Coop full of problems! Disease, lice, picking, egg eating. HELP!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by gckiddhouse, Aug 26, 2010.

  1. gckiddhouse

    gckiddhouse Songster

    Dec 9, 2008
    Desert Hills, AZ
    I am ready to throw in the towel! Get rid of all of them! I just don't have the time or energy to keep trying to fix what doesn't seem to fix. At this point I am willing to get some specific advice and try some things. And this will be my last effort. Please, only post if you are being helpful. And I appreciate any advice you have for me.

    Here's where we've come - We've had chickens for just over 2 years. We keep a clean semi deep system coop. We have never had disease until just recently. We lost most of our flock in January. We were down to two great hens. Perhaps we should have just left it at that. But we didn't. We hatched and bought new chicks. They are all about 6 - 7 months old now. We have culled most of the roosters and have 17 pullets/hens and 2 young roosters. Some of the pullets are laying, but we don't get eggs.

    A couple of months ago (maybe 3) we bought 3 pullets (Polish) that were about 3 months old. We kept them separated from the flock and in their third week here, I discovered bugs on them. We treated them for 6 weeks and thought we had gotten rid of the problem, but now the whole flock is infected. I realize, now, that I should have been treating the whole flock (hind sight...) They were free ranging with the flock and did come in contact with them sometimes.

    Here's the list of problems we currently have:

    They all have what I think are poultry lice (don't know how to be sure)
    They all seem to (intermittently) have a respiratory problem (shaking heads, rattled breathing sound from some)
    Many of them have pale and droopy combs
    At least one of the pullets is eating her own eggs and possibly others' eggs
    They are picking the feathers out of the Polish pullets.
    Two of the Polish pullets have what seems to be itchy skin that they scratch until the feathers come out and the skin is scaly and crusty one on her neck, and one on her head
    Oh, yeah, and one of my hens has a bumble foot. FUN!

    Here's what I have done for them:

    I have treated them once with Perythrin powder, and we are due to do it again tonight (one week later) This stuff is $12 per can and it takes the whole can to treat my flock. This is getting $$$!!
    We have cleaned out the coop area down to the original dirt, sprayed the hen house with a poultry housing cleaner and made it "snow" with DE.
    We have been putting raw apple cider vinegar, vitamins, and antibiotics in their water
    I have put tea tree oil (just a drop or two) with coconut oil on the skin of the Polish pullet, but just recently noticed that the problem seems to be going on with another Polish. I have since learned that tea tree oil is toxic, but I am willing to do whatever is necessary to get rid of whatever she has. She itches terribly!! She just scratches all day on her neck.
    Don't know what to do with the egg eater and I don't know if others are doing this. We are trying to collect eggs regularly, but find none.

    We live in Phx, AZ and our temps are in the 100*s daily. I have a very busy schedule right now, and I just don't know if I can handle this much longer. My daughter is very distraught that I am suggesting that we get rid of our chickens, and I don't want to break her heart, but this is ridiculous! I won't keep chickens like this.

    I see flocks all the time that have no feathers, red scaly skin, and they just look miserable, but I won't keep a flock like that.

    Please help!!! Thanks in advance.

  2. mom'sfolly

    mom'sfolly Crowing

    Feb 15, 2007
    Austin area, Texas
    Since you aren't getting eggs anyway right now, I think I would pull out the big guns for pest treatment. Most people recommend Ivomectin (?? spelling). You can't eat the eggs and you have to retreat after two weeks, but it treats external and internal parasites. There are lots of threads on it. I think I would cook any eggs you do get, and feed them back to the girls. The protein should help them recover. Heat and over breeding might also be somewhat responsible. Heat can make hens stop laying; but it sounds to me like you might have other issue.
  3. ChickLover98

    ChickLover98 The Chicken Princess

    Apr 24, 2010
    Wow. I hope your chickens get better soon. I know its frustrating to have ones that eat eggs!
  4. DaniLovesChickens

    DaniLovesChickens Songster

    Jul 18, 2010
    If you know which one is eating eggs, get rid of her!! I had the same problem and thought I could just collect eggs constantly and keep at it but she didn't stop. If one is doing it, she may teach others. This only works if you know which one it is though!

    I agree with the Ivomectin. That is what everyone says to use when you REALLY need to take care of business and it takes care of a lot of issues. I know you can put vaseline on chickens, so maybe that or baby oil would soothe the sore skin? bag balm?

