Archive for the ‘Ailments’ Category

Hair Club For Hen

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Strange things are afoot in the coop. Some not so strange things as well. For example, it would seem that most of the chickens are molting. That makes sense, as the days have been getting much shorter, and that’s when nature decides that chickens will dump a bunch of feathers and then grow new ones. It looks like there have been pillow fights going on every night, but I’ve been through this before, so I know it’s actually molting. The tricky thing about molting when your chickens have been dealing with mites is trying to figure out what’s feather loss from molting, and what might be mites making a comeback. Last year I was never quite sure. The mites had really dug in. This year they may have been even worse, but I tried my new treatment of spraying them with a spinosad-based gardening liquid, and something has happened that makes me think it actually worked. Henny Penny is sprouting butt feathers.

Luckily her "down below" bits are covered, as this is a family show.

Luckily her “down below” bits are covered, as this is a family show.

You might think this is no big deal. Chickens lose butt feathers, chickens regrow butt feathers. Circle of butt life. However, I should remind you, or tell you for the first time depending on how long you’ve been around, that Henny Penny has had a bald butt for over a year. It was pretty bad. She was the first to lose butt feathers last spring when the mites first arrived. The other chickens lost butt feathers too, but none quite as badly as Henny Penny. Then, when it seemed the mites had been vanquished, the other chickens grew their feathers back. Not so Henny Penny. I began to worry that there was actually something else wrong with her. There did seem to be some other ailments out there that led to bald butts, but she never fit the full profile. She went through last winter with a bare butt, and luckily didn’t get frostbite, but it was a pretty mild winter. I was always keeping an eye on her, but she seemed fine otherwise, and at some point or another I think I resigned myself to never solving this particular chicken mystery.

I write Sherlock Holmes chicken butt fan fiction sometimes.

I write Sherlock Holmes chicken butt fan fiction sometimes.

Until a recent evening butt check. I sprayed them all with spinosad every week for a month this summer. I figured that ought to cover any mite life cycle. Then I had to just sit and wait. Feathers take a long time to grow back, so it’s always tough to know if a treatment is working. I’ve been so busy lately that I would check to make sure nothing was getting worse, but I didn’t have the time to work up another plan of attack, so my being preoccupied actually created enough time to for nature to run its course. I do believe the mites are gone, and I am basing this on the fact that Henny Penny has little feather nubs popping out of her formerly long-term area of baldness. At first I thought the dark spots were the mites themselves, as it’s been so long since there were feathers there that it seemed hard to imagine them ever coming back. But they’re there for sure. Each day they come in a little more. I wonder if it’s weird for her. Like when you wear shorts all summer and then you have to wear pants one day and it feels unnatural. Except this is all in the butt area.

Skinny pants are even harder to get used to.

Skinny pants are even harder to get used to.

Now the problem is that I’m so excited that her feathers are coming back, I’m totally worried that something is going to happen to destroy them again. I initially thought other chickens had been pecking them out. What if they decide to do that now? What if the mites mount a last ditch effort to reclaim their old territory? I gave everyone a bug spray top-up last weekend, and may go for a repeat dosing, just to be safe. I’d hate for things to look up, only to, er, bottom out again. But I’m now convinced that she just had a super bad case of mites that resisted all my previous treatments. For now, spinosad will be my go-to treatment, assuming we’ll have to deal with this again next year. I’m ready. The chickens are also ready, since they hate being sprayed so much, that if I keep the coop door open for too long, they suspect I’m up to something, and nervously make their way as far away from me as they can get. I tend to have this effect on people too.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Rag Pickins by Fred Van Eps)

Breaking The Bank

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

I’m not going to pretend that keeping chickens is the cheapest activity out there, but generally it could be worse. Once you get the coop sorted out, the rest is mainly small items like food and bedding. Those expenses, for me anyway, come once a month or so, and usually add up to about $20 for a bale of pine shavings and a bag of layer feed. I don’t have to pay for grooming or walking, like we might with a dog, and it’s certainly cheaper than say, owning a boat. Sure, I can’t cruise around a lake on a chicken, but I’m also not bleeding money. I can live without a boat.

Tends to work better with ducks, if you can get your hands on one.

