The road less traveled...back to good health! They have lice, mites, scale mites, worms, anemia, gl

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Beekissed, Sep 19, 2012.

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  1. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    I am going to try an experiment. Something I've never done or attempted before but feel like it would be educational and beneficial to those who have let their flocks stray off the path of good health and want to find the way back.

    Here's the back story: I had a wonderful flock that had been raised all naturally, were free ranged and had been culled vigorously for laying, hardiness, feed thrift, broodiness and mothering instincts. They were gloriously healthy, productive and beautiful to behold! There were 28 hens and one rooster, a Partridge Rock named Tobias, or Toby. He was regal, quiet, gentle and wise. The hens were quiet, peaceful and never squabbled or had discord. I had 5 White Rocks, 5 New Hampshires, 5 Barred Rock, 5 Speckled Sussex, 5 Partridge Rocks, 3 Black Austrolorps. The White Rocks and New Hamps are 6 yrs old and the Black Aussies are 7 yrs.old, the SS, PR, BR are all 3 years old.

    I needed to travel and I didn't know how long it would take, so I sort of gave/farmed out my flock to two different farms. Ten of them went to a beautiful farm high on a mountain where they free range and have a lovely life. All are still alive and doing lovely, producing at max and living the good life.

    Eighteen of them went to another mountain farm where the people said they would arrange free ranging areas and would try to raise them as I have done.

    Long story shorter, they did not do this. I checked on them now and again before I traveled and both flocks were doing fine...but the one that was confined to a coop(no run!)was showing signs of stress and were losing their gloss and healthy appearance. I tried to ignore the guilty feelings inside and checked on the flocks by phone...reports were good, buckets of eggs were being harvested, etc.

    Finally got to settle down to one spot and started thinking about my old flock and hearing rumors on the wind of the confined flock and their condition. I stopped by there today and rescued the survivors of incredibly horrible management of my poor flock....only 10 were left and I even snagged a few that weren't originally mine and pulled them out of the pits of despair. The other 8 birds have died from the poor care they have received. In a year and a half, they managed to kill nearly half of the birds and have sickened the rest.

    Yes, it sounds melodramatic but you would have cried if you saw them. Crusty old me got sick to my stomach and couldn't stop tearing up all the way home. My first instinct was to get them home and kill all those who were obviously suffering or showed signs of weakness~that would have been all of the birds.

    Then I got to thinking that I would try to see if my natural flock management could restore these birds to their former glory and health. They are old friends and though it goes against my usual strict "no sentimentality" rule, I feel I owe it to this flock for leaving them with nice people..... who used bad, bad, bad flock management skills [​IMG] . Ordinarily I would cull these birds, but since I knew this was caused by poor management and not due to sickly genetics, I'm going to try to use all natural means to restore them to health.

    From the initial assessment I have found : Lice, mites, scale mites, gleet, possible(very likely) intestinal parasite infestation, excessive feather loss and damage, overgrown toenails, bare skin with redness, swelling and scaling. I've found a few birds with swollen abdomens. Almost all of them are severely anemic...I'm talking white beaks, legs, wattles, facial skin, vents. They have low energy, weakness, dull and listless eyes, diarrhea and a hunched stance when they stand and little enthusiasm when presented with food and fresh vegetables. Several are in severe molt and are attempting feather regrowth. Almost all of them show malnourishment, though I know they were fed well...all keel bones are prominent and only one of the hens has her normal weight and feathering that they would have at this time of the year.

    Anyone interested in following along?

    ******On the OT thread we have a few people who want to restore chickens to good health after seeing obvious worms in the feces, mites, lice, poor laying, etc. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for these things and just giving meds will mean that, eventually, you will just have to give more meds to keep them at optimal health. I'd like to show folks how to start out with the very worst and get them back to the best without the use of quick fixes.

    Edited to add some of the pics of these birds being dusted....I apologize at the poor quality and detail in the pics as my mother was taking them and she isn't real familiar with the camera.

    I know you can't see her well covered with all those wood ashes, but this used to be a plump, sleek White Rock hen that weighed at least 10 lbs. Now she would be lucky to go 6 lbs. She is missing or regrowing most of her feathers, has lice, mites, gleet and scale mites.


    This is a New Hampshire hen that used to weight approx. 8 lbs and now weighs about 5 lbs. As you can see, her comb is pale and she is pretty listless. She has lice, mites, and scale mites along with gleet.


    This is a close up of gleet and scale mites on one of the White Rocks. You really can't see the detail of the gleet in this but it has very tight, large beads of crust close to the base of these feathers that cannot be dislodged by hand and simply must be cut off...this is difficult because they are very tight to the skin and the possibility of cutting the hen is a danger.


    Another White Rock with lice, scale mites and gleet and much feather loss. If you will look at the feet you can see the swelling caused by scale mites. Also note the pale legs from anemia of these parasite infested birds.


    In this pic you can see a close up(sorry about the lack of sharpness) of the scale mite damage to the feet and the pale skin caused by anemia from parasite infestation.


