I am pleased to report that all adult and chick sales for 2015 are over. Whew.
Our Bieles just turned old enough to go on layer feed. Yay!
All the Orp babies are roosting properly after just one lesson. Sometimes I think I'm getting to be a better "chicken teacher," but it is VERY hard to get adult birds to change their habits. Two of my blue Orp hens want to sleep on/near the ground--one in a nest box (broody or not), and another on top of that nest box. That will not do in the winter. One of them, my sweet giant Ellie, has lost all the feeling and use of one foot because when I bought her, it was wrapped with clear fishing line, and by the time I noticed, I was able to save the flesh/bones, but not the nerves. When she walks or digs, she looks normal, but when she gets in a hurry she hops, and she will only roost on "low edges" an inch or two from solid flooring, not up high (she would fall, bless her heart). I am angry at myself every day for not noticing this immediately, but it was literally invisible, and by the time she limped, her foot and one toe were cut through badly. She is not in pain at least, but I worry about her.
The extremely wet spring allowed some of my birds to get/keep poultry lice. Yuck. I used generic fipronil with methoprene (Frontline Plus) and it worked like a charm. Easier than dusting them all with Sevin (and less toxic to me as the applicant). Worry not! If you bought babies from me, they were NEVER outside with the affected adults, and if you bought adult birds, they were treated. Every single bird was treated whether there were any cooties or not. We didn't notice until we slaughtered a roo and saw a few on him.
In five years of having chickens, this was the first in which we had any external parasites at all. If it had to be something, I'm glad it was poultry lice (easiest to treat, least likely to kill birds). The funniest thing was I saw the most on birds that looked like hell AND on birds that looked fabulous (not missing a single feather). The only common factor was age. It was mostly my Australorp hens and oldest buff Orp hens (4 and 5 year olds). I had not purchased a new bird that was outside with them in over a year, so I guess it's remotely possible that she brought them in.
I decided it doesn't matter. As a veterinarian, I view these parasites like I do fleas. Any dog or cat can get fleas. Any poultry can get lice (or mites). The key thing is to GET RID OF THEM ASAP and do a thorough job. Mites can kill babies because they suck blood. At least lice on poultry are just "chewing" lice (mostly dead skin and feathers), not "sucking" (blood sucking).
Fipronil is not approved for use on chickens, but by golly if works gangbusters, and I personally did not worry about pitching eggs. Fipronil is designed to affect the nervous system of fleas, lice, etc.--NOT mammals. They absorb it through their skin into the subcutaneous fat layer, so I doubt that much if any at all gets into their bloodstream, meat, or eggs. If I had just treated one within 3-4 weeks, I might not eat the skin (we are lazy processors and usually just skin them out anyway), but I just can't believe that it can wind up in eggs or meat at any significant level. Do I wish Frontline would test it and get it approved on chickens? Sure I do. But it won't happen. Costs them money.
I decided to use it because the show poultry community uses it all the time for prevention from picking up cooties from their chicken/duck neighbors at shows.
If you decide to do it, there's a You Tube video about it. Basically, you use a syringe with a 25 gauge needle and apply one tiny drop on the back of the neck (on skin), one under each wing on bare skin, and one drop on skin above and last below the vent. That's five teeny drops. Do NOT inject the stuff. Do not use drops from the container it comes in. You will waste a ton of it and overtreat your birds, too. It is cheapest when you buy generics and in the largest size (88-136 lb dogs) You can buy it OTC almost anywhere plus online. Brands include Frontline/Frontline Plus, Sentry, PetGuard, and others. Always read the label. Plain fipronil is good enough, but ones with methoprene are probably better IMO. Methoprene is an insect growth regulator that prevents flea eggs/larvae from developing. Generally, birds with lice/mites need to be retreated after 10-14 days so you kill the newly hatched cooties before they are old enough to reproduce. I do not know for a fact that methoprene stops nits from hatching, but it might...so I used a combo with both. Methoprene also has no impact on mammals.
I will be retreating once for good measure, then just keeping an eye out on the flock. Now that dust bathing is back in style, I don't expect to see any more trouble.
Personally, I would recommend this for any birds you buy and put into quarantine. Older chicks (like 4 weeks and up) can probably tolerate 3 tiny drops (one wing and above/below vent). That's what I did, anyway. Juveniles can be treated like adults. Adult bantams--use your judgment depending on their weight. It will be one less thing for you to worry about, and if you store the leftover amount well (standing upright and wrapped in foil, kept at room temp) it should keep a while.
This will NOT deworm your chickens on the inside, but it should take care of poultry lice and most mites. With mites (Northern, I think) you also have to treat your coop because they hang out in the wood cracks. Poultry lice live exclusively on the birds. If anyone has any success stories using this for Northern/red mites or scaly leg mites, I'd be interested in hearing about it. I can't see any reason why it won't work on them unless the red mites are on baby chicks and literally drain their blood like vampires before you can help.
Finally, in this very long post, we have decided to let everybody molt this year. For five years, none of our birds has molted so we would have eggs all the time in high numbers. I want everyone to be pretty in the spring, so we're just going to hope they don't all molt at the same time. Some already have started, which is typical for our flock.