Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chickens, Pine Straw, and Mites. OH MY!!!

A few days ago one of my chickens was acting a little sickly. In fact one day she was so sick, I was afraid she wouldn't make it at all. I was at a loss on what to do! The next day, I was cleaning out their coop and suddenly felt like something was crawling all over my arms! I didn't see anything, brushed my arms off and finished the clean up job, then suddenly I felt it again and took a closer look and there were tiny, tiny bugs that looked a little like a seed tick crawling all over my arms!!! I quickly ran inside, stripped off all my clothes, threw them in the laundry, ran for the shower, and scrubbed for a long time!!! (Just thinking about those mites as I type this makes me start to itch!) Afterwards, I called the president of our local chicken association to ask what this could possibly be. By the way, if you are a totally clueless chicken owner, as I am, then having the number to your local chicken association or club is a really good thing to have on hand.   Most of these people are chicken gurus full of a plethera of information when it comes to chickens.  The nice guy who answered the phone and was probably wondering as I told him my story why on earth someone as clueless about chickens as me would own any, asked me several questions about the bugs, what size were they, what color they were, and then came THE BIG QUESTION, "What was I using in the nest boxes?"

"Pine straw," I said. There was a long pause and so I immediately threw in that the chicken farmer I bought my chickens from recommended pine straw. Another long pause.   Oh no!  I knew this wasn't good!

"You have mites," he said sounding a little perturbed. Then he went on to tell me that they are notorious for living in pine straw and to NEVER, EVER use it in my chicken house, again!

Mites?!? Pass me the whiskey bottle, because I need a drink! This was not part of my chicken dream, at all! And, on top of that, I've only been a chicken owner for barely 2 months!

So, if your poor chickens are putting up with someone as clueless as me and to also get to my point, now that my chickens have lived through and seem much better after the eradication process that our local chicken association president recommended, I will share his tips with you. Mind you, that I am no expert and I am only sharing with you what I was told, so none of this is guaranteed in the safety of your chickens or the true riddance of their mites, but it really has seemed to work well with my chickens and I have not seen anymore mites. So here it goes:

1. No matter how many chickens a farmer has or how knowledgeable he may seem, NEVER, EVER put pine straw in your nest boxes even if he recommends it!   Pine straw breeds mites.

 2. Start your eradication in the morning, so that your chicken house will have plenty of time to air out from the products you are going to use to kill the mites. Open as many doors, windows, and vents as you can to let it air out throughout the day. Also, if you have some vents or windows you can open up when they roost at night, then that will be good, too.

 3. Scrub out your chicken house with soap and hot water, or vacuum it thoroughly with your shop vac.

4. Take Seven Dust (I know all you organics out there are cringing!!! So, was I!!!) and put it in a sock and thoroughly dust your chicken house paying special attention to the floors.

5. Cover your floor with a thin layer of cedar shavings approved for pet beds. I always put news paper down on my chicken house floors to keep it clean and change them out 2 or 3 times a week. So, I put the newspaper over the shavings thinking this might help with the strong odor that the cedar produces. According to the chicken expert, you should not use the cedar shavings if you lock your chickens up at night and don't have a window or some vents you can open to let fresh air in while they are sleeping.

6. Put a few cedar shavings in the bottom of their nest boxes and then cover with pine shavings for pet beds or you can use wheat straw. Pine shavings or wheat straw are excellent for nest boxes!

7. Catch your chickens and spray them with Adams Flea and Tick spray for dogs and cats that comes in a blue spray bottle. It is a natural plant based spray. Spray one spray on top of their feathers in each of these areas: neck, back, top of wings, under wings, under body, and pay special attention to their vent (rear end). Also, spray their legs and feet if they grow feathers on them.

8. I also sprinkled Diatomaceous earth in their yard. BE SURE you use the edible chemical food type. I'm doing more research on this and finding it to be very organic and can be used on your pets to control fleas, mites, and ticks. It can also be fed to them to get rid of worms and parasites. AND it can be used on your garden plants to get rid of unwanted bugs looking for a snack! Who knew??? I will cover this and other organic methods I have found in another post.

*NOTE: If you are hatching chicks, have chicks, or chickens under 5 or 6 months then be sure to not use the cedar chips in your chicken house OR the Adams spray on your young chicks!!! VERY IMPORTANT!!!

So, now my chickens seem happy and healthy, again! YAY!!! I may dust them down with diatomaceous earth in a few days as an extra precaution and I plan on dusting the diatomaceous earth in their house every time I clean it out for the next few weeks. I want to to be sure to get rid of all of those mites!!! So, now I am wondering if the mites might be the reason why my chickens have not laid the first egg since I've gotten them??? We will see and that is another story...

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