Ask The Expert June/July 2022

Ask The Expert June/July 2022
Reading Time: 16 minutes

Mandarin Breeding

I look forward to your emails. I have a pair of Mandarins, but it is the law in South Africa to pinion all nonindigenous waterfowl. So, my two beauts turn circles about half a meter in the air then land and they look bewildered. 

Do you think it’s possible that they can breed successfully, given the circumstances?  

Regards, 

Alix Hollidge 

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Hi Alix, 

The good news is that Mandarin ducks breed on land or bodies of water, not in the air. The pinioning also doesn’t affect their movement or balance on land, so the male will be able to mount without issues. So, they should be able to breed just fine — plus can’t fly off to find a different home, leaving you without your gorgeous waterfowl. 

Marissa 

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Red Ant Attack on Flock 

I keep local/village chickens, but all were attacked by red ants and died. What could be the preventive chemical to apply? I need your help. 

Levison 

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Hi Levison, 

From your term “village chicken,” it sounds like you live in Subsaharan Africa. While we have different product names, many ingredients are the same. I asked one of my Zambian friends who works in the ag sector, and he suggested this list: 

Doom (dirotophos), which is sold at ShopRite, comes in spray form. You would want to spray this directly onto an anthill, not on the chicken, since it can inhale the product. Keep this product away from children. 

Akheri powder (carbaryl) is agricultural dust that you apply directly to poultry, goats, dogs, and cats. Carbaryl is still toxic to humans, so keep this product away from children. Apply this while outdoors to reduce any inhalation by you or the chickens. Look for this at farmers’ supply stores. 

Parex dip (cypermethrin) is a pyrethroid, a product that we also use in the United States to avoid pests on our livestock. Pyrethroids are toxic to cats, so keep them away from this product if you have cats. Look for Paranex at livestock supply stores, as well. 

I hope this list helps you! 

Marissa 

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In Response to: “Chickens as Pets: 5 Kid-Friendly Chicken Breeds 

What about Silkies? I had many, and they were very friendly, also not so big for the small kids to handle. 

Barry 

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Hi Barry, 

Silkies make great pets, and they’re common to own specifically for that purpose. My only cautions with Silkies are that their vaulted skull makes them more susceptible to brain injuries. If a young child is still learning how to handle chickens, a parent would want to be observant so the child doesn’t accidentally hurt the Silkie. Also, very few hatcheries sell sexed Silkies, so it can take trial and error to acquire some for those communities that ban roosters. 

Thank you for your comment! 

Marissa 

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Poultry Probiotics 

Hi Marissa, 

I continue to have a few chickens in my flock with watery diarrhea. Since mid to late September, they’ve been eating Kalmbach soy-free 17% crumbles. I contacted my feed store to see if I needed to possibly get a lower protein food as I have read that high protein levels can cause diarrhea. The young lady I spoke with asked about coccidia, which I have treated for; I’ve also wormed with a dewormer. They had pumpkin seeds this fall (which I know are controversial).  

She suggested trying a probiotic called Probiotic Daily. I’m wondering what brand of probiotic I should get. I’ve looked on Amazon, found a couple of kinds, and found Probiotic Daily using a Google search. My food states on the bag that it has prebiotics and probiotics already in it. Can they get too much? I would like the version that I put in their food rather than water. 

Thank you, 

Annette 

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Hi Annette, 

Though technically, chickens (and humans) can overdose on probiotics, it’s unlikely unless we’re swallowing a lot of probiotic pills. If a human eats too much yogurt, they may react to the sugar or lactose but won’t react to the probiotic because it’s not in a high-enough quantity. Chickens would follow this rule since anything added to a free-choice food or water won’t be in doses high enough to cause a problem. But humans and chickens have different probiotics that benefit them, so what helps humans may do nothing good for chickens. This is one fallacy of providing yogurt for chickens; yogurt is good for humans. Probiotic Daily is a human supplement. 

Since your feed already has probiotics, and they’re chicken-specific, then what you are offering is probably just fine. Other poultry-specific brands include Ultra Cruz Poultry Probiotic Supplement, Durvet Probiotics Daily for Poultry, and Southland Organics Poultry Probiotic, all added to the water and switched out daily. There is a product called HealthyGut Probiotics for Poultry which is added to feed. 

I hope this helps! 

Marissa 

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April 

Hi, 

I ordered baby chicks from a hatchery, and they will arrive soon. The hatchery insists that medicated feed is not enough to prevent coccidiosis and that we should give all chicks a dose of Amprol for the first week, but that means they can’t have their vitamins which are very important for chicks who have traveled. Can you help me with this? 

