I am a terrible mother hen. I recently realised late last week that my flock was/is quite sick and I hadn’t noticed, or rather I hadn’t investigated closely enough to clue in to what was going on and take action. I console myself with the thought that I’m still learning. There’s actually a fair bit more to keeping healthy chickens than most people think.
They’d been off the lay for quite some time and I was blaming it on the cold weather, the fact there was a mix of pullets (young hens not yet at point of lay) and sexes within my flock. I thought they might have been laying elsewhere too when I let them out to free range each day. But no, unfortunately not.
The poor buggers were infested with mites and lice, some have scale on their legs caused by burrowing mites, and many of them have fowl pox which manifests itself as nasty black pustules and scabs all over their combs, wattles and faces causing them to look rather deformed and ugly.
In the worst fowl pox case, my black Australorp hen’s eye had closed over and I decided to euthanise her on the weekend. She was the catalyst for the action. I’d noticed her comb was deformed but hadn’t had a chance to catch her and have a closer look. By the time I did, it was too late. That said, there is no treatment for fowl pox going by all the research I have since done on the net, reading my chook bible and talking to chook-savvy friends. It is a slow spreading sickness from which they eventually recover and to which they are then immune. It’s often spread by mosquitoes and/or open wounds caused from fighting or injuries. I don’t know how mine got it. Mosquitoes could be the culprit. Regardless, many of them have it now in varying degrees, but none as bad as the Australorp hen thankfully. I just hope it doesn’t spread further and cause more problems.
So on Friday, serious intervention was required. I did a fair bit of research into various methods of control including organic methods using herbs and wood ash. But in the end I decided to go the chemical route as I had a serious problem and there was a huge amount of work required to clean out the chook yard completely and treat all 17 chickens. I wanted to make sure it was going to eradicate the problem.
First Aid treatment
I gathered my supplies and set to work on 17 chickens:
- Poultry Dust (I used more than 2 bottles) – to treat the lice and mites. I held them upside down by their legs and covered them all over, rubbing it into their feathers and all their cracks and crevices.
- Canola oil spray – to spray their legs for scale.
- Betadine – to disinfect and treat the fowl pox on their combs and wattles.
- Vaseline – around their eyes.
It took me about 15 minutes per bird to do all of the above. Phew! I now have new names for many of my chickens, which I cannot repeat here! Needless to say, they didn’t like it very much. I tried to convince them it was like a spa treatment but they weren’t convinced.
Chook pen clean out
Jeff and I set to to work on the pen on Saturday. We removed, emptied and scrubbed all the nesting boxes and storage containers, de-cobwebbed, dusted, cleared out all the straw and bedding materials, which we spread out liberally all around the garden and fruit trees, swept the floor and scraped off accumulated crud off all surfaces. We then sprayed all the surfaces, roosts, nesting boxes, every crack and crevice where nasty little mites hide, with an insecticide (Coopex). I’d cleaned out the pot belly stove earlier and spread a bucket of wood ash all over the floor of the pen and then filled it with three new bales of hay. Happy chickens. Well, they’d better be anyway because if that doesn’t do it, I give up.