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Lou's Tips

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Resist the temptation to make corn your primary grain for the birds until the really cold weather sets in. Corn is high in fat and low in energy and other nutrients A better choice would be oats, wheat, or a mix of the two. Birds have to be taught to eat oats but it is a highly nutritious grain. I only feed corn when there is zero weather with which to contend.


Remember that fall is by far the best time of year to purchase new stock. It is the one time of year when supply is the greatest. Spring is the worst time to purchase birds.


Not all mite/louse treatments are created equal. Adams Flea Off, for example, only is effective for 2-3 weeks and I am told that it does not kill all species of mites.

The best product I have found is the spray bottle form of Frontline. It kills all species of mites and is effective for three months. Warning: it is much more expensive than other brands but only one squirt is required for each bird.


An excellent way to winterize pens which are in use during winter months is to cover the sides in heavy mill clear plastic. The light still comes through but the birds are shielded from the wind and snow. The use of roofing nails (1 1/4 inch) which come with round plastic gaskets works well in fastening the plastic to pen sides.


With the days getting shorter, it is more important than ever to lock up range birds before dark. A whole range of predators including Great Horned Owls begin to hunt as darkness falls.


Be careful with the use of artificial lights as the days shorten. Waterfowl in particular can be induced to lay out of season quite easily even by a single light burning in their area. Birds which lay out of season almost never produce as well during the normal breeding season.


Sprouting oats during the winter and feeding to both waterfowl and chickens is a wonderful way to supplement their nutritional needs. It can be as simple as soaking the whole grain in a bucket of water overnight and then keeping the bucket in a cool, dark place for a few days. Feed to the birds when the sproats have emerged from the seeds.


Once your birds have finished moulting, it is OK to worm them. worming is something that should be done on a yearly basis at least especially if the birds are on range. Do not worm the birds when they are under stress such as when there is extreme heat.


Those raising white varieties of chickens may want to avoid feeding whole corn or scratch grains during the show season because the corn can cause a yellow cast to the white plumage even in "stay white" lines. Once present, the yellow tint is slow to fade even after there is no corn in the bird's diet.


With the fall show season here now, do not neglect to provide for quality transportation of the birds to the shows. Carry coops which are clean and easily cleaned, smooth sided to prevent plumage damage, and fairly light to carry are a big plus. Cages with wire sides are a bad idea. Plumage is easily damaged in such cages. Does it make sense to spend months growing out and conditioning a bird only to have it ruined on the way to a show?


Both waterfowl and chickens benefit from coop training this time of year. Waterfowl in particular tend to be timid so they can be helped to show well by being placed in show cages occasionally prior to the first shows of the year. At least in the Midwest, show cages can be purchased at major shows if one does not already possess some.


The two best whole grains to feed to waterfowl or chickens this time of year are wheat and oats. Both tend to help birds complete their moult without adding a lot of fat to their diet like corn does. Oats are not favored by the birds so it must be given to them when no other feed is available.


We are now entering the prime time of year to be concerned with waterfowl contracting West Nile Virus. Sudden losses of young birds in particular are common. See my article on West Nile Virus for full details.


It can be very useful to color code birds according to year of hatch, mating, etc. Small zip ties that now come in many colors are perfect for this purpose. Numbered bands can also be used to identify the individual bird.


Do not overlook the good work small ducks and chickens can do in the garden. My Indies in particular are great at hunting down mosquitoes, slugs, and Japanese beetles, among other pests. Let them hunt the bugs in the early AM for the best results.


Don't forget to worm birds out on range in particular once the weather cools and the birds have completed their moult.


Remember that the time to go over show birds to remove frayed or broken feathers is 6-8 weeks prior to when they will be shown. It takes that length of time to replace a flight feather.


Remember that poultry of all types have almost no cooling mechanism when the heat is severe. Ventilation is vital as is fresh water. Extreme heat is harder on poultry than is extreme cold. Do not worm or vaccinate during heat waves.


Get both young waterfowl and chickens out of housing and into outside pens as soon as it is safe to do so. The difference in growth rate and condition is significant when young birds have acesss to pasture. The ideal is to have plenty of green shade available.


Feed must be stored carefully anytime but especially during periods of high moisture. Feed can become moldy within a short period of time and mold can be fatal to all types of poultry.


While it is always very important to be sure that very young waterfowl do not run out of water for any extended period, if it does happen, supply water which is room temperature, not cold. It is also important not to let them drink too much when the water is supplied. Let them have some and then take it away for 10 minutes or so before giving it back for a few moments.


There is a tendency when administering medications such as antibiotics, wormers, etc. to think "more is better". The fact is that doing so may actually do more harm than good. READ AND FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!  One can actually kill young birds in particular by over dosing.


If one uses only distilled water in incubators, the water trays will not be damaged by hard water residue and will last many times longer.


It is always tempting to open the incubator at hatch time to check on the status but doing so may well lead to poorer results. Every time the incubator is opened the built up humidity necessary for proper hatches escapes. As a result, the membranes that the youngsters have to break through dries out. It is even more crucial for waterfowl which have a harder time hatching.


When using an incubator to hatch either waterfowl or chickens, do not turn the eggs for at least the last three days of the incubation cycle. That will allow the embryo to position itself for proper pipping of the shell and will lead to better hatches.