Winter is the best time to address possible health issues that could affect or delay egg laying come spring time. And it’s a great way to stay warm on a cold day… so get ahead of things by doing these tasks when the sun is shining for a healthier flock and less work in Spring.
Change the coop bedding
Deep litter method is by far and away the easiest way to maintain a coop with minimal ongoing work (more on this topic coming soon). Those of us who know and follow this awesome floor bedding method, winter is the best time to scoop out the extra dry composted materials that you don’t want in the coop and and add a nice thick layer of dry, fresh material.
For those non-deep litter followers, a thorough clean out of the coop of old materials is great to do on a sunny winter day when the flock have some time out and about. Limewashing the interior of a wooden coop will help to keep those creepy crawlies at bay but ensure that the coop is nice and dry before adding clean bedding materials.
If you don’t want to limewash, close the coop up and set off a fleabomb inside. This will definitely get into those nooks and crannies and can save a lot of heartache in the warmer months regarding the possibility of red mite infestations. Make sure you air the coop out well to get rid of fumes before locking everyone up for the night…
Not only will the chances of winter respiratory issues decrease with a clean layer of bedding but your chooks will love having new bedding to burrow into on cold winter days.
Keeping Their Run Area Dry
A covered run area is always the ideal for disease prevention and keeping things dry but this isn’t always an viable option. The second best way to keep mud away from the feet of your flock is a beautiful thick layer of chunky mulch. Mulch allowed great drainage of water when it rains and allows your Flock to get exercise kicking it all over looking for bugs.
Easily purchased from Bunnings by the bag means that you can carry, slice and spread where needed but to keep costs down overall do the ring around your local landscaping supply centres and see who can deliver to you for the best price. Make sure your wheelbarrow tyre is fully pumped for this option, as carrying buckets too and fro is very annoying (trust me on this one!).
Worm your entire flock (if over 3 months of age)
The most common worms that infect chickens are the common roundworm (they are the ones that look like moving thin noodles) and are easily treated with a Piperazine-based worming treatment. Allfarm Piperazine Wormer Crumble is a great product as it will treat the worms as well as help to repair gut damage with it’s vitamin/amino acid/trace element supplement that make the crumble. There is also no withholding period for this product, so if you are lucky enough to still have eggs you can eat them with no worries of product trace in your googglies.
For a treatment that covers all poultry worms, Avitrol Plus is a great option and is available as a syrup (best added to drinking water with a splash of cordial to negate the yucky taste) or as a tablet for individual dosing (much easier to do than you think)… There is a lot of speculation about this product and withholding periods so please read the links in the product descriptions to ensure you are making the best decision for your flock and individual situation.
General Health Checkover
While you are outside with your flock, take the opportunity to pick them up and give them a quick once over. You want them to have a good weight in hand and have a look around their bottom and under the wings for red mite and/or poultry lice. If you spot any, Pestene Powder is the fastest treatment for both (given that they live off different components of a chicken). If you prefer a product made with natural ingredients, Allfarm Poultry Powder Feather & Skin Conditioner is a great option. Nostrils should be clear from bubbles/congestion and eyes should be bright and clear.
Treat Scaly Leg Mite and Prevent Future Red Mite Infestations
When giving your girls the individual once over, it is easy to check the healthy of their legs for any signs of Scaly Leg Mite. A great natural solution is Allfarm Barrier Butter which will have no withholding period (no egg residue) and will soothe the itching and irritation your chook will experience with scaly leg mite.
Whether you currently have a red mite issue or not, Suburban Chooks is proud to be the exclusive supplier of Alphamite DW, which is an organic treatment for the red mite. After an intial treatment period of 4 days, you simply need to offer it in the drinking water for the last two days of every month (following the treatment schedule on the link) and you will have no more issues with Red Mite. It is as simple as adding 5mls to 10L of drinking water. How awesome is that!!!
Keeping your Flock Healthy and Happy
Chickens enjoy a treat every now and then to keep them healthy, happy and stimulated. A head of green cabbage hung above head height encourages them to jump and peck, which is part of their natural behaviour. They also love a warm treat to those frosty mornings – many chicken keepers make a “mash” of cooked porridge, finely diced vegie scraps, boiled eggs, dried mealworms, rice/pasta/mixed scratch grain/pellets for their flock (and anything else you want to add)… but stand back as it gets demolished. An essential addition to any mash by chicken keepers Australia-wide is our Healthy Chook Spice Mix (or if there are a bit of sniffles and runny noses – our Respiratory Support Spice Mix) which is a great immune boosting formula with anti-inflammatory and general health boosting ingredients.
In line with the increasing research that shows that by improving gut health in all animals (not just Humans and Poultry) you can significantly decrease illness and increase health, vitality and increase immune responses (and with it, the ability to tolerate weather changes that can trigger off stress reponses) Suburban Chooks now offers a Poultry Probiotic Pack, containing prebiotic base mix (Apple Pomace and Spice Mix) and a probiotic liquid (Fermented Herbal Extract Probiotic Liquid). Simply mix the two components together in a large bowl (if fluffs up to quite a large quantity), feed as required and store the extra in the fridge for future use. It’s great value for money and for best results, feed all year around.
And… the moment we have all been waiting for. Egg time!!!!
As your egg numbers start to increase after the Winter Solstice, a Tough Egg Peck Block will provide a boost of vitamins and trace elements necessary for good quality egg laying. Otherwise, a Maintenance Peck Block makes a great boredom buster with benefits.
So that’s it folks… a bit of work should ensure that your Feathered Family Members have the best health over the cold winter period and the best start to egg laying in Spring!!!