Me and my roadshow chook Phyrne the Plymouth Rock.

Chook Q&A August 2014

These are in no particular order from last Saturday’s ABC612 talkback and questions that came through my website and facebook page the following week.

Aggs of different colours
I love having a few different breeds just so that we have a mixture of egg colours

Q1: Scaly leg mites, what to do?

These are a nasty microscopic mite that gets in under the scales of your chickens legs and feet causing them to curl back and look all lumpy and crusty.

The best treatment is to either scrub the legs and feet with an old toothbrush with a drop or two of tea tree oil mixed into half a cup of vegetable oil or even smothering the legs in Vaseline can be quite effective. Both are harmless and painless to the bird but work on the action of killing the mites via suffocation.

Q2: Keeping ducks

Now ducks are real characters to keep I have found over the years but there are a few things that one has to be aware of before embarking on becoming a waterfowl fancier or keeper. Ducks require a vessel of water that is deep enough for them to dip their entire heads into so that they clean their eyes and nostrils regularly, you don’t need a dam or pond. Bathtubs can be used but be sure to provide a ramp inside the tub so that they can get out if the water level drops due to excessive splashing.

Pekin Ducks are a backyard favourite.

Pekin Ducks are a backyard favourite.

Housing is the same as for chooks, they just don’t need a perch. The eggs are just as edible as a chooks and are a favourite with those that bake cakes and the like. The main issue is keeping the water tubs, yard and pen clean as ducks can be quite messy and if it is not the smell and flies can become a problem and a source of complaint especially during the summer months.

The Girls enjoying a Peckablock
The Girls enjoying a Peckablock which is basically a mineral block full of vitamins and minerals.

Q3: Egg bound: Chicken appears to constantly going to the nest , straining and has a bulge at her bottom.

This could very well be due to the fact that she is egg bound. This is where the egg basically gets stuck. What do? Is there anything one can do to prevent it happening?

No there is nothing that can be done really to prevent it and if you think that this is a problem it really is best to leave in the hands of a professional and head off to the vet.

Q4: What to do with unwanted roosters.

If you are not up to ending your own roosters lives and all that goes with it to then be able to eat them then try your local produce store as they usually have contacts of people willing to take the roosters on, be aware though it will probably be to grow them on and turn them into roast dinner. Local breeders may also be of help.

Healthy chooks need greens
Greens are an important part of your chooks diet to keep them healthy and productive

Q5: How does one keep ducks out of he swimming pool? 

This is a tricky one, which I don’t really have a good answer for. My suggestion is to perhaps to try one of those hawk bird of prey scarers perhaps, or when you’re not using the pool keep the pool cover on. This I’m sure is a tiresome thing to do all the time but I suppose it’s better than a pool full of duck waste.

Mixed Greens
Growing a mix of greens such as, amaranth, Ceylon spinach, pigeon pea, Brazilian spinach and comfrey are some good choices to grow

Q6: Losing feathers?

This can be due to a variety of reasons. The main one would be that the chickens are moulting, this is a normal process of chooks shedding their old feathers and regrowing new ones in time for winter generally. It can also be due to depluming mites, bullying and an inadequate diet.

So check out all possibilities first. Make sure the bird in question is not being harassed, ensure they are getting a complete diet and for the depluming mite, birds will actually actively pull out their own feathers due to the itching, so you may have to sit a watch your flock for a while to see if this is the case. If it is a poultry dusting based powder may be of help or check in with your local vet for any other possible recommendations.

Our Light Sussex Sadie having a good forage.
Our Light Sussex Sadie having a good forage.

Q7: Crop bound – infection bacterial or fungal or just have pendulous crop.

If it’s a hard ball try massaging to get things moving through (a couple times per day for a few days) Try feeding soft bread soaked in olive oil as this can act as a lubricant and make sure there is plenty of grit and water. No other food stuffs for these couple of days.

If there is no improvement, off to the vet.

Sour crop: this is where the crop is slow to empty and the food can start to ferment and a fungal infection start. The crop will feel squishy and gurgles. Medication from the vet is really the only option. (antifungal). Make chook is wormed and even adding probiotics to her diet may help.

Q8: Silkies are laying sporadically, what can I do to change this?

Silkies are a wonderful breed for the backyard, great with children, beautiful to look at and tread lightly in the garden but if it is an abundance of eggs you are after this is not the breed for you. The Silkie doesn’t lay many eggs per year and with the added attribute of going broody at the drop of a hat this can be compromised even more when this occurs. Broodiness is where a chicken decides it needs to sit on eggs, even if there aren’t any and Silkies are the worst for it. This can be a good thing though, if you are wanting to hatch fertilised eggs.

But the bottom line is there is nothing you can do to increase your Silkies egg laying capacity as long as they are receiving a good diet, fresh water, carry no illness and are not under any unusual stress the number of eggs they are laying are as good as it gets I’m afraid.

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