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Preventing lice/mites and water-proofing walls

 
Kay Kacey
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Location: Colorado zone 4 7000 ft
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We had chickens at our old property for 15 years. We built our chicken house out of pine studs with plywood on a concrete foundation, did not insulate with anything. In the winter, we did have to supplement with light bulb heat to keep the water from freezing, which also provided the day-length for consistent production in the winter. We kept a deep litter of wood shavings that we cleaned out thoroughly about every 4 months (which made the most supreme compost for the garden in about one month of boxing and turning), and when we cleaned, we carefully sprayed the floor clean with a high-pressure hose. At about year 7 keeping birds, we developed a mite/lice problem. We learned that the arthropods had created a home in our plywood walls and pine studs, and we were not able to ever successfully disinfect and get rid of them. Our chickens, with all their dust bathing, were not able to rid themselves of the pests, and the girls were really not very happy or comfortable.
We are building a new chicken house at our new property; our building plan is very similar in that we are using wood products and a concrete floor, but this time we are going to insulate with plenty of windows for ventillation. We hope that we will not have to heat the water to keep it from freezing.
The question: We're thinking about applying a concrete finish, like the enamal "paint" that is being marketed for garage floors - to make the concrete easier to clean off. We'd like to apply something to the wood walls, also, to keep the lice/mites from establishing a home there and to make water-pressure clean-up more effective and efficient. I'm thinking about applying FRP (fiberglass-reinforced plastic) panels over the wood panels, but I don't know if they off-gas VOCs. My husband would like a product that we can just paint on - but I'm pretty sure anything that would paint on as a water-resitant material would off-gas.
Looking for any comments or suggestions! Thank you!
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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While the chickens will not fall over and die. Keeping them in their own feces and urine is not good.
And even worst if you box them up in keeping in all that odor/chemical and heat.
At the very least you should use a metal post and a wire mesh enclosure.
that way you will not have places for lice/etc and if you must use wood, it would only be little amount.
You would also keep them above and out of their own shit and piss
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Welcome to Permies, Kay, I don't have any experience with chickens but I am sure there are folks here who can help and this will bump your question back up to the top.
 
Kay Kacey
Posts: 5
Location: Colorado zone 4 7000 ft
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Thank you Judith!!
In case anyone needs the additional information, my girls are in their open-air yard (thus the dirt baths), and access the garden and compost pile regularly, most of the day. I'm sorry if I offended anyone's sensibilities thinking that I keep them enclosed with artifial light 24/7 - I don't. I really want to be a good hostess to my girls, and keep them happy, healthy and protected from predators. (though the owls, hawks, foxes, etc. do need to eat also)
Namaste
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Build a all metal house using metal posts/framing and a wire mesh enclosure.

that way you will not have places for lice/etc and if you must use wood (lay eggs), it would only be little amount.

A mess bottom will also keep them above and out of their own waste. While improving air circulation.
 
Kay Kacey
Posts: 5
Location: Colorado zone 4 7000 ft
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Thank you for this idea, and thank you for your concern about humane conditions for our friends!
We've already built most of the new chicken house. We're converting an old barn. Its on a south-facing slope with a warm microclimate, and we're going to build a passive solar greenhouse on the front.
 
Jay Green
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People have been using wooden coops since time began and have solved this thousands of years ago. No need to reinvent the wheel. Stop cleaning out your deep litter...you are effectively removing all the beneficial insects who could be preying upon the mites and lice each time they get established and what's worse, you are then hosing out all the beneficial microbial life established there as well. The good guys are attracted to the fecal matter in the litter and the good pH of the materials there and will stick around to eat the larvae of your bad guys.

Your problem is not the wood, it's your methods. I've been keeping chickens in wooden coops for 36 years and never had mites and lice problems in my coops. It's not the climate in which you live, not the bug life in your climate, it's not the presence of places for these bugs to hide...it's the methods.

