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Lou's Tips

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"Stay White" strains of white chickens are definitely the way to go for show purposes. The adults do tend to display some gray or black flecks in the plumage which can and should be removed prior to showing.


A so-called "stay white" strain of any white variety of chicken is simply one that has a silver gene in their genetic background. That gene allows birds to remain white even when exposed to the sun and/or corn in their diets. More next week.


Washing birds is best done 2-3 days prior to a show. A dish detergent such as Dawn which has a bit of bluing already added is a good choice.  You should rinse 2-3 times with the first rinse containing distilled white vinegar works well.


Good transport containers for poultry have several things in common: they are well ventilated,  have smooth sides, and ideally keep individuals from soiling each other or fighting. Do not carry a "million dollar bird" in a 10 cent carrier.


Good birds can be beaten by lesser ones if they are not properly washed and fitted. See my article on fitting for shows. Pull broken feathers at least 8 weeks prior to being shown.  Don't forget to coop train your birds as wild birds seldom win.


Doing a good job of raising show birds is only part of the secret of success in the showroom. One must condition the birds well and then transport them to the show in containers which keep them from being damaged in some way. Failure to do those extra things can ruin months of hard work. More on these topics to come.


Want to lessen the chances that a tick will get you  or your dog in your own backyard? Let your chickens and/or ducks roam your yard. They are excellent tick hunters when given the opportunity. The fact is that both chickens and ducks are truly omnivores in nature. They crave both vegetation and animal protein.


A couple of more things about composting with chickens. Never put fresh chicken manure around plants during the growing season as the high nitrogen can burn the plants.

Over winter, however, one can add fresh manure on beds even throwing it on the snow. Snow and rain will break it down and cool it off for you. 


Chicken raisers who are also gardeners should not miss the chance to use their bird's natural habits to create compost. I have built compost piles for decades but always struggled to optimize the process by turning the piles. Chickens naturally will accomplish that for you if you just give them the chance. In the fall and spring, I pile all of my green refuse (weeds, trimmings, etc.) in one of my pens and add dead leaves and other debris. The chickens will turn it into useful compose as least as fast as a well tended compost pile can create compost. They will also, of course, add their own manure which makes the compost even better.


We are approaching the time of the year in many areas of the country when losses from West Nile Virus will begin to happen. It almost always strikes young waterfowl rather than fully mature adults and virtually all which show symptoms will perish within a couple of days. The virus is carried by mosquitoes so anything which can be done to keep the mosquitoes from biting the birds may help. Some claim that the use of the equine West Nile vaccine will protect the birds but not scientific verification seems to exist yet.


The second major concern in pasturing poultry is predation. Depending on where you live, the main threat could be Racoons or Coyotes, which would mean that the birds will require tight fencing and a secure enclosure overnight. In other areas, the predator may be air born in the forms of hawks, owls, or even eagles. Overhead netting protecting open areas of the pen can help greatly. 


Chickens, geese, and some types of ducks really benefit from being on range but there are concerns that must be taken into account. Some common weeds found in pastures are toxic: Nightshade and Pokeweed to name just two. Check with your local Extension Office to find out what is common in your area and how best to control them. More next week on this topic.


More on the treatment of Coccidiosis. Amprolium is the most effective treatment but the amount contained in medicated starter feeds is for prevention, not the actual treatment of an existing outbreak. One needs to follow directions of products such as Corrid which recommends doubling the amount of Amprolium used for prevention once an onset of Coccidiosis begins. Even if quick improvement is observed, be sure to follow the directions and continue treatment for 5-7 days.


Chicks need supplemental heat much longer than do waterfowl. The biggest danger is a sudden drop in temperature can cause an onset of Coccidiosis which can be fatal if not treated promptly. Feed containing Amprolium should be fed through at least 16 weeks and warmth should be steady: lowered when it is hot and increased when there is a cold snap.


One of the biggest causes of mortality in very young waterfowl is dehydration. Failure to find the water or to begin drinking or being without water for some hours can quickly result in losses. I like to dip the bills of my day old Calls, East Indies, and Mandarins in the waterers as I place them in the brooders. Young White Mandarins are especially prone to be slow to begin eating and drinking.


Growing ducklings and goslings grow at perhaps twice the rate of other poultry so keeping up with space requirements is vitally important to achieve optimum results. Overcrowded youngsters will suffer more mortality and feather condition will not be as good.


Production of waterfowl eggs is normally much more concentrated within a more narrow span of time than is production of eggs in chickens. As a result, fewer waterfowl breeders sell hatching eggs.


Many experts agree that waterfowl eggs benefit from cooling on a regular basis during incubation. I found that it is particularly true of goose eggs and larger duck egg but it is also done with bantam duck eggs. Daily cooling for as long as an hour after the first week of incubation tends to produce better hatches.


More on feather picking: Often the culprit is a single bird. If that bird can be spotted, putting it into a group of older chicks will often take care of the problem because the first time it attempts to feather pick, it usually gets the slop knocked out of it.

Moving the group of birds to more spacious quarters is often a big help. I have never observed birds on range have this problem.


Feather pickings is a problem which can arise suddenly and which can result in deaths if not corrected quickly. It is most common in chicks but also happens with waterfowl. Overcrowding, youngsters being kept in brooders too long, or, sometimes simple boredom can cause it to begin.

Picked birds should be treated with a no pick solution like "Pick-no-More" which both sanitizes the wound and discourages further picking. More on this topic next time.


My observations regarding the turning of hatching eggs are as follows:

Standing chicken eggs on end (large end up) seems not to hurt them at all. Waterfowl eggs, on the other hand, seem to hatch better when laid on their sides during incubation.

The number of daily turns that eggs need to hatch well is often exceeded by auto turners. I find that any type of poultry hatching eggs needs no more than 2-3 turns per day although turning more often will not hurt. Eggs should not be turned at all, however, in the last 3-4 days prior to hatching.


Factors that affect incubator humidity include temperature and humidity in the room housing the machine, the amount of venting (fresh air) allowed into the machine and the amount of surface area in water pans supplying moisture.

Opening the vents tends to reduce humidity, adding surface area to the water pan (for example by adding a sponge standing on end) tends to increase humidity.

Relative humidity readings for landfowl should be lower than those for waterfowl.


A very important factor in obtaining good hatches is the moisture content in the egg at the time of hatch. The air cell should comprise about 1/3 of the egg. Much less and the chicks, ducklings, etc. will have a difficult time reaming the inside of the egg and those that do hatch will be sticky and weak.

If the air cell is much too large (too much loss of moisture), the young bird will be smaller than it should be and may not be able to properly hatch.

An egg can only lose moisture, it can never replace that which is lost. Next week; how to control humidity.


Scaley leg mites can trouble both feather legged and clean legged breeds of chickens. They are most easily treated on the clean legged types, however. The mites live under the scales on the bird's legs and feet.

One can kill the mites by covering the legs with vasiline. The carbolated type of vasiline is best but the plain type works, too. 

It usually takes 2-3 treatments until the crusty material formed by the mites is entirely gone


The use of broody female chickens or ducks can be employed to increase hatch rates. Let eggs accumulate in nests to trigger the broody instinct. Nests which are isolated and in dark areas work Best. be certain that other females will not interfere by claiming the nest for themselves. Also, be sure that the broodies are treated for parasites before they begin to be broody. The nest should be located in an area which is secure from predators.