Just when everything seemed to be going well with the chickens, things started to go downhill. If I could go back in time I’d probably do some sort of chicken course before getting chickens. The chicken basics are pretty simple, but you can’t stop there. There is just so much more you need to learn in order to look after chickens properly and to be able to react quickly to the many pests and ailments that bother them.
Sam became ‘off’ again, standing around, tail-down, looking sorry for herself. She was pretty easy to catch for a check-up, not her usual noisy, fast self. Sam had lice. Doh! An early infestation though, so I don’t think that’s the full story. I put her in the big cage for observation. She’s also had a bit of nasal discharge, indicative of something respiratory, but that seems to be coming right. I got some Ivermectin for the lice (and any other parasites) and some colloidal silver to wipe her nose with and put in her water. That’s a suggestion from the FB poultry group I belong to.
The next thing that happened was I discovered masses of tiny bugs crawling on the big cage that Sam was in, the wooden things nearby and the garage wall. A red mite infestation? I just about flipped out. Having no other cage I put Sam back in the run and sprayed the big cage with Ripcord Plus (another handy suggestion), which I had just bought. I wasn’t satisfied with the Smite that I’ve been spraying the coop with, as I have seen bugs crawling on it straight afterwards. The Ripcord is supposed to have a residual effect for six months. I was feeling panicked and overwhelmed. These tiny bugs were everywhere. How was I going to get rid of them?
The more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe these bugs of terror weren’t red mites. Ok, so this happened before when I found several red spider mites on the coop, which I thought were red mites, but this time the tiny blackish bugs were everywhere so it was terrifying! Surely it was a red mite apocalypse. After some googling and looking at the coop, I found a few actual red mites, characterised by quite round, red or blackish bodies with a bit of a glossy look. Under a magnifying glass the trillions of other bugs around the big cage looked more like teeny tiny weevils or something. Plus, they were happily out and about in daylight and seemed to be very attracted to Sam’s probiotic yoghurt. Rather than feeling silly I just felt relieved. Whatever they are there are still too many of them around for my liking but I don’t think they’re sucking the blood out of my chickens by night. Actually, their numbers seem to have decreased a bit since the yoghurt was removed.
I would like to propose a new disorder of the human psyche. It is called Red Miteitis. The symptoms are as follows:
- Feelings of panic, hopelessness, terror or despair at the sight of any tiny, crawling bugs in or near your chicken enclosures, which may or may not be red mites.
- Feeling itchy anywhere on the body.
- Loss of sleep due to thoughts or nightmares about bug infestations.
- Noticing tiny ‘bugs’ anywhere and everywhere, which may be bugs or just flecks of dirt or debris.
Red Miteitis most commonly affects novice poultry keepers, but symptoms may also occur in more experienced poultry keepers. American Psychological Association take note. I wonder if they will compensate me for the discovery and awareness of this important disorder?
In light of the sight of some actual red mites on the coop and the appearance of lice, I did another full coop clean on Friday. It was the only day I really could do it as the weather forecast was rain, rain and more rain for the foreseeable future, plus we were out of town for the day on Saturday. Thankfully, I managed to juggle looking after The Little Fulla and doing a full coop clean all by myself, albeit not getting my ‘morning’ shower until 3pm…
What else? I also had to pick up fallen feathers from the run and coop, because they can harbour lice eggs and put Ivermectin on all the other chickens and chicks for the lice. Sharing is caring, right, Sam? The adults are starting to get more used to me catching them in the evenings as they go into the coop (*cough* except Elrond for round two this evening), but the chicks were a mission. So little, but so fast. Also, Frodo is very protective when they get scared. I got one peck from her for trying to grab a chick. I managed to corner and catch four of them, one by one, after Frodo and the others had gone into the coop. After giving each one a drop of Ivermectin I put them into the cat cage so I would know who had been done. To get the rest of the chicks I had to get everyone else out of the coop, including Frodo, then I could easily grab each chick from the nestboxes. Argh, these chickens are tricksy.
As if that wasn’t enough, today I had to give Sam a bath to remove poop from her butt. That was a new experience. I am now more familiar with the anatomy of the chicken and have found a use for my hairdryer. Sam did behave most excellently for her first bath experience. I just have to keep an eye on her now. She is eating and drinking and maintaining her position of boss, but she is moping around a bit. And she has watery poops now. She is proving to be rather high-maintenance. Since she started moulting the never-ending moult, she has been all sorts of work. A beak and nails that keep needing trimming despite extensive foraging, scaly leg mite, lice, poopy butt, something respiratory… What else? At least she is getting easier to catch now. I can catch her pretty easily during the day. I just wonder if there’s something wrong with her internally. I have been giving her extra minerals, probiotic yoghurt, more ACV in the water, colloidal silver and goodness knows what else and she’s getting extra protein from the chick starter crumbs.
There are two ends of the scale in terms of chicken keepers. At one end are the people who view chickens as beloved pets and would do almost anything to keep them alive. At the other end of the scale are people who view chickens as livestock. They are cared for but replaceable and sick chickens will be self-treated or culled. People from opposite ends of the scale sometimes have trouble understanding each other’s viewpoint. I decided early on that I wouldn’t (usually) take my chickens to the vet. Sure, it means more work for me and probably more losses, but I am trying to view my chickens more as livestock (more easily said than done), from which perspective it’s not economical to take them to a vet who may or may not be able to help them. I’m not right down the end of that side of the scale though. If a chicken is important enough to me and more than I can handle I think I will take it to the vet. It’s not really a very nice thing to think about but you need to know where you stand either way. I’m just going to take a case-by-case approach. And so, I am doing what I can for Sam and hoping she perks up again soon.
Well, that was a lot of doom and gloom. Lets talk about something more pleasant. Feather babies! The babies are three weeks old now and looking patchy and slightly awkward as their brand new feathers replace the fluff. They are so fast it’s hard to get decent photos of them or to look at them long enough to try and play ‘Hen or Roo’. What I can say is that it is now clear who is black and who is blue. The blacks have the green sheen in their feathers that makes them stand out. There are four blacks and four blues. How grand! That is exactly what is statistically expected from a black-blue mating. The Sneaky Blue Chick is slightly darker than the other blues at the moment and had very similar colouring to two of the blacks when he/she was younger. I am still trying to figure out who is who with some of them! The other blues are The Smoky Chick, Little Spot and The Chick That Looks Like Little Spot. The blacks are Pie, Half Pie, Orange Feet and… Someone… Still temporary names, obviously. I need to have a proper photo sesh to get portraits of each chick. Then we can all have a good look at them and start playing the game of Hen or Roo together. I have some suspicions already, but I’ll wait until next time…