Deep litter is not just bedding that becomes deep and then you clean it out...deep litter is to be cultivated and broken down, it is to attract beneficial bugs, worms, nematodes, bacteria and fungi~all of these inhibit the overgrowth of the more harmful bugs, worms, nematodes, bacteria and fungi. Guess what? The more harmful guys grow more quickly and repopulate more quickly each and every time you discard the good guys in your litter. Even the agribiz guys found that out and found that broiler chicks die in huge numbers when put on fresh litter but do not die as chicks when put onto old litter or litter that has been inoculated with old litter. Those who use it effectively never fully clean out their deep litter...they just add to it, remove some of the more composted materials for the garden each spring and maybe some in the fall but they never fully clean out that deep litter from the coop and they certainly never, ever use a disinfectant or insecticide on the litter or on the coop walls or floors.

I wouldn't insulate, I would implement a lot of ventilation...as in huge windows that let in sunlight and lots of air, both winter and summer. Freezing water? Get a heated dog bowl, solves all of that. I'd free range or temporary paddock instead of confine to coop and run. I would never use any kind of pesticide wash or powder in the coop or on the birds..and that includes DE. It is an indiscriminate killer and kills both good and bad, no matter how natural it may seem it is not.

Want to dust your birds, do it with wood ashes~don't forget to apply something to the nit eggs around the vent~NuStock will work there..it is also naturally good. Wood ashes are free, effective, not harmful. For now and since you seem to have a current problem with them and need an immediate fix, you could spray your roosts with Neem oil to prevent the mites from feasting on your birds in the night and I'd make sure they have plenty of roosting space and are not crowded up against the walls. Once you get a good system going, you shouldn't ever have to spray anything in your coop again.

Time, fresh air, sunlight, fresh soils and proper deep litter will take care of your mites and lice.

If you want to know how to prevent lice and mites you talk to people who have never had them after many years of keeping chickens. If you are taking advice from those who have had them, they have not been successful in preventing them and thus are probably not the best source of finding out how to prevent the occurrence of these pests.
 
Kay Kacey
Posts: 5
Location: Colorado zone 4 7000 ft
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you have no idea how much sense this makes - I wanted to keep our chickens on "deep litter" and I tried to explain the biodiversity of the method to my husband (god bless him, he's an RN), but he just couldn't wrap his head around letting it get dirty means its cleaner than before.
In fact, I was the primary chicken husbanman for the years PREMITEs - and the coop got cleaned maybe once a year, and not hosed out. When my beloved become more involved (because my methods were so unhygenic), that's when the more frequent and thorough clean-outs started happening. That is exactly when the mites and lice established themselves.
Now, if I can just help him to understand this with our new property and new flock...
Of course, the upside of his method was that we had gobs and gobs of immensley rich compost. It really increased our garden fertility, and almost offset the damage from foraging chickens.
 
Jay Green
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LOLOL...I've heard this story so many times, sometimes it's the husband, sometimes the wife, who doesn't agree with a method and creates a situation because of it. I'm a nurse as well, so it all made sense to me when I first started using deep litter years ago. I've never been one to wash my hands a thousand times a day in fear of germs...and I have rarely ever gotten ill during my nursing career. Washing away one's beneficial bacteria is not a good first step to disease prevention. Nor is giving broad spectrum antibiotics for every little fever and sore throat...and now they are finding out the reason why.

You are right and I'd point that out to Mr. Clean...and then go back to doing right by your birds. They will thank you, you will be happier and hubby just might learn a thing or two....wives are pretty smart cookies and they deserve some consideration.

Tell him that it is nurse approved!
 
Kay Kacey
Posts: 5
Location: Colorado zone 4 7000 ft
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I'm feeling like a dolt that I didn't put two and two together myself - I could've just looked at the time line and figured it out...
He is learning about microflora/microfauna slowly. He's active in the area of asthma, and alot of the new medical literature is saying that we need to proactively expose our children to some pathogenic material so that their immune systems learn how to react appropriately - its really all the same thing - we're part of a system, not to be isolated. Maybe I can teach him about deep litter in that context.
Thank you so much for your help.
 
