Ask the Expert October/November 2019

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Ask the Expert October/November 2019

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 I think that my two older chickens may have coccidiosis. I am putting Corid in the water hoping that my other five younger chickens do not contract it. This is the only thing I have found to use. They do not act like they are sick but neither did the others until just all of a sudden. My question is, can you eat the eggs when they are being treated with Corid? I have found conflicting information online regarding this. Thanks for any information you can provide.  

— Laura 


Hi Laura, 

Technically, there is a 24-hour withdrawal time before slaughter but no withdrawal time stated for eggs, because residue still falls below U.S. tolerance levels. That said, let’s look at how amprolium works: 

Essentially, Corid mimics thiamin (vitamin B1), which is essential for coccidia to live and reproduce. When coccidia ingest it, they die of thiamin deficiency. This is one reason you can still buy it after the Veterinary Feed Initiative went into effect; it’s not an antibiotic and it otherwise has a low impact on animals and people. But it will reduce thiamin intake of the animal directly consuming Corid. (Side note: since chickens need thiamin, give them a supplement such as brewer’s yeast after treatment but not during it. Sunflower seeds are another good thiamin source.) 

If you are concerned about these thiamin-restricting properties within your eggs, withdraw according to a study done in 1989 regarding amprolium residue in eggs: 

“The amprolium residues in the yolks … varied from 1.75 mg/kg in the group fed 250 mg/kg to 0.2 mg/kg in the group fed 5 mg/kg. Amprolium levels in the whites of eggs were much lower than those in the yolks. The residues in yolks decreased below detectable levels (less than 0.005 mg/kg) within approximately ten days after treatment. … The amprolium residues determined in yolk did not exceed US tolerance levels of 8 mg/kg.”   


I hope this helps you with your decision regarding how long you want to withdraw eggs. 

— Marissa 


Poultry Bedding 

How much bedding do my five chickens need in the summertime inside of their house? 

— Kimberly Ervin 


Hi Kimberly, 

That’s a tough question to answer, especially since I don’t know where you live. Here’s why: 

In the winter, you need more bedding for insulation and heat. Even if you’re not utilizing the deep bedding method for creating heat, an extra-thick layer on the floor can block drafts and increase the overall ambient temperature. Whenever temperatures drop to single digits, I throw a 12-inch layer of fresh straw into the coop. It helps a LOT. Changing bedding whenever it’s soiled (or managing it via the deep bedding method) also mitigates humidity to prevent frostbite. 

That’s not a problem in the summer. But now you have temperatures perfect for bacterial growth. The most dangerous bacteria, including salmonella and e. Coli, are usually mesophilic, meaning they thrive between 68-113F. And bacteria need moisture to grow. 

Now, I live in the desert, so if we’re not having a summer storm, chicken droppings are dry within an hour of falling. If you live in the South or somewhere receiving regular rainstorms, you might not get rid of the underlying humidity that can allow bacteria to flourish in the nest. I can get by with changing out bedding every two weeks (if the hens don’t kick it out themselves,) sprinkling the box with a mite-deterrent powder like diatomaceous earth before replacing straw. But I’m at the extreme end of dryness. That may be different for you. 

Another factor includes where your chickens spend the daytime. Mine gather in whatever shady place they can: roosting bars within the coop or beneath a shade structure I built at the other end of the run. I need more bedding here, to catch droppings so I can easily remove them. If your chickens free-range, you probably won’t need bedding outside the nesting boxes and roost area. 

I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a more solid answer. Good luck! 

— Marissa 


Sick Chicks 

My chicks are local but they are dying, of cough and dizziness. What can I do? 

— S’sembiro 


Hi S’sembiro 

I’m sorry to hear this is happening! 

The best advice I can give you is to take one that has died and get it to your nearest agricultural office for a necropsy. They want the specimens as fresh as possible, so if you can’t deliver it for a few days, wrap one that has just died in plastic and freeze it, then deliver it frozen. Some extension offices do these for free and some charge as little low rates. 

