|Katie enjoying a dust bath|
|Tiger, Holly, & Chipmunk having some scraps|
One of the most important aspects of a pest prevention program is to inspect your birds DAILY. Look closely and ensure they're behaving normally. Part their feathers and look for feces or "dirt" on your chickens. You'll often see this around their belly or tail. Around their eyes, vent, crests (especially in silkies they love to get into their crests and around their eyes and beard) the chicken may appear dusty and dirty (dingy looking) from the casings. If your birds have crusty eyes in the winter without any appearance of respiratory illness, look for pests! If you suspect mites but don't see any, you may be dealing with the Red Chicken Mite which come out at night. If that's the case, head out to your coop with a flashlight and check your birds after dark.
You'll notice (below) symptoms on this poor Silkie hen (we obtained from someone who did not maintain the quality of care she deserved). Look at her eye- notice the yellow crust in the corner? This is after I'd applied hot compresses to it. Her crest is sparse and dingy as is her poor beard. We were originally told this bird was in a molt so to expect her crest to be, "a little light." This poor girl wasn't molting, she was suffering from a mite infestation and we were shocked, to say the least upon her arrival. That, folks, is for another post, however.
Cleaning your coop regularly and keeping it sanitized is a huge deterrent. Normally, we clean and sanitize the coops, removing all nesting materials, and being careful to clean well in corners and cracks. I then add a layer of Diatomaceous Earth (often referred to as DE) to the coop before reapplying the new nesting material (we use pine chip flakes.) Just ensure that the DE you purchase is "Food Grade", it should state it on the label.
Dust bathing is one of your chickens' best defenses to maintaining good feather health and staying parasite-free. It's an enjoyable experience for your chickens and great entertainment for their owners. Our birds love to roll around coat their feathers in DE mixed in with some good, dry earth. It always amazes us to see just how much of it they tuck under their wings during their rolling. After they've coating themselves, allowing the dirt to asphyxiate the pests, they'll finish off by gathering feather oil and preening themselves and sometimes each other to spread that oil back on their feathers. Ensure you provide your flock with space and material to dust bathe regularly.
|Flossie, Katie, Tiger, & Stella clucking happily over a sweet dust bath spot they found.|
Now- what happens when you still manage to get mites? In our case, Northern Fowl Mites? First, remember, "It's okay." I know it's upsetting, trust me! In all this time I've been proud to say we have managed our flock well with organic and all natural products combined with good husbandry and never had a problem. Unfortunately, it happens to the most careful of us. We brought our mites back with us from another flock. Yes, we quarantine but that's for another post. This post is about dealing with the "situation" when you've done your job but the pests still get in.
Poultry Show Series.
Once I was certain the coops and nest boxes were well cared for, it was time to put down my insecticide. Make sure whatever insecticide you choose that it's safe and approved for a poultry population. You can check with your local University or County Extension Poultry Specialist. For us, this time instead of laying down DE after I'd cleaned, I sprayed ours well with Sevin. You can also purchase the Sevin dust and sprinkle it throughout your coops. I know- I'm not a fan of chemicals, you'll know this but once I knew we had mites, I had to do what was necessary to responsibly care for our flock. I coated the walls, floors, roosts, every crack, crevice, and corner with the Sevin spray thoroughly Then I waited for it to dry. Even more fun is cleaning out the runs. We raked and cleared the straw and pine shavings from each of our runs and followed up again with the Sevin insecticide spray while the chickens were OUTSIDE of the area free ranging. I personally do NOT use the Sevin on my chickens or in the coop or runs when they are in there. I know other breeders that do, it's just a preference for me. I'm not a veterinarian nor chemist so I can only offer what we've personally tried for our flock.
While the Sevin was drying, it was time to work on the birds. You're going to want to clean your birds. If it's cold outside like it is here, you're going to need time and space to dry them well. It won't do any good to rid your babies of mites only to put them back outside wet and freezing for them to get sick or die. We used the blue Dawn dish washing detergent on our birds. Dawn has been used by farmers for generations to kill and rid their birds of nasty parasites like fleas, mites, and louse. It worked well for us. There are insecticide shampoos at pet stores and the vets office you may inquire about. As I've said, the less chemicals the better and Dawn has worked well so we stuck with the old standby. If you've never washed or bathed your birds before, you can learn how by reading Briana's post here. The difference was I used Dawn and it's colder now so we took extra care in drying them. You may not be able to dry them all so having a warm room or brooder to put them in while they finish drying for a few hours is most helpful. It also gives you time to finish up with the nest boxes, coops, and runs.
|DE sprinkled in coop after Sevin has dried and starting to add the pine shavings|
|To better control the Frontline spray, I put it in a dropper for application.|
|Katie towel drying while waiting for her turn under the blow dryer|
Love & Blessings,