Nature’s Insecticide: Diatomaceous Earth

 

Diatomaceous earth isn’t just for chickens! Made of fossilized diatoms, a type of microscopic algae that has collected for thousands of years in now-dry lake beds, these deposits are mined and ground into a fine, off-white powder known as Diatomaceous earth, often called DE for short. DE contains an assortment of trace minerals, but it’s main component is silicon dioxide, or silica. Its absorbent and mildly abrasive nature makes it capable of binding to heavy metals and toxins when ingested.

Diatomaceous earth has several beneficial qualities for poultry as well as pigeons and caged birds. DE is an effective chemical-free preventative and treatment of insects including; lice, mites, ticks, fleas, spiders, bedbugs, and ants.

 

HOW IT WORKS:

The fine powder of diatomaceous earth adheres to the exoskeleton of insects, then the sharp edges of the fossilized diatoms cut through the outer surface and into the insect’s softer tissues. DE is extremely absorbent and will dehydrate the insect; this process can take a few hours to several days. DE also works on developing insect eggs and larvae.

Because DE works to kill insects physically via dehydration, we do not need to worry about chemical resistance, egg/meat withdrawal times, or any negative impacts due to chemical inhalation/contact etc. In other words, using DE is natural as it gets!

 

DIRECT APPLICATION IN FEATHERS:

While holding the bird, lightly sprinkle DE through the birds feathers. During the application of DE, the dust may become airborne. Food grade DE is not a toxin, but as with any kind of dust, even road dust, baby powder or corn-starch, inhaling it can irritate the lungs and it can get into the eyes. Use adequate ventilation and avoid breathing the DE dust. If concerned about inhalation, cover the birds head with a towel while applying DE to the feathers

 

IN THE FEED:

Diatomaceous earth can be added directly to the feed to protect the seed from spoilage due to weevils and other grain eating insects. Additionally, its ability to absorb moisture makes it a great preservative for stored grain. No harm is caused when ingested and it may have a positive effect internally to detoxify as well as deworm the bird.

Add 2% to total weight of grain. For example, for 50lbs of feed, add up to 1lb of Diatomaceous earth. DE powder is fine and light and will naturally stick to grain without the need to coat with oils. Give the DE coated feed to your birds as often as desired

 

IN THE LOFT:

Diatomaceous Earth can be added to the loft litter, perches, in nest boxes, around nest bowls, and in crevices and cracks where insects may hide.

DE should be applied to dry areas (for the best results), so make sure birds and loft/cage are dry.

As you add in new litter, shavings, straw etc, add in Diatomaceous earth, sprinkle about ½ cup per every 2 sq ft.

For poultry add a light layer of DE to their dust bathing area and as the chickens bathe, they will self-apply it throughout their feathers.

Regular application every 6 to 8 weeks is recommended to avoid re-infestation. For extra pest prevention, mix in Flowers of Sulphur before applying DE.

 

 

Feathers!

In the next coming months our young birds will go through their first molt. Feathers are one of the most important characteristics our birds have, which we as fanciers can have a direct impact on, in just the way we care for our birds during their feather growth periods.

As you move this years’ youngsters to a grow-out pen, its a great time to take a look over each bird. Give each bird a tablet for preventing canker, and dip or spray with a permethrin solution to treat and prevent external parasites. As soon as squeakers have been moved/weaned they will begin to molt their baby feathers; body feathers will drop first and grow in rapidly. The wing and tail feathers naturally drop in pairs, beginning with the feathers on the inside of the wing (secondaries) and molting toward the wingtips (flight feathers). Tail feathers drop starting in the center and molting outwards.

It is especially important to provide fresh food, water and mineral grit daily during the breeding and molting season. Any stress due to sickness, medication treatment, or times of poor/limited food or grit can cause a delayed or interrupted molt, and/or structural defects in the new feather called fret marks.

Some medications, specifically wormers containing Fenbendazole should not be used when feathers are actively growing as they will cause fret marks. Instead use medications containing alternative active ingredients, such as Moxidectin (SCATT and Quest Wormer) which has a wide safety margin and has not been found to cause defects in feather growth.

