does tons of dust and thick cobwebs in coop mean anything?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Gonda, Jan 25, 2010.

  1. Gonda

    Gonda Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    I cleaned out my chicken coop completely before introducing a new flock of birds. Within two months, the walls and ceiling are full of thick cobwebs and dust. Does that mean anything? One of my chickens died yesterday and I had taken it inside to look after it when it got sick yesterday morning. I couldn't say for sure what she died of, except that she was much smaller than the other chickens,had been picked on by them and she was shy and stuck to herself initially, so maybe they weren't letting her eat and drink? and her comb and wattle were very dry and shrunken. After bringing her inside yesterday, I noticed a few very small dark colored "fleas" or something on my counter yesterday, and I saw one on another chicken tonight, after dark, at the base of the neck feathers. It didn't jump, but wasn't stuck to the skin, just moved out of sight. When I squished them on my counter yesterday, they were soft. I'm wondering if there's anything to be concerned about. When I started reading, trying to figure out what a flea, a louse, and a mite look like (still not sure, can't find a picture of a flea), I wondered about the massive cobwebs and dust that have appeared in such a short time. With my previous flock, the cobwebs were thinner and not nearly this much, after a year even. Any suggestions as to what might be going on? I'm seeing more shrunken combs on a few hens, but they're not laying, so I thought that might be why. The combs don't have white spots on them. They have yellow legs and feet and I understand that means they aren't laying. They seem to be OK otherwise.

    Now that I've lost one hen, I'm starting to look for signs that there might be a problem. One of them was sleeping in the run outside, with her head tucked under her wing. I understand they do that even during the day. I'm seeing them all pecking at themselves at times, but I assumed that was normal. Is it? Do they groom themselves like that?

    Are a few "fleas" (if that's what I saw yesterday and today) normal?

    And what's with all that dust and those thick cobwebs?
  2. geebs

    geebs Lovin' the Lowriders!

    Sep 28, 2008
    sounds like mite... get on it!!! you stand to lose the whole flock... It is SERIOUS...may only be lice..not a serious but your description is mites... Do some quick reading and get all over this very quickly or you will not have any chickens.
  3. Hattie the Hen

    Hattie the Hen Chillin' With My Peeps

    Last edited: Jan 25, 2010
  4. Gonda

    Gonda Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    thanks for your feedback! I went with the mite theory due to the large amount of powdery grey dust on the sills. And I can see no evidence of lice eggs on the chickens, only little tiny crawling creatures that I'm assuming must be mites. I see no evidence of red mites (in the dirt, on walls, floors, nor at night with flashlight). I really was hoping this wasn't going to be lice (even though several sources suggest that's an easier problem to take care of, but I'm not big on using the stuff they suggest dipping the birds into). I didn't really want to give 15 birds a bath in winter and blow dry them all. I decided to use the natural route, i.e. diatomaceous earth, which is supposed to be effective for mites and lice, and worms!

    I dusted, swept and pressure washed the entire coop from top to bottom, hopefully eradicating thousands of mite eggs (as one ounce of dust apparently can contain 10,000 mite eggs!), put down lots of new cedar shavings - which is supposed to be a natural deterrent- on the floor and in the nests and sprinkled with food grade diatomaceous earth. Sprinkled the chickens as well, after they were roosting, and rubbed it into their feathers a bit, trying not to make too much dust. Hope it doesn't hurt their lungs! I wore a mask - had read on one website that if you use the DE for a dog or cat, it should also wear a mask. Not sure how to do that with chickens! Does it affect their lungs? The stuff is very powdery and they flap their wings and the dust flies all over. I also put some of the DE in their favourite dust bath area outside.

    I found several sites that suggest that this natural and nontoxic treatment can be very effective. One site suggested that chickens are smarter than we give them credit for, that their habit of rolling in dirt is their means of getting rid of lice or mites. That's encouraging. Hope this works!![​IMG]
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2010
  5. chookchick

    chookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 18, 2008
    Olympia WA
    Gonda--I'm afraid if you have an infestation, you are not going to be able to get rid of it with DE. DE is a preventative--it is not going to do much for you if have an active infestation. PLEASE get the proper pesticide and treat all your hens right away, you could lose more hens if you don't get on top of this.
  6. Hattie the Hen

    Hattie the Hen Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hi Gonda,

    I agree that DE is a preventative & not a cure. Also I have always understood that cedar shavings are not a good idea as the fumes are toxic to chickens.

    I know we have had discussions about this on this forum in the past, try to look them up in 'search'. Chickens are very prone to pick up respiratory diseases especially if their systems are compromised by attacks from lice or mites.
    I understand your reluctance to use chemicals (as I am) BUT there are times when you must or you will loose all your chickens.

    I wish you & your birds all of the best. [​IMG]

    Last edited: Jan 26, 2010

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