Tends to work better with ducks, if you can get your hands on one.

Of course, there is always the issue of vet costs. For the most part, the chickens seem in good health, save for the mites and occasionally vent gleet, both of which I can treat on my own. Up until now, the only times I had to take a chicken to the vet was when Suzy Creamcheese Senior had a prolapsed vent, and when Boss Chicken’s legs gave out on her. I know my limits, and seek out the pros when needed. But a lot of ailments can be DIY projects. Sometimes messy and gross DIY projects, but that’s the price of savings.

Cost of rubber gloves not included in cost of savings.

Cost of rubber gloves not included in cost of savings.

Which brings us to the Great Bumblefoot Scare of 2016. During one of my evening chicken inspections, I noticed that one of the Mandrell sisters had a weird growth between her toes about the size of a peanut. Not sure what else to do at that moment, I reached out and poked it. It was pretty hard, also like a peanut. It didn’t seem to hurt her, but no one really likes being poked, so I stepped away from the chicken and took to the internet. I was worried that it was either a tumor, or something horrible to do with mites, but my search for “weird growth on chicken foot” brought up loads of pages about bumblefoot. Bumblefoot is when a chicken gets a cut on her foot, and the cut gets infected. They’re always scratching around in the dirt, so the likelihood of hitting something sharp is pretty high. So then I began to read about how to cure bumblefoot. For some reason, I had it in my head that rubbing some Bag Balm on the problem foot would do the trick, but I seem to be wrong about that. Everything I found pointed to the need to puncture and drain the abscess, or, if you were lucky, you might be able to squeeze out the gunk inside the growth, since there’s usually a cut at the bottom. I’m not very squeamish, but I didn’t like the sound of this. Then I read one of the step-by-step DIY bumblefoot surgery pages. I’ve had to ask my wife to hold a chicken while I stick my finger up its butt on a number of occasions. I was always pretty sure that that was the limit of her willingness to help with gross things. To ask her to hold a chicken while I cut open its foot and squeezed out nastiness was going to be too much. Actually, it was going to be too much for both of us. A scared, bloody chicken is not what you want to be around. The surgery also took a lot of time, and one page encouraged taking breaks to rest every so often. All I knew was that if we took a break, we would never be able to pick up that chicken again. I saw doom around every corner, until I read a line about how one person always does it herself because she doesn’t have a chicken vet nearby. Then it hit me. I had a chicken vet nearby! I was ready to hand this one off.

Not the chicken vet. Do not hand off your chickens to this guy. Abort mission! Abort mission!

Not the chicken vet. Do not hand off your chickens to this guy. Abort mission! Abort mission!

The next morning I called and made an appointment. “What’s the chicken’s name?” they asked.

“Uh, well, she’s one of The Mandrell Sisters,” I said.

“We need a first name,” they said.

“Ok, um, let’s go with Lurlene,” I said. The appointment was now set, and I finally solved the mystery of which Sister was Lurlene. Until I actually arrived at the vet for the appointment, and found they had written down Murlene. So there’s still no Lurlene, I guess.

And you thought cats hated to ride in the crate.

And you thought cats hated to ride in the crate.

At the vet, we noticed that Murlene had peanut growths on both feet. The vet did a close inspection, and thought there might be a puncture hole, thereby officially making this bumblefoot, though having it on both feet was a little unusual. She took Murlene out back, and five minutes later, they both returned. “Well, it wasn’t bumblefoot,” she said. It turns out that Murlene has loose foot skin, and each peanut was just packed full of dirt and crud. The vet soaked her feet in some water, and then just pulled the crud out with some tweezers. I was sent home with Murlene and a bottle of betadine to soak her feet in daily. I was also, if able, to soak her feet in epsom salt water daily to try to tighten up the crud area. Amazingly, she put up with this. Once I got her situated in the bowl of liquid, she just stayed put and cooed. I guess a good foot soak does wonders.

Like a day at the spa.

Like a day at the spa.

On the plus side, I didn’t do any unnecessary surgery. On the down side, a $3 chicken cost me $100 at the vet. That’s a bad return on investment, but I think I came out ahead by not unintentionally maiming Murlene by pursuing the wrong treatment. I’ll take the bright side on this one.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle)

Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial License. No changes made, other than looping it.

