was happy that the chickens were happy and well after we were away on holidays for 2 weeks! Everyone who looked after the chickens mentioned to us that Spot was crowing, despite his collar and we even had a recording of it.

We ended up gettting a No-Crow collar, which has mesh and looks like he will have more flexibility in his neck.

It took two tightenings to get him to be quieter but still able to eat, but he keeps running backwards with his head down to the ground, as if he's trying to get out of the collar. I could still slip the tip of my little finger under the collar so I thought it was ok.

They grew a lot in the 3 weeks since I last weighed them. So this was their weights at 16 weeks:

Spot - 1596
Mary - 1407
Bubbles - 1076
Cacciatore - 974

I think Spot looks quite handsome. But Mary is a whopper. She has grown a lot, but I worry she's a bit of an isolated chook. She hides up in the coop until all the others chooks are out, then she comes out. And she is the first one back into the coop for bedtime. She doesn't really roam around with the other 3 chickens, and just today, when it was raining, I noticed her out in the rain foraging, whilst the others were all sitting inside the coop. It smacked of sad high school behaviour! However, at least she is still eating well and not starving or stressed, she has all her feathers.

Cacciatore has been an escape artist since we came home. I found her eating my vegies again! I clipped her wings because she was flying onto the coop roof then hopping out, but I don't think it really stops her. I'm sure she didn't eat any of my vegies when I was away.

This week I weighed them and I was concerned because Spot had LOST weight, which is a concern because of the collar.

Spot - 1586
Mary - 1435
Bubbles - 1119
Cacciatore - 985

I have seen Spot eating and fed him myself. The collar he has on is lighter than the other one, which would mean he hadn't put on any weight this week.

If he loses weight again for another week I will loosen his collar, but then his crow will be louder, which means the council will come for him. Sigh, it might just be better if we had to eat him. I know many would say why don't I give him to someone who will take roosters - but I think that I had already considered the possibility he could be eaten and so I should show my determination and do what I had thought may need to be done.