Worming Chickens: Ultimate Guide

Worming Chickens: Ultimate Guide

Wondering whether worming chickens is easy? What are some all natural options? In this article, we’ll discuss the type of worms chickens can get, why they’re so dangerous, and what to do about it! 

Think about it: A chicken mama walks into her hen house to collect eggs. She reaches into the first nest and frowns. The egg has an unusual covering of chicken poop. This is not a massive problem. It just requires some extra cleaning. 
On to the next egg. It’s plastered with poop. The farmer begins to suspect something is wrong. Then, onto the third nest, where the prize-winner roosts. She is neat and tidy, and never leaves messes on her eggs. But chicken poop also covers this egg, and there’s some long white strands mixed in. 
Something needs attention, and she wonders what’s going on with her beloved birds. The list possible problems is a short one, and the solution is actually quite simple. These chickens have worms, and they need a better worming regimen.

What Are Worms Exactly?

Worms are parasites that can create health problems in chickens. Worms can cause lots of health issues, such as:
  • poor nutrition (because the worms are stealing vitamins and minerals from your flock)
  • internal bleeding
  • diarrhea
  • flightiness
  • pale combs
  • poor egg production
  • bloody stool
  • vision problems
  • death
You might also notice your hen doesn’t want to forage, and prefers to sit quietly in a corner.

How Do Chickens Get Worms?

A flock of chickens goes foraging, and might stumble upon a big, thick slug. It is a treat to the bird, but this yummy snack hides something insidious: a parasite. Your chickens swallow this parasite, and it finds a warm, comfortable place to live out its life cycle.
Chickens can also pick up worms from the soil, either by stepping on eggs, or ingesting eggs from dirt. Wild birds visiting their poultry cousins can also be a point of infection. Additionally, one chicken can effect her whole flock, since the worm’s eggs might infect her feces. Other hens might pick them up when walking around (which is why it’s important to clean your coop consistently)

What Kind Of Worms Do Chickens Get?

Chickens can get a variety of worms, including:
  • Tapeworms (Davainea proglottina and Raillietina cesticullus)  
  • Roundworms (Ascaridia galli)
  • Hair Worms/Capillary Worms (Capillaria obsignata
  • Gapeworms (Syngamus trachea)
  • Caecal Worms (Heterakis gallinarum)
  • Strongyle Worms (Trichostrongylus tenuris)
Each worm species effects chickens in different ways. But all worms are detrimental to your birds’ health. Most worms fall into two distinct classes.
  1. Direct – a chicken picks up these worms by scratching or pecking through contaminated feces. They spend their entire life cycles inside the chicken. Very often the eggs of these worms drop out of your chicken; they are quite durable and can hibernate for up to a year. Then, when another chicken picks them up, they then hatch, often by the thousands.  
  2. Indirect – these worms inhabit things that your chickens might have foraged. They might be hiding inside slugs, for example. Then, inside your chicken, they find a nice warm habitat to live out their life cycle. Indirect worms need a secondary host, such as an earthworm, before finding their permanent home inside your chickens
The following types of worms can infect your flock:

Caecal Worm

These are light grey to white in color and shaped like the letter S. They can grow to about ¾ inch. Caecal worms do not always show any symptoms in chickens. But chickens suffering a severe outbreak of these worms may look depressed or look worn out. The worms live in the ceca and have a direct life cycle. 

Capillary Worms

These worms are so small that one cannot usually see them with the naked eye. They are also called Hairworms or Threadworms. They live in the crop, intestines, and ceca, but in severe outbreaks, they can also inhabit the throat or the mouth. These worms are usually found in earthworms and slugs. A chicken infected by capillary worms will be weak and anemic. Their comb will pale, and the bird might appear emaciated. They also might suffer diarrhea. Extreme cases can lead to the bird’s death. They have both a Direct and Indirect life cycle. 

Gape Worm

worming chickens with gapeworms

Gapeworms in poultry throat. Image from Wikipedia.

Gape worms are red, and grow to ¾ inch in length. A male and a female lock together, resulting in a Y-shaped organism. Gape worms inhabit the trachea and lungs. They feed on blood get from micro blood vessels.  The most common symptom is a shortness of breath, often accompanied by a gaping beak, stretching its neck, and head shaking. The chickens will cough and frequently gasp for air and may also have a reduced appetite. They are Direct cycle parasites. 

Gizzard Worms 

These worms are very thin and grow to about 3/4 inch. They’re uncommon in chickens (far more common in geese). Symptoms include:
  • anemia
  • weight loss
  • diarrhea
  • a sickly appearance (might include a hunched posture and sagging wings)
This can lead to death if left untreated. They have a Direct life cycle.

Roundworms

roundworms from chicken

Roundworms

Most common of the various worms that your chickens might contract. Roundworms are visible by the naked eye, and can reach lengths of up to 6 inches. Other symptoms can include:
  • Pale combs and wattles
  • decreased appetite
  • diarrhea
  • stunted growth
Extreme cases can also block the intestines, which can kill your bird. The infected bird will shed the roundworm eggs in her poop. Another hen can pick up these eggs, which will hatch in the new hen. Round worms have a Direct life cycle.

Tapeworms

tapeworm chickens

Tapeworm illustration

Tapeworms are white, long, and flat. In chickens, they usually do not grow any longer than 13 inches. Segments of these worms can be visible in chicken feces – they look like bits of rice. Tapeworms live in different intestinal areas and feed on its host bird’s diet. As a result, the chicken will likely suffer an increased appetite, and will appear larger, primarily due to bloating. If a juvenile bird becomes infected with tapeworms, its growth could be stunted. Tapeworms have an Indirect life cycle; they need a host like beetles, earthworms, and other insects.

How Can We Protect Chickens From Worms?