    In this pic, Toby, the rooster, is getting dusted. Note the pale comb and wattles and dull eyes. He used to weigh a good 13 lbs but now only weighs about 8 lbs. He has feather loss around the head and eyes and is infested with lice and mites, with scale mites on his legs. In the old days, he was much too big to fit in this he has lost so much mass that his keel bone is prominent.

    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
    7 people like this.

  2. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    I'll be watching and learning
  3. thedragonlady

    thedragonlady Crowing

    Feb 6, 2012
    Have at it Bee!
  4. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Free Ranging Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Oh, Bee - I'm so sorry to hear about your flock! I will be following along with great interest.

  5. Little Ameraucana Mom

    Little Ameraucana Mom Need Help, Can't stop hatching!!!

    Jul 8, 2008
    Greencastle, In
    The poor things !! I'd of been crying also !!
  6. suki'smom

    suki'smom Songster

    Aug 4, 2011
    Central Wisconsin
    I will be watching. Prayers sent for your flock.
  7. stonykill

    stonykill Crowing

    Sep 16, 2010
    Canaan Ny
    I'm speechless Bee. Such poor care. I'll be watching. Good luck! I'm sure of this, if anyone can do it you can!

  8. normanack

    normanack Songster

    Apr 15, 2012
    Michigan, USA
    Not sure if looking backward is beneficial or not -- if you think it would help, maybe you could spell out the practices that you feel led to their condition?

    Lack of free ranging, probably filthy coop and run are clearly huge factors. Did you see anything else specific?

    Best and warmest wishes and prayers, and thank you for helping us learn through your project.
  9. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    Thanks, guys! This should be interesting and I hope it isn't too heart breaking to do. I can't shake this horrified feeling in my stomach and can't get the image of them out of my mind....makes me want to cry each time I think of them. You should have seen how they calmed down when I got each of them in my arms, particularly Toby and big ol' Moby Two, my excellent White Rock broody mama.

    First thing I did was physical examination....with gritted teeth and murderous thoughts for all the roads to hell that have been paved with "good intentions".

    I applied Nu-Stock to their legs and feet and worked it into the scales. Nu-Stock is one of the few things in my medicine chest, right along side Bag Balm. It is a lotion made of pine tar, sulfur and mineral oil and is for parasites, fungal skin infections, etc. Smells like Pine-Sol, works like magic! I also applied it to the vents that had gleet after clipping off most of the larger beads of fungal growth on the feathers.

    Each bird was thoroughly dusted with wood ashes....ever crack and crevass, every skin surface.

    They were given fresh water with a larger than normal glug of mother vinegar. They were given a little layer mash and kitten chow(first time I've ever used cat food but it was all I had at the moment)sprinkled with fresh ground garlic powder. They were also offered the guts out of a pumpkin....they pecked at it listlessly...a first for my birds~pumpkins are their fave!

    They stood around in a daze, moved aimlessly back and forth a few times, were very, very quiet. Took a few sips of water, pecked a little at the food.....they act like chicken zombies. If I could reach my own rear end I'd be kicking it all the way to China and back~with golf shoes on! [​IMG] I digress....

    Tomorrow's regimen is:

    1. Start fermentation of layer mash.

    2. Feed half a cooked(converts the starch to sugar) pie pumpkin filled with cottage cheese(Yes, I'm feeding them people food! ) They need the vegetable fiber, sugar and beta carotene. The cottage cheese has the cultures they need for their bowels...needed something to give them while the feed is fermenting.

    3. Construct smaller feed trough from rain guttering, wire overlay and 2x4s/ order poultry nipples to build waterer.

    4. Lay down fresh pine shavings and make adjustments to roost to provide for weakened and featherless birds who cannot fly...had to lift the stronger birds to the roost tonight~roost is only about 4.5 ft. tall. Sad. The rest of the birds were left on fresh hay on the ground as I felt they were too weak to balance on the roost, no matter how wide and comfy.

    Will confine them to the coop for about a week to build them up, train them to the coop and roosts and just give them a chance to gain some strength before they free range. This is the first time they've seen sunlight for a year and a half, so I raise the side flaps to the coop to let in the sun. First time for fresh air also. [​IMG] What goes through people's minds when they take care of another creature? "Gee, they don't need sunlight or air...chickens don't need that to lay an egg."

    Took pics today of the condition of the birds and as we were dusting them with ashes. Will try to get them posted soonest.
    1 person likes this.

  10. Attila the Hen

    Attila the Hen Songster

    Nov 6, 2010
    Blue Ridge GA
    I think this thread would be tremendously helpful and useful to look back to causation if possible. I believe I am taking good care of my flock but if I am ignorant then I cant possibly know.
    I hope you will share even the mundane details which could be very important for those of us who don't have your experience.
    I am signing on and I am so sorry you found your flock in this condition. I would hate to ever be in the situation you found yourself in.
    So sorry for your birds.
    1 person likes this.
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