Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, May 16, 2021

What is bugging the girls?

 In the Coop

I had noticed that a couple of the ducks just have not looked "right" lately.  I have been watching them and they seem to have lots of energy but their feathers were all matted.  I picked one up and I saw a lot of white looking dander at the base of the feathers.  I didn't actually see any lice but it seems that this may be the issue.  It was mostly in the older ducks.  I have also noticed that the older chickens seem to have patches of feathers missing.  It is not the right time of year for them to go through a molt so I am not sure why they would be losing their feathers.  The conclusion is that the girls had feather lice.
Chicken standing in wood ash dust bath
I started looking for ideas of how to treat the girls.  Dusting the girls with something like diatomaceous earth (DE) would help to kill the pests.  Food grade diatomaceous earth is useful to reduce internal and external parasites (such as worms, lice and mites).  We actually put DE on the girls food once a month so they eat some to help keep any internal parasites (worms) from becoming a problem.  DE also contains trace minerals that are beneficial to poultry.  You can use the DE to dust the outside of the birds to help kill any mites or lice.  The DE is a desiccant and will dry out and kill the little buggers.  Adding DE to a dust bath is a great way to help the chickens stay lice/mite free.

The idea of dusting each bird (we have about 120 total poultry) seemed pretty overwhelming.  So, after consulting YouTube University, I found that many people use ivermectin to treat poultry.  I went to the local farm store and bought some Ivermectin right off the shelf, no prescription needed.
As you may notice from this pic, this medication is for cattle.  They don't actually make it for poultry.  Obviously, treating poultry with ivermectin is considered an "off label" use.  I put some of the medication in a small bottle with a dropper.  Then, I took it out to the ducks in the evening.  I had all the ducks in the paddock and closed the door to the run.  Then, I ran around and picked up each duck, lifted the feathers up on the back of their necks and applied 2-4 drops of the medicine.  The medicine is meant to absorb through their skin and into the bloodstream.  After 10 days, you have to repeat the treatment.  This is to kill any eggs that may have hatched after the initial treatment that escaped.  Here is a video of me trying to catch the ducks to give them their treatment...

When giving medication to animals, there is sometimes a "withdrawal" period.  For example, after treatment, you should have a withdrawal period of 7 days and not eat any of the eggs during that time.  Since this is an off label use of this medication, there are no official guidelines for this.  I did see several sites mention the 7 day withdrawal timeline.

For over 25 years, ivermectin has been used to treat parasitic infections in mammals, with a good safety profile and is generally well tolerated.  If you, personally, got a parasitic worm infection, your doctor would prescribe ivermectin.  I find it interesting that ivermectin is being studied as a medication to be used for COVID-19 treatment.  In our home, we are not observing the withdrawal period but we contacted all our regular egg customers to let them know of the treatment so they could make their own decision.  

Where did these pests come from?  Well, they are everywhere in the environment.  Wild birds can carry them.  I have seen quail and magpie in the run on several occasions.  Providing swim water to ducks gives them the opportunity to bathe and preen themselves to keep themselves clean and avoid pests.  We always provide water for the ducks.  Even in the winter, they have smaller tubs of water that they can get in and bathe.
Chickens will dust bathe in the dirt to keep pests off them.  The chickens have lots of opportunities to dust bathe outside.  I did put a container of wood ash into their barn (see pic at top of blog).  Wood ash particles are very fine so they can get up in their feathers and suffocate the pests.  
I feel like we have been doing everything correctly.  The ducks have access to water and the chickens have plenty of areas to dust bathe.  These things just happen.  Hoping the treatment works and we can have healthy girls again!

Have an eggcellent day!

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