Jay Green
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YW! Good to know that you will be able to correct your problem in an expeditious manner and by just reversing things. That's always nice when you don't have to build different coops or instigate any elaborate routines to get things back to normal. I always shoot for balance in the coop environment and then things pretty much take care of themselves.
 
John Polk
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Here is a good read on deep litter - based on research done @ Ohio State in the 40's:
http://www.plamondon.com/faq_deep_litter.html

 
J Barber
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a good read.... I am fairly new to the chicken raising/egg gathering world and enjoyed the input. Also a nurse and know how after microbiology most nurses turn germophobic or figure out that the little critters are unavoidable/live everywhere/are beneficial in appropriate numbers. Okay... moving on. I thought you might have some information about a wivestale or theory I heard recently. I was told that you shouldn't feed chickens apple cores or peels. The source said the farmers used to feed them intentionally to prevent the eggs being laid when they would be away for a day or so going into town. My egg production had dropped off and that was one possible culprit I was told. I had indeed been feeding them apple cores. Also have been considering making my own feed, didn't realize until recently that the feed store variety had all manner of things I would object to.... go figure! So suggestions for that would also be welcome. We did use wood ash on mite infested birds and it did help but not eradicate the problem. I will however investigate deep litter !
 
Jay Green
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Old wives tale. Been free ranging chickens in a large apple orchard for the past several years and no changes in egg production have been noted beyond the normal slow down in the fall...which just happens to coincide with the fall apple crop. The fall slow down phenomenon is normal and is merely coincidental to a decrease in egg production when apples are the most plentiful.

No farmer keeps chickens from laying if they are going to be away for a day or so...the eggs can be collected when they come back. One can go for several days without collecting eggs if need be, so that dog won't hunt.

Wood ashes are great if your chickens have lice or mites, can help prevent them if placed in dusting spots and in nest boxes....but the all natural approach to preventing parasites is most effective when it's done with their total environment in mind. Just one natural preventative isn't going to be a fix but using several can prevent their ever being a problem in the first place.

Fresh soils underfoot, airy and sunny coops, deep litter to promote beneficial parasitoids, unpasteurized acv or fermented feeds to discourage internal parasites and inhibit overgrowth of harmful intestinal bacterias, etc., so that the fix is an ongoing and more permanent one that is preventative, instead of having to always be looking for a cure.

 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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You might also consider ample plantings of Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) around their coop.

Besides being a favorite food of chickens, it also helps to repel lice. Two birds with one stone.

 
J Barber
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Thanks for all the comments and so promptly. We were just surprised because our fall decline in production was so profound this year. Of course last year we barely had winter here, so perhaps that spoiled us a bit from the 'norm'. We have a lot to learn but am workin' at it! By the way, have you ever done caponizing? I have read a lot about it and even downloaded a great book(let) from a N.Y. library that gave step by step instructions and great pictures. Unfortunately I have tried twice and managed both times to get only one of my targets removed so therefore didn't avoid any of the desired results....like stop the crowing since we live in town. Didn't know what the problem was until we butchered. Am planning to try again but have to wait for more hatchlings.
 
Jay Green
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As far as I know, caponizing won't stop a rooster from crowing. If it did, the city vets could make a mint right now just caponizing roos. It may make them crow less but they will still crow. I've never seen any benefit of caponing a rooster...it doesn't make the meat any sweeter, won't make the bird grow bigger, won't stop the crowing. Just isn't worth the trauma and risk of infection to the bird when it yields very little real good benefits. Roosters raised for meat are usually processed before their hormones get too high anyway, so caponing them and then proceeding to butcher shortly after would be a complete waste of time.

 
I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay, I sleep all night and work all day. Tiny lumberjack ad:

World Domination Gardening 3-DVD set. Gardening with an excavator.
richsoil.com/wdg


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