Your name suggests that you might live outside the United States, perhaps in Africa (Uganda?) If so, I would be wary of specific diseases such as Newcastle and Gumboro. Both of these have vaccines available, but they must be administered early when your birds are chicks. If you have the ability to get one sick or dead bird to an agricultural cooperative or veterinarian for a diagnosis, I highly recommend you do so. 

Good luck with your birds. I hope you can figure out the disease and treatment so you can stop the spread. 

— Marissa 


Chicken Diets 

In the June/July 2019 issue, on page 69, there was an article by Rebecca Sanderson titled “Balance Your Chicken’s Diet at All Ages. Two specific blocks, “What Laying Hens Need” and “What Roosters Need,” show that laying hens and roosters require two totally different types of diets. In fact, the Rooster block makes special mention to “Avoid layer feed, as roosters do not need extra calcium.” I feel the need to ask, what recourse is there to feed the laying hens and roosters separately? 

Thank you, 

— Spider Clement 


Hi Spider, 

I deal with this issue myself since I run a mixed flock. I encounter a similar issue when allowing mother hens to raise chicks along actively laying hens. My solution has been to provide a grower, which has protein high enough for chicks plus low calcium. I then provide oyster shell or crushed eggshells separately and free-choice so the laying hens can still consume all the calcium they need. Regarding roosters’ low protein requirements, offering a plant-based treat such as melon or fresh greens can help them consume other vital nutrients while eating grower feed to obtain their protein. 

I hope this helps answer your question. 

— Marissa  


Wood Ash for Chicken Dust Baths 


I enjoy your articles. I live in Mexico now and have seven chickens. I want to do the dust bath, but I don’t have the wood ash. Can you buy it or a substitute?   


— Jean 


It is possible to buy wood ash; just searching the internet, I found someone who sells hardwood ash on Etsy, specifically for gardeners and soapmakers. Though wood ash can be the most common and easiest to acquire (depending on where you live), it isn’t the only mite-controlling option for dust baths. Our story on our Backyard Poultry website mentions adding wood ash AND diatomaceous earth, but I’ve found it’s just as effective to use one or the other. Some companies sell kaolin clay (aluminum silicate) as dust bath material. Some flock owners also add lime but this can be risky, as not all “lime” is equal, and some types are very caustic when they get wet. Each of these additives brings up different concerns, from the sustainability and possible contamination of ash to lung damage from breathing DE to the caustic properties of lime. This is where personal choice comes in, for your own flock. 

Also, here is an important note on wood ash: be sure you acquire it from 100% wood or natural charcoal with no additives or fuel accelerants. It’s easy to collect ash from summer BBQ briquettes, but the chemicals on those aren’t good for chickens. 

Good luck with your chickens! 

— Marissa 


Dear Marissa, 

That was so kind of you to take the time to answer regarding my chickens. If you think I can use either wood or diatomaceous earth, I have the diatomaceous earth and will put it in with the sand, and I thought of adding rose, juniper, lavender, etc. Would that would be okay? I have a big garden and they eat different herbs. 

— Jean 


Hi Jean, 

Though I think rose and lavender are a great idea, I would avoid juniper, especially the berries. Of 40 juniper species around, only a small handful have edible fruit and some are even toxic so, unless you know your specific variety, it’s best to stay away from those. Regarding the others, though, we have a great story in the August/September 2019 issue of Backyard Poultry regarding nesting box herbs, and both of those florals are in the mixes used. 

Good luck and I would love to hear how it goes! 

— Marissa 


Poultry Predator 

I have a situation on our farm that I have not seen the likes of and not sure what to do. I have tried to trap it, hunt it, poison it, take a picture of it, and nothing. Something has killed almost my whole flock of chickens at an alarming rate. In one night, it has eaten an entire bird in the pen plus 15-20 eggs and took one with when it left.  

What does that? And please don’t tell me it’s a raccoon. The pen looks like a slaughterhouse and I just don’t see it capable of such a thing and my opinion of them would be all wrong. I need to know if maybe a bobcat is to blame; I have looked into that and I just don’t know. I live in Pennsylvania near Fort Indian town gap at the base of a mountain. The first picture happened last night. I have four birds left out of 18. I am in need of some answers, can you help? Thanks. 