Your chickens are very likely to get worms, especially if they live outdoors. This is a sad fact of life, but it is an important one. Stopping worms is not 100% about preventing worms from infecting your pets, but rather in minimizing the damageThe biggest risks are warm wet climates, and especially between late Spring and summer, when many parts of the USA endure heavy rains. Other areas of the country – the Pacific Northwest, for example – are ideally suited due to an almost year-round warm wet climate.
Worm eggs do not like extreme temperatures and go dormant in weather that is too hot for them or too cold for them. They are also averse to climates that are too dry to sustain them. To prevent a muddy coop, mix a good amount of stone, gravel, or having straight concrete flooring. This can reduce the number of active worm eggs in your flock’s home. 
Keeping grass short can also behoove a smart chicken owner. This helps to maximize the amount of UV light from the sun that reaches worm eggs. These eggs are particularly susceptible to UV light, and sunlight can destroy them. 
Be sure that your bedding is clean and dry. In wet weather, be sure to clean out your coop and chicken housing areas at least 2 to 3 times per week. If you use the deep litter method, and your chickens seem to constantly have worms, consider a different bedding option.

Should I Worm My Chickens?

Not sure if your chickens have worms? It’s easiest to collect some feces and take it to your vet. They can run tests to determine if and what kind of parasites your chickens might have. These tests are usually inexpensive. You’ll learn if your chickens actually need a worming regimen.
Worming regimens should not be year-long. You should do it only every so often (your vet can tell you how often). Parasites and chickens both can develop an immunity to the wormers. If this happens, it means you’ll have a harder time killing off this particular strain of worms. So, continuing to use it will have no effect. You can ask your vet about rotating options if you want to prevent worms. 

What Are The Best Wormers For Chickens?

There’s lots of opinions out there about what wormers are ideal. Some chicken owners might claim you only need natural solutions. Others insist that they are not enough. Ultimately, you should decide for yourself, using our list below as a set of options. Be sure to consult your vet as well. A list of some of the most popular options are below.

Flubendazole/Fenbendazole

In the United States, there aren’t any FDA-approved wormers for chickens. But elsewhere in the world, there’s pharmaceutical options. The UK has stringent standards when it comes to animal welfare, and Flubendazole is approved for this use. Since you can give it to goats, horses, etc, it’s worth asking your vet about it. If you can’t find Flubendazole, ask your vet about Fenbendazole. It’s a common medicine for goats, horses, dogs, cats, etc. Fenbendazole is usually sold in farm stores under the trade name Safeguard. Before proceeding, though it’s always best to ask your vet for dosage amounts.

Ivermectin

Like Fenbendazole, this isn’t specifically approved for chickens. But it’s safe for other species. It’s also proven effective. So it’s worth talking to your vet about it. You can buy it at any farm store.

Apple cider vinegar

This remarkable item offers many benefits, including deterring some worms. It is not a 100% guaranteed treatment, but it’s very cost-effective. It can also introduce healthy bacteria to your hens’ digestive systems. You can learn how to make it yourself here.

Garlic

Garlic is the wonder herb. You can add small amounts to chicken feed. It might help discourage worms from settling in the belly. It also can support healthy digestive systems. 

Chili/Cayenne

Worms dislike the spiciness of capsaicin, and will leave the host area. Like garlic, it discourages worms from settling in the digestive gut. 

WormBGone Nesting Herbs

There’s a long history of certain herbs “doing the trick” to keep parasites from bugging backyard chickens. WormBGone Nesting Herbs includes the best herbs! Made with herbs traditionally used to promote healthy digestive systems and prevent worms. This is an affordable option many chicken owners love.

Vetrx Poultry Aid

You can apply this natural wormer directly on the effected chicken or put it into their water or in treats. 

Durvet Ivermectin Pour On De-wormer

You can pour this wormer onto the infected area. It’s a topical anti-wormer.  

Fleming Wazine Chicken De-wormer

You can mix this solution into feed or water.

My Pet Chicken Organic WormGuard Plus with Flax Seed

This natural mix also claims to reduce odors and moisture in chicken coops. 
Internal parasites are a massive problem that can effect your birds at any point in their lives. And it’s not only their health at stake. Worming chickens can also effect your life. After all, a healthy, worm-free, bird will produce healthy eggs for consumption. 
Chicken Mites: Fast & All Natural Solutions

Chicken Mites: Fast & All Natural Solutions

Chicken mites can literally suck the life out of your hens. They’re pests that can cause a lot of health issues. You need to eliminate them from your coop as fast as possible.

In this article, you’ll discover how to spot these tiny insects on your chicken AND in your coop. You’ll also find options to get rid of them, and when it’s time to call the vet. 

chicken mites

What Are Chicken Mites?

Chicken mites is a generic term for:

  • Red Mite (Dermanyssus gallinae) aka Roost Mite or Poultry Mite
  • Northern Fowl Mites (Ornithonyssus sylviarum)
  • Tropical fowl mite (Ornithonyssus bursa)
  • Knemidocoptes mutans (the mites that cause scaly leg mites) 
  • Feather mites (25+ different species)
  • Depluming mite (Neocnemidocoptes gallinae)

(In this article, we’ll discuss these mites together, with a separate section for scaly leg mites. Each breed above can cause the same health issues, and you can deal with them the same way.)

Mites are tiny insects that crawl on your flock’s skin and feathers. They can also inhabit the scales on your chickens’ legs. They bite chickens, and suck their blood (yes, like miniature vampires). They can also cause skin irritation, resulting in red, flaky skin.

In extreme cases, they can actually kill your chicken. How? Well, as the mites feed on your hen, she can lose iron. Over time, anemia can set in, and potentially cause death. 

Given the right conditions, mites can complete a life cycle in as little as 7 days, potentially exploding their population in your coop.

Mites can also transmit:

  • Salmonella Enteritidis(2)
  • Pasteurella multocida
  • Coxiella burnetii
  • Borrelia anserina
  • Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis viruses(1)
  • Fowl poxvirus(1)
  • avian spirochaetosis
  • Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae(3)

between birds. At the very least, chicken mites might cause your hens to slow down their rate of egg laying, or just stop laying altogether – not good stuff. 

A single mite can live up to 10 months in your coop. 

chicken mites lifecycle graphic

How Do Chickens Get Mites?