New Frontiers In Mite Maintenance

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and mite infestations are nothing if not desperate times. I was powdering the poultry with the poultry powder, and I was protecting them with the Poultry Protector, and I did not see any progress. I may even have seen things get worse, but it’s always hard to tell once the mite ball gets rolling. And so, I returned to the internet to watch people fight, and to try to glean some helpful information out of what I witnessed.

Mite Ball - It's a ball of mites! (Not available in stores.)

Mite Ball – It’s a ball of mites! (Not available in stores.)

There seemed to be more options for mite control out there than when I last looked, or maybe it was just that the current situation had Steve (or John) losing feathers all up her back, which really worried me, and so I read more before I collapsed in an exhausted heap. I was very close to using dog and cat flea drops on them and then just throwing out the eggs for weeks afterwards, as horrible as that would make me feel. It seems so wasteful to just chuck eggs, but you don’t want to eat them if they’re toxic, and I obviously was ready for the big guns. Then I stumbled across a thread that pointed out how odd it was that no one was talking about the product they had come to use. Then they linked to a study showing that it was effective against mites, and that you could eat the eggs after using it. You just spray it on, and since it’s just topical, it doesn’t affect their egg system (though the flea stuff is topical too, but perhaps chickens are more absorbent in that case). And to make it easier, the person who started the thread explained the ratio of water to poison (yes, it’s still a poison) to use, so you didn’t have to use the complicated math in the scientific study. This was a dream come true, even if this explanation of it sounds like I fell for someone’s paid endorsement.

Chicken infomercials

Chicken infomercials

The chemical is called Spinosad, and apparently it’s the by-product of some type of fermentation. This may or may not make it organic, and since what you buy in the store may actually be created synthetically instead of through the normal fermentation method, an argument about organicness broke out. I wasn’t so worried about what was organic or not at this point, I just wanted healthy chickens. So I bought one of the bottles of concentrate that contains this stuff, (there are a few different products by different brands) and mixed up a dose.

(file photo)

(file photo)

In spite of the fact that there’s a study about the effectiveness of this stuff on poultry mites, and that the company that holds the patent on this chemical says it’s cool for chickens, this is apparently still an “off label” treatment, unless maybe you buy the industrial vat of the pure stuff direct from the manufacturer. The concentrate I bought was for plants only, but the guru of it on the internet said this was good, and others backed up the claim, so I went in a-spraying. The chickens ran to the corner and tried to hide, but I got them all in their problem areas. Then I waited a week, and went in again. I even went in a third time a week after that. I’m not 100% sure, but it looked a lot like Steve (or John) was starting to grow back some feathers. This was a good sign.

Eternal vigilance is the price of feathers.

Eternal vigilance is the price of feathers.

The issue I’m now running into is that chickens are waterproof. So you can spray them in the area where the feathers have been cleared out, but not anywhere else. In some cases, it looks like the mites have migrated to the waterproof areas, and begun defoliation. So I’ve sprayed those areas too. The other issue is that the way this stuff apparently works is to jump-start the mites’ metabolisms, so they basically work themselves to death. In some cases, the de-feathering got worse before it got better, since the mites got some last bits of feather eating in before their passing. I’m keeping an eye on things, but for now, this seems to be something that mites have yet to develop resistance to. Variety is not only the spice of life, it can also be the death of mites.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Medley of Country Dances by Jaudas Society Orchestra)

Of Mites And Men

Friday, June 17th, 2016

In spite of everything I do to treat the mites, the damage they’re doing to the chickens’ feathers seems to be getting worse. Steve and John are losing feathers on their backs at a rapid pace. I’ve been powdering them weekly with the “poultry powder,” but I don’t seem to be getting results. I decided it was time to reset the clock, as it were, by completely cleaning the coop and taking it from there. If I could wipe out anything that was living off the chickens, then maybe I could begin to get the things living on the chickens.

Maybe I overdo the powder a little.

Maybe I overdo the powder a little.

