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Lou's Tips

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There will be new and much more restrictive regulations governing the availability of antibiotics and other medications used to treat poultry going into effect on January 1st. Medicated chick starter, for example, will no longer be available. Neither will antibiotics which used to be sold by poultry supply sources. My advice? Stock up on both prior to January 1st. It is a stop gap solution but better than nothing. 

As has happened in the past, the sins of the commercial poultry industry are resulting in punishing regulations for all.


Mor on biosecurity:

Probably the worst place to buy birds from a biosecurity standpoint is the "swap meet" or auction. While there are sometimes legitimate breeders who dispose of surplus birds at such events, there are also "bird jockeys" who buy and sell birds without much thought given to the bird's health. These are the same folks who crowd 8-10 birds in carry coops or swap cages meant for 1-2. Best to steer clear of such events.


Every poultry raiser from the back yarder to the commercial outfit should do more than pay "lip service" to biosecurity. Visitors to your pens should be minimized or prohibited altogether. Birds from other flocks should be quarantined for at least two weeks before being allowed to mix with your other poultry  More on this topic next time.


When evaluating Wyandottes, balance is an often overlooked quality. The bird should stand with head just a bit higher than it's tail. If not, it is not balanced.


Showing trios is a whole new aspect to showing poultry. A trio is two females and a male. One can show old trios or young trios (meaning hatched during the current calendar year). They are shown as a unit but the judge may pick an individual bird out of the trio for a higher award. The females should be as near to identical as possible and the male counts as 1/2 of the trio's score. The APA requires that if trios are permitted at a given show that they be part of any display.


It is almost as important to transport show birds to shows in clean and uncrowded carriers as it is to wash and condition them prior to the show.


This is a reminder that this is the ideal time of year to purchase breeding stock because the amount of supply is balanced in the buyer's favor for the few months of fall. Surplus young  breeding stock is now available.


In order to be both effective and cost-effective, it is important to realize that mite/lice treatments operate in different ways. Products like Adams Flea Off and Sevin Powder are contact insecticides and therefore must be applied directly to the birds or put on surfaces which harbor mites such as roosts. Frontline (much more expensive but much longer lasting) should be sprayed on to the bird and is designed to penetrate the skin and work internally. It is best used in small amounts.


I find that both ducks and chickens benefit from some animal protein in their diets. Most processed feeds today to not provide that. Unless they are on free range, some supplemental feeding of a source of animal protein is good. I use freeze dried meal worms which I buy online at a cost of approximately six dollars per pound. Both ducks and chickens are omnivorous if they have the chance to be. 


It is good policy to spray show birds for mites both before and after shows. Waterfowl should also be sprayed since they can pick up mites if they are kept with chickens or  are cooped near them at the show.


One of the harder  things to master for the exhibitor is to avoid "coop blindness" when evaluating one's birds against those of competitors. If one does not see faults that exist in one's birds, it is impossible to improve them.


Exhibitors: Never lose sight of Standard requirements for your breed and variety. re-read the Standard description regularly and ask yourself if you are drifting away from that Standard.


In spite of statements to the contrary by some researchers, my personal experience with West Nile Virus in my birds is that almost all of the losses from the virus are in young birds. That means either that survivors confer some degree of immunity to their young or that older birds with more mature immune systems are better able to resist infection.


We are in West Nile Virus season here in Northern Illinois. Since waterfowl are especially vulnerable, every effort should be made to protect them from being bitten by mosquitoes.   Standing water should be eliminated whenever possible. only the Culex specie of mosquito is known to carry the virus. 


If you want to pick up breeding or show stock, fall is normally  by far the best time to do so. The supply of such birds is usually the greatest that time of year as breeders sell surplus young birds and often let go of  breeders from the previous year.


Coccidiosis is a serious disease problem for all types of young fowl including waterfowl. It is normally brought on when chicks or ducklings are stressed. Since it is caused by a type of protozoa rather than by bacteria, it cannot be treated effectively with antibiotics.

I recommend that both young landfowl and waterfowl be fed medicated Start & Grower for the first 8 weeks which contains a coccidiostat. 


With so much of the Midwest enduring extreme heat and heavy storms, be aware of the dangers of mold and botulism. Both can be deadly to poultry. Never feed anything you even suspect might be harboring mold. Botulism can start in rotting vegetation which is partially buried in mud since it needs the absence of oxygen to thrive. 


Heat is a very real danger to poultry when it is excessively hot. Green shade outside and moving the air inside make a big difference. In my experience, large fowl have even a tougher time with extreme heat than do bantams or waterfowl. Plenty of fresh water is very important also.


Regular treatment for mites is imperative. The heat of summer encourages rapid infestations. Male birds are particularly likely to harbor mites in their vent area. Check for mites every time you handle your birds.


If at all possible,do not go into a new breed or variety of poultry with less than two males and two females. Losses or infertility can derail the breeding program for an entire year.


Having problems with feather picking among your chick? Step one is to ID the culprit(s). I look for a chick that has had no feathers picked and may even have telltale blood on its beak. 

Once I have a suspect, I move it to an older group of chicks. When he gets slapped around when he tries to continue picking, he will stop. You know you got the right culprit if the picking stops.


One can increase humidity in an incubator by closing air vents and/or by increasing the surface of the water to increase evaporation. One can add a sponge, for example.


If air cells  in eggs are becoming too large , increase humidity to stop further moisture loss. One can only correct that situation if the problem is caught early so it is very important to keep an eye on the size of air cells during the process of incubation.


If the air cells in eggs are too small the week before the hatch is due, run the machine dry for 1-2 days or until the air cells approach one-third of the egg in size. Once the eggs begin to pip,as much humidity as possible is good.


Pay close attention to the size of egg  air cells during incubation. In all types of poultry, the air cell should be about one-third of the egg just before a hatch begins. Next time: how to make adjustments.