Weekly Photo Roundup | March 12 – 18

Mud. Animal antics. Homemade bread. Baskets and baskets of eggs. More mud! Feeding cows. Puppy mischief. Live calves. A good save. More mud. New chicks. It was a good week.

In the Coop | Treating Coccidiosis

Although some people probably manage to get through their chicken keeping career without dealing with a coccidiosis outbreak, this is a really common flock sickness caused by a common parasite and it definitely pays to be able to recognize the symptoms before your entire flock is infected!

Before getting started on this article, I want to add a healthy disclaimer here: I am not a vet. All I want to do is share a little about coccidiosis and how I successfully treated it, and why I think it worked.

So, what is coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is a relatively common infection that can affect all manner of livestock and wild animals, caused by a single-cell parasite in the GI tract. This parasite lives in the soil and is actively spread by wild animals. Symptoms in chickens include lethargy, not eating or drinking, watery/mucousy stools, and bloody stools.

Treating or preventing an outbreak

If you discover a case of coccidiosis in one chick or chicken, you need to treat the entire flock, regardless of symptoms. Treatment is super simple but it takes some time. Using liquid Corid (sold at feedstores and online), for 5-7 days, add 1 teaspoon of Corid to 1 gallon of water (for a moderate outbreak) OR 2 teaspoons of Corid to 1 gallon of water (for a severe outbreak). After the 5-7 day initial treatment, follow with another 5-7 days of 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water. Don’t give any other water except this Corid-medicated water, and make it fresh daily.

Treating the Sick Bird

This part is important: if you have a single chick (or chicken) that is showing symptoms of acute coccidiosis, and is displaying the tell-tale lethargy, watery droppings, and not eating, the flock treatment method will not work by itself. By the time you notice your chick not eating and drinking, it is fruitless to add Corid to their water and expect any sort of improvement. They’re not eating or drinking so any medication administered free-choice isn’t going to be consumed.

Let’s be specific here: It is the dehydration and malnutrition caused by not eating and drinking that will kill the chick, not the parasite itself. So don’t just put Corid in the water and call it good. The chick needs nutrients and rehydration as well.

Late this past summer, I had a chick suddenly get sick with all the classic coccidiosis symptoms. I isolated the chick and took a common-sense approach to treatment. My thought process was that the chick needed rehydration and needed the medication, which it wasn’t getting from free-choice water. The sick chick got dropper feedings multiple times per day of a slurry of egg yolk, yogurt, molasses, sometimes thinned with Corid medicated water (using the dosage listed above), sometimes with a few drops of Nutri-drench, and was also given medicated water by dropper as well. The first couple of days I gave her a concentrated dose of Corid by syringe. I would draw up probably a quarter of a cc of Corid into a syringe, draw up a cc or so of water, and administer that to the sick chick. I don’t have a digital scale and Corid, by my understanding, is a pretty safe medication. The chick was in bad enough shape I was willing to risk overdoing it to get enough medication actually in her. My goal was something like 5 or 6 cc’s of this medicated slurry and fluids per day, kind of whatever I could get in her without too much trouble. Based on the size of the chick you’re treating, it might be more or less than this. Use common sense. Any amount is better than the chick sitting in the brooder and not eating anything.

Don’t take my word as expert by any means, but sometimes you have to think a little outside the box – in this case, it worked really well. Obviously treating a chick or chicken individually takes a time commitment (honestly, just a few minutes a few times per day), but if you’re wanting to try to save a coccidiosis-infected bird, that’s what it will take.

I’d love to hear any other tips or advice on treating coccidiosis! It is a pretty common infection but sometimes the information can be pretty confusing on how to treat it. Happy chicken keeping!

In the Coop | 5 Things to Have on Hand

If you’re a first-time chick keeper, you can find lists (and lists and lists) of recommendations online about what you absolutely need to have on hand for that first order of chicks. I don’t know about you, but that can feel a little daunting.

The five things I absolutely would have on hand are: Save-a-Chick probiotics and electrolytes, Nutridrench, Corid, and a 3cc syringe. With those things on hand, you can combat a lot of what might kill your chicks in the first few weeks of their lives.