Mites are all around us. Once you start raising chickens, they’ll eventually try to inhabit your coop – especially if you don’t clean it regularly. Soon, they’ll start looking for a food source – your chickens.

Mites like to hide in corners and crevices. Since nesting boxes tend to have lots of great places for mites to hide, they’ll soon make their way there. When your hens visit their boxes to lay eggs, the mites will jump onto your chickens.

Mites can jump from chicken to chicken as well. Pretty soon, your whole flock could be infected!

Can Chickens Die From Mites? 

A lot of people wonder whether their flock can die from a mite infestation. The short answer is “yes.” If left untreated, mites can cause many health issues. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, chicken mites might cause anemia, leading to death(1). It’s possible mites can eat up to 5% of a chicken’s blood in one night.

How To Know If Your Chicken Has Mites

Signs your chickens might have mites include:

  • Mite poop around the base of feathers (especially the vent)
  • Feather loss 
  • Excessive preening
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Raised scales or loss of scales on your flock’s legs 
  • Pale combs
  • Blood spots on eggshells 

However, the only way to know for sure if your chickens have mites is:

  • When you see the pests themselves on your chickens
  • You identify their eggs
  • Mite feces 

Mite Feces

When checking your chickens, you might notice a greyish black substance at the base of their feathers and/or on their skin. In my experience, you also might notice this greyish black substance around your chickens’ vents (both hens AND roosters). This substance is likely mite poop, and it’s a pretty definite indicator your flock has mites.

chicken mites on rooster

Loss of Feathers

One sign of mites you’re likely to notice is feather loss (just remember that feather loss can indicate a LOT of things, including molting and very active roosters). Some areas to pay attention to are the:

  • Back
  • Vent
  • Tail feathers

You might see patches of open skin, or even raw or red skin. 

Raised Scales (Scaly Leg Mites)

The simplest way to explain what raised scales looks like is to share a picture: 

chicken mites and lice on legs

The scales on their legs lift up as the waste from the mites starts to build up under the scales. Eventually, the chicken will start to lose their scales, which can lead to other secondary issues such as bacterial infections. The legs might even bleed. Once the mites are eliminated, the scales usually grow back. (Don’t confuse this with bumblefoot, which is a bacterial infection that causes lumps on the bottom of your flock’s feet).

Pale Combs

Pale combs can indicate a lot of health issues, including mites. As your chicken loses blood to the mites, she’ll start to lose iron. Eventually, she might become anemic, since iron is important for circulating oxygen. As she becomes sicker, her comb might turn from a bright, healthy red into a pale pink or peach color. In extreme cases, your chicken might die.

Blood spots on eggshells

When mites bite your chickens, they can sometimes leave an open wound. It might be very tiny, or, especially if your chicken picks at it, the wound can be pretty significant. If your chicken has these wounds around her vent, then you might start to notice blood on her eggshells. 

While this doesn’t definitively prove your hen has a mite infestation, you should still double check her for mites. You should also remember that your hens can have mites even if you don’t see any blood on their eggshells.

When To Contact The Vet 

If your chicken:

  • Has dry, itchy skin
  • Feather loss
  • Raised scales
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Seems unwell or depressed
  • Is opening/closing her beak as if gasping for air, and/or
  • You see mites, their feces, and/or their eggs

Then you should seek the advice of your vet, especially if you’ve tried treating it on your own, but have been unsuccessful.

How Do You Get Rid Of Mites on Chickens?

Now that we know what chicken mites are, why they’re a health issue, and when to contact your veterinarian, let’s talk about how to get rid of mites and keep them out.

Your basic options include:

  • Pharmaceutical Options (best to talk to your vet)
  • Natural options like herbs and diatomaceous earth
  • Extreme heat
  • Extreme cold

Pharmaceutical Options

It’s always best to speak to your veterinarian to determine the best pharmaceutical option. The chemical and pharmaceutical options can be toxic, expensive, and/or ineffective in the long term, however.(1)(5)

How To Kill Chicken Mites Naturally (And Prevent Them From Returning)

There’s a few different options to kill mites naturally. Some work great for your chickens, others are better for your coop, and some (like herbs) serve dual purposes. These are just options, and you’ll have to decide for yourself which options are right for your coop.

For your chickens, your options include:

  • Herbs
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Wood ash

For your coop:

  • Herbs
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Heat/cold
  • Vinegar

Herbs & Herbal Blends

Humans have used herbs for generations to deter pests. In modern times, recent studies indicate that herbs show promise to repel pests. One government agency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) even lists certain herbs as safe to repel pests (they call herbs “minimum risk ingredients”, meaning a minimum risk to the environment). 

In our experience, herbal blends are far better than a single herb, which is why we don’t discuss single herbs in this article. Sometimes, readers try to use a single herb, and don’t have the results they desire. Because of this, we now only recommend herbal blends we use ourselves

We used to try using single herbs, but they never worked as well. So, we started mixing herbs together, with a much better outcome. This blend became our product MitesBGone.

We love MitesBGone because it’s an all-natural herbal product for dust baths. To use it, we just sprinkle the herbs in our flock’s nesting boxes and dust bath areas. You can use just the herbs, or mix it with diatomaceous earth. Chickens love exploring MitesBGone.

You can view more about this herbal blend here. The blend is 100% non-GMO and all natural, and makes it so easy to use herbs for mite control.

chicken mites

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized shells of diatoms, which are prehistoric aquatic algae. These fossilized diatoms are then crushed, making a powdery substance. DE is also comprised of silica, clay minerals, and iron oxide.

Diatomaceous earth can help treat mites because the particles have sharp edges, which slice the exoskeletons of mites. The mites then die.

In one study which was run by the University of California Riverside, birds were given a dust bath of sand and diatomaceous earth. These hens showed a huge reduction in the amount of chicken mites and lice after just seven days.

Many people avoid using DE because it can lead to respiratory issues for both chickens and humans (unlike herbs, which is why we use herbs). When inhaled, over time, there’s the potential the DE will damage both human and poultry respiratory systems.

