The warmer than average winter temps we enjoyed the past few years are taking revenge on our backyards.
High tick populations are the result. Besides being pesky, the risk of Lyme disease contraction is reason for concern.
One study recently conducted in Connecticut showed that nearly 40 percent of ticks tested this year have Lyme disease bacteria, according to an article recently published in The Day. In addition, ticks are simply out for blood- and are host neutral. Meaning, your chickens may get ticks, and be exposed to Lyme bacteria, too.
But birds eat bugs, right? When Lyme disease was realized as serious concern for humans in 1992, Vassar College in New York conducted a study to review the case for Guinea Fowl and reducing Lyme disease risk.
After all, the loud, shrieking bird consumes a diet that’s 90% insects!
They assessed the impact guinea fowl would have on tick densities in backyards over the course of a year.
It was determined that guinea fowl do reduce the amount of adult ticks found in backyards, but, unfortunately, didn’t reduce the amount of nymphal (young) ticks- the main connection to Lyme disease.
If you raise chickens, they’ll eat the ticks, too – just not as much as their rock-star cousin, the Guinea.
So what’s a chicken lady to do?
Well, because chickens are a host to ticks, too, we recommend a multi-angle approach to take care of ticks to protect your flock and your family, here are some quick tips to get you started:
The basic care of meatbird chicks is similar to other types of chicks. You’ll need to provide a heat source along with free choice fresh water and appropriate feed. An important part of raising meatbirds is allowing for enough space for them to grow. With a growth rate that is
second to none, these birds will become too big for a brooder that seems the right size in just a week or two. Make sure to plan for expansion of your brooder to allow the space to get bigger along with the chicks. A dry and clean brooder is always essential; this will keep the birds comfortable, discourage the development of flies, and help prevent disease.
Dual purpose breeds are traditional breeds like Orpingtons, Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, etc. They can be raised for eggs or meat. These birds are the slowest to finish and are typically harvested around 22 weeks of age. They have less developmental problems than hybrid meat breeds, and they will usually yield less meat.
Red Rangers are a type of meat chicken that provides a ‘happy medium’ between dual purpose breeds and Cornish Cross. They should be harvested around 12 – 14 weeks. They aren’t as delicate as Cornish Cross and have less developmental problems. In addition, they do better foraging than a Cornish. Their meat yield is in between a Cornish and dual purpose.
Cornish Cross is a hybrid and is the most common meat chicken. It makes up the majority of meat purchased in stores or consumed in restaurants. Cornish are very economical with their feed to meat conversion, which means they grow very fast – they
are usually ready to harvest around 8 weeks! A few things to be aware of with this breed: because of their rate of growth they can have problems with organ failure and leg issues. These birds do not do well when comingled with other breeds – it’s best to keep Cornish separate. Additionally, they are ONLY suitable for meat production – do not try to keep them long term.
Feeding meatbirds For dual purpose chicks, you may choose to feed a meatbird ration from the start. However, if you have straight run chicks and are not sure which are males, you can start the batch on chick starter and then switch the ones you will harvest to meatbird feed once their gender becomes apparent.
For faster growing hybrid birds, you’ll want to feed a specific meatbird ration from day one. This will ensure that the birds are getting certain amino acid levels and protein amounts to encourage muscle development and growth. Because meatbirds have been developed to put on muscle mass quickly, the ration must be balanced to make sure that nutrients are present for skeletal and internal organ development as well. If the correct ration is not fed, the birds are more apt to fall victim to common maladies like organ failure and leg issues. Follow these simple feeding recommendations to help avoid complications:
Feed free choice the first 3 days of life
After 3 days, allow 12 hours with feed, 12 hours without
Avian flu makes the news whenever outbreaks occur in the United States, like a recent
ones in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Minnesota and Washington. People who keep backyard chickens should be aware of the risks, as it is a disease that can devastate a flock and potentially spread to people. Fortunately, taking simple precautions reduces the odds that either chickens or humans will contract it or many other infectious diseases.
According to the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control avian flu is caused by one of several viruses. Most don’t infect humans but some strains can jump from birds to people and be fatal. In most human cases a person contracted it by handling a diseased or dead bird and came in contact with bird saliva, nasal secretions or feces.
There is no evidence that the disease can be is a threat when eating well cooked eggs or meat. Initial human symptoms can include fever, coughing, muscle ache and eye infections. The disease can lead to other medical complications.
Although avian flu is fairly common in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Europe it’s rare in North America. According to the World Health Organization one of the most effective ways of limiting the spread of an outbreak is to control the movement of chickens. Usually a government will prohibit importing chicken or chicken products from an infected country and state or local governments usually ban any movement of chickens in or out of infected areas.
Large chicken farms and hatcheries practice strict biosecurity procedures to reduce the odds that their flock will become infected. People with a few birds in a backyard coop often are too casual about preventing disease.
Avian flu is unlikely to strike isolated backyard flocks. Disease transmission in humans and chickens is similar. People who have minimal contact with others are unlikely to catch a contagious disease. Cram them together in an airplane, classroom or theater and just one sick person can spread the disease to others. Chickens are normally very healthy and the family that buys a few chicks from a disease-free hatchery and raises them isolated from other chickens reduces the contagion threat. Unfortunately, many backyard flock owners visit other people’s coops. Sometimes they adopt a friend’s surplus birds. Both actions could bring a disease into a healthy flock.
To reduce the odds of infection by many diseases and the chance that a person could catch avian flu follow these basic safety precautions:
Keep the flock isolated. Don’t bring in outside birds that may be exposed to disease.
Invite anyone who keeps chickens to wash and change clothes before visiting your birds. Better yet, share pictures instead of providing direct contact with birds. Don’t adopt stray or orphan chickens. Be cautious and use good biosecurity measures when attending “coop tours” and poultry shows, which can spread diseases quickly.
Keep the coop clean and dry. Moisture breeds disease.
Keep the chickens healthy by always providing a balanced diet, clean water and fresh air.
Isolate ill birds from the rest of the flock.
Wear rubber gloves when butchering and dressing chickens, and thoroughly clean knives and other tools used in the process. Dipping tools and soiled gloves in a bleach solution kills pathogens.
Limit the flock’s access to migratory wild birds, especially waterfowl, which can move germs from place to place.
Avoid direct contact with dead or diseased birds. Wash thoroughly and change into clean clothes after any contact.
If a family member develops flu symptoms tell the physician that chicken contact was likely.
Chickens are normally wonderfully healthy and millions of people worldwide live in close proximity with them without ever suffering a health problem. The chance that someone with a backyard flock will catch avian flu from is remote but possible. Understanding the disease and practicing simple preventative measures reduces the odds even more.