So this is the buggiest year we have EVER had! The news opens up at night with reports on who may be getting now shipments of bug spray and interviewing people at Gander Mountain on the news asking for the best advice for the tenacious little buggers! Seems as though it’s biting gnats which according to Gail Damerow includes “midges”, “no-see-ums”, “punkies” and “sand flies”. I am not sure if these are regional terms or different varieties but we and my flock of 11 have been bugged! The intensity of the bugs caused the chickens to pile upon one another in the corner of their run and due to the heat the one at the bottom of the pile seemed to suffer a heat related illness, although I am not convinced it wasn’t also bug related, as some bugs can suck enough blood to make a chicken anemic! The anemia can cause the comb to become pale but this was a hen so no help there in diagnosing. We brought it to “sick bay”, a dog crate in the workshop, and put a small fan on it, and gave it cold water and food, as well as fed it a bit of yogurt off my finger. Apparently these gnats can clog their nostrils, uh huh yeah I hadn’t thought about a chicken having nostrils, lol! This girl turned around overnight though and so I think it was the heat. After 24 hours she went back with the flock and although she doesn’t look quite as robust as the others, she is doing fine keeping up and is eating and drinking plenty. Close call, she looked so bad when we found her!
In other chicken news, I am going with the idea I read on the chicken chick blog, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/ she recommends using sand in the coop. The brilliance of this is that you can treat it just like a litter box that way! You can see the poop and scoop it out and done. Doing this daily, keeps the coop clean and less poop equals less flies. So I went off on my quest for “washed construction sand” which some people apparently call river rock or construction sand. Regardless of what it was called, I could not find it, and the one place that likely did have it was a “scoop it yourself” type, and the truck has got a bad bearing and the car is for granola transport. So I will try again. The other thing I was looking for was Diatomaceous Earth to add to the chicken’s dust bath. A website called rich soil.com defines it as…”an off white talc-like powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. When sprinkled on a bug that has an exoskeleton (such as bed bugs, ants or fleas) it gets caught between their little exoskeleton joints. As they move, the diatomaceous earth acts like razor blades and cuts them up. But it doesn’t hurt mammals.” This would have been easier to find, I thought, but food grade DE was not super easy to find and even in the store some people were puzzled. I did score a bag though and some tubs to put a dust bath in their coop. Wood ash, dry soil and DE should rid them of any biting bugs they may be harboring from this buggy season. They are supposed to know how to dust bath but I’ve only seen one do it… they are also supposed to go nutty for strawberries and raspberries and they had no idea what to do with them. They did pick up the raspberries and play keep away, but didn’t seem to eat them. Oh well, these chickens didn’t read Gail D’s book!
I’m happy to report that with a large fan on their yard we have been keeping the bugs at bay and I have been keeping them busy with scattered food, and pieces of chard from the garden. They also shared a plateful of yogurt the other day and they did quick work on that!
We are hearing more and more and more about people dousing themselves with a spray bottle filled with vanilla and water. Both men and women are reporting around here that spraying themselves before taking to the outdoors is making a huge difference.
I’ll be buying a spray bottle tomorrow and I may smell like cake.