    Best of luck, really![​IMG]
  5. TyrannosaurusChix

    TyrannosaurusChix Songster

    Jul 13, 2010
    Savannah, NY
    Get rid of the egg eater

    The polish getting pecked on the head is a common occurance. The otherws are trying to remove the feathers because htey dont have them, so they think they are helping to remove the loose feather.

    Lice- if you cant tell look on the belly feathers.. there will probably be eggs. Look around the vent. if they look orangy-with a black spot in them, that is lice. That is probably why they are plucking their own feathers out.

    The poultry dust at TSC is only 5$ and that treats 100 birds( i say less though cause i use it liberally) My next application is also this weekend for 14 chickens, as my others are separate and were raised from chicks and dont have these problems. but i think ill skip it and get the adams dip, it sounds much easier, and you dont have to reapply , although i WILL.

    for the rattled and head snapping .. make sure your bedding stays DRY! this happened to me because rin got in and made a huge mess. I used a packet of auremycin i think is how you spell it. It cost me $8 at the feed store( but i think tsc sells it) and i treated all my birds that were in that coop at the time. you mix it with water.. just use math to figure out how much to put in your specific waterers. you have to withold eggs for a week or two after youre finished adminitering it but it should clear it up.

    While youre at it , you might as well rub all their legs, feet and shanks down with vaseline for leg mites.

    Bumblefoot... there are plenty of threads around here on that.. it depends on how severe it is.
  6. a2ms4chickens

    a2ms4chickens Songster

    Dec 16, 2007
    Tucson, AZ
    Lice must be pretty common around this time, because we just treated my flock, 70 some birds, on Monday night. We have had chickens for 3 years and have never had to deal with the lice problem. New experience. [​IMG] We will be redusting everything again this weekend.

    I agree with using an antibiotic, in your water, for your problems with their respiratory problems. Just treat the whole flock. It really isn't that expensive for a packet at the feed store.

    If you can find the egg eater, you need to get rid of her.

    Maybe when you get rid of the lice, that will help with the itchy skin. I'm not sure what you can use to relieve the itch on a chicken, sorry.

    Good luck and hang in there!

  7. Cetawin

    Cetawin Chicken Beader

    Mar 20, 2008
    NW Kentucky
    Quote:Okay, I know you are frustrated, I would be let's take it one thing at a time...

    They all have what I think are poultry lice (don't know how to be sure):

    They are teenty tiny brown little things, check all around the vent area and on the skin at the base of theat the feathers. Remove all of their bedding, completely crub out the coop, use "Orange Guard" from Ace hardware and spray in all the cracks and crevices in the coop...It will not hurt the birds, it smells nice and it will keep most pests away. Then put poultry dust on everyone (make sure you get it into the feathers really well), in everything, including the new bedding. Repeat as necessary. As they have probably now infested the area around the coop, spread it around outside the coop as well. You can use Ivermectin pour on cattle wormer... for standard adult birds (6 - 10 lbs) 4 - 6 drops on the skin, on the back neck area between the shoulders/wings. Toss the eggs for 10 days, repeat the treatment and toss the eggs again for 10 days, then you are good to go.

    They all seem to (intermittently) have a respiratory problem (shaking heads, rattled breathing sound from some)

    When did these symptoms begin? As in after the lice were noticed, after the Polish were
    introduced, do the Polish show these symptoms. I have a strong suspicion one of the Polish could be a carrier. If it is respiratory, antibiotics from the feed store will do little to nothing. One of them needs to be examined when symptomatic by a vet and prescription medication needed. Understand that if they survive, they will be carriers and will infect any other birds they come in contact with. This is why most people cull. No way to know for certain without having one examined.

    Many of them have pale and droopy combs

    That can be caused by anemia which is a result of the lice. Get rid of them and that should fix itself.

    At least one of the pullets is eating her own eggs and possibly others' eggs

    Are you supplementing them with extra calcium and protein? Make sure they have oyster shell available for them free choice 24/7. Give them extra protein as well. Collect the eggs immediately whenever possible do not let them sit around in the nests.

    They are picking the feathers out of the Polish pullets.

    Quite common because they looks so different. It can also be a protein deficiency. Add olive oil, cod liver oil or wheat germ oil to their food. Feed them canned salmon or mackerel a couple times per week.

