Monday, June 15, 2015

My birds are eating. Why are they losing weight?

If your backyard poultry is eating but still looking "off", they likely have parasites.

Parasites are not fancy French umbrellas.**

Poultry mite. Source: Wikimedia Commons
There are two types of parasites: internal and external.

The main external parasites are mites and lice. The best way to check for these is to hold the bird upside down and move the feathers on its rear end. Look for tiny things scurrying away. If you see none look for small red dots around the vent. These are bite marks. The parasites go to the vent for moisture. 

To treat, use any garden dust with Sevin or you can get poultry dust at your local farm store. I’m not familiar with organic products, but those might be worth a shot. Make sure you treat the coop as well since they can live on wood for a long time. For some reason waterfowl don’t seem to have as large a problem with mites and lice.

Internal parasites include worms and coccidia.
Worms are pretty straight-forward; you look for "unthrifty" birds or ones that don’t seem to feel well. Then buy a poultry wormer and follow the manufacturer's directions.

Coccidia are little “bugs” that eat on the inside of a bird's gut causing coccidiosis. The bites cause scarring. This makes the bird unable to get the nutrients out of their food. The first sign is blood in the manure, next the birds start losing weight and die. Make sure you always feed a medicated starter. If you believe you have an outbreak treat as quickly as possible and treat your whole flock. Medication called Corid seems to work best.

As always, ask questions in the comment section.

--Dale, aka Turkeyman

**Note from Dale's daughter: we let him keep that "dad joke" in the blog as a Father's Day gift. You're welcome.