That’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the last week or better. But here, for you, dear readers, I’ll back track…
It’s summer, it’s hot and yucky and I have been under the assumption that my older chickens began their molt early due to the heat. Is that a thing? I don’t know, but they are looking ragged, and several have stopped laying.
Double Dots, who is my easiest to catch loves to be held, had spots on his legs that felt like new feather coming in. Hard, pokey new feathers. I looked into the fluff on his legs and saw feather shafts with raised red skin around it.
Being new to chickens, and never having had any molt before, I assumed that the first adult molt made them irritated.
It turns out, as I have read in several sources, molting does NOT cause irritation.
So what do I have going on in my flock?
I have spent the last week and a half searching the internet, skulking in the Backyard Chickens forum, and the best I can come up with is mites or lice. Or extreme picking and feather pulling.
Dots appears to have the worst of it. His butt below his vent is awful looking, red, uber-irritated.
I diligently checked all the other chickens, young and old. There’s a few with minor signs of the same vent irritation. Pip has minor signs around his vent. Not anywhere as bad as Dots.
However, given that Dots is the Head Rooster of this flock and he like to mate with his hens frequently, he could spread them? Also, where is he getting them from? What about Abby and Claire, my two broody hens? Broody hens are susceptible to lice and mites because they sit and don’t go outside to dust bathe as often.
For anyone interested, Backyard Chickens has a lovely and informative guide to Mites and Lice. Their forum is also full of good threads on what to do. I spent a good amount of time there this week trying to figure this out, and make a plan of attack.
Ordinarily, I would have gone to The Chicken Chick or Fresh Eggs Daily first, but on this, I find myself unsure of the advice. One of them supports natural/herbal remedies and the other says that herbs will not get rid of mites and lice.
So I’m going with Backyard Chickens on this one.
My plan of attack is a 5 Step program.
- Clean the ENTIRE coop and beds. Little Dude and I did it this morning, much to the chagrin of my little hennies who just wanted a nice bed of wood shavings and straw to lay their eggs in.
- Spray EVERYTHING in mite spray. I’m using Gordon’s Goat and Sheep spray. The inside label says you can use it goats, sheep, cattle, horses, and poultry. It says, in reference to poultry, to spray it on the roosts, beds and walls of the coop (I did the floors, too) and even spray a fine mist of it over your birds. (I did not do that.)
- Put down clean bedding. I just did wood shavings. See Step 5 for why.
- Powder Chickens. This step is a bit controversial. BYC and other sources list Sevin dust as a good method of killing mites and lice and other external parasites on your chickens. It’s safe for the chickens, and like the mite spray ( step 2), you don’t have to withhold eggs. However, Sevin dust also kills bees. A lot of people are opposed to chemicals that kill the honey bees. If you’re interested in knowing, you’re supposed to put the Sevin dust inside a knee high (panty hose) and tie a knot in it to create a powder puff. Then pick up you chicken, hold them tucked up in under your arm, slightly upside down, and powder their butts near the vent. It’s best to do this at bed time, so you can just pick your chickens off the roost (as opposed to chasing them around). Little Dude and I will be doing this tonight at lock up.
- Repeat Steps 1-4 in 7 days. Repeating will kill any mites or lice that hatched after the first treatment. This step is also the reason I only put in wood shavings and not fresh straw in the beds. We took out 7 wheel barrow loads of bedding while cleaning the coop. In 7 days, I don’t want to relive that.
I am super concerned about Abby and her Littles, though. I’m not sure how the Sevin dust will effect them. However, whatever is bugging the big chickens could kill them, so it needs to be done.
Now, the chickens were only concerned with where their straw beds went, how soon they’d return and OMG! Mommy locked us out of the coop!
And when I finally did let them back into the coop, I have 12 of them trying to lay eggs all at once. The various renditions of the Egg Song were deafening. Poor girls!
And then, there was this…
I don’t know what it was about, but Cinderella and Rapunzel seemed very freaked out by the straw-less beds and Pip was pretending to be Prince Charming and checked them out for safety measures.
Chickens are so weird sometimes.