I’ve been a practitioner of the “deep litter” technique from the start of this chicken experiment. Basically, you cover all poop with wood chips, and once a week scoop out the worst of it under the roost, but leave the rest. This creates a sort of compost pile right there in the coop, and that helps keep it a little warmer in the winter. It seemed like a good idea when I read about it, but given my annual mite problems, I’ve begun to wonder if it wasn’t somehow contributing to these problems, by creating a large habitat for invisible bugs. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it was time for the annual clean out anyway, so I went at it. Usually I dump all the chips, spray the inside of the coop and any of the “furniture” with white vinegar to disinfect it, and then add fresh chips, leaving behind the faint scent of salad. This year, I had to take it a little further. Since I had read about using dishwashing detergent to kill mites, I went in with a bucket of soapy water and a rag first, and wiped everything down, making sure to get it into any cracks. Then I dried that off, and sprayed the vinegar. Then I wiped off the excess vinegar, and sprayed everything again with Poultry Protector. At this point, I figured I had covered all my bases.

It gets deep.

It gets deep.

The biggest surprise was how much diatomaceous earth was in the bedding. There seemed to be a good layer of it under all the chips, so I was amazed that any insect could live in there at all. So either what’s bothering the chickens is getting on them out in the run, or it’s something completely impervious to DE. Hard to say, but the DE may not be cutting it, at least at the level we’re working on here.

It's entirely possible they protect themselves in tiny space probes.

It’s entirely possible they protect themselves in tiny space probes.

I sprayed the Poultry Protector all over the run and outside of the coop as well. The bottle says to get the whole area, so that’s what I did. Of course, it’s not a very big bottle, so I had used most of it by the time I had finished spraying the run, but felt like I had enough to get the birds as well. Supposedly this stuff doesn’t actually kill the mites, but instead keeps them from reproducing. So they may live for a while, but it sounds like they’ll eventually die out. I’m pretty sure not reproducing is why there aren’t any more Shakers, so this should do it, even if it takes a little longer.

If the mites just held a dance like this, they'd be easier to spot.

If the mites just held a dance like this, they’d be easier to spot. (Those are Shakers, btw. This image is relevant!)

The same night I did the big cleanout, I went into the coop, and instead of dusting the chickens (which I had done the night before), I sprayed each of them in their bald areas with the Poultry Protector. It turns out chickens do not like being sprayed with stuff. They did their usual act of running into the corner of the coop and trying to get behind each other, but this time they seemed much angrier than usual. Luckily I could spray them from farther away, and it went much faster than powdering, so I was done before they revolted. I still have a little spray left, and I’ll use it next time I change out the chips, and this time I’ll be changing them all out, not just the ones under the roost. I think it may be time to try a different approach to coop maintenance and see what works. If I still find that I’m having feather loss, it may be time to try the “flea drop” method, which, unsurprisingly, is controversial on the internet. Basically, you dab some popular flea and tick liquid on the chickens and this does the trick, even though it’s not approved for chickens, and you have to chuck your eggs for a while. This feels like a nuclear option, so I’ll keep dusting a little longer, and see where it gets me, beyond covered in poison dust, of course.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Lu Lu by National Promenade Band)

Mites Or Gleets?

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Spring is a magical time of year. The flowers begin to bloom, eggs start filling the nesting buckets, and then I start wondering just what on Earth is going on with the chickens’ butts. My first thought is always vent gleet. Once you know about vent gleet, why would you stop thinking about it? I mean, aside from the fact that it’s gross, and usually means you have to either bathe a chicken or cut away dung-encrusted feathers. But otherwise it’s great, right? Not really. It’s bad business for butts. So in Spring, when the poopy chicken butts also bloom, my mind turns to vent gleet and it’s prevention and/or cure.

Can you smell it?

Can you smell it?

However, the cruelest trick the Devil ever played was giving other issues the same symptoms as vent gleet. Or at least maybe the grossest trick he ever played. What I learned last year was that nasty doodoo butt can also be caused by mites. So if you, like me, give your chickens nutritional support to ward off the gleet, and seem to have one chicken after another somehow developing gleet-like symptoms, it may not be gleet at all. It could be mites. This was the biggest discovery for me last summer. I thought the flock was falling to the gleet one by one, but finally realized that something else had to be up. And what was up was mites. And what they were up in was the chickens’ hinders. I figured this out because some of the chickens got nasty butt action, but others got bald butts. So I looked up bald butts, and that’s how I found that mites can also cause diarrhea as well as bald butts. I suppose at least it cuts down on the nasty feathers.