If you decide to use DE, however, it’s important to use masks.

You can find diatomaceous earth in any feed store or on Amazon. You can find it on Amazon at TheFrugalChicken.com/DE

Just remember that when it comes to DE, you always want to use food grade diatomaceous earth. Construction grade isn’t usually pure, and could be mixed with anything. Just check the label to be sure. 

If you want to use herbs AND diatomaceous earth, you can try this product. The diatomaceous earth and herbs come pre-mixed. 

How To Use Diatomaceous Earth

The easiest way to incorporate DE into your coop is by offering a dust box with a diatomaceous earth/sand or dirt mix. There’s really no formula for how much of either to offer. Personally, I use a 1:1 ratio. If you plan to offer your DE bath in a run, you will need to remove it when it rains, otherwise you’ll be left with a gloppy mess.

Wood Ash

Another option is wood ash. There’s fewer studies regarding wood ash, so personally, I would use it with herbs and/or diatomaceous earth. Otherwise, you might not have the results you want. 

What is wood ash? It’s the residue from burning wood. Yes, you can use ash from your wood-burning stove. Just make sure you use wood that’s not treated with chemicals in any way. 

Steer clear of ash that’s made from any other substance besides wood. It’s not the same thing, and it won’t be as effective and it might harm your chicken. Wood ash is between 25 and 45 percent calcium carbonate. Wood ash can work against chicken mites because it potentially smothers them.

How Often Should You Treat Chickens For Mites?

Mites can live up to 10 months in your coop, and it only takes 7 days for a mite to complete its life cycle. If you want, you can consistently use natural options (such as herbs or diatomaceous earth). It certainly won’t hurt. To consistently use herbs or diatomaceous earth, adding them to your flock’s dust bath is easiest.

If you and your vet determine a pharmaceutical course of treatment, then it’s best to discuss those details with your vet.

How To Apply Natural Options To Your Chickens

Applying products to your chickens can be a bit daunting at first. They’re live animals that tend to flap their wings and startle easily. Here’s some ideas to make it a bit easier.

Apply treatments at night

It’s easiest to apply any treatments at night. Your chickens are naturally quieter, less likely to startle, and less likely to run (and if they do, lock your coop to keep them contained). Simply pick them up from their roost and use your herbs, diatomaceous earth, etc.

Hold them firmly, but gently

To dust your chicken, hold him or her firmly. First, pick your chicken up. Next, hold her so her wings lay flat against her body. She might squawk and sound unhappy, but she’s fine. Finally, apply your treatment to the area of concern.

Applying treatments to legs

If you need to apply treatments for scaly leg mites, then make sure the legs are exposed. You can do this a few ways. You can wrap your chicken in a towel (like a burrito), making sure to leave the legs exposed. If your chicken is being very difficult, you can hold your chicken by the legs. She will be upside down, which will calm her. You can then apply the treatment as needed. I use this option only as a last resort.

Cleaning Your Coop

If your flock has mites, you’ll want to treat their coop as well. I have a full step-by-step breakdown of how to clean a coop here

The idea is you want to eliminate mites from all the nooks and crannies possible. It can be difficult to ensure the whole coop is clean, but it can be done. I would personally use more than one option from this list, such as power washing, then adding herbs to the coop bedding.

Some options include:

  • Heat/cold
  • Power Washing
  • Diatomaceous Earth
  • Herbs

Heat/Cold

If possible, you can heat treat your coop and/or nesting boxes. In studies, temperatures of 113 degrees or higher (45 degrees C) have been shown to kill mites. If possible, you can remove the nesting boxes and place them under a heat source to raise temperatures to 113+ degrees. Very hot water might also work. In some areas of the United States, summer temperatures can provide all the heat necessary. 

Similarly, temperatures below -4 °F (-20 degrees C), have been shown to kill mites. If you live in a Northern climate, and your temperatures get far below -4 degrees F, then it’s unlikely any mites will last the winter (at least mites in the coop. Mites on your chickens might last longer because your chickens provide heat.)

Power Washing

Similar to using heat to rid your coop of mites, if you can get very hot water (over 113 degrees), you can try power washing the mites away. Just make sure to get into all the crevices. 

Diatomaceous Earth

You can apply DE to your coop floors, including any crevices where mites can hide out. Adding it to the nesting boxes will also help those areas. It’s best to follow the directions on the packaging for the proper amount of DE. Just make sure your flock isn’t in the coop so they don’t inhale it. You should wear a mask as well. 

Herbs

As I said above, I’ve had good results with power washing and using herbs. Both ideas are less caustic than diatomaceous earth, and easy to execute. The herbs we use come pre-mixed in MitesBGone Coop Herbs. First, we powerwash the coop. Then add new bedding and MitesBGone Coop Herbs. I have a 10 foot by 12 foot coop, and use 1 cup in each corner, and then 2 cups sprinkled around the rest of the coop. I also add ½ cup to each nesting box, after they’ve been cleaned.

Bleach

So, will bleach kill chicken mites? In short, yes, bleach will kill mites. It’s used to treat clothing and other fabrics to rid them of mites such as scabies. However, I don’t personally use it in my coop. Bleach is a harsh chemical, and it’s hard to know how much to dilute it so your chickens stay safe. If you do want to use bleach, make sure it’s heavily diluted. Keep your chickens out of the coop for a few hours as well. Since peer-reviewed studies show that high/low temperatures and herbs are effective against mites, those are the methods I personally use.

Does Vinegar Kill Chicken Mites?

There are no studies that show whether vinegar made from grapes will kill chicken mites specifically. However, vinegar is a commonly used all-natural household cleaner, and it’s certainly effective to get rid of poop and other grease. It certainly won’t hurt your flock.

In one study, researchers used wood vinegar(6) to rid a coop of mites. It was successful. There aren’t very many studies, however. If you can find wood vinegar in your area, it’s certainly worth a shot.

Does Lime Kill Chicken Mites?

