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Lou's Tips

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I find that both ducks and chickens benefit from some animal protein in their diets. Most processed feeds today to not provide that. Unless they are on free range, some supplemental feeding of a source of animal protein is good. I use freeze dried meal worms which I buy online at a cost of approximately six dollars per pound. Both ducks and chickens are omnivorous if they have the chance to be. 


It is good policy to spray show birds for mites both before and after shows. Waterfowl should also be sprayed since they can pick up mites if they are kept with chickens or  are cooped near them at the show.


One of the harder  things to master for the exhibitor is to avoid "coop blindness" when evaluating one's birds against those of competitors. If one does not see faults that exist in one's birds, it is impossible to improve them.


Exhibitors: Never lose sight of Standard requirements for your breed and variety. re-read the Standard description regularly and ask yourself if you are drifting away from that Standard.


In spite of statements to the contrary by some researchers, my personal experience with West Nile Virus in my birds is that almost all of the losses from the virus are in young birds. That means either that survivors confer some degree of immunity to their young or that older birds with more mature immune systems are better able to resist infection.


We are in West Nile Virus season here in Northern Illinois. Since waterfowl are especially vulnerable, every effort should be made to protect them from being bitten by mosquitoes.   Standing water should be eliminated whenever possible. only the Culex specie of mosquito is known to carry the virus. 


If you want to pick up breeding or show stock, fall is normally  by far the best time to do so. The supply of such birds is usually the greatest that time of year as breeders sell surplus young birds and often let go of  breeders from the previous year.


Coccidiosis is a serious disease problem for all types of young fowl including waterfowl. It is normally brought on when chicks or ducklings are stressed. Since it is caused by a type of protozoa rather than by bacteria, it cannot be treated effectively with antibiotics.

I recommend that both young landfowl and waterfowl be fed medicated Start & Grower for the first 8 weeks which contains a coccidiostat. 


With so much of the Midwest enduring extreme heat and heavy storms, be aware of the dangers of mold and botulism. Both can be deadly to poultry. Never feed anything you even suspect might be harboring mold. Botulism can start in rotting vegetation which is partially buried in mud since it needs the absence of oxygen to thrive. 


Heat is a very real danger to poultry when it is excessively hot. Green shade outside and moving the air inside make a big difference. In my experience, large fowl have even a tougher time with extreme heat than do bantams or waterfowl. Plenty of fresh water is very important also.


Regular treatment for mites is imperative. The heat of summer encourages rapid infestations. Male birds are particularly likely to harbor mites in their vent area. Check for mites every time you handle your birds.


If at all possible,do not go into a new breed or variety of poultry with less than two males and two females. Losses or infertility can derail the breeding program for an entire year.


Having problems with feather picking among your chick? Step one is to ID the culprit(s). I look for a chick that has had no feathers picked and may even have telltale blood on its beak. 

Once I have a suspect, I move it to an older group of chicks. When he gets slapped around when he tries to continue picking, he will stop. You know you got the right culprit if the picking stops.


One can increase humidity in an incubator by closing air vents and/or by increasing the surface of the water to increase evaporation. One can add a sponge, for example.


If air cells  in eggs are becoming too large , increase humidity to stop further moisture loss. One can only correct that situation if the problem is caught early so it is very important to keep an eye on the size of air cells during the process of incubation.


If the air cells in eggs are too small the week before the hatch is due, run the machine dry for 1-2 days or until the air cells approach one-third of the egg in size. Once the eggs begin to pip,as much humidity as possible is good.


Pay close attention to the size of egg  air cells during incubation. In all types of poultry, the air cell should be about one-third of the egg just before a hatch begins. Next time: how to make adjustments.


A common cause of poor hatches in incubators is incorrect humidity. If the humidity is too high, the chicks that do hatch will be swollen and sticky. If it is too low, they tend to be smaller than they should be. It is easy to fix either if one catches the problem in time.


Do not waste valuable organic material if you have a garden. poultry manure is a valuable source of nutrition for plants but do not apply it fresh. Let it age in a pile for several weeks at least before adding it to the garden. The aging process is sped up if the pile is stirred regularly.


Remember that personality traits can be inherited. Mean birds should not be used as breeders unless one feels that one has no other choice.


Consider hatching some chicks, ducklings, or goslings in late spring using broodies.Aside from saving electricity by not having to use an incubator, most broodies do a good job of rearing the hatchlings if provided with a secure pen away from the flock.


In my experience,chickens eggs hatch well with the  automatic turning mechanisms in modern incubators. Waterfowl eggs hatch best when laid on their sides and are turned 90 degrees by hand. I have found no significant difference in hatchability, however, when waterfowl eggs are turned more than three times per day.


When making repairs to buildings, pens, and fences, consider upgrading the materials used. Treated wood no longer contains arsenic so there is no longer a reason to avoid using it. Stay away from "chicken wire" as it rusts when used on exterior pens at an unbeleivable rate. One half inch hardware cloth is a far better material to use to protect the lowest 24 inches of pens.


Have you surveyed your pens and fences for evidence of detioration or predator intrusion recently? If not, it is a good idea to do so regularly. Metal rusts, wood rots. Trust me that if you do not check for weaknesses, the local predators will.


Using cheaply made heat lamps in chicken pens can cost a great deal in terms of increased danger of fire. Well made lamps which are designed to minimize the risk of fire can be a bargain in the long run. They are much sturdier and have deeper covers and heavy duty guards.