You used to be able to get this on a t-shirt.

You used to be able to get this on a t-shirt.

This year, since I noticed symptoms of gleet in Steve and John, I not only treated them for gleet, but I treated everyone for mites too. I’m not going down that road again. Egg production was way down for a while last summer because mites can really drain a chicken’s energy levels. Parasites are like that. Henny Penny still hasn’t grown her butt feathers back, either. They sprout, then disappear. So I’m not sure if I even fully vanquished the mites, or just beat them back enough to get everyone laying again, and all but Henny Penny back to fully feathered. But since I saw possible gleet, in I went with the diatomaceous earth to start fluffin’ butts as a pre-emptive strike.

Butts! Consider yourselves fluffed!

Butts! Consider yourselves fluffed!

I haven’t yet gone in with the “poultry powder” which is part diatomaceous earth, part poison, mainly because it’s part poison. As it is, I don’t want to put bedding with diatomaceous earth in the compost, because that alone will kill the good bugs who help break it down. I don’t want to be poisoning anything and everything that comes along. More than just bugs get into the compost, so I’m holding off on the nuclear option, for now.


There’s who in the what, now?

You’re supposed to apply the D.E. once, then again ten days later to break the life cycle of the mites. I’ve gotten into a weekly ritual, just to be on the safe side. I’m no math whiz, but I feel like this frequency must cover all my bases statistically, even if I start in the middle of a life cycle. I don’t know. But Sunday nights, butts get fluffed. If I make a routine like that, it’s much easier to remember to do it. If I have to do it on ten-day cycles, then I need to get calendars involved, and it’s just too much work. Since I get “Sundaynightis,” or dread of the coming work week, it’s easy for me to add things in my Sunday night rituals to try to offset it. Oddly, putting weird gray powder on chicken butts does seem to alleviate my symptoms somewhat. Not sure what that says about me, but here I am saying it.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Ma Rag Time Baby by Peerless Orchestra)

Season’s Gleetings!

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

We had had a rough couple of weekends, and hadn’t had a chance to go grocery shopping. When you don’t have time to do anything during the week because you commute, you have to cram a lot into Saturday and Sunday, and when you’re exhausted from the cramming, the last thing you want to do is go to the grocery store. We generally have to go shopping on Sundays, which seems to be when all the sports or snowstorms happen, so it’s always a madhouse. That doesn’t help with the motivation to get to the store either. If I could go into work late one day a week so I could shop on a weekday morning, that would be ideal, but I see a tough negotiation ahead if I pursue that. So here we are. We were out of most things, including yogurt and apple cider vinegar, which are staples of my chicken regimen. Both keep some nasty stuff at bay, but I figured it was like taking vitamins. You don’t come down with rickets because you stop taking vitamins for a week, so a week without yogurt in a dish and vinegar in the water couldn’t possibly cause a problem, right?

What I've been led to believe a chicken with rickets would look like.

What I’ve been led to believe a chicken with rickets would look like.

Well, the butts of Steve and John told a different story. The story they told was one of gross cloaca disasters. Or one specific disaster we all know as vent gleet. I usually have a run-in with the gleet once a year or so, and here it was just as Spring approached. The plus side, if there is one, is that Steve and John both have such big wattles that it’s very easy to get their beaks open to squirt the mixture of epsom salt and water down their throats that I’ve always treated this with. This is not an easy task by any means, but bigger wattles give me an edge. So I grabbed them one at a time, trimmed all the super nasty butt feathers off, then brought them inside for their “medicine.” (Side note: I ran out of my stock of rubber gloves during this episode, and when I went to buy more, the drugstore was clean out. Like, an entire shelf’s worth of rubber gloves was empty. How does this happen? What was going on in Harvard Square that that many people needed rubber gloves? Luckily(?), there are actually two drugstores of the same chain a block apart, so I was able to get more. I didn’t want to be touching these butts bare-handed.)