— Mitchell Miller 


Hi Mitchell, 

I hate to tell you this, but your descriptions of eggs and birds missing, with a little carnage left in the coop, best describes raccoon behavior. A common indicator of raccoon attacks is finding chicken carcasses with the heads missing. They are extremely smart animals who work to figure out the weaknesses in your coop then often attack in groups, working together to do a lot of damage. I’ve heard so many people say, “It can’t be raccoons. I never see them.” But raccoons attack at night, often in the hours we are most likely to be asleep, such as 3-4am. Not many other animals, which cause the type of trauma you showed, also take the eggs and don’t leave shells. 

Here is a great guide, from, which details how to determine what’s attacking your flocks, based on trauma, carcasses, and tracks. Good luck finding and dealing with the culprit! 

— Marissa 


Nestbox Troubles 

How do I stop too many hens from laying in one box at the same time, three to four hens? They are breaking eggs because of it. Thanks. 

— Colin 


Hi Colin, 

I’m sorry to hear about your frustrations. I find it hilarious when hens ignore the other boxes and lay on top of each other … until eggs start breaking. For chickens, the best way to break a habit is to eliminate the habit. If you close off that nesting box for a while, they will get used to using others. Of course, then you run the risk of all three choosing another nesting box and you’re back where you started. Another option is to be sure the hens always have free-choice calcium such as oyster shell, and to use plenty of bedding and nesting pads, to reduce the chance of breakage. 

Good luck! 

— Marissa 


Moving Chickens 

We are planning a move from Texas to Ohio, probably within the next two to three months. We have a small flock of 15 chickens, mostly Bantam Silkies. We also have two Polish, an Olive Egger, and a Golden Laced Wyandotte. They are strictly pets. We give away eggs. We take really good care of our flock and they all have names. A couple of people have told us to sell or give away the chickens and start over after we move. We just can’t imagine this as we are attached to them. The oldest hen I have is about six. Most of them are one to two years old or less. Just wanted to see if you could advise us as to how to get them moved? Is there anyone that specializes in this type of thing? The heat in Texas and in a truck would be a big concern. 


— Susan Shelly 


Hi Susan, 

That’s a long journey! There are several options that come to mind: 

  1. There are professional pet transport companies that I found on a quick internet search. (Hint: search up “pet transportation,” not “livestock transportation,” as those companies mostly deal with truckloads of large animals such as cattle and swine.)  
  1. Network on social media with other people willing to help transport. This can take some searching to find people going your direction, but Backyard Poultry was just invited to a new group called Hitchhiking Chickens that does just that: find people to move other people’s birds.  
  1. I’ve moved 10-15 chickens at a time, and I agree that heat is a problem. If you don’t have a large SUV or van, you can rent one, so chickens can sit in a large dog crate and enjoy the air conditioning through the entire ride. I own crates that can comfortably hold full-sized goats, so two of those would accommodate all your chickens with room to scratch around.  

Also, be aware that interstate travel with livestock, pet chickens or otherwise, usually requires a current veterinarian certificate of health. Contact your veterinarian to obtain one. Fees can vary. 

Good luck with the move! 

— Marissa 


Fleas on Chickens 

Hi, I’m having problems with I believe are fleas on my chickens, what would you recommend to help eradicate these pests? Thank you. 

— Andrea 


Hi Andrea, 

Sorry to hear about your fleas! Trust me, it’s something every poultry owner encounters sooner or later. How you treat them can depend on how you feel about pesticides. I practice Integrated Pest Management: using the level necessary then escalating if that doesn’t work. The lowest level: give your chickens a bath, change out the bedding, and thoroughly clean the coop. The next level would be dusting them with diatomaceous earth, kaolin clay, or wood ash, the same ingredients recommended for chicken dust baths. And then you can buy “poultry dust” at most farm supply stores, which contains permethrin to kill the fleas. Many reviews say the poultry dust solves the problem within one application if the chicken owner also completely changes out the bedding and sprinkles the same dust in nesting boxes.  