Kathy 

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Hi Kathy, 

I’m leaning in your direction on this one. 

While medicated chick feed isn’t strong enough to TREAT coccidiosis once it’s bad enough to affect the chick, it can prevent coccidiosis if you offer it from the start and practice good hygiene and biosecurity. 

Amprolium, the active ingredient in both Amprol and medicated chick starter, works by restricting the thiamine (vitamin B1) that goes through the chick’s digestive tract since coccidia needs this thiamine to thrive. Sav-a-Chick contains probiotics, electrolytes, and vitamins, including thiamine. But the thiamine is in such a small amount that it’s not listed on the “guaranteed analysis” label and is mentioned at the end of the ingredient list. So, if your chicks consumed Sav-a-Chick while also consuming amprolium, they would get all the benefits except that thiamine — which is small enough it might not make a difference. 

What issues would arise if you offered the vitamins and the Amprol simultaneously? That depends on whether your vitamin is added to water or fed as a gel.  

When you give either the vitamins (the type you dissolve in water) or the Amprol, you’re not supposed to offer any other water source. And I cannot find studies regarding whether the Amprol or the vitamins would interfere if mixed in the same container, so it’s best to avoid mixing them. This is the only reason I can find that you wouldn’t want to offer simultaneously.  

Your best protection for your chicks will be medicated chick feed (or vaccination for coccidiosis) combined with biosecurity. Chicks can’t hatch with coccidiosis, and chicks that go straight from incubator to box to brooder don’t have much chance to peck at the poo from older chickens unless someone had contaminated hands or bedding. Since hatcheries house so many chickens, there is a chance of contamination. This is also true if wild birds fly into the hatchery or shipping buildings. So, I recommend immediately taking the chicks from their box and putting them in a brooder with fresh, clean bedding, water from a sanitized container, and medicated chick food. I would also give them the vitamins at this time. 

Promptly remove soiled bedding. Sanitize water containers before refilling. And always wash your hands before cleaning/feeding the chicks, especially if you have older chickens. Then, after the chicks have had their vitamins to help them recover, you can offer the Amprol if you feel your babies are at increased risk of coccidiosis. 

 I hope this helps! Congratulations on your new babies. 

— Marissa 

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My Duck’s Foot 

Help; what is this? The image on the right is from today, and the left image is from a couple of days ago. 

He’s a Crested Rouen. We rescued him from a local pond where domestic birds are dumped often. 

We also run an animal sanctuary where we rescue abused and neglected farm animals. Look us up on Instagram @ritzyrescuerancher. 

Thanks, 

Chris 

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Hi Chris, 

I’m going to say your Rouen has a nasty case of bumblefoot. It looks like the infection is getting worse and has a chance of becoming systemic. He most likely scratched his foot on a rough surface, then the foot became infected by the bacteria in that pond. 

In our April/May issue of Backyard Poultry, we ran a story on avoiding foot and leg injuries in waterfowl. This discusses bumblefoot and how ducks have a much higher chance of systemic infection due to how blood circulates through the feet/legs. To treat bumblefoot, you can lance the abscesses and flush them with antiseptic solutions, but if you see your duck start to act sick, he will most likely need antibiotics. I recommend consulting a veterinarian on this since many strains of bacteria that cause bumblefoot have also become resistant to certain types of injectable antibiotics that are available without vet prescriptions. 

I hope this helps, and I hope your duck improves soon. Thanks for the work that you do. I checked out your Instagram page, and it looks great! 

 Marissa 

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Egg Eating 

Hi Marissa, 

Do you have any suggestions on stopping my chickens from eating their eggs? We lost one two days ago and still have no clue why. Any tips or things to avoid? Thanks for your help. 

Tamora (Alaska) 

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Hi Tamora, 

As much as people want to blame egg-eating on inadequate nutrition or lack of water — and that is the case with neglectful husbandry — the most prominent reason is the simplest: Eggs are delicious. If an egg breaks in the nest, any chicken will eat it. Then the smart ones realize their eggs are the source of the deliciousness, and they start breaking them to eat them. If you don’t deal with this promptly, that chicken will teach the others how to do it. Then you have an egg-eating epidemic. 