Oh, come on. No one has wattles this big.

Oh, come on. No one has wattles this big.

I’m not sure if it was Steve or John who was the easier of the two, but one of them was a breeze. Open, epsom, open, epsom, open, epsom, until it’s all gone. I think I even managed to not get any on my pants, which is rare. I usually can be counted on to miss at least one shot, but not this time. Then I brought in the other one. Let’s just say it was John. John wasn’t having any of this. My pants got soaked, then she got away, and it was just a big struggle, even with the wattle advantage. Then I did the thing they warn you not to do. I squeezed the dropper too hard and I got some down the wrong neckhole, so liquid went into her lungs. I could hear it rattle with every breath. I had no idea what to do. I held her upside down in the hope that the liquid would run out. It didn’t. I looked online, and I found a lot of people saying not to do this, but no one saying what to do if it happened. I figured all I could do was ride it out. A ton didn’t get in there, so she could breathe, but enough was in there that she rasped. I put her in the coop, then she sneezed, and that actually seemed to make the rasping better. I had to hope it would sort itself out.

It went a little something like this.

It went a little something like this.

I posted on a messageboard for help. No one really had any input on how to handle this, but one person asked why I was still doing the epsom trick. I said it was because that was a thread that had been stickied on that website. The other poster pointed out that vent gleet is fungal, so it’s much easier to just spray their butts with athlete’s foot spray for two weeks. You’re supposed to do it twice a day, and I don’t see them sitting still for this in the mornings, but nights are easy. So I’ve been doing that in lieu of the second dose of epsom salt. John’s breathing was fine the next day, and the gleet seems to be on the outs. I do have one lingering concern, though. Last year what I thought was a vent gleet outbreak was actually mites. So is it really the gleet, or am I fighting the wrong foe? Time will tell.

Still an enemy, but the right one this time?

Still an enemy, but the right one this time?

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Some Smoke by National Promenade Band, record scratch sound effect by: simkiott)

Suzy’s Got It Rough

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Captured on video – Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s rough molt, only on Too Many Chickens!


Lousy Mites

Friday, October 30th, 2015

I was all at ease thinking the mites were long gone and once the molt was over, everyone would be back to normal. This is why I should never be at ease. The mites, I think they are back. I’m not 100% positive, but I’m maybe about 90% positive. What makes me slightly unsure is that they only seem to be affecting Suzy Creamcheese Junior, but at the same time, when they infiltrated the flock, they moved one chicken at a time. So maybe Suzy is holding onto the infestation somehow, and they’re going to begin to work their way back out, using her as a base station. I just don’t know. I’m still getting a handle on how these horrible things work.

how mites work

A little itchy reading.

Suzy has always been the one who seemed to get it the roughest. She didn’t lose quite as many butt feathers as Henny Penny, but she did also start to look like some chest feathers were being affected. One side of her chest got all ratty looking, but they never fully fell out, like on her butt, nor did they ever seem to recover. I wasn’t ever quite sure if this was just something to do with molting, or what the cause really was. It just sort of lingered, as a strange mangy reminder that feathers are a mystery.


Tufty in the front, bald in the rear.

She also seemed to be itchier about all this than the others. When I check them at night, I will often catch her picking at the edges of her bald butt, or under her wings. Under the wings seems to be a popular place for mites to gather, but she never seemed to lose feathers there. But, if she was picking at that area, it made me nervous that mites were present. I would get her under there with diatomaceous earth whenever I went in and gave everyone a dose of that. It just may not have helped.


Another popular mite gathering place.