    Two of the Polish pullets have what seems to be itchy skin that they scratch until the feathers come out and the skin is scaly and crusty one on her neck, and one on her head

    You can use bag balm, petroleum jelly and a little vitamin E oil mixed together...rub it on the affected areas daily. Keep at it until it clears up. If it is red and inflammed, mix in some triple antibiotic ointment without pain reliever.

    Oh, yeah, and one of my hens has a bumble foot

    bumblefoot is a staff infection in the foot. There are many threads on cutting it out and treating it. Not a big deal unless it is left untreated.

    A side note - tea tree oil is only toxic when it is uncut or overly strong, near their face and where they can eat it. Diluted enough and it will not harm them unless you put it on their face or leave it where it can be eaten.

    Chickens are like any other animal you choose to keep....they require maintenance and in some situations, extra effort to correct problems. What you must decide is whether or not you want to go through the steps to correct these problems and then maintain it.

    Good luck with your decision.

  8. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

    Jan 4, 2009
    Tempe, Arizona
    There are a number of different types of lice and mites that affect poultry, and some are microscopic. Depending on the number of birds you have, the best treatment is to give each one a bath in a dog flea/tick shampoo with an insect growth regulator. Then treat with ivermectin while they are still damp. I usually place the dose in the wingpit, and I use quite a bit more than is usually recommended.

    What kind of bedding do you have? You can mix in a portion of cedar shavings; perhaps as much as 1/4 if you have an open coop as is most common here in AZ. Thoroughly mix in 5% sevin or permethrin or pyrethrin dust. Don't use straw, as it gives bugs places to hide. Thoroughly spray all wood in the coop with a bug spray that is okay for animal housing areas once the residue is dry; preferably use one with an insect growth regulator. Some birds (like some people) seem more attractive to biting bugs than others. If you can identify these birds you will have ones that can give you advance warning of the beginning of bug problems if you keep a close eye on them. There are wingbands that contain a pesticide tag; they work much like a flea collar, but the bird has a big floppy tag dangling off its wing [​IMG] I've never tried them, though, so I can't attest to how well they work.

    Ace Hardware carries 5 lb bags of both 5% sevin and permethrin dust for about $10. The shaker bottles are considerably smaller, and cost nearly as much. You can also try a plant nursery; I think A&P carries one or both. Lowe's and Home Depot do not. There are no TSC stores in Arizona. I think there is one somewhere in west Texas, and another in western California. Either is a bit of a long drive. [​IMG]

    Polish often pick the crests of each other; don't know why. If you can either separate them into cages until their crest regrows, or use poly rubber bands or hair tape to tie the crest into a topknot, you will get them to stop the picking. If the full crest is there, mine don't have problems. Only when one is already partly missing (so be alert during molts) does the crest picking seem to start up. I have found that for the most part it is the polish doing it to other polish, and in one case a silkie was also contributing her picking efforts [​IMG]

    Mites or lice can cause similar symptoms to respiratory infection. Some respiratory infections create a carrier state; others do not. The idea of getting a diagnosis is a good one. Dr Burke in Gilbert (Cornerstone Veterinary Hospital) is EXCELLENT. Baytril is a bacteriacide, and is far less likely to leave a carrier state than any bacteriastat, which is what most of the antibiotics are. I recently read several studies about an antibiotic that I was not familiar with: tiamulin. It is also a bacteriacide. Tiamulin is apparently extremely effective on gram positive bacterias, has shown little to no resistance buildup and is not related to any antibiotics used in humans. It is available OTC. The down side is that it has little affect on gram negative bacteria.

    The red itchy skin could be microscopic mites or lice, or could be a fungal infection. Lotrimin lotion or cream, or other athelete's foot meds should help if it is fungal. The ivermectin should help if it is mites or lice. Blucote should also help if fungal.

    Egg eating often starts with either hungry or bored birds. Keep food available at all times, give them things to keep them occupied: vegies or fruit tied up just a bit above reach to jump and get bites of. Places to explore: dividers, tunnels, blocks to climb or hop onto. Make sure nest boxes are darkish, or even curtained. Make sure they are getting sufficient protein and calcium. If you identify the culprit, trim her beak almost to, or maybe just into the quick, and give her some nice hard marble eggs to pack. Pretty soon she will learn that it is painful and unproductive to peck the eggs for food. Try to get marble eggs similar in colour to her own, or at least similar to others laid by your flock; chickens have very good colour vision.

    If the bird with bumblefoot is limping or it is otherwise noticeably affecting her, treat it; if not, for now, leave it alone. Not all bumblefoot needs treatment.