Probiotics and Electrolytes. Add probiotics and electrolytes to their water for a little boost, to replenish and balance their electrolytes, and as preventative. When you first get your chicks, either mailorder or from a feed store, they will need a little pick-me-up. The mailorder chicks haven’t eaten or drunk anything since being out of the egg and will be ravenous and a little dehydrated. The feedstore chicks likely just got dumped in a sale bin with little attention given, so they could also use some TLC. The probiotics are a good idea because GI issues can quickly become fatal in baby chicks, since they are so small any dehydration is going to have a significant impact. Make sure you are changing this every day, if not multiple times, since it will grow stuff, especially with the heat lamp going! I mix up a pitcher of this and keep it in the fridge, and would give it to my chicks for a couple of days, then give them plain water.

Nutridrench. This is a kind of a first-line treatment to give to just about any chick that looks like it needs a little boost. It is a mix of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and sugar. I’ve only ever given this to sick chicks and mixed it in a slurry of egg yolk and/or molasses and/or yogurt.

Corid. This is the brand name for the medication amprolium. You could have chickens for years and never deal with coccidiosis, I would imagine, but this is something to keep on hand. As far as I know, Corid doesn’t really go bad and I would much rather have it on hand and not need it, than have coccidiosis run rampant through my flock, chicks or chickens. I will do another post on treating chicks with coccidiosis at a future date, but trust me on this one and keep it on hand! Don’t wait until you figure out that’s what’s making your chicks sick and then have to go find it or worse, order it online and wait for it to arrive. In a pinch, feed stores do carry it, but I just wouldn’t want to risk it being out of stock when I wanted it. It is pricey, but a little goes a long way.

3cc syringe. This is the easiest way to administer nutritional first aid or a medication like Corid to your chicks. It takes a little bit to figure out how to hold the chick and how to get her to open her little beak to take the syringe. I find that the easiest way is to cup the chick with my nondominant hand and press her back against my chest. Do not stick the syringe down her throat or into the center of her mouth, but instead press the tip of the syringe into the very corner of her beak until she opens up, and she will, even if just for a split second. It might take a few tries before you manage to slip the syringe just into the corner, and then kind of pull gently to the side to make the syringe sit securely in the pliable fold of the corner of her beak. Now you can administer the liquid, and it can be done pretty quickly if the syringe is placed correctly. Just don’t administer too much at once and choke the chick. If you have to doctor a chick for awhile, the corner of her beak is going to get a little red and irritated, but honestly that will make her more likely to open her beak.

This is hardly an exhaustive list, especially if you’ve done other reading and have seen the many, many things people will recommend to keep on hand for chicks. There is VetRx for respiratory issues, anti-pecking sprays and gels, wound care, and more. But what I listed above is what I would not choose to be without!

Please drop a comment below with your recommendations on those absolute must-haves for chick keeping! Happy chick days!

Weekly Photo Roundup | Feb. 19 – 25

In the Coop | What Breeds?

If you’re just getting started with your chicken keeping endeavors, it can be daunting to know where to start when it comes to breeds of chickens. There are a TON of different ones. How in the world do you pick?

Before we jump into the different breeds and classifications, ask yourself what your goal is with your chicken keeping. How many birds do you want? And why do you want them? Some people want the biggest bang for their buck with the highest producing layers intending to sell eggs. Some just want enough for eggs for their family. Others are into the showier, fancy breeds for the novelty factor, and aren’t as concerned about high egg production. Some are chasing that “rainbow dozen” and want a colorful egg basket each day. Whatever your interest, whatever your goal, there’s a way to do it!

Goal: Egg Production

If you goal at the end of the day is high production, then you want to look at “production breeds.” Examples of these are the sex-link, hybrids developed to have different colored chick plumage for pullets and roosters, making them identifiable as soon as they hatch. Different hatcheries sometimes come up with their own sex-link hybrids, but some common ones are ISA Brown, Red Star, Amber Star, Amberlink, and Black Sex Link. These are the BEST of the egg-layers, able to produce upwards of 300 large eggs per year, which is insanely impressive. Another favorite of the production breeds is the White Leghorn, which lays white eggs, also in the upwards of 300 eggs per year range. There are also many heritage breeds that are good layers, but oftentimes they are heavier birds requiring more feed, so that can drive up the cost of egg production. They, however, may have more longevity in their laying career.