Here is a great story from Backyard Poultry contributor Jeremy Chartier about dealing with lice and mites (and the same protocol applies to fleas.) 

Good luck with your flock! 

— Marissa  


Something Odd 

What is this? What caused it? 

— Verna Davidson 


Hi Verna, 

I guess the first question is: is it a poop? Gently pierce it with a knife and see if the inside contains albumen. I suspect it’s essentially a “cloaca hiccup.” (Not a scientific term.) Often, when birds undergo an upset such as illness, or even just momentary stress in the coop, they lay smaller eggs or partial oddly shaped specimens like this with thin membranes. It’s nothing to worry about unless you see her doing it often. 

Good luck with your flock! 

— Marissa 


Hen Suddenly Dies 

Several years ago, we had record lows in Central Virginia. My white leghorn had a small touch of what looked like frostbite on the outer tips of her comb. She recovered, and I didn’t think anything more of it. Not until this same exact area of her comb started turning slightly blue late this June. Sometimes it seemed blue sometimes it didn’t. The hen seemed fine otherwise except she had recently stopped laying. I attributed this to the heat, the time of year, and her age (four years). My six hens get fresh water daily and Dumor layer feed. There’s good ventilation in the hen house but no fans. The coop is shaded. As a treat, I give them a handful of unsalted peanuts and sunflower seeds daily. The other morning, I was shocked to find her dead. It was as though she simply dropped dead while roosting. Do you believe this slight bluing of her comb had anything to do with her mysterious and sudden death? 

Thank you for any insights. 

—Virginia McCown 
Farmville, VA 


Hi Virginia, 

I’m sorry to hear about your Leghorn! While I do believe her sudden death had to do with the bluish tint to her comb, I don’t believe it was because of the frostbite. 

Backyard Poultry contributor Jeremy Chartier wrote a great story about identifying and treating respiratory infections in chickens, in which he said, “Cyanosis is a bluish or purple coloring of the skin. The face, comb, and wattles are vascular (they have a lot of little veins), so the condition of these surfaces give us an excellent gauge of how a chicken is circulating (moving blood) or saturating (absorbing oxygen). If a chicken is not saturating well, these surfaces turn blue. 

“This sign is not exclusive to respiratory infections in chickens, because a cardiac deficiency can cause the same symptom. Just like facial swelling, you need to consider the combination of symptoms before making any conclusions. A bird displaying this sort of sign is experiencing hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the tissues of the body). Hypoxia in chickens and be expected to cause altered behavior and lethargy.” 

As many of us poultry owners know, one of the first signs of a sick or stressed hen is that she stops laying. I’m guessing your Leghorn had a cardiac issue that had no other signs other than cyanosis and cessation of laying, but it led to a sudden demise, as many heart attacks do. Unfortunately, there isn¹t much that you could have done for her and it sounds like she passed without pain. 

— Marissa 


Washing Fresh Eggs 

I enjoyed your article on wash/not wash fresh eggs. We maintain a dozen chickens or so purely for the purpose of having fresh eggs. The chickens occupy about 1/3 of our 30’ x30’ barn in a well-fenced coop. We have nests which are mounted to the wall away from the roosts. We do not wash our eggs but leave them in a rack on the kitchen counter. The eggs we collect are mostly fairly clean but some come with what looks like chicken poop on them. To avoid contamination, we wash our eggs with soap and water immediately before use to remove any contaminates. We are concerned about having a piece of contaminated shell falling into our meal.   

My question: Is that the proper procedure and are we putting ourselves at risk for contamination? In six years of having chickens we have had no problems, but just want to be sure we are doing the right thing. 

Thanks, enjoy your e-mail publication. 

— Mike 


Hi Mike, 

You’re on the right track! The only suggestion I would make is to rub the dirty eggs with dirt or fine-grade sandpaper to remove the poop before placing eggs on your counter, to avoid anything flaking off. When you wash, be sure it’s warm water so contaminants don’t get pulled into the shell. And regarding worries about whether a piece of contaminated shell falls into the meal: if you cook your food past 160 degrees F after picking out that piece of shell, any bacteria or viruses will be killed anyway. 

I hope this helps! 



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