Of Mites and Men

Amelia, not very happy to be photographed in this way and frankly, I don’t blame her.

During yesterday’s bird visit extravaganza, my friend and I noticed something strange about Amelia’s behavior: she wasn’t very active. She spent most of her time preening (cleaning her feathers and skin with her beak), rather than pecking about or roaming with the other Junglefowl.

I didn’t put much thought into it at first, but after the bird visit was over and John had taken his birds away, she was STILL standing around, preening.

I had recently taken the cat to the vet for strange scabs in his ears, odd head shaking and what seemed like an uncomfortable amount of scratching. It turned out he had ear mites.

Suddenly, it occurred to me Amelia might have mites as well, as the behaviors are similar. I took to the Internet for answers, finding out it was highly likely she was infested.

Symptoms of mites include:

  • Excessive preening (!)
  • Dry, scaly feet
  • Missing feathers

Upon closer inspection, Amelia displayed all of these symptoms. Further reading revealed some interesting points, such as the fact that chickens and other fowl roll around in dirt (known as a “dust bath” ) to rid themselves of and prevent mites, as the dust and dirt smother the parasites. (I knew they took these baths, but never WHY)

After unsuccessful attempts to get Amelia to dust bathe, I resorted to manually flipping her around in the dirt and sprinkling dust over the affected areas, under her wings (which, alarmingly, were totally barren of feathers!) and near her tail/vent (the area where her….waste exits).

The next problem area, dry, scaly feet, I addressed in comical fashion. Advice from another blog told me oil rubbed onto the feet and legs will smother mites, similar to the dust bath. I flew into the kitchen, coming up with sunflower seed oil, which I applied to her legs and feet. Oddly, she seemed to enjoy this.

My hilariously crumpled bottle of sunflower seed oil. (It’s the only way it’ll fit in the cupboard!)

Another bit I found suggested putting garlic and apple cider vinegar in her water, as mites do not enjoy the taste of blood saturated with these things. Off to the kitchen again, this time for garlic powder and a dash went in her water dish. Apple cider vinegar was something I lacked and would have to go to the store for.

The final piece of advice I dug up recommended something I had never heard of: “Diatomaceous Earth” (I’m still not sure I pronounce it correctly). This is a substance, made of a sedimentary rock, ground into a fine powder and having various properties, including pest control. From Wikipedia: “The fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects’ exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate. Arthropods die as a result of the water pressure deficiency…”

I had an inkling Tractor Supply carried the stuff, but I was up against a time limitation (yes, I do have a day job) and the Supply is quite a hike from my house. A quick search revealed Wal-Mart has the stuff, at least on their website. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone (well, maybe save one bird with one stone) by picking up the apple cider vinegar AND this weird stuff at a store kind of on my way to work.

They didn’t have it. All I could find was the apple cider vinegar. Out of time (running way behind actually), I went to work, somewhat frustrated.

After work, with not much time to spare (working weird hours in the afternoon has its advantages, but getting to stores before they close is not one of them!), I flew to what my phone’s navigation CLAIMED was the nearest Tractor Supply, but turned out to be a local mom and pop shop. I was somewhat perturbed by this, but decided to give them a try anyway, as I didn’t have much choice late in the evening. This turned out to be great, as the clerks knew exactly what I was talking about, told me how to pronounce it correctly and informed me there are different varieties for different purposes, including one for lawn care and the food grade sort I needed for my bird.

Another benefit of shopping at the unexpected store was this five-pound bag being priced the same as two-and-a-half pound bags I saw advertised online.

This morning, I added apple cider vinegar to her water, slathered her feet with oil and added Diatomaceous Earth to her feed, as well as sprinkling some on her.

I have no idea who got the mites first, the bird or the cat.

I am keeping a close eye on her, keeping her separated from the other birds (also the cat!) and will see what are the results of these remedies. I have also added apple cider vinegar to my adult hen’s water and the Diatomaceous Earth to the cat’s litter box. I am not taking any chances.