Lime is essentially calcium carbonate (the same thing that comprises oyster shells). It might kill mites, and according to the USDA, it’s an old timey method to kill scabies on sheep. It certainly won’t hurt your chickens. 

Can Chicken Mites Live On Humans?

While chicken mites won’t necessarily infest your body as long as you bathe and wash your clothes regularly, you can still carry them around(4), so if you handle your hens to treat them, make sure to wash yourself and your clothes in hot water. Also be sure to practice good biosecurity, and scrub your shoes in a bleach or citrus vinegar solution so you don’t re-infect your flock.

Sources

  1. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/poultry/ectoparasites/mites-of-poultry
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281568697_The_poultry_red_mite_Dermanyssus_gallinae_A_potential_vector_of_pathogenic_agents
  3. Chirico, J.; Eriksson, H.; Fossum, O.; Jansson, D. (2003). “The poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, a potential vector of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae causing erysipelas in hens”. Medical and Veterinary Entomology. 17 (2): 232–234. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2915.2003.00428.x. PMID 12823843.
  4. Rosen, S.; Yeruham, I.; Braverman, Y. (2002). “Dermatitis in humans associated with the mites Pyemotes tritici, Dermanyssus gallinae, Ornithonyssus bacoti and Androlaelaps casalis in Israel”. Medical and Veterinary Entomology. 16 (4): 442–444. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2915.2002.00386.x. PMID 12510897
  5. Sparagano OAE, George DR, Harrington DWJ, Giangasparo A. Significance and control of the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae. Annu Rev Entomol 2014; 59:447-466 
  6. Kohsyo Yamauchi, Noboru Manabe, Yoshiki Matsumoto and Koh-en Yamauchi. (2014). “Exterminating Effect of Wood Vinegar to Red Mites and its Safety to Chickens.” Japan Poultry Science Association. doi:10.2141/ jpsa.0130170
  7. Photo of red mite: by Gilles San Martin from Namur, Belgium – Dermanyssus cfr gallinaeUploaded by Jacopo Werther, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24610992

Final Thoughts

Treating your flock for chicken mites is necessary in order for them to have healthy, happy lives. And luckily, there’s a lot of options for all natural treatments – for your flock AND their coop. Hopefully, one or two ideas in this article will help you out! If you’ve successfully used any of the ideas above, let us know!

chicken mites
Can Chickens Fly? Yes….And No.

Can Chickens Fly? Yes….And No.

Wondering “can chickens fly?” Well, like most things with chickens: it depends.

 

Some chicken breeds can fly and some can’t. And even within a specific breed, some individual chickens can fly, and some cannot.

 

In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at the question “can chickens fly!”

 

What Is A Flightless Bird, Really?

Flightless birds are comparatively rare – there are only about 60 species of flightless birds on Earth. One of the most iconic of flightless birds, the ostrich, is the largest bird and can run at speeds upwards of 40 mph (64.37 kph). 

 

These massive runners live in Africa, and use their 2-inch diameter eyes to spy out threats like lions, leopards, and packs of hyenas. While it might not be clear when these incredible birds lost their ability to fly, there is evolutionary precedent for this: ostriches are ratite, which is “any bird whose sternum (breastbone) is smooth, or raftlike, because it lacks a keel to which flight muscles could be anchored. All species of ratites are thus unable to fly.” Other ratites are the emu, cassowary, rhea, and kiwi.

 

Right up there with the ostrich as the most iconic of flightless birds is the tuxedo-sporting critter: the penguin. Unlike ostriches, penguins are not ratites. They possess the keel on their sternum to which their wings attach. 

 

Whereas volant birds use their wings for flight, penguins have adapted to underwater explorations, and instead use their wings as fins that allow them to effectively navigate in the waters where their food lives. In a way, because of this adaptation, penguins might be considered volant birds that just happen to fly through a vastly different environment than most other volant birds. 

 

So where does this leave us with pet chickens?

 

Are Chickens Actually Flightless?

So, what does all this say about chickens? Your chickens have all of the right tools for flight. They (generally) have the feathers and the keel on their sternum which their wings attach to, and they certainly have the muscles for it. With all of these details, the question remains: Can chickens fly?

 

Yes, kind of. And it depends on the breed. 

 

All chickens have strong muscles, and flight is one of the few ways this species can keep safe from predators. Most breeds are capable of “burst flights”, which are quick and can carry chickens to safety within moments. At night, as you probably know, they like to fly up to their roosts, which gives them a good vantage point to see if any raccoons, dogs, etc are coming their way.

 

Since they’ve been domesticated, they’ve largely lost this ability. Why is that? 

 

Chickens are most commonly bred for two things: eggs and meat. White meat is muscle, and it’s white meat that our ancestors favored. Selective breeding for meat has maximized the size of our chickens’ chest muscles. In theory, this should make chickens fantastic fliers. In reality, however, this is counterproductive. In order to fly, birds need light bodies with muscles strong enough to carry their own weight. 

 

The ideal flier will have a lean – almost sinewy – body: one that is strong enough to propel itself off the ground and light enough to stay aloft. Sustained flight also requires endurance. Human-bred chickens seldom are bred for strength, leanness, and endurance. 

 

Unlike ostriches and penguins, modern flightless chickens are not tied to the Earth because they don’t have the muscles to fly, but because it’s been bred out of them. In other words: We have bred our birds to be too large to support much of a flying ability. The average chicken can fly for about 10 feet, and about as high off the ground.

 

Being similar in flight skills to game birds, chickens were never the greatest fliers, and lack the skills for sustained flight, but they have been known to fly for as long as 13 seconds and a distance of 301.5 feet. It might be a short flight, but it likely is plenty enough to do its job: to get the chickens away from danger. 


Which Chickens Can Fly?

Larger chicken breeds are far less likely to even hover, as the energy required for even minimal flight can be preventative, but there are a number of breeds that are more inclined to flight:

 

 

are the most commonly known fliers. 

 

They have leaner bodies, and this is better suited for the short flights attainable by chickens. Our own Leghorns love flying into trees. 

