I'm very interested in going a more natural route. I want my girls (and boys) to be as healthy as possible - and I definitely don't want to have to keep treating them with medicines if I can avoid it.
Presently I have 14 chickens of varying ages from 10 weeks to just over a year. I have a 5'x10' raised coop for night time with a 15' x 10' secure run around it that I hardly ever use. There is an additional less secure 50' x 25' run that I rarely keep them penned in. I prefer to let them roam about the 1 acre yard and find what they please to eat/do. I feed the older ones Layena Crumbles & oyster shell in containers that they have access to at all times. The younger ones had Chick Starter when they were very young and then were switched to Flock Raiser at 8 weeks of age. I've noticed that the older girls’ feathers are looking a little ratty lately and my oldest is going through a severe molt right now. I've also noticed 5 of my 8 layers have what I call "dirty butts" - and they have a white creamy substance that comes on their eggs from time to time. I'm thinking it is gleet - and I've ordered the Nustock for treating it. I've put the Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) in their waterer - but the kind I have doesn't have The Mother (live cultures) - so I will get some of that soon. I have a manure box with roost overhead and the box is filled with Sweet PDZ which makes it easy to scoop daily. I do a modified deep litter on the floor - in that I use pine shavings and keep it stirred - adding more shavings until it builds up and spring comes. Then I clean it all out and start again.
The only really bad incident so far was that over the summer maybe one or two of my girls had roundworms in their manure. I treated the flock with Valbazen because I didn't know what else to do to help them and that was the advice. Should I have done something different to treat them after finding the worms? I guess I don't really understand why they would suddenly get worms - unless the worms have been multiplying over time and this was just the first time I was able to see them. Would having a FF (fermented feed) diet help reduce their chances of getting worms?
I've ordered the following that will hopefully get here soon - Nustock and Bragg ACV. My goal is to start feeding FF once I get the Bragg and to treat the girls with Nustock for what may be gleet. I think I'll start doing FF with the layer feed for the layers and the Flock Raiser for the littles. Should I slowly add or change things or just go to it right away?
I'd change from doing a modified deep litter into doing a true deep litter, do away with the manure box and let those droppings fall so they may start developing a good deep litter system for you. This will help with worm ova that are shed and keep them from being recycled, as the beneficial bugs in the deep litter prey upon parasite larvae.
I wouldn't use a commercial dewormer as I believe all it does is let the strong worms survive. Those that survive the chemical will only reproduce to make more worms that are able to withstand the chemical. This requires that you keep switching your chemicals around and eventually you have naturally selected a super worm to live in your chickens that can survive any chemical preparation that you throw at it.
I'd use garlic, pumpkin seeds, soap... all things that worms do not build up a resistance or tolerance to. I'd start FF... it does indeed cultivate a bowel environment that is not conducive to worm growth and reproduction.
If the soils in your runs and pens are barren, I'd recondition those soils, even though you don't use them often, the chickens are still on them when they live.
I wouldn't add things slowly... I'd start the FF as soon as you can, the ACV in the water, I'd see about getting some pumpkin seeds for them... should be easy this time of year. If they don't want to eat them, dry them and grind them up and put it in the feed. Garlic is easy... garlic powder sprinkled on the feed.
If you use soap in the water for worms, I use Shaklee's soap... it's all natural and made of soy plant proteins and it only requires the tiniest drop, as it is concentrated to the max. If you think it isn't safe for animals, Joel Salatin uses it exclusively for all this animals, I've used it for mine a time or two when I got cows that needed reconditioning from an outside source... and I've even ingested it myself before I gave some to the animals. They used to use Shaklee's to fatten turkey and cattle over in Europe and using it to wash things was secondary.
Dawn dish washing liquid works the same if you want to go that route. Actually, any soap works the same...my grandma used lye soap in her dishwater and gave that to the hogs and chickens.
My granny used to feed her pigs and chickens her dish water... which had lye soap in it. She said it made them healthier but I doubt she knew just why. The soap acts as a surfactant to internal parasites, dissolving the protective coating of oil on their skins and allowing the gastric juices to kill them. I wish I could show you pictures of a cow that had Shaklee's and ACV for reconditioning at my place that would blow your mind. You wouldn't believe it was the same cow and in such a short amount of time!
Good luck and happy chicken keeping –