Thanks for reading, as always!

Bird Visit Extravaganza!

Today, my friend brought his Junglefowl over to visit. I present scenes from this visit, with captions and commentary. These birds are Amelia’s (my Junglefowl, who I thought was a Red, but turns out to be a cross between a Red and a Grey!) half-brother, Charlie and half-sister, Henrietta.

When John arrived, we put his birds in the tub Amelia stays in when I’m not around so they could say hello while we ate breakfast.

Unleashed outside, Amelia (red and grey in the foreground), Charlie (red, back right) and Henrietta (grey, back left) immediately confused my Dominiques:

The feathered trio perched on the box for some time, examining their new surroundings.

Eventually, Amelia flapped out on my arm, followed by Charlie:

Amelia hopped off and Henrietta came to visit.

Everyone flapped and pecked around for awhile, the Dominiques still unsure what to make of the scene.

Sometimes, a bird flew up to visit:

Charlie apparently didn’t wish to be photographed.

Amelia, on the other hand, is a bit of an extrovert.

This next photograph in particular is noteworthy as it preceded the biggest event of the whole visit and, as a result, was the last one I was able to take:

Here, you can see Josephine, the larger of my two Dominques, investigating the flock of little ones. I’m not sure what prompted this visit, but she came running over like the Junglefowl were on fire. Then she stopped, puffed her feathers out as big as she could and stood there, staring. Suddenly, she pecked at Charlie, who in turn jumped up and pecked back. Josephine recoiled, clearly not expecting this, but regrouped, kicking Charlie to the ground, planting her other foot down on him in the same motion, amidst a flurry of flaps, pecks and some sounds I’d never heard. Before we found out what grisly thing was coming next, I grabbed her up and threw her in the coop. She complained, loudly, for the duration of the visit.

Charlie was ultimately uninjured, although ruffled from the encounter. Nothing else of note occurred, as John had to take off shortly thereafter.

And there ends the tale of the bird visit.

Amelia and I hope you enjoyed the pictures and the read! Thanks again for stopping by!

Tales of Birds

As you may have noticed, I have a baby chick. I have not written about them or shown them until now, but I have two fully grown hens in the yard as well.

I live in an old line suburb of Detroit. The neighborhood, affectionately nicknamed the “cabbage patch,” is predominantly made up of two-story flat rentals, small apartment buildings and long, skinny “shotgun” style single-family homes. It is, effectively, early 20th century inner city Detroit living. We have a diverse array of neighbors and see each other a lot due to the tightness of our homes and yards. This may seem like unnecessary information, but I feel it is good background, as I believe the closeness of the community has helped greatly in answering the most common question: “How the heck do you have those birds in the city?” Simply put, everyone in the neighborhood loves them and I have never had a complaint.

Anyhow, one day last year, my friend, the totally deranged bird breeder, dropped these two off. No, really, he calls me and says “I have these birds and I’m on my way, see you soon!” (I wrote a short narrative on the whole incident and will post it someday.)

They are of a breed named Dominique. Also known as Pilgrim Fowl, this breed is considered the oldest American chicken, likely descending from fowl brought to this continent by, you guessed it, the Pilgrims. At one time, they were uncommon enough to be listed as “endangered” but have recently enjoyed a surge in popularity and numbers.

Josephine and Alberta weigh about six pounds each and lay delicious brown eggs with dark yellow yolks:

This morning, I am working toward acclimation, that is, getting the adult birds to accept Amelia, the young RedJunglefowl, in “their” yard. The Red Junglefowl is a different breed (and arguably a different species) from both the Dominique and modern chickens.

So far so good, they are mostly ignoring her, which is preferable to the first time I tried introducing them, where Alberta pecked at her. This is not an easy process, taking loads of time and patience. I am confident, though, the result will be a beautiful, healthy mixed flock.

Thanks for reading! More bird updates are on the way!