Backyard Chickens, Chicken Health

5 Ways to Prevent Roundworms in Winter

I tend to love winter. Winter forces you to come inside early and let your body rest, snuggle up in some blankets over a movie and nice warm mug of hot chocolate, or spend time with your family having memorable and important conversations. But my husband, ever the farmer, despises the shorter daylight hours and the limits it puts on what he can accomplish and what he can grow. He swears the feeling is like a vice squeezing the life from him. But there’s something we can agree upon – winter is hard on our chickens!

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Dare 2 Dream Farms – hens foraging in the wee winter hours of daylight.

Roundworms are easily the most common worm to afflict backyard chickens, and your feathered babies are especially at risk in the winter. Roundworm eggs thrive with the limited hours of daylight and excessive moisture brought by winter. Infections are most commonly caused by chickens ingesting food or water contaminated with feces. Once infected, hens can suffer from serious symptoms that if left untreated can result in death. Here are five ways you can help prevent your chickens from getting an infection of roundworms.

  1. Prevent and remove standing puddles of water after rainfall. Roundworm eggs thrive in moist environments. Puddles of dirty water contaminated with feces are teeming with eggs and are a high risk for your sweet chickens when they’re looking for a convenient drink of water. Create a gentle slope for rainwater to run off or bring in a well-draining ground material like sand.
  2. Keep the grass cut short. UV rays can help to kill roundworm eggs, but there are precious few hours of sunlight in the winter. Plus, with increased rainfall, the yard will also grow more quickly, and the tall grass and weeds will protect the eggs from the sun’s UV rays. Keep the grass cut short so the UV rays can reach the soil and help keep roundworm eggs in check.
  3. Keep feeders and waterers clean. Use feeders and waterers that are designed for poultry in order to reduce fecal contamination, and make sure they stay clean. Put all food for your chickens in the feeders rather than on the ground for them to eat. Don’t let chickens roost or sit on top of feeders or waterers to contaminate them. You can also use one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per gallon of water to help keep the waterer clean.
  4. Clean the coop more often. If one egg is ingested, roundworms are quick to spread via feces. Rake the run and clean out the shavings in the coop more often than normal to reduce the amount of feces that could potentially be ingested when the birds are foraging.
  5. Be vigilant of wild birds. Roundworms are not host specific, and wild birds can easily spread an infection of roundworms to your backyard chickens. Now is the time to pull in your bird feeders, turn off the bird baths, and stop attracting wild birds to your yard. It’s also a good idea to move chicken feeders and waterers to areas that are harder to reach for wild birds.

Most importantly, know the clinical signs of roundworm infections so you can act upon them immediately:

  • increased feed consumption
  • weight loss
  • dull feathers
  • diarrhea, or fecal matter stuck to the feathers below the vent
  • pale comb, wattles and facial skin
  • listlessness
  • in serious infections, roundworms appearing in chicken droppings
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A Salmon Faverolle hen suffering from worms, with pale facial skin and the evidence of diarrhea stuck to the feathers under her tail.

If one or two birds show clinical signs of a roundworm infection, chances are that the entire flock is infected but not yet showing symptoms. It is best to treat the whole flock all at once. To determine if your chickens have an infection, seek out a veterinarian who can perform a fecal float test for you using the droppings from your chickens.

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Sunlight vs. Lamps

Hey all! So I know I mentioned using heat lamps to keep a coop warm during the winter, just for extra comfort… Well these lamps can also do wonders for your winter egg production!

Chickens who are ready to lay all year need a little encouragement sometimes, with all the cool weather and shortened hours of daylight. For chickens, even out here on the West Coast, who aren’t getting snowy conditions, chickens will still halt egg production, part if not all together. This is due to LIGHT!

When the daylight hours are 12-14 hours long, or less, chickens will not lay eggs as bountiful as they will during those long summer days. When spring equinox comes along in March, the daylight hours start to get longer than 12 hours, generally. From March until September, the daylight hours are ideal for chickens to lay eggs. (This varies depending on where you are located on the world).

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From September to March, throughout the fall and winter, chickens are not very good egg layers. They become inconsistent, or can stop all together. It is a natural cycle for the chickens to stop laying throughout the winter.

