Basic health care Worming It is important to regularly worm your chickens as over time worm burdens can build up leading to your chickens losing weight, having diarrhoea and laying fewer eggs. There are lots of different wormers out there including many herbal products. If you choose a powdered form, it can be mixed with feed. It is important to worm your birds at least twice a year (in spring and autumn) and ideally every three months. Alternatively there are specialist poultry vets which provide a worm testing service which will look for worm eggs in your birds’ droppings and inform you whether or not you need to worm them. Red mites Red mites spend the day tucked away in cracks and crevices in the perches and nest boxes to avoid daylight. They then emerge during the hours of darkness a pale grey colour to gorge themselves on the birds’ blood which turns them a red/black colour. This causes much irritation to the birds and, in extreme circumstances, it can lead to such severe blood loss that the birds become anaemic (characterised by a pale comb and wattles). If enough blood is lost the birds can die. The first challenge with red mite is to find them. You can either go out with a torch at night to look for the mites on the birds (check under their wings and around their vents) or use a white sheet of paper and stick it into the crevices in the poultry house and look for blood stains on the paper. The second challenge is to get rid of the red mite. The first thing to do is to remove the bedding from the house and clean the shed with a suitable detergent (washing up liquid and bleach will do). This will remove dirt and grease and you must do this to give any mite treatment the best chance to work. Allow the house to dry fully before applying the red mite treatment. If only a few mites are present poultry shield can be used which is a safe easy-to-use disinfectant. Higher levels of mites may require D-Mite which is a silicone based spray applied to the house making the surface slippery to the mites, preventing them from feeding. This product is based upon a human head lice treatment and is therefore safe to use. In extreme cases a much more potent product may be required such as Tyrant or Stingray which contain pyrethroids - however extreme care must be taken when using these products. For day to day prevention of red mite, use a mite powder containing Diamatacious Earth which can be added to the dust baths and nest boxes to abrade the waxy surface of the mite, dehydrating and killing them. Moulting Moulting is an annual event in a chicken’s life when it loses and replaces all its feathers. During this time your bird can look moth eaten and unwell and it is important to support your chicken throughout this time. A bird’s feathers are over 80% protein and when replacing them during its moult your bird may benefit from protein supplementation. Amino+, which contains amino acids (the building blocks of protein), can be given for five days during the moult or during times of stress or weight loss. Diarrhoea Diarrhoea is a common condition in backyard birds. In young birds (less than 3 months old) coccidiosis can cause a bloody diarrhoea and cause your bird to be dull and hunched up with ruffled feathers. If you are worried about coccidiosis in your birds, talk to your vet about sampling droppings to look for coccidiosis oocysts (eggs). In older birds worms can cause a mild diarrhoea, as can a bacterial gut infection. If your bird appears otherwise bright and active then Biostop (a tannin-based astringent with antibacterial action) can be given in the drinking water for five days. After this you can top up the good bacteria in your bird’s gut with Beryl’s friendly bacteria. Note: if your bird appears at all dull contact your vet. Respiratory disease Respiratory disease is very common and can cause sneezing, watery eyes and nose and pale abnormal eggshells. In mild cases your bird should recover unaided but if your birds are unwell then you need to contact your vet as antibiotics may be needed.