Thursday, March 17, 2011

Creepy Crawlies and the Chicken Peepers

When I was a small child, I had a complete disdain for insects that could crawl on you. A flea for example, would skeeve me out completely. It seems I have not completely lost this disdain for creepy crawlies!

My dear sweet fireman and I ventured into the hen house tonight to resolve this mite issue once and for all. We were armed with the Ivermectin, more Blue-Kote, some Anti-picking lotion, rubber gloves, and the chicken glasses.  He was still not convinced about the chicken glasses, and thought that his friends would chuckle at the idea of him "painting his chickens and putting glasses on them."

Still, we were ready.

So into the hen house we went. I selected the first hen, one of my favorite barred rocks. Her rump was so hen pecked that the skin had been torn off. I cringed inwardly and held her as he applied the Blue-Kote, and then the Anti-pick lotion the surrounding area.  A few drops of Ivermectin at her neck and it was then time for the glasses.

He sat there, poised over her head.

"I don't think I can do this" he said, "my hands are too large".

So I handed the hen to him, and took the small plastic glasses and the tiny plastic pin. He held her head still, and I slowly positioned them over her bead. I gently began to align the pin, and I was doing so I felt the poor hen cringe. Her eyes closed, and she literally braced herself.

I couldn't do it.

I didn't feel so bad, because neither could he. So instead, we picked up the next hen intending to treat her in the same way. As I pulled back her feathers for the Blue-Kote, my dear sweet fireman reeled back in disgust. She was crawling with what appeared to be small white insects.

Feather lice.  Now fortunately for both of us, feather lice are species specific, which means they have no interest in mammals and only like a host with feathers which they can eat. Poultry mites and lice are not dangerous to people. They can and may bite you, causing irritation but they are not a blood sucking lice, they would rather eat the feathers and feather dust on the bird.

Still, my skin began to crawl.

We continued to treat each hen, until all 15 were done.

Now I knew why they were so itchy! It also meant a change in tactics. So tomorrow I will apply something with a pyrethrin in it to kill existing lice dead. Pyrethrins are derived from certain chrysanthemum flowers - but are lethal to insects. I am also going to take a large pan and fill it with the DEarth in order for them to dust themselves with it. All of this is going to have to be followed by a complete overhaul of the coop, a full cleaning and disinfecting with bleach, and a good dose of a pyrethrin into all of the nooks and crannies.

Hopefully, I can do all of that without running for the hills. My skin is crawling just thinking about it.

Our hens have been spared this fate as we were too chicken to apply them


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