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Lou's Tips

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Not all respiratory infections are caused by bacteria. A significant percentage is caused by fungi. Treating a respiratory infection with antibiotics will not only not work if the infection is not caused by bacteria but the antibiotic can kill beneficial bacteria in the gut.


While I realize that feed costs are high, I feel strongly that the cost of carrying over quality birds as backups (males in particular) is well worth the cost. A year can be lost in a breeding program when a male is either infertile or is lost for any reason.


Now is the time to begin thinking about making preparations for the winter care of your birds. Think about how water will be provided, about putting heavy mill plastic on the sides of pens which will be used all winter, etc.


I have mentioned before that when one handles birds, there is an opportunity to accomplish multiple tasks. Each time I handle my birds, I try to check for parasites, see if the beak or toenails need to be trimmed and verify that the bird's weight seems right. If the bird is one I plan to show, I also check for damaged feathers, pulling broken ones.


Due to the Avian Flu situation in the Midwest, shows in IA, WI, and MN. have been cancelled. That means that breeders have fewer outlets for surplus stock. As a result, it may be easier for buyers to locate and purchase quality stock at shows in IL. and IN which are being held as usual. Make your arrangements well in advance if you want to secure the best available stock.


While poultry of all kinds love treats and we love to give them to them, we need to keep the" junk food" to a minimum. Bread, for example, is high in calories but low in actual nutrition. The same is true of corn in large amounts. Such processes as moulting, reproduction and winter survival all require a balanced diet for best results.


Wild birds such as Sparrows and Starlings can be a problem if allowed to come in contact with your poultry. They are the prime suspects in the spread of the current Avian Influenza, for example.

Pens and buildings which are  screened to minimize or eliminate that contact are well worth the effort. 


It is possible to replicate a pasture situation for penned birds if greens and animal protein are provided in addition to their normal diet. I use freeze dried meal worms to supply the animal protein. Of course, nothing can replace sunshine.


Having trouble dertermining the sex of young 1/2 grown Mandarins? Young Normal males will begin to show a pink/red color in their bills at 10-12 weeks of age. female bills will remain gray in color. In Whites, both sexes have pink/red bills. One must look for signs of breast color in  White males.


Control of rodents in poultry facilities is vital not only because they spread disease but also because they can introduce and spread parasites. I have found "Tomcat" brand baits to be effective against all types of rodents.


Whenever poultry is pastured, one must guard against the presence of poisonous plants. In our area of Northern IL, there are at least two common plants which are poisonous: Pokeweed and Night Shade. Check with your local Extension Office to find out which poisonous plants are in your area.


Whenever birds are moved for the the purposes of showing at fairs, etc it is important that when they return that they are isolated and sprayed for mites. The isolation should last no less than a week. They should be carefully watched for any signs of disease before they are re-introduced to the flock.


During extreme heat, it is vital that poultry have fresh clean water at all times. Not only must they use it to stay hydrated, bacteria grows quickly in fouled water during such times.


Do not take young chickens off of medicated feed too early as a change of weather can trigger coccidiosis. Likewise, do not put growing chickens outside away from a sources of heat if there is chance of a cold snap.


Be sure to regularly trim the beaks of your chickens as they continue to grow (as do their toenails) their entire lives. Failure to keep them trimmed may well limit their ability to eat.  The upper beak grows faster than the lower one.


Feeding growing young waterfowl a feed that contains too much protein when their wings are growing in may contribute to a problem called "angel wing" in which the wings do not fold properly and may even protrude from the bird's sides when folded.

After about four weeks of age, switch from a starter feed to a grower which contains no more than 16% protein.


Dehydration is a serious threat to the health of young poultry. The younger the bird, the more dire the consequences of being without water for an extended period of time.


You can discourage the growth of algae and mold in waterers by adding a dash of cider vinegar to each fill up. It lowers the water's PH.


In my experience, the most common weak spot in the facilities of many breeders is rearing pens to grow out the current crop of young birds. All too often, we try to get by without enough pen space telling ourselves that the overcrowding is only temporary. As a result, we risk an increased spread of disease and less than optimal growing conditions for some of our best young birds.


Not every situation in an incubator room demands a full reservoir of water at all times to provide the appropriate amount of humidity. I sometimes run my incubators dry for a day or more at a time when the air cells are not properly enlarged for the stage of development. An air cell for either waterfowl or chicken eggs should comprise about 1/3 of the egg just before hatching.


You will do a better job of caring for your birds long term if you make doing so as convenient and labor saving as possible. A good example would be installing a frostless hydrant near your facilities to save the need to carry buckets of water long distances. That is especially important during the winter when hoses may not be practical in many parts of the country.


Probably the most common mistake that novice poultry keepers make is underestimating the local predators. I am convinced that predator losses are more substantial than all other causes of loss combined. Do not lose your investment in your breeding stock because you under-invest in your pens and housing.


A very contagious strain of Avian Flu has broken out in commercial flocks of turkeys and laying hens in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. It is believed to be spread by wild birds. Keeping wild birds from coming in contact with your poultry and practicing good, common sense bio-security may prevent further spread of the disease.


If you plan to purchase breeding stock, this is the best time to contact the seller to reserve birds.  Most sellers of the high quality stock have more requests than they can fill, at least for the better birds. Offer to send a deposit even if the seller doe not require one because it shows that you are serious and will follow through. Most birds are delivered/shipped in the fall.


Rodent control in areas where poultry is kept is vital for several reasons. Rodents spread disease, eat large quantities of feed, and in urban areas is often an excuse cited for banning the keeping of poultry. Warfarin based products are not effective in my experience.

I have found that rodent baits containing Diphasinone are quite effective. Be careful with it around other animals, however.