Friday, November 9, 2012

Gnarly Bunch - Chapter 2 - 9/19/12


I can't shake this horrified feeling in my stomach and can't get the image of them out of my mind....makes me want to cry each time I think of them.  You should have seen how they calmed down when I got each of them in my arms, particularly Toby and big ol' Moby Two, my excellent White Rock broody mama. 

First thing I did was physical examination....with gritted teeth and murderous thoughts for all the roads to hell that have been paved with "good intentions". 

I applied Nu-Stock to their legs and feet and worked it into the scales.  Nu-Stock is one of the few things in my medicine chest, right alongside Bag Balm.  It is a lotion made of pine tar, sulfur and mineral oil and is for parasites, fungal skin infections, etc.  Smells like Pine-Sol, works like magic!  I also applied it to the vents that had gleet after clipping off most of the larger beads of fungal growth on the feathers.

Each bird was thoroughly dusted with wood ashes.... every crack and crevasse, every skin surface. 

They were given fresh water with a larger than normal glug of mother vinegar. (Mother vinegar is simply Apple Cider Vinegar – or ACV -  that has not been pasteurized and still contains the yeast cultures that are created during the fermentation process.  Bragg's is the most known brand of mother vinegar out on the market, not sure of many others.  You can order it online or find it in most stores that sell health foods and bulk food grains.  You can buy one and split it off into cheaper, regular ACV to create vinegar with a mother in each bottle.  This can go on exponentially.)
They were given a little layer mash and kitten chow (first time I've ever used cat food but it was all I had at the moment) sprinkled with fresh ground garlic powder.  They were also offered the guts out of a pumpkin....they pecked at it listlessly...a first for my birds ~ pumpkins are their fave! 

They stood around in a daze, moved aimlessly back and forth a few times, were very, very quiet.  Took a few sips of water, pecked a little at the food.....they act like chicken zombies.  If I could reach my own rear end I'd be kicking it all the way to China and back ~ with golf shoes on!  I digress....

Tomorrow's regimen is:

1. Start fermentation of layer mash.

2.  Feed half a cooked (converts the starch to sugar) pie pumpkin filled with cottage cheese (Yes, I'm feeding them people food!)  They need the vegetable fiber, sugar and beta carotene.  The cottage cheese has the cultures they need for their bowels...needed something to give them while the feed is fermenting. 

3. Construct smaller feed trough from rain guttering, wire overlay and 2x4s/ order poultry nipples to build waterer. 

4.  Lay down fresh pine shavings and make adjustments to roost to provide for weakened and featherless birds who cannot fly...had to lift the stronger birds to the roost tonight ~ roost is only about 4.5 ft. tall.  Sad.  The rest of the birds were left on fresh hay on the ground as I felt they were too weak to balance on the roost, no matter how wide and comfy.

 Will confine them to the coop for about a week to build them up, train them to the coop and roosts and just give them a chance to gain some strength before they free range.  This is the first time they've seen sunlight for a year and a half, so I raise the side flaps to the coop to let in the sun.  First time for fresh air also. What goes through people's minds when they take care of another creature?  "Gee, they don't need sunlight or air...chickens don't need that to lay an egg."  


The flock was being kept in one corner of a huge, empty, former commercial broiler house...old style.  They had constructed a frame and wire coop in this corner, approx. 10x12 ft..  Dimly lit from covered windows but no fresh air.  Cement floor that had never had the feces removed in a year and a half...stunk like all get out and there was so much powdered feces that I thought it had a dirt floor!  Galvanized, wall mount nest boxes that I had give them were filthy and had no nesting material.  Thin roosts in a ladder construction.  Dirty water.  Been feeding them general stock mash that they feed hogs and sheep.

Two roosters and 18 hens were all that were left but there had been 8 more of mine originally in this flock and about 6 more of theirs.  Thirty-four birds in a 10x 12 coop with no outside access.  That's 3.5 sq. ft. per bird but you can see where this is inadequate for birds that never, ever go outside. 

 No outside run.  Very dry and dusty coop. 

The chickens had knobs of manure so caked to the ends of their toes that I couldn't scrape it off.  Their nails were horribly overgrown and deformed. 

They had originally told me that this coop was a holding area while they constructed the real coop and a large outside paddock for free ranging.  Never happened. 

The other parts of this building had hay storage and sheep. 

Final analysis of root of problem?  Poor ventilation, no sunlight, high fecal contamination of coop soils, stagnate and filthy water, dry feeds not formulated for chickens, poor roosting structure, cold, metal laying structure with no bedding, boredom, and no treatment or culling of obvious health problems.  When I first brought the chickens he had a rooster with very severe scale mite infestation on his legs.  He was not in the coop..was running free in the large building... and the man said they were going to kill him soon.  When I returned he was living in the coop with the rest of the chickens.  Still hobbling around on his grossly deformed and painful feet.  First red flag that I ignored....first of many.  What an idiot I am for believing people!!!!  Gullible. 


You see, I am all about using the natural things and things I have in my own home when possible, when dealing with flock management.  My philosophy is "there is no quick fix for poor management".  A year and a half ago these birds were in optimal, shiny health....they will be returned to that, if possible, just how they got to be that way in the first place~ sunshine, fresh air, clean soils, exercise, good social structure, good food, good forage, good water, good health practices. 

If you've got these things for your birds, it's likely you will never be dealing with parasites and ill health in the flock.

I'd like to avoid drugs if possible.  The body has remarkable healing capabilities when given a chance to correct itself.  I try to avoid using drugs for me and my family and I like to do the same with the animals we eat for food.  Running fecals, buying ivermectin, etc.all cost money and won't get me as far as good flock management.  If you use drugs to correct poor management, you will be buying those drugs again and again. 

I like to explore how to avoid having these kinds of health crises in the first place and I've found that, truly, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Birds don't suffer when you prevent poor health. Money is not lost when you prevent poor health.

What order are you treating things and why?    I treated the scale mites, skin mites and lice first because I had my hands on them as I transferred them from the transport cage.  Seemed like a natural progression and also treated them before they entered the new coop environment.  This coop has no good environment for mites or's made from cattle panels and has very little wood surface that isn't treated lumber.  I used fine wood ashes....they smother the lice and mites on the skin and in the feathers and the alkaline nature of wood ash can kill them as well. 

Their later dusting and solarizing of their skin and feathers will further that endeavor...they were stretched out and sunning this morning ~ first time in a year and a half to see the sun.  The NuStock is a onetime treatment that takes care of business when it comes to scale mites. The scales later fall off and grow shiny new once again, and the residue of the NS on the roosts inhibits any further infestation.

Then I provided water with mother vinegar, for the reasons outlined above.  I also fed them cottage cheese...good cultures there as well.  I am starting their layer mash to fermenting today and those good probiotics being generated and present in their feed each day will start to reculture their bowels. 


  1. Just started reading this event. Can't wait to see what happens. Thumbs up to you for making the effort to save these poor babies. I don't find your at any fault here. A person must live their life and you tried to place them in a good home.

  2. I am learning so much right now form you, and realizing how poor are our girls are doing. Writing a plan to save them! Thank you for sharing the love and knowledge

    1. We are so glad to have permission to share Bee's story and wisdom here on Natural Chicken Keeping. Her care was a blessing for those birds.

      Remember - we all make mistakes. It is the wise people who recognize the mistakes and fix them. Good luck with your flock!


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