    On tea tree oil: and, which probably requires you to register & log in
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2010
  9. gckiddhouse

    gckiddhouse Songster

    Dec 9, 2008
    Desert Hills, AZ
    Wow, thanks all for the great advice. DD and I dusted all 19 chooks tonight after dark. That is a job that Mike Rowe may be interested in trying!! YUK!!!

    I wanted to clarrify a few things in response to the advice:

    Mom'sfolly and daniLoves: I am looking into this Ivomectin stuff. Sounds promising. I am normally pretty serious about only using natural and non-chemical stuff around the chickens and garden. That is why I used Perytherin, the natural version. Guess I will have to let my guard down to get rid of this stuff. "Pulling out the big guns" seems like what I need to do. Where would I go about getting Ivermectin?

    Tyranno: based on your description and the one that I saw online, it is lice. That is better than mites, right? The other chickens are not picking at the Polish crests, they are picking at their backs in front of their tails, just as they would any other hen. I have had the picking before, and have put saddles on them. Unfortunately my saddles are way too big for the little Polish girls.
    Our bedding is ALWAYS dry. We live in Phoenix, so moisture isn't a problem here. Also, we dug out every bit of old bedding - down to the original hard dirt both inside the coop and around the coop. I have used the antibiotic you mentioned. I have been putting it in their water, but the infection is lingering (or maybe it is just the mites). They have an auto waterer, so I have only put it in there every couple of days. Perhaps I need to start with fresh antibiotic every day? There is no sign of leg mites, but your advice is probably good. Prevention!

    What is Adams dip??

    We are so sad that the egg eater is one of our favorite hens. [​IMG]

    Cetawin: thanks for all the specifics! Got some Orange Guard at Ace tonight. Will spray tomorrow. So you say to use the Ivermectin twice. Should I also continue to dust every week as planned?

    I can't remember, now, when the respiratory thing started. And, no, the Polish don't seem to have the symptoms. I really hate the idea of taking a chicken to the vet. I wasn't planning to do that. I will consider calling the vet that SonoranSilkies suggested. I just don't know about that. I might rather just cull

    As I said above, the chickens are pecking at the Polishs' backs, not so much their crests. I watched the roosters just pluck the feathers and eat them. I guess they have had a reduction in protein since I have put them on a layer pellet. I could go back to the grower. I will just feed their eggs back to them and give them some protein. I don't supplement calcium because our water is so hard. You practically need a hammer to get into the eggs. So, no need. I will increase protein, but i have to say that when I had a picking problem before, that didn't work.

    I am going to keep doing the tea tree oil/coconut oil on the raw skin as it did seem to help a little. I tried blukote, but she still looks like she is really itchy.

    Sonoran: The thought of microscopic mites has me really wigged out!! How would I know?? flea/tick shampoo?? Oh my! Again, the chemicals have me really freaked out. Are there any natural treatments that would be as effective?

    We have always used wood chips until this past 3 months or so, I tried TerrAmigo (sawdust pellets). We just took up about 2 inches of packed TerrAmigo that was gross. We won't be using that anymore. It also got in my landscaping much worse than the chips. I did get some cedar chips to mix in. We are just leaving the dirt floor right now, but will get the new bedding in after we have satisfactorily treated the ground. In the mean time, the chooks are digging up the hard dirt and mixing in DE and poultry dust as they dust bathe.

    I don't think I will drive all the way to Gilbert to see a vet. That would be like you driving to Tucson. Do you think he would just give advice over the phone?

    I did try blukote on one of the Polish and it didn't seem to help, so not fungal?

    I wouldn't have the first clue how to clip a chicken's beak. Will it grow back?

    thanks again everyone. Any further, follow up advice is appreciated.
  10. redhen

    redhen Kiss My Grits... Premium Member

    May 19, 2008
    Western MA
    Find out which bird is egg eating and get rid of her..You'll never cure her.
    As for the lice/mites... i can guarantee you that Ivermectin 5% Pour-on (for cattle) WILL kill all the creepy critters... retreat after 2 weeks...
    I used 1/2 cc on each hen... I dropped it on my birds necks... and under their wings... (you want to make sure you make SKIN the feathers dont just soak up all the meds...)
    Treat the coop with sevins dust or poultry dust too... **very important**
    ETA::You can get Ivermectin at TSC or most feed/farm stores...
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2010

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