 

At night, Araucanas occasionally roost up in the trees. Originally from Switzerland, the Spitzhaubens are a flighty bird that sometimes takes that adjective literally. Thanks to their smaller size, some bantam hens can achieve high heights for roosting purposes or when spooked. 

 

Which Chickens Can’t Fly?

There are some breeds that, no matter what, simply won’t get liftoff. Either they lack the feathers, or are just too dang heavy.

 

Some breeds, such as Silkies, can’t fly at all – they simply don’t have flight feathers on their wings. To keep them safe, you have to give them a place to climb up to. Ours can get lift off of maybe 12 inches, and that’s pretty much a big jump for a silkie.

 

Our Mille Fleur bantams and Cochin bantams can’t fly either – although they have wing feathers, their wings are too small. 

 

Other chickens, such as Orpingtons or Brahmas, have been bred to be so large, they simply are too heavy to fly.  

 

How Can I Stop My Chickens from Flying?

 

A few times a week, a person in my Facebook group asks how they can stop their flock from pooping all over the neighbor’s yard. There’s some easy ways to keep your chickens from making unwanted visits.

Build a Fence

The easiest way to prevent your chickens from flying away is to build a sizable fence around your chicken coop. This will stop most birds from flying out of their homes. 

 

For the heaviest breeds, you will not need anything taller than a 4-foot fence. For the slightly less heavy – the Mediterranean breeds, for example – you might need to build a 12-foot fence. 

 

Clip Their Wings

If you want to stop a bird from flying, one more adage comes to mind: “clip their wings,” which really means to trim their feathers. 

 

When done correctly, trimming feathers is painless. Once clipped, your chicken’s feathers can’t provide the lift needed for flight.

 

Do you still wonder “can chickens fly?” How far have your own chickens flown? Leave a comment below!

 

Create The Best Chicken Brooders For Baby Chicks!

Create The Best Chicken Brooders For Baby Chicks!

Heard of chicken brooders, but not sure what the fuss is about? Getting chicks, and not sure which brooders are best? In this article, we’ll give you all the details so you can pick the perfect home for your newest pets!

Chicks! Little balls of down that are so adorable you just want to eat them up! Or maybe that’s the family cat, we’re talking about… So maybe eating them up is a terrible idea. A good idea, however, is bringing them into the family. Soon, these day-old fuzzy butts will grow into amazing full-sized chickens: hens of the greatest laying potential and roosters whose protective skills are without peer! 

The question, then, is how to ensure that these chicks do reach adulthood. What can we do to protect these helpless little bundles of cute? Where can we keep them until they are ready to join the flock? What tips and tricks can we utilize to ensure that the cat stays away from them long enough to get big enough to defend themselves?

The answer to the above questions is quite simple: you need to get yourself a chick brooder. 

What is a Chick Brooder?

A brooder is a safe environment where a group of baby chicks can stay warm and comfortable until they’re ready to join other chickens in the run. All told, a chick will spend about 8-10 weeks in a brooder. It is a relatively short, but incredibly important part of their lives. 

Anything can serve as a brooder, from a plastic bin to a pre-fabricated brooder sold on Amazon. I personally just use a plastic tote bin because they’re cheap and easy to clean. 

You can see my brooder set up in this video:

Why Have a Brooder?

In the wild, chicks have a very unique personal defense system that they do not have in the adoptive world of your family. That defense system is called a mother hen. The mother hen digs or builds a nest for her chicks and there, she sits on them, defending and protecting them from all manner of dangers: from predators to chill weather. When a person decides to take on chicks and raise them, that person volunteers themselves for the role of mother. It’s obviously not a good idea for you to sit on a clutch of chicks for several weeks – we don’t have quite the warm, protective tail feathers that mother hens have (in addition to being far too heavy). As a result, we need a safe place to keep our developing chicks. That is where the brooder comes into play. 

What Size Brooder Should I Have?

It goes without saying that those cute little chicks will grow. Because of this, you’ll want to consider two recommended sizes for a good brooder. The smaller brooder should be about 12 inches tall, and should be large enough so that each chick has about 6 inches of space when they’re day olds – 4 weeks old.. This smaller brooder will become obsolete, however, at or around week 4 of their lives. At this stage of their development, you’ll want to upgrade them to a 24-inch tall brooder that gives them 1 square foot each. This will keep them safe and in check until they complete their developmental phase.

 It is possible, however, to forego the smaller brooder for the larger one. Your chicks will outgrow the smaller one, after all. If your resources are limited, then there is much to be said for that option. 

Where Should I Keep My Brooder?

A brooder is a safe place for your chicks. You’ll need to keep it in a secure place that can hold heat and protect your hatchlings from any and all of those great dangers just lurking out in the wider world. You could put it in a barn, a workshop, a garage, a basement, or even right in the house. The key is to keep it very safe from predators, such as cats, raccoons, opossums, and rats. 

Because you will need to provide your chicks with heat, a reliable power source is key. You’ll also want your brooder to be easy to get to, as you’ll probably want to check on your chicks at least a couple of times per day. I would also strongly recommend putting some kind of cover over your chicks – a mesh one for warmer weather or a piece of insulation in colder weather. 

Chickens are birds, after all, and once their wing feathers start coming in, they just might succumb to the urge to test out those flight enablers. The other reason for a covering your chicks are the curious whims of the family cat. Or dog. Or child. As much as we might love the other beasts in our menageries, they might not have the best interests of your chicks at heart. 

How Many Chicks Should Be In A Brooder?

I personally only put between ten and fifteen full sized chicks into a brooder at a time. This helps to ensure that there is enough space for each one, at least 6 inches of space per chick. Ten to fifteen chicks is easy to keep track of (for example, if one gets sick, it should be easy enough to identify that one.) It is also small enough to start getting to know the chicks’ personalities. If you’re like me and hope that these chickens become family, then it’s best to start familiarizing yourself with them sooner rather than later. Why not start right from the brooder?

