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Poultry Care Info
Tips for Caring for your birds
I've noticed that there are some questions that seem to come up again and again when I'm meeting with customers. Especially those who are new to keeping birds. So I thought I'd try to cover some of them here and maybe I can help make someone's experience a little easier. So the first thing that seems to come up is what to feed your chickens. It is very important to feed your birds a quality layer feed, either pellet or crumble. The layer feed costs a bit more than scratch, but if you feed your layer hens too much scratch feed they will stop producing eggs. They need the nutrition from the layer feed to be able to produce eggs. Plus, the extra corn is not good for them in the summertime as it produces extra heat which is unhealthy. I don't give my birds scratch in the summer. They get an unlimited supply of layer pellets and whatever fresh vegetables might be overgrown in the garden. Cucumbers, melons and tomatoes are a favorite of theirs. I save the scratch grains for winter when they need some extra warmth. Also, if you have chicks they will need chick starter/grower until they are 16 weeks of age. Then I usually wean them onto layer crumbles and slowly I add pellets to the crumbles. The pellets usually work fine for large breed chickens by 18 weeks, but bantams sometimes need crumbles as adults. It depends on the size of the bird and the size of the pellet.
A word of caution with ducklings - never give your ducklings medicated chick starter. Ducks eat a lot more than chicks and they can actually overdose on the medicated food. With ducks, they also need a drinker that they can dunk their beaks into. Ducks need to clean their nares as they eat. Most chicken drinkers aren't deep enough to allow this after the ducks get big so I provide a small bucket of water. After they are adults, ducks and geese actually seem to prefer pelleted food over crumbles. I like pellets because there is less waste and whatever is spilled can be seen and eaten from the ground. AND just for the record, you don't need a pond to keep ducks. Ducks aren't picky, they are very happy with a plastic kiddie pool. If you don't provide them a pool, they are very likely to take a dip in the water bucket. I've seen this, it's quite a show.
I do try to raise my birds as naturally and organically as possible. But I want them to be healthy so I do have a few preventative methods that I use routinely to try and maintain a healthy flock. One thing is that I worm my birds seasonally, four times a year, Spring-Summer-Fall-Winter. I prefer to use an all natural wormer (Verm-X or similar). If you use Wazine or one of that sort from a Farm Supply store you will need to withhold your eggs for up to 2 weeks. Be sure and read the directions as they are all a little different. I also use Diatomaceous Earth for many things. Usually about once a month I add DE to the chicken food. Make sure your DE is FOOD GRADE, the pool DE is very harmful. You can add Food Grade DE to your layer food at 2% and this will take care of internal parasites. It won't harm your birds. You can also sprinkle the DE in the nest boxes and in the favorite dust bathing holes to assist with preventing feather mites. If you do find mites on your birds, you can treat them safely and effectively with Sevin Dust 5%. Dust your birds and the nest boxes and this will kill the mites very quickly. You will need to re-treat again to make sure and kill any new mites that may hatch. Another good supplement is Apple Cider Vinegar. I add this to the drinkers occasionally, 1 Tablespoon per gallon of water. This is good for the overall health of the birds and also it will retard the growth of algae in the drinkers which seems to happen overnight here in the summer heat.
These are just some things that have worked for me. I will continue to add anything new that I find helpful. It seems there is always something to learn about these wonderful birds.
"From troubles of the world I turn to ducks, beautiful comical things."
~Frank W. Harvey