Do you have your flock ready for winter? Well it's time to get ready. It's important to have your birds as healthy as possible for the long winter months. Winter is a time when mites can become the worst and cause your birds much misery not to mention even death. During the long winter months most areas are wet and the birds aren't able to do the kind of dusting needed to keep mites away. Worming is also important to stay on top of. Just because your birds look healthy doesn't mean they don't have worms. Birds as young as 6 to 8 weeks old, believe it or not will have them and if not treated can effect fertility and egg production.
Last year Larry and I decided to try a more natural way of worming, we had heard so many folks rave about how great the all natural way works. What a bunch of bologna! If you have good luck with that, more power to you, I'll just tell you, we had the most unhealthy flock of birds we had ever seen on the farm. If you think that's working, it's a good idea to make sure, take a sample of poo in to your vet and see what they find. Round worms can become resistant to wormers, so you need to switch what your using often. We also tried using Diatomaceous Earth for mites, your suppose to be able to add it to the feed to kill worms and mites, you can use it also as a dusting powder for mites. We did both all winter long, it was so much work and seen absolutely no good results, the worms and mites where out of control. Like I said, if your using this with great results, I think that's great, just saying on the large scale on our farm it was a huge mistake, we won't do that again. We'll be ready this year.
There are several different kinds of worms that can plague your flock. Hair worms, Roundworms,
Tapeworm, Gapeworm, and Caecal worms, they can all thrive in a wet poultry run, so winter is the perfect time for them to become a problem in your birds . You should worm every 6 months, after the first worming, repeat in 2 weeks. The worm cycle is never ending, your hens can re infest themselves just by eating night crawlers, snails or slugs in the chicken run. The most common symptoms are weight loss or poor weight gain, increased feed consumption, pale yolk color, diarrhea and in severe cases, anemia (pale comb and wattles) and death. Worms untreated can allow disease to easily creep into your flock and before you know it you've really got trouble. I can't stress enough how important it is to deworm.
Another thing we do to get ready for winter is trimming rooster spurs. This picture is an example of how large and sharp a spur can get. This is not even the sharpest ones we have right now. Our breeders don't need these for protection, so there is no need to allow them to grow. If spurs aren't kept in check they can become a real problem for our breeders. If you have a breeding flock and you notice a drop in fertility in your hens the first thing you need to check are your rooster spurs. Hens are smart, they know what hurts and they will begin to hide from the rooster. A spur this size (this not even a big one) can poke into the side of your hen as deep as the spur is long. We've seen this happen, and it will kill the hen. The puncture whole will be hidden by the hens feathering and you won't even notice anything is wrong until it's to late. When we first began breeding poultry this was a problem we knew nothing about. After the death of a couple great breeders due to our ignorance, we don't make this mistake any longer. When I hear folks talk about it being cruel to trim a roosters spur I cringe, what is cruel is not to trim.
Spur trimming doesn't have to be a painful bloody process. It's doesn't take a lot of trimming to make a difference for your hens, and believe me the girls will thank you. Just taking the tip off is good but they grow fast, also as the rooster walks he rubs them together and with each rub he sharpens them back into a point. So it's important to check them often. We use a grinder to take the tip off, it works great, no blood or pain. As long as you don't cut into the quick, it's no different than trimming your dogs toe nails.
Get that flock of yours winter ready, if they have worms sucking up all their nutrients they can't stay warm or healthy during those long winter nights. If they don't have a good dry dusting spot they can't keep ahead of the relentless biting of mites. One sign of mites is dirty feathers around the vent area but just because they are clean doesn't mean they are free from mites. Grab those birds up and check them out.
Your chickens will thank you!