If you’re going to have a clutch of bantams, up to 17 chicks is a good number. This is mostly just to help them stay warm, as being smaller chickens, they could use just a touch more heat. But the clutch should be no more than that. Otherwise, your chicks might squash each other.

At farm stores, you sometimes see there might be 50 chicks in a big bin. Farm stores do that because the chicks aren’t going to be there for that long. Many stores sell out in a day! 

So most farm stores don’t need to worry about whether a chick has long term access to food and water. At home however, if you have a lot of chicks in your brooder, you can’t guarantee that everybody’s getting the food that they need. So stick to a smaller clutch size, and get more than one brooder if necessary.

It’s harder to keep track of everybody and everybody’s health when a lot of chicks are in one brooder. They’re all running everywhere, and you can’t look at everybody really closely. 

Smaller numbers in your brooder make it easier to keep track of everybody’s condition. Is everybody getting the food that they need? Is everybody developing correctly? Is everybody warm enough? Does somebody look too cold?

If you use apple cider vinegar, it’s easier to make sure that everybody gets access to that. If you have one waterer and a large number of chicks in your brooder, maybe not everybody’s getting enough water or the apple cider vinegar in the water that they need. This is all the more reason to keep numbers manageable in a brooder. 

What Do Chicks Need In A Brooder?

For a brooder to be 100% effective, it will need a few key components. The first is warmth. Newborn chicks are covered in down, which is lovely and soft, but not that great at providing your precious little ones with the warmth they need to develop strong, hale and hearty. In their first week of life, the ideal temperature is about 95 degrees F. You will want to adjust this as your chicks start to feather out, as feathers provide them with natural insulation against the cold. 

The 95 degrees that was good in the first week might be too hot in the second week. If your chicks are too hot, they might start panting or moving far away from the heat source. Having a thermometer on hand will help you identify whether or not your heating source is too close to the clutch. When you test the temperature, be sure to be on the same level as your chicks. You want the readings to be as accurate to your birds’ experience as possible. 

Next comes food and water. A chick has to eat, right? Provide your clutch with a couple automatic waterers and feeders. If you put them in the corners of the brooder, it will help to reduce how much waste your chicks will deposit into the feed or water troughs. Most will spend their time in the warmest sections of the brooder – especially on colder days – and will then have to disperse to fill their other needs. The water and feed should be changed daily. If your chicks are especially messy, then this could be upgraded to twice a day refilling. 

Countless chicken lovers will tell you that waterers could use an anti-drowning preventative. Chicks are just getting their legs, so to speak, and as such, they might have a mishap or two with regards to how they drink. Shallow as their drinking troughs are, there is still a risk of drowning. To prevent this, put a number of marbles into the trough. This will give your chicks full access to water, but it will prevent them from dunking their heads.

The final thing your brooder will need is bedding. Chickens of all ages have the potential to be terribly messy. 

The Best Options For Flooring And Bedding

It seems like the go-to for bedding across the USA is pine shavings. This is very similar to what horses get in their stalls, and it tends to be light, fluffy, and holds chick waste quite well. In the first couple of weeks, it will need cleaning and changing every couple of days, but as your chicks get bigger, they will start producing greater quantities of waste. If pine shavings are unavailable in your local farm store, other options include straw, shredded paper towels (for the first week at most), or newspaper. Of all of these options, pine bedding works best for absorbency and overall comfort. You’ll need between an inch and three inches of bedding for your chicks. 

What Types Of Heaters Are There?

There are a few varieties of heaters to use in your brooder. The most common are a heat lamp and heating pads. A simple heating lamp can be clamped right onto the side of the brooder or dangle above it. These then produce powerful localized heat that spread out quite well over a general area. This actually provides both hot zones and cooler zones within the brooder. In the event that the weather shifts in your brooder’s shelter, your chicks will have temperature escapes. However, I don’t personally use or recommend heat lamps. They’re very dangerous.

Heat lamps produce tremendous heat. That much heat concentrated over wooden bedding is a fire hazard waiting to happen. When setting up your heat source, be sure that it cannot fall – secure it thoroughly with clamps or a bungee. 

Heat plates are a solid pad that is elevated off the ground and provides a surface area of warmth. Their height is adjustable so that your chicks will not bump their heads on the pads. These pads more closely simulate the localized warmth of a hen sitting on her clutch, but they tend to be far more expensive than heat lamps. 

You can also use space heaters.

Is There a Do It Yourself Option for a Brooder?

Brooders are remarkably affordable or easy to make. They require some basic and easily accessible materials, and can be quite durable, usable season after season. The simplest ones can be made from a large plastic tub or a large wooden box or coop. 

When Should I Get a Brooder?

It is imperative to get your brooder before you bring your first clutch of chicks home. You will want to set it up and test it out for any problems that might arise before your chicks get into it. You can trouble shoot anything that might hinder your chicks’ development or cause them undue stress. You can also check that  there is enough bedding, the heat lamps are secure and safe, and their water and feed is all set up. The latter is very important because when your chicks arrive. You’ll want to orient them to their food and water by dipping the beak of each one. This will ensure that they know where their essentials are.  

Sharing your home with a clutch of chicks is a truly amazing experience, and it all starts with having a good brooder for them. It’ll ensure they’re healthy and safe from predators. You’ll also get lots of hands on experience with your new pets! 

What’s your best chicken brooder tips? Leave a comment below!

Easy Wound Care For Pets

Easy Wound Care For Pets

If you have a pet, you’ve probably been witness to them injuring themselves in some capacity at some point. Wounds, especially superficial skin wounds, are very common in pets.

They can get in a fight with another pet or animal outside, they can get their skin caught on something sharp and not realize it, they can scratch themselves to the point of causing a wound, and they can develop an abscess or have a bad skin reaction to something they came into contact with. 

Even though the best thing to do when you notice a wound on your pet is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, we understand you may not be able to get them in right away and you want to be able to do something to help the wound heal and prevent an infection from developing. In this article, we’ll discuss here how to clean a wound, what to watch for, and when to take your pet to the veterinarian. 

