TICK SEASON (information updated 5-7-17)
Chicken Coop Chatter©
While attempting to troubleshoot some symptoms in a 6 week old chick for a JFA follower, it reminded me of tick season. If you're in an area where ticks are prevalent you already know, you can pick up ticks walking through grass, brush, trees and sagebrush and to check your clothes and skin for the ticks and to check the dogs and cats throughout the season. Depending on the type of tick, you and your pets can get a variety of diseases, including lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Fever. Not all ticks carry these, but they all do carry other pathogens, so it's always important to watch for any symptoms if you do happen to find that a tick has bitten you or heaven forbid has buried itself in your skin.
Our Sis in Eastern Oregon was mentioning a tick problem in late March this year; even though temperatures were still dipping into the teens at night and rarely above freezing during the daytime, the ticks were already a force to deal with. This is unusual even for the Eastern part of the state. Last year the ticks were prevalent in April. Typically they are an issue during the summer months, from late May until late September, but literally never in winter or early spring. I really don't know what to equate this strange phenomena to. Maybe a strain of ticks that has become resistant to the cold temperatures. It's hard to say and I have not read any data to back that up. Ticks are resistant to a lot of things, and live very long lives even without the blood they thrive on. They will go into a hibernation stage between nourishment.
With all of this in mind, you may not have thought about your chickens or chicks being affected by ticks, but the fact is, they can be. Some symptoms may include a form of paralysis or appearance of weakness where they appear to not be able to hold up their own weight, or struggle to walk normally. There are chicken diseases with paralysis and weakness as symptoms, but generally there are other symptoms along with that, including loss of appetite or resistance to food and water. With ticks, there may be no visible symptoms other than the weakness or apparent paralysis.
Check your chicks/chickens for ticks if they are prevalent in your area. Ticks are resistant to most treatments for other parasites, therefore you must be diligent and use some precautions. It may help to paint the roosts or even paint creosote on the roosts (yes, creosote is debatable, but is a confirmed recommendation from trusted Ag sites). 1. Check the chickens over thoroughly and remove any ticks you may find on them or buried in their skin. Be careful to remove the entire tick. 2. Do not use anything like alcohol or vaseline on the tick, this may force them to release more toxin into their victim. These methods were recommended in the past, however research has proven against these procedures. 3. DO Firmly grip the tick with tweezers and gently twist to force the tick to release itself. 4. Place the tick in a sealable bag or container. The reason for this, is that if you do experience any symptoms, you have the tick that can be tested for the pathogen they may be carrying. This is your assurance of a more accurate diagnosis, if you do contract any tick borne disease. 5. Do not burn: It is believed that if you burn them or squash them, that they release a toxin that can be inhaled, causing other issues. 6. Make sure to clean the area of removal thoroughly, and treat with antiseptic/antibiotic. Watch for any signs of poor healing. If you happen to remove ticks from your pets, Chickens or other livestock, remember they will gnaw, or peck at wounds, on themselves, and of others which will make it worse. 7. Try to keep the area covered to prevent the pecking, or gnawing behavior.
There are a handful of illnesses, diseases and issues with fowl of any kind, with similar symptoms and at times it's difficult to troubleshoot the problem if there are relatively few symptoms. However, anytime you notice one of your birds acting strangely, lethargic or not eating or drinking, it's a head's up and that bird should be removed immediately from the general population and isolated. Take the time to examine the fowl for any signs or symptoms and if you cannot determine what the problem is, ask questions and get answers as soon as possible. Even a day lapse without determining the problem can be a day closer to death for your chicks or chickens. Antibiotics, vitamin supplements and/or electrolytes will generally take care of the majority of symptoms and restore the health if the problems are detected early. The longer you wait to do something the less chance of restoring the health of chicks or adult birds. If you do not remove the affected bird from the rest of the flock, you risk the entire flock being affected. It is good to have a pet carrier or pet cage/bird cage available for any sick bird. Have an area available where you can keep that sick bird away from the flock. This can be a garage, mud room, laundry room or any area that is convenient where you can monitor and treat the bird effectively.
To protect you, your chickens and other animals, there are some natural remedies that may be effective against ticks.
1. Free-Ranging chickens allows them to help rid the area of ticks. Chickens will eat them. Guinea are more efficient at eating ticks, however chickens will do a fair job of elimination.
2. Keeping your grass watered and trimmed helps to prevent hiding areas for ticks. Again if you free-range or allow your chickens into your yard, they can do a fair job of keeping the tick population controllable.
3. Planting Herbs, such as lavender, Sage, Rosemary and Pyrethrum (ie: Chrysanthemum) will help naturally repel ticks. I made decorative planters, using large old galvanized cylinder type chicken feeders and waterers that contained all of the above plants. Keep the tallest in the center, and fill in with the shorter plants for an aesthetic planter. I set these each side of the doorway to repel the ticks from finding their way indoors and if the animals brushed against them, it help to repel the ticks. After planting the herbs, keep them trimmed and use those herbs to rub over the fur of your indoor pets, to create an unfriendly environment to the ticks. (Note: These same plants help repel mosquitoes and other pests) Planting herbs around your outdoor living area will help prevent infestation and a pleasant outdoor living environment.
4. Essential oils, such as the oils of lavender, and Rosemary rubbed on the skin, feathers or fur of pets will help deter ticks and mosquitoes when you are out and about around the property or out camping. PRECAUTION: Make sure to test for any sensitivity to essential oils, before using and pregnant or lactating females should avoid essential oils. Full strength essential oils should never be used on children under the age of 5. If you have known allergies to any of the above herbs, do not use. You can make your own infused herbal oils with fresh herbs.
5. Dry Lavender, Sage, and Rosemary can be added to pet bedding and nesting boxes to help repel parasites of all types.
6. Opossum is a natural defense against ticks. One opossum, can eat as many as 5000 ticks annually and they do not carry Lyme disease, nor do they contract it. And in spite of common believe, it is rare for any opossum to contract rabies. And yes, we are aware that opossum can harm chicks (rarely full grown chickens), however there are many good things about this natural pest control, they eat small rodents, and are scavengers of dead vegetation and carrion. Secure your coops to prevent entry, however learn to live with the opossum. They are more afraid of you than you are of them. In all the years I have never seen an opossum harm my cats or dogs. They co-exist and more curious about each other than harmful to each other. As with most animals, never corner one or get between one and it's offspring. Word of Warning: Live trapping and removal to another location is prohibited in most areas. You can get a hefty fine if this is your method of removal.
Note: The above list of herbs and extracts is intended as prevention, not as treatment for tick bites. If you notice swelling, a ring around the bite, weakness, lethargy, fever, flu-like symptoms, or poor healing contact your medical professional immediately. Be sure to have the tick in question in a sealed container for testing.
For further information on Tick Borne disease and illness, refer to www.lymedisease.org/ or www.ilads.org/
To make your own infused oils, refer to the link: These same oils can be used in bathing and for topical application to skin. http://justfowlingaround.weebly.com/seasoning-and-sauces/infused-herbal-oils-for-cooking
(PHOTO CREDIT: Lyme Disease Association)
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