Medicated Dust-baths Help Chickens Get Rid of Mites

Chicken Mites: Annoying Pests

Have your hens ever had bare patches and missing feathers, especially on their back ends and tail area? Maybe you thought they were molting at first, but realized that they shouldn’t have been because of their age or recent molts.

Comparison between healthy hen and one infested with lice or mites

Combined with loss of appetite, weight loss or slower weight gain in your chickens, it’s likely that what you are seeing when this happens is actually the result of an infestation of mites and/or lice in your flock. You can read all about poultry lice and mites in this article from the Ohio State University Extension Service Division of Veterinary Medicine and see photos of infested feathers. It’s worth the quick read to get an overview of what these parasites are and what they do, but I don’t recommend the chemical medications they suggest using. Instead, you can use natural means to prevent, remove and discourage harmful insect infestations in your flock.

 Diatomaceous Earth Kills Chicken Lice

There are commercially available chemical treatments for chicken flocks with parasites. I don’t recommend these for the sake of your own health and that of the poultry. Instead, there are many natural means to get the job done safely. First and most effective is Diatomaceous Earth.

Diatomaceous Earth, a fine, powdery substance made from finely ground fossilized algae,  is completely natural, safe, non-toxic and extremely useful for preventing any number of ailments in a  chicken flock, from intestinal worms to fowl mites.  Food-grade DE is safe for animals and humans alike to ingest. Eggs and meat from chickens fed DE are 100% safe to eat.

As you’ll see, this stuff really comes in handy. It’s so awesome. I once used it to cure a certain child in my life of pinworms. But that’s another story.

Getting Rid of Chicken Lice

The steps to getting rid of chicken mites and lice are the same as those undertaken to prevent them in the first place. You can follow these once a week to remove an infestation, and then once every few weeks to prevent recurrence.

  1. Clean out that coop! Remove old litter and droppings from the whole coop and all nesting boxes.
  2. Spray the interior of the coop and the clean nesting boxes with neem oil in water — about two tables spoons per gallon, shaking the bottle to make sure the oil doesn’t just rise to the top and stay in the bottle.
  3. Replace bedding with fresh, clean wood shavings.
  4. Dust the top of the litter with Diatomaceous Earth.
  5. On the first dry day, add DE to the chickens’ dust-bath area.
  6. Sprinkle DE directly on the chickens where they show feather loss or signs of mites and lice.

Dust-baths for Chickens

Chicken flock dust bath The dust-bath is one of the best ways to make sure chickens get the DE under their feathers and all over their skin. Be sure to add the DE to their dusting areas on dry days as DE does not work when it gets wet, and rain washes it off the birds. Have your chickens gotten mites or lice? How do you treat your flock when this happens, and what was the most successful thing you did?

Posted in Chicken Health, Raising Chickens | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Automatic Chicken Door Opener: Pros and Cons

Chicken door on the side of an Amish chicken coopI’m researching the purchase of an auto chicken coop door opener — the kind with a timer and motor to lift the door so you don’t have to — and thought I’d share my findings. When I buy and install it, I’ll post pictures and share how it works out for us.

In this picture of our Amish Chicken Coop, you can see our regular manual chicken coop door, with a latch on either side so that the door can be easily secured in the open position — after the hens are out for the day — or closed, to keep them safe at night.

The coop is great, the door and windows are secure, and we have not lost any chickens since we bought this coop. So …

Why Use an Auto Chicken Coop Door Opener?

I am usually up early in the morning anyway, and enjoy my first chore of the day (letting the chickens out of their coop) but every so often it would be lovely to just sleep in … or not go out in the rain … or stay out late at an evening event without worrying about the girls. An automatic door opener allows backyard flock owners to:

  • Let the chickens out at a set time every morning without having to be at the coop
  • Have peace of mind knowing the coop door has closed behind the hens after they’re safely in at night
  • Enjoy an evening out or a weekend getaway without worrying that a predator will take the opportunity to wreak havoc

With the number of chickens we’ve lost over the years, especially when we were new to keeping chickens, I’d go so far as to say an automatic chicken coop door would be essential for any flock owner who likes to travel, works long hours away from home, or who doesn’t have a trusty neighbor or friend to look after the birds during an absence.

Automatic Chicken Coop Door RisksRhode Island Red hen  inside the chicken coop

One poor lady had her flock decimated by a raccoon attack while she was gone because her electric door lifter was powered by batteries only, and they ran out of power before the door was fully shut one night. It seems to me the main risks involved with these automatic door openers are:

  • Power source failure
  • Timer-based door shutting before all chickens are in at night (too early)
  • Bedding or debris preventing the door from closing fully

Thus I would recommend the following:

  1. Get a door opener with both a primary power source (solar, electric or battery) as well as a back-up battery to ensure that if the first fails, the second will kick in as needed.
  2. Check your timer (if it is timer- and not light-sensor controlled) as the daylight hours change in the spring and fall. Schedule the door to shut 20-30 minutes after the chickens are in for the night.
  3. Keep the area around the door cleared but removing any extra beddign or debris at least weekly.

Best Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener

 I found five or maybe six versions, all of which accomplish the same basic task of opening and closing access to an enclosed coop. Costs ranged from about $170 up to (shockingly) $500 for deluxe, over-priced models.

If I could afford to, I’d purchase three of the lower-priced versions and do a quality control analysis of each one, but for now I’m making a decision based on each one’s features and customer reviews.

I’m buying this one on eBay for just about $200 shipped. There were a couple cheaper options, but this one had much better features, including:

  • Plug-in electrical connection
  • Digital timer with battery backup
  • No cable/ rope design (those are more prone to problems)
  • Inside OR outside installation
  • Mechanism is designed and engineered and built by the same company — the unit is seamless in design and application.

Next step is ordering the door and installing it — I’ll update when it’s here!

Do you have an automatic coop door opener? Did you make it or buy it and how has it worked out?

Posted in Backyard Chickens, Chicken Coops, Raising Chickens | Tagged , | 7 Comments