Goal: The Rainbow Dozen

Who doesn’t love the look of a beautiful, colorful egg basket? Shades of rosy brown and light tan, dark brown, blue, sage green, all make for a beautiful presentation. If you’re not sure where to look for some of the unique colors, here are some suggestions. Ameraucanas will give you beautiful light blue or green eggs, and will lay lots of them. Cream Crested Legbars are another blue-laying variety. “Easter Eggers” will lay just about any colored egg. Americanas (notice the spelling difference) are a hybrid and not a true breed, and are essentially an Easter Egger that isn’t an Easter Egger (which also is a hybrid and not a true breed). There is a lot of ambiguity surrounding the Ameraucana/Americana/Easter Egger conversation! The hybridization is pretty extensive as breeders have developed hybrids for consistent shell colors. Hoover Hatchery’s Prairie Bluebell Egger is bred for blue eggs, while their Starlight Green Egger is bred for green eggs. You’ll hear other names like Olive Egger, Cherry Egger, etc. If you want those super dark, chocolate-brown eggs, look for Marans (any variety) and Welsummers. Red Stars also lay a rich brown egg, not as dark as Marans, but they are the darkest in my egg basket! Buff Orpingtons give a nice peachy tan egg.

Goal: Eggs and Meat

Some birds are considered dual purpose, and can be raised for egg production as well as meat. Examples of these dual purpose breeds are Buff Orpingtons, Sussex, New Hamshires, Partridge Rocks, and Wyandottes. These will be good layers as well as big enough to raise for meat. They’re heavier birds, so they will require more food.

Goal: Meat

If you aren’t looking to get eggs but instead want breeds for butchering, you’ll be looking at the broiler varieties. Keep in mind that these birds are time-sensitive. Some of them are bred so that they are ready to butcher in as little as a few months, and their quality of life significantly decreases when they get past that point, as their bodies get too big for their legs and they lose the ability to move. These would be your “broiler” and “roaster” varieties, such as the Delaware Broiler, Ginger Broiler, etc.

Goal: Funny Pets that Lay Eggs

Maybe you really want to build a flock of sweet, friendly birds that will be more or less pets. Some breeds have better dispositions than others. Others are flightier. The friendliest chickens I have had are Buff Orpingtons (basically the golden retriever of the chicken world), Red Stars, and Ameraucanas. I had one Prairie Bluebell hen and she was excellent. Or maybe you would like the novelty of the Polish chickens, also known as the “dance hall girls,” or the adorable frizzle and silky bantam breeds.

Goal: Breeding

If you hope to eventually hatch your own chicks and want to have at least a vague idea of what you’ll get, you might want to steer towards heritage breeds and away from hybrids. Hybrid chickens do not breed true, meaning even if you bred, for instance, a Red Star cockerel with a Red Star hen you wouldn’t get a Red Star chick. Obviously, if you don’t isolate breeds, you’ll end up with hybrids, but if you breed with heritage breeds, theoretically you’ll know what your hybrids are! If you just want the experience of hatching chicks and don’t care how hybridized your “barnyard mix” is, anything goes! Examples of heritage breeds are Buff Orpington, Black Australorp, Brahma, Wyandotte, and many others. If you want to try to breed for shell color in pullets, there are plenty of resources online for knowing what roosters to breed with what hens. For instance, a blue-egg rooster (such as an Ameraucana) bred with a brown-egg hen (such as a Maran) will give you birds with the green-egg-laying gene.

Finally, a reputable breeder will have breed characteristics listed for each chicken, including heat and cold tolerance, ability to free-range well, likeliness to be broody, and temperament in general, as well as a lot more details about the breed.

So these are just some things to consider if you’re wanting to get into chicken raising and don’t know how to pick a breed or where to start!

What are your favorite chicken breeds? Leave a picture in the comments!