The hens are victims of jaundice, which is a form of liver disease and caused by over-feeding on rich starchy foods that also causes hens to become over fat. However, at the end of the laying season and the beginning of the molt you will lose some hens, even when kept under the best conditions, and especially hens that are fairly old. What you have done for them is fine, however, if your hens don't improve in a couple of days the hatchet cure is the only option.
Healthy Backyard Chickens
Waterglass eggs are good enough for cooking purposes, but when boiled anyone that knows the taste of a strictly fresh egg can tell the difference in an instant; when fried the taste is not so pronounced, but it is there just the same; besides, when broken, they are a little watery. This watery condition passes off if left to stand for a few minutes.
The best way is to use the waterglass method, is one quart of waterglass to ten quarts of water. Boil the water and put away to cool, when cold add the waterglass, mixing well, and store in 3 or 5-gallon crocks in a cool place. They will keep six months if good when put in. In all cases the eggs must be gathered very fresh, for one stale egg will spoil the whole lot, so great care is needed. For more information see our page on spring time on the farm.
To dip chickens you must have a very warm day, or a warm room where you can turn them in to dry. Be very careful that the liquid does not get in the fowl's throat. It is best to make the hen sit down and with a sponge wet the back and head thoroughly, then under the wings and breast; if there are nits, don't be in a hurry to take the hen out, but let the dip get to the nits and skin on the abdomen.
If the water is too warm it will be dangerous, as some fowls have weak hearts; that is the only danger, providing you dry them quickly. Give them a final shower using some tea-tree oil in the water. A tablespoonful in a liter of water should do it. Add a couple of drops to the feathers on a daily basis until the invasion clears up.
Clean your chicken coops out and clean thoroughly including perches, hoppers etc.
Feather eating is the result of being bored or a shortage of green feed. The best way to cure it is to give your chickens exercise. Boil some oats until soft, and when cooked stir in salt enough to taste and about a quart of good beef scrap; feed this for breakfast several mornings together.
Make them scratch for the rest of their food in deep litter and give them sour milk to drink if you have it. The object is to give them some interest. See that the fowls are supplied with mineral matter, such ash shells, bone meal and some sand if it can be had. It is surprising the amount of sand that chickens will eat when carried to them in yards, so there must be a necessity for it, and if they cannot get to it, it pays to carry a good box full once in a while.
Some kind of animal food is necessary when the chickens begin to pick toes, wings and vents. But the meat must always be cooked, the least bit of raw meat drives them wild as does the blood they can bring on each other. For that reason a strict watch must be kept to detect any case before they get to that stage.
Remove all weak chicks as they always go for the weakest, and as soon as one chick is picked on for a victim, remove it at once. Paint the toes bitter aloes mixed with water. It is best to buy a powder, then dissolve in a little water and paint wings, vent and toes. They won't take many pecks at them when they find they are so bitter.
Sunflower seed is rich in oil, having the same proportion as flaxseed; otherwise it rates in value the same as grain. A little, not too much, fed whole is a nice treat for the fowls and is said to make their feathers shine for birds for shows.
Take a pair of scissors and clip the fluff away from that part of the abdomen, give a teaspoonful of olive oil, and notice of they have any discharge that is of an offensive color or odor.
Sometimes it is nothing but pure laziness with hens of the large breeds that causes this matting together of the fluff below the vent. We rarely see hens of the small breeds so affected. Whenever a hen soils her feathers clip her at once, and, in fact, it is a good custom to follow up in any case. When hens are very heavily fluffed it interferes with the fertility of the eggs. In such cases there is not anything for it but use the scissors.
Bowel trouble in very young chicks is usually caused by a chill. It is very hard for us here to believe chicks get chilled because, not feeling the cold ourselves, we forget that chicks have really undergone a violent change from incubator to the outside atmosphere.
Great care should be taken in moving chicks from incubator to brooder oven, and also in seeing that the brooder itself is warm and fit to receive the chicks. If one is careless in these matters the chicks feel the change and suffer from bowel trouble.
Sometimes, of course, the trouble may be traced to the food, but more often it comes from a chill. The best way to cure it is to remove the chicks to new ground at once, or if in a brooder, clean it out well and spray with some disinfectant. Boil all the water that is given to the chicks and feed boiled rice once or twice a day in which a little cinnamon is mixed. Do not put in too much or they will not eat it, keep all meat away and just feed dry chick feed and boiled rice. No oatmeal or any other cereal but the rice; if chicks won't eat it, feed dry chick feed and boiled water and a little lettuce.
These two happy results come from correct methods of poultry keeping from the ground up. To get the cockerels off quick, they must be hatched from strong-germed eggs, incubated properly and kept growing from the first jump out of the shell. To get eggs in winter the pullets must come from the same conditions. Very few hens will lay in the early winter under any conditions.
From the point of view of the trees there is no doubt that they would be advantaged by the presence of the poultry, providing the coops are not allowed to interfere with the proper irrigation and cultivation. If it is practical to handle the fowls in coops without causing the soil around the coops to become compacted by continual tramping, and if they are not kept on the ground long enough to cause an excessive application of hen manure, which is very concentrated and stimulating, the result would unquestionably be beneficial.
From the point of view of the tree, this benefit would depend on how long the fowls were kept around the tree and how they are cared for in such a way that the soil should not get out of condition physically or too rich chemically for the satisfactory performance of the tree. If the backyard chickens can be moved frequently, and if they are only put in place when the soil is in such condition that tramping around the coops will not seriously compact it, the presence of fowls would be an advantage.
On the other hand, if the coops are to be kept in place for a long time and all the ground outside of them crusted and hardened by tramping and the soil under the coops overloaded with droppings, the trees will become very stressed and therefore keeping chickens in the orchard would not be a wise decision.