 Here are some tips: 

  • Be sure your chickens always have access to oyster shell and a good layer feed. In addition, keep plenty of bedding in nesting boxes. This makes eggs more difficult to break. 
  • Gather eggs often, so there is less chance to break/eat them. 
  • Some people install roll-away nesting boxes, where the egg rolls out of reach after it is laid. 
  • Other people purchase wooden or ceramic eggs for nests, so hens get sore beaks from trying to break them. Others fill eggshells with mustard — which means a nasty surprise, but you have to clean bedding more often. 
  • Find the offending hen and deal with her before she can teach the bad habit to others. This could mean putting her with a different flock or coop or dispatching her to the stewpot, depending on your attachment to her and goals for your chickens. When I had to rehome a hen that I was particularly fond of, I gave her to a friend (while informing the friend exactly why I needed to rehome her), and the change in the pecking order was enough to break her habit. 
  • I install curtains over my nesting boxes when I don’t have time to check for eggs or watch for offending hens constantly. The hens can enter the dark boxes to lay, but they can’t see the eggs to eat them. This has been the most effective method for me when I have egg-eaters. 
  • If you intend to brood chicks with your main flock, your egg-eaters MUST be dealt with, or they will consume any developing eggs, leading to heartache and crushed goals for you. 

Marissa 

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Chicken with Squishy Crop and Swollen Belly 

I had our chicken, Snowball, into the vet. She was there about a week for a full crop and swollen belly, and her pooh was yellowy clear and green and smelly. Her bottom wouldn’t stay clean. Her keel was all bone and no meat to it. She would drink a bit but not eat. She became lethargic, with eyes mostly closed and standing far more than laying down. The vet had her on an antibiotic. Her tummy went down, and her crop was working again. She ate, drank, and was social. It has been almost a month, and her keel is still all bone, no eating but still drinks, and her tummy is swollen again. Her eyes are often closed, but she still walks around a bit. Rarely does she lie down. 

The vet said she saw what appeared to be either the gizzard or a possible misshaped egg, but she wasn’t sure. So, I’m not sure what it is or how she got better and is going through the same thing all over. Any ideas? 

— Linda 

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Hi Linda, 

From your description and how well she responded to antibiotics, it sounds like her issue is either a bacterial infection that wasn’t fully cured by the antibiotics or a secondary bacterial infection from a weakened immune system. Either way, you have a very sick hen. Secondary infections are common when something else — such as organ failure or fungal or viral infections — weakens her enough that bacteria can take over. Antibiotics would alleviate symptoms of that secondary infection, so she appears to get better, but they wouldn’t help the initial problem that allows those bacteria to proliferate. Does she have a purple comb and wattles that can indicate a cardiac issue? Is she an older hen, which means organ failure is more common? Have you noticed any “meat” eggs (aka lash eggs) that would indicate salpingitis? My recommendations would be: First, bathe her vent in povidone-iodine if she has vent gleet that could have gotten bad enough to make her very sick. This step would not harm her if vet gleet isn’t the cause, but it could help her if it is. Second, take her back to your vet but ask the vet to look into salpingitis or organ failure if any of those is still treatable. 

Good luck! I hope you can identify the cause to give her the best care. 

Marissa 

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Weird Egg 

Hello 

This afternoon I found the weirdest egg laid by my Black Australorp. The inside is yellowish and thick like a yolk — but not runny — and slightly lumpy, like poorly made hollandaise sauce. The outside of the egg was rubbery, lumpy, and looked like a lemon. I cut it open; the typical hard shell was under the rubbery exterior. If I knew how to attach pictures, I would! This is the first egg she has laid in two or three months. 

— Karen 

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Hi Karen, 

 I would love to see a picture of this egg! I’m curious if it was: 

  • Rubbery outside 
  • Then hard shell 
  • Then scrambled-looking yellowish contents 

Or: 

  • Rubbery outside 
  • Then scrambled-looking yellowish contents 
  • Then hard shell 
  • Then normal egg 

Depending on which it was, I have two different theories on what happened.  

— Marissa 

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Hi Marissa 

Photos below. The outside was rubbery, then a sorta hard shell but definitely a shell. Then the yellow is lumpy, without a sign of white. You can see the shell layers if you look really close in the photo. I looked and felt a bit like a lash egg before I cut it open, but it was squishy, not hard like lash eggs are. The hen is about three years old. 

— Karen 

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While that isn’t presenting like a lash egg, I would say it is still a lash egg and that your hen could use some antibiotics or, at the very least, some povidone-iodine bathed onto her vent. That yellow substance is consistent with the exudate from an oviduct infection. 

