We are always looking for ways to strike a healthy balance between natural care for our animals and using something a little less natural, but perhaps more effective. My method tends to fall into the pattern of using natural products and clean habits as a preventive, and then trying to medicate only when there's a real need. We are not organic, but I feel our chickens get the healthiest balanced care we can provide.
That being said, I wanted to talk about a few products that I always have on hand to help guard against some common ailments for chickens. The first being Diatomaceous Earth. This product has proven very valuable in the daily care of our chickens.
Diatomaceous Earth is actually fossilized algae. It is a porous substance similar to pumice. There are many uses for Diatomaceous Earth around the chicken coop. We buy food grade DE and use it to control parasites both on and inside our chickens. It comes in a powder and I mix a small amount into their feed with a little vegetable oil to help it stick. This helps to flush worms out of their system.
We also dust our chickens with DE to control lice and mites. The powder is abrasive and on a microscopic level, it leaves tiny lacerations all over the parasite's body, eventually leading to death. For this reason I always wear a mask when handling DE, as the powder can easily be breathed in.
We also sprinkle the coop floor and nesting boxes, and I throw a generous amount into the chicken's bathing "ditches" and favorite dust bath areas, like my Hosta bed (little stinkers!), and they dust themselves better than I ever could. DE is also great if you have parasites in your garden. I sprinkle it around my flowers and vegetables to keep the bugs off them as well.
Another handy product is Vaseline. It's not necessarily "natural," but let's just say I'm not afraid to touch it like some insecticides. We rub it on our chickens' legs and feet to guard against scaly leg mites. The thick Vaseline suffocates the mites and they get stuck in the substance and die before burrowing under the leg scales.
Vaseline also lubricates chickens' feet and softens dry cracked skin and toenails. We also use it in the winter on our rooster's combs and waddles. It acts the same way lip balm prevents chapped lips. It can help with frost bite, too.
Vaseline can also be helpful in the vent area. Wearing rubber gloves, I sometimes rub a little on a vent that might be red or irritated. It helps keep off the flies and seems to sooth the affected area.
It's originally meant to be a wormer for cattle, but we use it on all our animals, including our rabbits.
Ivomec can be injected, taken orally, or dropped topically on the skin. When used topically on chickens, it works similar to a product like Frontline, which you might use on your dog to prevent fleas and ticks.
We use a hypodermic needle to get the medication out of the vial ...
For our chickens we drop 3 to 5 drops on the back of the neck, depending on the age and size of the bird, separating the feathers to get to the skin.
Ivomec covers an array of internal and external parasites. "Ivomec is a parasiticide used for the treatment and control of internal and external parasites such as gastrointestinal roundworms, lungworms, grubs, sucking lice and mange mites in cattle. It is also used in the treatment and control of gastrointestinal roundworms, lungworms, lice and mange mites in swine."
Ivomec might not be all natural, but if you really have a parasite problem it works fast, effective and is easy to administer, and it doesn't have the scary warning labels that some of the "shake on" varieties have.
Some of those caution labels warn that when administering, DO NOT get on hands or skin, as burning and irritation of the skin is typical and numbness of the afflicted area could last for up to 30 minutes. No wonder it kills bugs ... not something I want to go splashing around my chicken coop or the eggs that I eat.
Each of us has to decide what type of care we want for our animals, I encourage you to share what tips or techniques are your favorite methods for caring for your flock. Especially the "not-so-scary ones."
To see what else we're doing around the farm, visit our website at www.IronOakFarm.com.