The birds should be between two to three months, not over four, unless you have some very large variety that matures slowly. Size is equally important as age, and a bird you wish to caponize should not weigh more than one and a half pounds. The work can be successfully done in the summer season, but the fowl must be kept without food or drink for at least 24 hours, longer is better and keep in shady place.
After caponizing, feed the bird what soft feed he will eat up and let him have plenty of water. Then leave him to himself as he will be his own doctor. In two or three days look them over and if there are any wind-balls, simply prick with a needle to let the air out; this may have to be done two or three times before the wound heals up, but after it has healed, treat just as you would other chickens and feed them about twice a day.
There is nothing made by trying to rush nature; it takes fifteen months to grow a good capon of the large breeds.
Your chicks have eaten soured food, decayed vegetables or tainted meat. Baby chicks are just like other babies and the same care should be used that their food be always sweet and fresh. Wet food should never be given chicks, nor raw meat nor anything the least bit tainted or stale.
North or northeast is the proper direction to face the open fronts of chicken houses and coops when the prevailing winds are from the south and southeast in the winter, and from the west and southwest in the summer. The occasional north winds or "northers," may be called dry winds, in fact, are an indication of dry weather, and so do not harm the fowls even when cold.
The upper half of the north-end or slide of poultry houses open with inch-mesh covering the open space and the eaves extending several inches as a protection is good. In case of an unusual storm from that direction, one thickness of burlap may be tacked to the edge of the extending eaves, and to the lower part of the opening. This will admit plenty of fresh air while breaking the force of the wind. It is also good to have a large trap door for the use of the backyard chickens, in the solid lower part of the open end, and the large door, for cleaning and sunning the house, in the west side.
The young males will be all right to mate with the same hens next season - that is, if they come through the molt with vigor. They will be just two years old and at their best. The molt is the test for both, hens and cocks. If they show no signs of ailing or weakness during that period, it is proof of the proper stamina and vigor.
From nine months to a year is the proper age to mate a Leghorn cockerel. Cockerels of the larger breeds should not be mated before a year old.
The trouble is in the feed somewhere. Too much green feed, especially green feed that springs from wet, soggy ground, will sometimes make the eggs watery. Or if you are feeding more mash feed than dry grain, it will have that tendency. Some people claim that the feed a hen eats does not affect the egg at all; but if it does not, why do eggs differ in color and quality? Eggs that are laid by hens fed wholly on wheat, or the by-products of wheat, such as bran, shorts or middlings, all have a pale yolk. Now feed the hens some green feed - any kind will do - and the eggs from the same hens will have a yolk several degrees or shades darker.
The "quick cure" for chicken diarrhea has not yet been found. Prevention is the only sure remedy. The first treatment in diarrhea (which must not be confused with simple looseness of the bowels) should be something to clean out the digestive tract. Epsom salts is probably best for this purpose where a number of fowls are to be treated.
Clean out by giving Epsom salts in an evening mash, estimating one-third to one-half teaspoonful to each adult bird, or a teaspoonful to each six half-grown chicks, carefully proportioning the amount of mash to the appetite of the birds, so that it will be eaten up quickly.
For a few days afterward, feed only lightly with dry grain and tender greens, such as fresh-cut mustard and lettuce leaves. Keep plenty of pure, cool water, with a couple of tablespoons of some cider vinegar included - for drinking; also plenty of sharp grit.
When a fowl loses partial or entire control of the muscles of the neck it is called limber-neck, or wry neck or crook neck. Limber-neck is regarded as a symptom rather than a disease, and may be due to a number of causes, such as bacteria in the dirt, a vitamin deficiency of Vitamin A, toxins in the system, injury or it can even be hereditary.
For a few days the fowls should be fed on some light greens scalded with sweet milk in which has been dissolved a level teaspoonful of baking soda to every pint of milk, and also allowed plenty of crisp, tender lettuce or similar greens. A little Epsom salts should be added to the drinking water for a few days. This treatment, if done at the start will work, but if the poisoning has had its course long, nothing will save the bird.
Cheesecloth, not heavy cloth, would be better than glass, so far as the sun is concerned. There would be none of the overheating during the middle of the day followed by the chilling at night which are caused by a large expanse of glass. On the other hand, there should not be openings on opposite sides of the house to create a draft. Also, the rat and vermin question must be considered. It might be necessary to have wire screens made to fit firmly over the cloth at night.
Wheat is a standard grain for poultry feeding, and corn is also largely used. Corn is very successful on lands which are winter-plowed and harrowed to retain moisture, very satisfactory results can be secured by summer growth without irrigation from planting as soon as frost danger is over.
Cut out all ground feed, except perhaps a little wheat bran. While you may not get quite as many eggs, they will all have good strong germs and the chicks will stand forcing to the limit, while if you force the egg output you reduce the vitality of the germs and livability of chicks hatched.
The only way to feed hens whose eggs are intended for hatching chicks for broilers is to feed whole grain and make them exercise for it, good green feed, or, better still, sprouted oats, and feed beef scrap in a hopper all the time.
At first, while it is new, they may eat more than you would give them but don't mind that they will regulate the quantity in a few days better than you can. Get a good grade of beef scrap and keep it in a hopper that will not let rain in or keep it under cover and feed all the wheat and oats they require; if you are short on green feed give them a bale of alfalfa hay to work on.
A good homemade dry mash recipe for chickens is as follows: Wheat bran, 5 pounds; middlings, 2 pounds; cracked corn, 2 pounds; charcoal, 0.2 pounds; alfalfa meal 2 pounds; bone meal, 1.5 pounds; blood-meal 1 pound; meat cracklings, if ground, 2 pounds; ground oats or barley, 3 pounds. Give oyster shell separately and supply fowls with good sharp grit.
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