Marissa 

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Mommy looks good, except she has white on her vent. Eyes/beak/crop/waddles etc., all look good despite the cold. I had another hen, also an Australorp, that laid a lash egg. She stopped laying a while ago, and nothing since the lash egg came out. Is it contagious? Can you go into more detail on how to address this? The hens spend a lot of time foraging, and I change the water daily, have a poop tray that is cleaned daily, and the coop gets a thorough, twice-a-year disinfection. I keep everything very clean. 

Karen 

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Hi Karen, 

If Mommy has white on her vent, then it’s probably vent gleet, which can turn into salpingitis. Though you keep everything clean, there are so many things that can cause an infection up there. When a hen lays an egg, her cloaca puffs out, kind of like a kissing motion, meaning the internal part comes in contact with whatever is in her nesting area. And certain bacteria and fungi are everywhere, no matter how hard you work to keep them away. Salpingitis is not contagious unless it’s from the same causative agent, meaning that two hens using a nest can both get bacteria from the nest. Chickens’ ground is one of the dirtiest environments because so many microbes live in the soil. 

Treating with povidone-iodine is simple. The cloaca has a sucking reflex that aids in fertilization when the hens mate with a rooster. The rooster doesn’t have a penis, so he squirts his sperm onto the hen’s cloaca, and hers sucks it up in response. So, if you turn your hen upside down for a moment and squirt a little povidone-iodine onto the cloaca, it will suck into her oviduct as part of her natural response. This makes it very easy to treat vent gleet. Often, using this iodine for a week is enough. 

If her white poop doesn’t stop after that week, or if you see her acting weak and sluggish, then you will need to get a product called nystatin (antifungal) or will need to see your vet about possible antibiotics. Remember that bacteria and fungi are two different things, so if the iodine doesn’t work, it’s essential to see if you’re dealing with a fungus or bacterium (or both) so you can get the right medication to deal with it. But vent gleet is most often caused by a fungus, and the iodine usually works great. 

Good luck! 

Marissa 

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Head-Shaking Hen 

My hen of three years has been head-shaking for a month now. No mites, no gapeworm. She is eating, but I feel drinking more than normal. We have used Panacur, liquid drench, and I have put VetRx in the coop and water. She is still the same. Any thoughts? 

Connie Spiegel 

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Hi Connie, 

From where you placed your comma, I’m not sure if you’re saying you used Panacur liquid drench dewormer or Panacur plus a liquid drench vitamin-like Nutri-Drench. If you haven’t used a vitamin-like Nutri-Drench for Poultry or Rooster Booster, I recommend adding it, as her problem could be a vitamin deficiency. But if you do use a vitamin, I recommend investigating her food and living area for any source of mycotoxins (mold, mildew) that can cause neurological problems. These suggestions are good ideas, whether or not poultry are sick, and they won’t hurt your hen if that isn’t the cause. But if it is a vitamin deficiency, she will probably show some improvement within a week of consuming the vitamins. 

Good luck! 

Marissa 

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Rooster Walking Problems 

About two years ago, we acquired a young rooster someone had left by the road, so we don’t know his breed. He may be a cross, as you can see by the photo. About eight months ago, he began having problems walking and eventually couldn’t get up on the roost anymore. Now he has spells when he can stand and walk for a few days, then when he can’t for days. He moves around with his wings to eat and drink. Do you have any ideas about what is wrong and whether he can ever be well again? 

Alberta Snow, Webster, NH 

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Hi Alberta, 

First of all, thank you for rescuing your rooster. It sounds like he found the right home. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell just what is wrong with him, since you don’t know his history or even his age. He could have undergone some trauma before you found him, which compromised his muscles and tendons. Perhaps a tendon slips, then a few days of rest allows him to recover. He could have a nutrient deficiency. I doubt it’s Marek’s disease because associated paralysis usually presents two ways. Clinical Marek’s results in the chicken’s death since it cannot reach food and water. There are rare cases of transient paralysis, where the bird is unable to move for two to four days, then recovers, but the paralysis doesn’t come and go. They usually recover fully, or they succumb to clinical Marek’s. 

If you are already providing a poultry vitamin like Rooster Booster or Nutri-Drench for Poultry, I recommend gently palpating his legs when he is mobile and when he cannot walk. See if you can feel any differences in muscle tightness or where the tendons lie. If slipped tendons are the cause, you may be able to help him by very gently massaging his muscles when he experiences difficulty walking. 

I hope this helps! 

Marissa 

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Marissa, 

Thanks so much. He was young when I found him for sure. Also, he’s scared of me because I have to catch him to put him back into the hen house on the days he goes out as he can’t manage to get back in. I will try massaging as you suggest, which will be much to his dismay. 

