We have a small flock of Light Sussex chickens and ex-battery hens, Indian Runner ducks and Saddleback geese - we are still novices having only had livestock for the past 3.5 years.
Andrew Mayflower wrote:The chickens do make their own dust baths. Sometimes in places we'd rather they didn't.
I can appreciate the desire to provide dust baths if your birds are restricted to a particular area. We tried providing a dust bath/box early on with wood ash and DE etc. etc. and never saw them use it - as they free range from dawn until dusk they "bathe" themselves wherever they want... it appears that their favourite places are our pig shelters when they are not in use, where they scratch the layer of straw and wood chips down to super fine, dry soil underneath that probably contains pig skin cells, various flakes of other stuff that has come off the pigs skin, etc. That experience reinforced our desire to let our critters do what they might do naturally. Our ex-battery hens are a good example - despite living their first 12 months in an egg factory, after 3-4 months of spring/early summer free ranging with no daily feeding from us, their coats/feathers/skin/feet all became terrific and their natural habits have developed too.
Andrew Mayflower wrote:Also, a dedicated dust bath that we provide them allow us to more easily use things like DE to help control mites. I haven't noticed any problems with mites, but it's usually better to set them up with a way to prevent problems than treat them after the problem becomes apparent.
We use animal grade DE (food grade is more expensive and it is not produced or retailed here in Bulgaria so we have to import it) in our home-mixed worming treatment for all our critters (chooks, ducks, geese, sheep, pigs, dogs) and we also routinely (every couple of months for the dogs, and during the "bug season" for the birds) give them a dust bath by hand - pretty much the only time we handle the birds unless there is an obvious issue. Our bird accommodation is deep littered straw and we do sprinkle a good dose over it everytime we add fresh straw. When we do clear out the deep litter, and after scrubbing out and letting it dry, we liberally dust the inside of the wooden chicken coop and goose house, and dust any wooden things in the large duck house which is mud brick on 3 sides.
Andrew Mayflower wrote:Our ladies eat slugs. I'd always heard chickens don't eat slugs and if you want to get rid of slugs you need to get ducks. Well, that most definitely is not true in my experience. Since they have more or less eliminated the slugs on my property (at least within their zone of typical free-ranging) do I need to deworm the girls? DW thinks we should. I'm not opposed to it if it's necessary, but they seem to be healthy and laying well, considering the low light of winter. If deworming is called for what would be right kind of dewormer to use?
Perhaps because we rarely - if ever - put down any hard feed for our birds between April and October, we have seen the meat eating/catching habits of our chickens and ducks very regularly. We have slug traps in our garden and fodder field which get emptied out for the ducks and chooks to fight over, the ducks regular catch frogs and toads during the season and we have seen the chickens eating mice and baby rats too.
Much as I prefer to leave all our critters to do their thing and we do not inoculate or vaccinate them, and only resort to pharmaceutical treatment in serious cases, we do worm all our critters on a monthly basis, all with exactly the same mixture: garlic powder, turmeric, tobacco and DE. For the birds we mix this concoction with "wet" treats like chopped up tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, soft fruit and the like when they are getting plenty of fresh produce. In winter we dampen their grain feed, add the worming mix and stir it in, then let it dry out overnight. We also - in the season - grind our pumpkin seeds to powder and use that as an alternative natural anthelmintic for the critters and even ourselves as a general preventative.
PS: Never seen the chooks eating wood as is, but often seenthem pecking at any wood (or anything else) around the place where there are bugs, insects, wormy creatures, etc. actually in the wood.