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Lou's Tips

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Nothing is more stressful for birds than being shown. Taking some of their own feed and water to the show is one way to help reduce the stress. Another way is to insure that their carry coops are roomy and clean.


Do not feed oyster shell to either ducks or chickens before the young females begin to lay. Doing so may lead to kidney damage.


With the show season in some parts of the country only 3-4 weeks away, it is time to go over potential show birds carefully for unmoulted/damaged plumage. A few unmoulted or frayed feathers can be the difference in tough competition.


While West Nile Virus seems to be on the wane in the U.S., this is the time of year when infected waterfowl will be stricken. Symptoms come on quickly and death usually comes within 48 hours or so. Birds appear to mope and have little appetite. Young birds appear to be the most likely victims. Chickens can contract West Nile but show no symptoms.


Both ducks and geese benefit immensely from access to pasture during the growing period once they have fully feathered out. Goslings in particular should not be raised without at least limited access to pasture.


"Angel wing" is at least part nutritiional. Be careful to step down the protein content of the feed for both ducks and geese once they reach 6-8 weeks of age. 16 % protein is about right after that time rather than the 18-20% found in most start/ grow feeds.


It is my belief that purple barring in both black chickens and ducks is caused by severe heat that causes them to go off of their feed while new plumage is growing in. It seems to be more of a problem with young birds than with older ones.


Remember that it takes as long as two months to replace some types of feathers. Go over birds going into late summer or early fall shows now for frayed or off colored feathers.


With much of the country experiencing severe heat, keep in mind that birds need special care when the heat is extreme. Water should be replenished/changed at least twice each day and if the birds must be handled, do it very early in the day. better yet, put off moving or handling them if at all possible until things cool off.


Both chickens and waterfowl in pens really appreciate and benefit from fresh greens. One can harvest weeds and lawn clippings (as long as pesticide free) or the birds can be given access to pasture even for short periods of time.


The heat of summer calls for special care with ventilation and water. Ventilation should be good whether supplied by fans or open doors and windows. water should be changed every day at least.


Having problems with feather eaters among your growing chicks? Locate the culprit by looking for traces of blood on the beak- once found, "demote" the culprit by placing him with a batch of much older chicks. Usually, he stops picking feathers immediately.


One secret to success in breeding waterfowl or chickens is knowing how and when to properly cull the young stock. In order to do that one must be thoroughly familiar with the Standard in one's breed (s) and with the growth characteristics of the strains one has.


If you use portable plastic pools for your ducks, remember that moulting birds lose much of their ability to repel water. Always provide a ramp the birds can use to get out of the pool. An inverted V shape piece of hardware cloth makes a good ramp.


Be sure to treat regularly for mites during the warm weather. Birds are already stressed when they moult and mite infestation will further weaken them.


Continue to provide high quality feed to your birds (waterfowl and chickens) during the summer. When they moult, they need quality protein to to regrow their plumage. Scrimping by just feeding corn would be a mistake.


Be careful about the shelf life of medications you depend upon. Some antibiotics, for example, begin to lose their potency. Have such products on hand rather than having to send for them when they are needed.


As the breeding season ends, remember to stop making oyster shell available to the birds  (waterfowl) as it can do organ damage to them when not needed for egg shell production.


Try to never let young chicks, ducklings or goslings go without water for more than an hour or so. If they have been without for an extended period, give them room temperature water in small amounts. Large amounts of cold water can kill them.


Having trouble hatching waterfowl eggs in an incubator with an automatic turner? Turn it off and hand turn the eggs (laid on their sides) three times a day 90 degrees.


Incubator tips: Clean out debris and unhatched eggs each time a hatch comes off. Bacteria thrive in such a situation if the incubator is not kept clean. Use distilled water in the incubator. Minerals in tap water can ruin moisture trays.


Incubator tips: One key to good hatches is proper hatching egg storage. Store them in a cool place and store them no longer than one week if at all possible. The egg surface should be as free of dirt as possible but with waterfowl, try not to remove the protective coating. Rinse eggs gently with water warmer than the egg surface.


Eye infections are common in waterfowl, especially during the winter. They can be minimized by providing clean water for bathing all year around. Opthalmic antibiotics should be used to treat such infections which can result in the loss of sight in some situations.


Be sure that ducklings and chicks in their first week of life do not paste up over their vents. If they do and it goes unnoticed, they could be in serious digestive trouble within days that could prove fatal. Pick any manure that collects in the fluff around the vent area off. Once they get to 10 days or two weeks old, it usually is not a problem.


If you intend to exhibit at a spring show, go over the birds you intend to show 6 weeks prior pulling frayed and broken feathers and clipping toenails.