Alberta 

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California Tan 

In the Feb/March issue, Hanna Young sent a photo of her favorite hen, “Dumpling.” She states that she’s a “California Tan!” I have never heard of that breed. Have you? If so, would you kindly tell me where I might purchase some? 

Thank You. 

Ken Ventre, New Jersey 

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Hi Ken,  

They’re a great egg layer, is what they are. California Tans are a hybrid between White Leghorns and Production Reds. They wouldn’t be sex-linked since the white gene in the Leghorn doesn’t work the way a silver gene would in, say, a Delaware. But combining those two means a super egg-layer that isn’t as skittish as a Leghorn. California Tans can be challenging to find right now. It’s worth asking your Tractor Supply store if they intend to get more in this year, so consumers can truly test out the hybrid qualities of this chicken. 

Marissa 

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Identifying Olive Eggers 

How do you know the difference between an olive egger chick and a Barred Rock chick? I bought “olive eggers” from a local feed store, but I think they might be Barred Rocks. My older one is getting white stripes like a BR has and just got two more supposed-to-be olive eggers today. 

  • Christy 

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Hi Christy, 

First, let’s talk about what an “olive egger” is. When you cross a brown-layer with a green-layer (or blue-layer), the eggs have both the brown gene and the green gene. When the brown, which is an outside layer applied at the end of the shell process, goes over a green shell, it has an olive look. There is no specific combination of breeds to create olive eggers, as long as one is a brown layer and the other is a green layer, and they don’t have any other breeds in their lineage that might throw a different color into the mix. Any breeder can combine any of these qualifying birds and call them “olive eggers” without it being misleading. Also, olive eggers are only guaranteed in the first generation. If you breed an olive egger with another chicken — even another olive egger — only a percentage of their eggs will also be olive. Some novice breeders think they can breed olive eager to olive egger, then sell those chicks as olive eggers, but they won’t know if they actually lay olive eggs until that first egg pops out. Reputable breeders won’t sell F2 olive eggers as chicks for this reason. 

Now, you would get olive eggers if someone bred an Ameraucana with a Barred Rock or a Cuckoo Marans. But this is where it gets tricky. If the FATHER was a Barred Rock or Cuckoo Marans, then both the males and females will be striped. But if the MOTHER was the barred chicken, then those babies are male. This is because, when the mother is barred and the father isn’t, only the sons will be barred — and not the daughters. 

This is getting pretty technical, isn’t it? 

Okay, let’s go with the other, more plausible, answer. The feed store employee grabbed chicks from the wrong bin or put chicks into the wrong bin when they received them. While people with farming backgrounds usually staff small, locally owned feed stores, the same doesn’t hold true for the larger chains. You may know more about chickens than the employee that pulled chicks from the bin. That’s how I ended up with five “Starlight Green Eggers” last year that were actually Rhode Island Reds. 

A whole lot of factors are going into the olive egger equation, so the best bet is to buy from reputable breeders. If yours are not olive eggers, I hope they are still wonderful birds that will lay plenty of brown eggs for you. And maybe next year, you can get an Ameraucana to breed with them and create your own olive eggers. 

I hope this helps! 

  • Marissa 

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Keeping Roosters From Fighting 

How do you keep two new roosters from fighting? I really love them. 

  • Bobbie T. 

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Hi Bobbie, 

Boys will be boys, right? No matter what you try, keep in mind that they’re roosters, and this is what roosters do. Some roosters are more docile; some are more aggressive. But unless you caponize (neuter) them, which isn’t common practice in our country, you cannot stop them from being roosters. 

One way is to make sure there is a good rooster-to-hen ratio. Then the roosters concentrate on their ladies instead of fighting each other. If you have 10 or so hens to each rooster, this usually calms them down. But not always, depending on if you have a rooster prone to fighting no matter what. 

If you don’t have room for all those extra hens, do you have room for two coops? Housing each rooster in a different coop, with a few hens to keep them company, would keep them from fighting for sure. Plus, they would be happy to have their own territory with their own designated ladies. 

How much space do they have to roam in? A lot of fighting can be because the coop and run are too small, and the chickens get frustrated and take their stress out on each other. But again, because roosters are roosters, some will fight no matter how much space you give them. 

If none of these solutions will work for you, then perhaps it’s time for one of the roosters to be rehomed where you know he will be loved and cared for, with a new flock of hens to watch over. 

  • Marissa 

Originally published in the June/July 2022 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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