What makes me think she still may be infested is that her tail feather growth not only seems stalled, but might actually be moving backwards. Even though all she had was new feather nubs, there seem to be fewer than before, and her bald spot in the butt area might be getting bigger. I can’t be sure, but I have some suspicions. Meanwhile, she is still picking at her underwings, and her chest tuft is still tufting. It could just be that with molting also going on now, that everything is going to take longer, since feather regrowth takes a while anyway, and a molt will just make it all go slower. Or she could have had it so bad that it never quite got fixed. What I think I’m going to have to do is try the mite poison again. There is a technique I have heard of in which you put the poison powder in a bag, and then put the chicken in the bag up to her neck, and then shake the whole thing so the chicken is fully coated with poison. This seems like a bad idea for a number of reasons, the least of which is trying to get a chicken into a bag. So I’m not going to try this. I’ll put on my contamination suit and head out there with the poison in the next night or so, and do it the old-fashioned way. I don’t like using poison, but I think in order to rule out further contamination, I have to. It’s getting colder, and she can’t be out in the winter with a bald butt. We don’t have much room in the house for chickens, though I do bring Boss Chicken in when it gets severely cold. I can’t move the whole flock inside, especially if they’ve got bugs. That would just create whole new worlds of trouble. Using the poison is probably the easiest thing at this point, and if worst comes to worst, I’ll get her a butt toupee.


I don’t know whose butt toupee that is, but it’s terrific!

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Hawaiian Twilight by Hawaiian Trio)

Exciting Butt Magic!

Friday, August 7th, 2015

I have said many times that the butt is the window to the soul. It may be a case of thinking that if I say something enough, I’ll eventually believe it. This may be working, in a weird way, because when it comes to chickens, I’ve found that the butt is certainly some kind of window. It’s a window that sometimes lets out eggs, and then other things that are less nutritious, but I have often been able to discern that something is wrong with a chicken just by looking at its butt. So maybe not the window to the soul as much as a window into health, but I suppose it may just be a matter of how you view health and/or souls. But if you view butts, you can learn many things. When a chicken has vent gleet, you know because her butt gets straight-up nasty. If a chicken is egg bound, you have to check via butt. And most recently, I found out my chickens had mites thanks to the disappearance of butt feathers, one chicken at a time. Butts are really helpful things!

soup for shut-ins

Butts sometimes even make soup for shut-ins.

What has helped me to learn the usefulness of the gallid hindquarters is the fact that every night when I put the chickens to bed, I stick my head into the coop to make sure everyone’s there. Doing this through the door in the run puts me right at chicken butt level. If something’s up in Butt Town, this is usually when I would notice. Fortunately, I’m not so close that I’ll get pooped on, but just the right distance to combine safety and the ability to inspect. This is how I first noticed Henny Penny’s butt feather loss, and how I watched it progress through the other chickens until I realized they weren’t having a bunch of different weird problems, but one big problem – mites. Now that I’ve begun treating the mites, I look extra closely to make sure that the problem is at least not getting any worse, and to eagerly await signs that things are getting better. I know I’m actually being a little overeager, but I need some sign that what I’m doing is working, otherwise I may need to try some remedies I don’t feel so good about. I did try poison on their butts a few times, but have since switched back to diatomaceous earth. It’s still not an ideal thing to be flinging around the coop, but it’s organic, so it’s the least of the evils I have available. The butts didn’t seem to be getting worse, but I had no proof they were getting better, and I began to wonder if I needed to bust out the poison “poultry powder” again to be more aggressive.

butt town

As far as straight-to-VHS chicken westerns go, you could do worse.

Then, during a recent nightly butt check, I noticed that Henny Penny’s butt had a few black specks on it. This could have gone in a bad direction, as it could have been mites walking on her very large bare patch. But getting in as close as I could, I confirmed that what I saw certainly looked like new feathers beginning to sprout. If that was happening, I’m pretty sure the mites have been vanquished. If they were still active, they’d bite these feathers off with the quickness. Suzy Creamcheese Junior was who I wanted to check next, since she had the second worst bare patch, but she could tell I was up to something, and turned away, giving me a “oh no you don’t” sort of look. I figured I’d check her later, when she wasn’t expecting it.

the look

You know the look when you see it.

That opportunity came the other day, after I had let them out in the yard for a while. I called them all back into the run (or more accurately, I went out to the run with a bag of sunflower seeds, and they all came running for that). As they stood there eating seeds off the ground, Suzy had her butt pointing right at me, and I saw the tell-tale feather sprouts on her otherwise bare hiney. I think we’ve passed through the bad times, and are headed into a time of regrowth.


I don’t know why I can’t just get a clock with numbers.