It’s important to note that wound management at home is mainly for mild, superficial wounds. If your pet has a deep bite wound, or a large gash that is deeper than just the superficial skin, you need to take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you can.

Cleaning A Wound

When cleaning a wound on your pet, the first thing you should do is rinse it with lukewarm, running water. This is to make sure you remove any debris or particles that may stick to the wound, causing greater inflammation. This is also to help prevent infection as it can help wash away any bacteria that may be in the area. If you have or are able to get chlorhexidine solution (2% is best), you can then wash the wound gently with this as well. This will help to kill any bacteria that may be surrounding the wound. 

Do not clean with hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide does more damage than good, and can further damage the already damaged and exposed skin tissue.

You can then dry the area around the wound by patting it dry with a clean towel. You can do this directly on the wound as well if it isn’t causing your pet too much discomfort, or you can just let it air dry. If the wound is particularly dirty or gets debris stuck to it again, you can continue cleansing it daily for 3-5 days.

If the wound is on a dog, you can apply some Neosporin (triple antibiotic ointment) on and around the wound, but make sure your dog doesn’t just lick it off. Offering food or a tasty treat would be a good distraction to discourage them from noticing you have put anything on their body they may want to lick off. You can reapply the triple antibiotic ointment daily for 3-5 days. (If the wound is on a cat, do not apply Neosporin, as they will definitely groom it off and it can make them sick if they ingest even just a little bit of it.

It is ideal that you also try to get a cone or E-collar to put around their neck to prevent them from licking or chewing at the wound. As the wound begins to heal, it can feel tingly and itchy, but if your pet is allowed to chew or pick at it, this will delay healing and increase the risk of infection developing.

Signs to Watch For & When to Go to the Vet

As the wound heals, the skin should begin to look more normal after 3-5 days. Your pet should feel comfortable and not be bothering it too much, though it may feel a little itchy to them. If your pet is really bothering the wound, if it’s not looking better within 3-5 days, if it starts to swell up, or if the skin begins looking a blue-purple or grey color, these are signs it isn’t healing appropriately and you should take your pet to the veterinarian. Sometimes a course of oral antibiotics is all that is needed, while other times the wound may need to surgical intervention to promote healing.

Is Nasal Discharge & Sneezing in Pets A Bad Sign?

Is Nasal Discharge & Sneezing in Pets A Bad Sign?

If you suddenly see nasal discharge in your pets, or if your pet sneezes a lot, you might wonder what’s going on. Just like people, our pets can get stuffy noses, runny noses, and suffer from sneezing episodes.

It can take you off guard seeing and hearing your pet sneeze, especially if it is a sneezing fit that takes a few minutes for them to get over. In this article we’ll discuss some of the more common reasons why your pet may sneeze or have drainage from their nose, also referred to as nasal discharge.

Causes Of Nasal Discharge 

Nasal discharge refers to any sort of drainage coming from the nose. Drainage from the nose can come in different forms, depending on what the underlying cause is and how inflamed the lining of the nasal passages are. For instance, the drainage can be:

  • clear, 
  • green, 
  • grey, or 
  • red

and it can be:

  • thick and goopy, or 
  • very thin. 

There are many different things that can cause nasal discharge in our pets. Here is a list of some of the more common reasons your pet may have drainage from the nose:

  • Irritation from something they sniffed/inhaled
  • Allergies
  • Viral infections (upper respiratory infections)
  • Bacterial infections (upper respiratory infections)
  • Tooth root infections

If your pet’s nasal drainage is due to just an inhaled irritant, it should improve on its own within 24-48 hours and will likely be just clear in color. Nasal drainage due to allergies or viral infections can also sometimes improve on their own if your pet’s immune system is functioning properly and will usually last about 1-2 weeks. 

However, if you’re noticing thick, green, mucoid drainage from your pet’s nose, it could indicate they have developed a bacterial infection that will need to be treated with antibiotics.

When To Take Your Pet To The Veterinarian

If you notice anything more than clear, thin discharge, it’s best to take your pet in to see their veterinarian so they can prescribe the right medicine for them.

Your vet can also let you know if anything needs to be followed up on, such as scheduling a dental cleaning (only necessary if your pet has teeth). The reason infected tooth roots can cause nasal drainage is because the roots of the upper teeth are very close to the nasal passages, and if the tooth root is infected, this will also cause inflammation and infection to creep into the lining of the nose. 

There are also more serious conditions that result in nasal discharge, which do require medical attention. If you notice blood coming from your pet’s nasal area, or the nasal drainage does not improve on its own within 1-2 weeks, it is time for them to be seen by their veterinarian. 

Here is a list of some of the less common, but more serious causes of nasal drainage:

  • Having something stuck in the nasal passages, such as a blade of grass or pine bedding
  • Autoimmune inflammatory conditions affecting the nasal passages
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer

If your pet has nasal drainage of any kind for more than 2 weeks or if there is blood present, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for them to examine your pet and discuss if any more extensive diagnostics need to be done to evaluate for the more rare, but serious causes mentioned above.

Causes Of Sneezing

Sneezing occurs when something is irritating to the nasal passages. It is a protective mechanism of the body to try to prevent allergens, infections, and foreign bodies from lodging further down into the lower airways. Oftentimes, sneezing can be caused by similar things that cause nasal discharge. Some common reasons why your pet may be sneezing include:

  • An irritant that was inhaled, such as dust, pollen, fragrance, etc.
  • Allergies
  • Viral infections (upper respiratory infections)
  • Bacterial infections (upper respiratory infections)
  • Something stuck in the nasal passages, such as a blade of grass

Sometimes these things can resolve on their own within a few days. If you notice green, mucoid discharge from the sneeze, blood from the sneeze, or if the sneezing doesn’t become less frequent within 5-7 days, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for your pet to be examined. 

Nasal discharge doesn’t need to be scary or life threatening. In fact, in some cases, nasal discharge can be a good thing, especially if it helps your pets clear foreign bodies from their nasal passages. However, if your pet exhibits any of the symptoms listed above, then be sure to get veterinary help.