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Lou's Tips

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Breeding birds (waterfowl and chickens) should not start the breeding season in a fattened condition. If they do, fertility can be severely reduced, particularly in heavy breeds such as Rouen ducks and Toulouse geese as well as chicken breeds such as Cochins.


Some breeders find that trimming the heavy feathers above and below the vents of males and females aid in improving fertility.


One key to consistent good fertility is choosing the right number of females each male can handle. That number would vary greatly depending upon breed. Heavier breeds (chickens and waterfowl) usually have a lower male/female ratio. I do not recommend more than one male per mating.


It is important from the standpoint of fertility to put matings together several weeks before eggs are wanted if at all possible. Relationships particularly among the females must be sorted out and that takes some time.


When poultry (including waterfowl) are kept inside during the winter, it is important to provide grit for the birds to allow their digestive systems to function properly.


Be extremely careful in using artificial light around flocks of waterfowl during the winter. Even the use of one lightbulb in their shelters can cause them to lay out of season. Even infrared heat lamps can cause waterfowl to go into production.


Winter is the one time of the year when corn is a significant part of my bird's diets. The high fat content in corn helps them keep their weight up even in sub zero cold.


This is an excellent time of the year to make sure that medications and vaccines that you are storing have not exceeded their shelf life. It is also a good time to reorder those supplies that have been depleted but will be needed later: incubator wafers, etc.


Do not neglect to keep rodents under good control  during the winter. They not only carry disease but they steal large amounts of feed. There are new products on the market that are much better than the Warfarin based ones. The Tomcat line has worked well for me.


More on winter chores. Water is the one basic necessity that flock owners are most likely to shortchange during the winter. If ice must be knocked out of each water cup, for example, it is pretty easy to talk ones self into providing that unfrozen water once per day instead of 2-3 times. Frozen water is simply unavailable to the birds. You might as well be giving them none at all.  because they will eat less, the birds gradually lose weight.and bone chilling cold becomes


Do whatever you can to make caring for your birds in winter more convenient and less labor intensive. The harder it is to perform the basic tasks involved in feeding and watering, the more likely is the caretaker to take short cuts to get those chores out of the way more quickly.


Now is the time that matings should be constructed whether they be waterfowl or chickens. Don't expect instant fertility if the birds are just thrown together. Matings together for several weeks prior to when egg production begins will, on the whole, produce better results.


Tip for White Call exhibitors: If you put your birds into a tub of clean water prior to a show to allow them to bathe, add enough bluing to give the water a faint bluish tint. Doing so will lessen or eliminate a yellow cast to their plumage. Warning: Do not use bluing if there is any soap in the water as it will allow the bluing to permanently stain the plumage.


It is just as important to keep on top of treating for lice and mites during the winter as it is other times of year. The extremes of cold can be stressful for the birds and they really benefit from being parasite free. Spraying, powdering or treating the birds orally once a month is about right.


Always allow waterfowl to have clean water which at least allows them to get their heads submerged. The use of waterers meant for upland fowl may lead to low grade infections in the eyes. A good symptom of which is crusty material around the eyes.


The use of wire carrying coops is almost always a mistake. When birds flex their wings, the flight feathers are frayed by the wire and such carriers are drafty. Using old beer boxes with folding lids is actually a better way to go if cost is important.


This is by far the best time of the year to purchase breeding or show stock. Much later and the best stock will be gone. If you wait until late winter/early spring you may be shut out or end up paying more than you should for the quality you get. You see, there is usually a price to pay when the seller has to stand the expense/risk of overwintering the birds.


An excellent way to provide unfrozen water to individual pens of poultry during the winter in a building is to use thermostatically controlled heated dog bowls. They are available at most home improvement stores in the $15-$20 price range. 


After one's last show in the fall is an excellent time to treat both chickens and waterfowl for both internal and external parasites. If birds have been on range, one should assume that they may be carrying some form of internal parasites. Do not wait to do this until the breeding season is approaching.


When fitting chickens for a show, do not neglect to trim beaks and toenails and do them prior to washing the birds.


When washing chickens for an upcoming show, give them several days to air dry and re-oil their feathers. I like to give my birds 3-5 days after they are washed before I show them. I never use a blow dryer as it damages the feathers.


Waterfowl are especially sensitive to the effects of artificial lighting. It is quite possible to throw them into a moult or cause them to begin producing eggs out of season if they are affected by yard lights. It may be necessary to black out windows which allow such light in buildings containing waterfowl.


If Laryngo is a problem  for chickens in your area (the south and some parts of the Midwest) you should consider vaccinating for it. If you do not want to get into the yearly cycle of doing so, it would be wise to keep the vaccine on hand as it will stop the disease in it's tracks. If you show chickens, that is especially important.


When your poultry is being stressed for any reason including illness, a good idea is to give them probiotics which will reinforce and protect essential gut bacteria. Such treatment is especially vital after dosing with antibiotics which kill those bacteria.


You should always treat birds for mites and lice both before and after taking them to a show. Be careful about using sprays, however, since some will stain the plumage of white birds.