Given how bad some of them got it, I’m going to keep up my weekly butt dustings for a while. I don’t want to leave a chance for the mites to get back in there. Mites take a lot of energy from the chickens, so they don’t lay as many eggs, and they certainly can’t be enjoying themselves as much as usual. Soon they’ll hopefully all be fully feathered out and at peak happiness. Of course, this will probably happen right when it’s time for them to molt, so all these new feathers will fall out, but timing has never been a strong suit of mine.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Yes, We Have No Bananas by The Great White Way Orchestra)

A Mite Impatient

Friday, July 24th, 2015

When someone I care about is sick, I worry a lot. Right now six people, er, chickens, I care about have mites, and so I get preoccupied with thinking about how to make sure this problem is taken care of. I’ve tried diatomaceous earth, and I’ve tried “poultry powder,” yet their butts are still featherless, and egg production is down. I powder them with one substance or another once a week, and yet I don’t see any progress. I even went into both our fireplace and wood stove and took all the ashes out and put them in the chicken run. This is so they could take dusts baths in the ash, which is supposed to fight mites. There are a few things I haven’t tried yet, and I’ve been reluctant to do so, since they all have side effects of some sort or another.

side effects

Also, probably diarrhea. It’s always diarrhea.

In my original post about the mites, I mentioned that Sevin dust is one big gun people turn to for mites when other cures fail. It’s mostly diatomaceous earth, but has poison mixed in. It’s a different poison from what’s in the poultry powder, and apparently quite bad for bees. It’s also not technically approved for use on poultry, so there’s that too. But I was worried enough that I was beginning to think that maybe it was worth a shot. But I just couldn’t bring myself to go through with it, so I looked into other ideas.

other ideas

Sometimes they keep this bucket behind the counter.

You can apparently use the type of flea and tick drops that you put on cats and dogs on chickens, but I get the feeling this may be a mildly sketchy, or at least “experimental” treatment. You need to use a very specific brand of the drop, one not easily had at any pet store, so you need to find the right source. You also have to apply it to a chicken, which seems tricky. I have had a hard time putting this stuff on dogs, and they sit still. A squawking, unhappy chicken in one hand, and flea and tick juice in the other is not my idea of a good time. And to top it all off, if you go this route, you can’t eat the eggs for weeks afterwards. I like eating the eggs. I’m good at it. I also share them with people and spread chicken goodwill. Throwing out large amounts of eggs was just not something I wanted to do. If you can’t eat them, I’m sure they can’t go in the compost. Dumping them in the trash seems so wasteful. I put this idea on hold too.

trash can.

Gonna need another can.

The last option is to give them a flea dip. This, again, got into the weird territory of “you can only use very specific brands of flea shampoo that are hard to find and probably expensive.” Also, you have to dunk the chicken in a bucket of water. Frankly, I have had an easier time getting my finger up a chicken’s butt than I have soaking them in anything. Plus, then I’d have six chickens that then need to be dried off (Boss Chicken doesn’t seem to have the mites, for some reason). I was beginning to develop a vision of what hell must be like. Blow drying six chickens is straight out of Dante.

A job not even Satan himself wants to do.

A job not even Satan himself wants to do.

Back in the winter our local feed store closed. A few months later, it opened back up under new ownership, much to my surprise and delight. I swung by the other day to get more chicken food and bedding, and a guy who worked at the old version of the store was now working at the new version. He had always given me good advice in the past, so even though I was there for something else, I asked about the mites, and what I could do. He asked if I wanted an organic solution or otherwise. I said at this point I’d try either. I mentioned that I had tried diatomaceous earth, and he said “well, that’s the organic option.” Then he showed me a different brand of the poultry powder than the one I had. I said I had tried that too, but their feathers weren’t growing back, and the eggs were less frequent than usual. He said this was pretty typical, and as long as I got some anti-mite stuff on the chickens, in the nesting buckets, and in the coop, the problem would go away, but it might take a few weeks before I noticed an improvement. They need time to recuperate, and sometimes that takes longer than I like. On the plus side, I’m doing everything right. Everything except being patient, that is. I can work on that, and see if I’m better at it by the time my birds have some new butt feathers. I think it may take even longer than that. My impatience is much peskier than mites, and just slightly less bitey.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Memphis Tennessee by The Gulf Coast Seven)

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