There are many who would rather have eggs all year long and alter the environment to increase production during those darker months. For the coop, you can place lights from the ceiling to spread out as much area as they are able, in attempt to replicate the natural light of the outside world.

 

Written by: Kelsie Crane

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Winterizing your Coop & Chickens

Although Winter has been quite mild here on the West Coast, it’s always a good idea to winterize your coop each year. Here are some tips, whether you are in a snowy landscape or a mild coastal fog.

There tends to be more moisture in the winter; rain, snow, sleet, hail, and the ever worrisome ice. With moisture in the air, tip #1 is to double check all of the electrical that is in or around your coop. It may be a good time of year to add a heat lamp or two to your coop for the comfort of your flock, though not necessary. Chickens can survive without any additional heat or light sources but it may provide them more comfort during the nights or when storming outside. For this, it would be a good idea to double check all of the cords, bulbs, lamp covers, and placements of lights.

Make sure the cords are clean of droppings and wrapped or tucked away, off the ground, so that they are not going to be pecked at or get water spilled on them. Change old bulbs and make sure they are at least 2 feet off the ground.

winter-chickens

Tip #2: Clean out the coop. This is something that should be done every few weeks or months, depending on the size of your coop and flock. It is a good habit to change the coop shavings whenever they are dirty, but during this time of year, you may want to clean out EVERYTHING.

Double check the roof for any leaks!

Because there is moisture in the air, it is more likely that bacteria and other things are going to be living in your yard and coop, unless your freezing occasionally. Cleaning out all of the shavings, clean and move nesting boxes, roosts, waterer and feeders, and bleaching or vinegar spray the inside of the coop, and letting it all air out for the day, is a great way to start fresh for the season! You may also want to double check for any critter holes, tracks, or poop, as they may be looking for a warm place for the winter also.

Tip #3: Do a health check on all of your chickens. Check their skin for bugs, their comb for discoloration, their eyes for discharge or rank smell, and checking out their feet for any injuries. If you find anything unusual, please feel free to give us a call! (805) 735-3233!

As for those of you in snow already, you may want to brush off your roof, clear out any ice with a shovel or pick, and make sure the door hinges and fencing is not getting rusted or damaged from ice or frost.

Decorate your coop with a wreath or some edible ornaments, as I’m sure they would love it!

Happy Holidays to you All and have a Great New Year!

~All of us kids and chickens at Dare 2 Dream Farms

 

Written by: Kelsie Crane

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There are goats grazing in our fields!

We welcomed new goats to the Dare 2 Dream Farms! Meet Sophie and Emma, our two Nubian goats, mom and kid. Since late October of 2016, we have had the pleasure of keeping these two lovely ladies, learning their personalities and enjoying a glass of milk in the mornings!

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Sophie, the mother of Emma is going to be bred in just four days, in the hopes of having a litter of kids this summer! Once she gives birth, we will be milking away, next to her babies.

These two girls are very particular about what they eat and do throughout the day. They enjoy the pasture of rye, barley, and alfalfa growing just big enough to be grazed on throughout the day. Unlike you may think, goats would way rather “browse” – meaning they enjoy eating things from above. As if they were to walk up to a willow tree and pick the fresh leaves, or take down he whole branch. Because of this, they are penned into the goat manger area, with a field to walk about in.

Daily, we bring them branches and hang them from the high fence, so they are able to browse at their leisure. Goats tend to be very picky and will not eat just any old garden scraps, like the chickens do. This habit leads to some better tasting milk than if they were to eat anything just laying around.

Funny enough, goats don’t actually have front upper teeth. As you may not imagine, goats nibble at things with their row of lower teeth in the front of their mouths and use their upper lips as leverage. It looks quite odd and unusual, but it is more efficient for a goats eating habits. When breaking off branches and really gnawing on some good wood, they will use a larger set of teeth which is in the back of their mouths and are more of a molar.

Without the unusual and independent nature of these animals, gosh it just wouldn’t be this fun to farm. Their habits and routines are particular, but the milk quality is incomparable to most other kinds of milk, making for timely milk each morning, ready for cereal, coffee, or cheese making throughout the day.

 

Written by: Kelsie Crane