A Few Simple Things, a Guide to Survive the 2016 Showing Season
By Morgan C
The season has come for county, state fairs and poultry shows alike and with it comes the stress of preparing not only the humans of the family but the avian ones as well. As a county poultry superintendent and poultry exhibitor, I have been front and center to preparing and showing at poultry shows and the like, so I will share some helpful tips that will help you survive and thrive during the 2016 showing season.
Now that you have selected your prized members of your flock to strut their stuff, you need to get prepared. Those that are prepared will not only survive but succeed! As an exhibitor you should not only know what to look for, but also how to clear it up in a hurry. Do a thorough health or wellness and parasite check. A lot of the time, 90% of the parasites I have seen come through fairs and shows have been leg mites/scale mites. This can generally be cleared up by applying Vaseline to their shanks and legs everyday for two weeks strait, but can be up to four weeks depending on the severity of the infestation. Simply take an old toothbrush and apply to your birds’ legs, making sure to not only brush down, but also brush backwards against the scales so you can get it under them. This is a crucial part that many people miss and so they will not see as good of results as they would like because the Vaseline isn’t under the scales where the mites are. Vaseline suffocates leg mites so it is vital that you do a bit of scrubbing to make sure you get under the scales. I have heard a lot of people promoting the use of mineral oil in place of Vaseline, but here is my word of caution. Mineral oil is not as thick as Vaseline so will not adhere to the legs and scales as well nor for the length we are looking for. Treating leg mites can be a dirty business so make sure that you use rubber gloves and an apron and you might want to consider bathing your kids (poultry kids) before you show, at least 3 days remember, as either product can cause icky looking feathers on the underside of the bird.
This is a mild case of leg mites, but mites all the same!
If you have other parasites, such as feather mites, you can use any of various products to dust your birds with. I don’t dip my birds, never have and never will, simply because of the health risks. I honestly, have only dusted one bird in my entire life with a chemical dust, so I prefer to use diatomaceous earth. I know that currently there is a big movement to not use this particular product as they claim it can get into the birds’ eyes and make them blind. From experience, having used the food grade kind for 20+ years, I have never had a problem with it. There’s an upside to using this product; it will not only take care of your mites but also the worms on board your birds, so might as well take care of two issues at once. You don’t have to go through all the dusting fuss with bags or buckets or whatever to dust your birds, all you have to do is put about a cup in each of their favorite dusting holes and they will do the rest.
Normally, most shows don’t make a big deal about internal parasites, simply because most people don’t know their birds have them to begin with. If you do see a worm infestation in your flock, don’t worry, you have options. There are many different chemical wormers available to most poultry enthusiasts, but use caution. Some wormers aren’t labeled for poultry use, so make sure you check with a knowledgeable poultry raiser and always ask around at fairs and expos to see what other people are using and make sure that you are giving your birds an accurate dosage. I use a more natural method that works time and time again, simply put apple cider vinegar (ACV) in their water, with garlic and black pepper in their feed. There are many different kinds of ACV but find the most organic or natural one possible and there are many different types of garlic, but garlic granules and simple ground black pepper will do just fine. There are many different dosage percentages you can use, but basically cover the feed with a dusting of both garlic and pepper, and for the ACV you can do as much as 50/50 split between good water and ACV, but only use this dosage for heavy infestations. A more common dosage is 1 part ACV 2 parts water or if you are still nervous about that dosage you can drop it down to 1 part ACV and 4 parts water. This type of worming works well because it not only gives them three types of inoculation but two drives to the third; the pepper and garlic will cause them to drink more water…..and what’s in your water now? You guessed it, ACV!!! Continue this treatment for about a week and repeat every month or when needed.
Bragg’s ACV is a great brand to use
Now obviously there are many other issues that can arise besides what I’ve listed, but here is a general list of what to look for in prime exhibit specimens:
-Bright, clear eyes
-No discharge from eyes or nose
-No poop clinging to feathers around vent
-Normal respiration and heart rate
-Good appetite and vigor
-Healthy looking feathers and skin
-No signs of respiratory issues (like a cough)
Having healthy birds is important for show success and will improve your show experience and reduce the recovery time when bringing your birds home.
Ok, now that your show birds are healthy, you need to make sure you have the necessary equipment ready to take them to fair so they are not only comfortable with something familiar from home, but that you are not stressed that you forgot a necessary piece of equipment. Most fairs and shows have housing cages for the duration of the show, but if not, bring cages that your birds are comfortable with. If they do provide cages, take a spray bottle with either 50/50 vinegar and water or peroxide and water, then spray the entire cage down BEFORE you put any of your own equipment or birds in, this will kill anything that may have hung around from last year or anytime in between. I know a lot of fairs and shows will offer feed and water equipment but you are always free to bring your own.
Since water is the most important element in your birds’ diet, we might as well take a moment to talk about it. Sometimes switching to a different water source than your birds are used to will shock the birds and they may not want to drink it. So you have two choices, 1) bring your own water in every day of the event, or 2) put a tablespoon of baking soda into a gallon of the ‘new’ water. The soda acts like a neutralizer; not only eliminating or neutralizing harmful chemicals like chlorine, but also giving the water a neutral taste so the birds are less likely to notice a difference. Either way, make sure that you pay attention to the amount of water your pretties are ingesting during the event.
Lastly, when at the show, make sure that you protect your birds against the heat. I know that it can get hot at some of the events this time of year so here are a few good ways to keep your birds cool:
-personal or mini fans
-Fresh, clean, cold water
-wet rags or towels with fans blowing through them
-frozen jugs of water (either Gatorade bottles or pop bottles filled 3/4 full of water then frozen)
-frozen rubber mats (there are a few similar to what KW cages sell, or ones similar that are made of material like baby chew toys that can be frozen) These are easily cleaned and refrozen when needed.
Use mats similar to these EZ mats
Make sure that you as an exhibitor are taking enough healthy liquids in, eating well, and getting enough rest. Most of all, learn lots, relax, and have fun!
Good luck showing this 2016 season!