Cutting the feather quill (about 2/3rd of the way up from the feather tip) prior to pulling it is thought to dry out the feather quill and loosen it within its’ follicle, allowing for a less stressful and easier removal process. Growing feathers have a blood supply, and if pulled incorrectly can result in the bird bleeding through its feather shaft; quickly pull the entire feather to stop bleeding. Tip: Pliers can be helpful to get a good grip!

Protein, mainly in the form of keratin, makes up approximately 90% of the dry matter content of feathers. Keratin contains a high level of amino acids methionine and cysteine. Before the onset of the molt, increase protein and high fat seeds in the feed mix, and give vitamin and mineral supplements which include amino acids. Offer the birds weekly baths containing bath salts with Eucalyptus. The addition of Eucalyptus essential oil will help to deter external pests. Bathing also softens the growing feather sheath and stimulates preening (which in turn improves and maintains feather condition), this reduces the time to complete the molt, as well as increases the overall contentment of the birds in the loft.

Racing Birds

Generally, the young bird race season starts in August. Many fanciers pull flight feathers to speed up the molt process and to guarantee feather growth is completed in time for the beginning of the race season. It is suggested to pre-train young birds out to about 30 miles, and then following the natural molt of the 2nd flight, cut the 9th and 10th flight (the outermost feathers on the wing). After two weeks, pull the cut flights with a firm steady motion. Following pulling feathers, birds should be locked up and off the wing for the following six weeks to allow for the best feather regrowth.

Show Birds

For show birds, feathers are pulled if broken, in poor shape, or in tiger/splash colored birds to increase the spread of white in the bird’s pattern. The feathers on a muffed bird should be pulled roughly six to eight weeks before a planned show to guarantee the muff is in the best shape come show-time. Body feathers which form ornaments such as a crest, hood, mane, chain, or frill should be cut at the feather base (if allowed as part of the breed standard). Body feathers if pulled, will regrow rapidly between shows, and will create more work and/or pin feathers for the fancier. A cut feather will not molt and regrow on its own until the proper season, but a pulled feather will immediate begin to regrow itself. In case of a broken or mis-pulled blood feather, attempt to remove the feather completely and clean any resulting stain by spraying area with hydrogen peroxide or Miracle Care Feather Glow (found on Amazon)

Feather Regrowth Estimates

Flights: 6-7 weeks (Racing Homer) up to 12 weeks (Old German Cropper)

Body Feathers: ~3 weeks

Muff Feathers; Pomeranian Pouter: 8 weeks, Bavarian Pouter: 7 weeks, West of England: 6 weeks

 

Quality Copele Breeding Cages!

Quality European made all-metal cages. These thoughtfully designed cages include removable wire grate floors, slide out metal dropping pans, and locking doors, and are easy to assemble and clean as well. Dividers can be positioned up and out of the way to make one larger compartment per level. Optional wheel kit fits on all styles of Copele cages.

 

Europa

3 levels / 3-6 sections ($399)

Center divider can be stored up and out of way to create one larger compartment per level

Optional Accessories: Wheel Kit ($38), 2 Hole Feeder ($11)

Wire Spacing: 1 1/8”

Overall Dimensions: 66.5T x 18D x 41W

Compartment Dimensions: 17.25T x 18D x 19.5W

 

 

 

Molting Cage – 2 TIER

*2 hole feeders included! Can be setup with or without legs.

2 level / 4 section ($285)

Wire Spacing: ½”

Overall Dimensions: 39T x 20D x 47W (not including leg height)

Compartment Dimensions: 17.5T x 20D x 23W

 

 

 

 

Molting Cage – 3 TIER – Available in two widths (39W or 47W)

*2 hole feeders included! Can be setup with or without legs.

3 level / 6 section ($385 or $439)

Wire Spacing: ½”

Overall Dimensions: 58.5T x 20D x 39W (not including leg height)

Compartment Dimensions: 19.5T x 20D x 19W

OR

Wire Spacing: ½”

Overall Dimensions: 58.5T x 20D x 47W (not including leg height)

                                                                                                                   Compartment Dimensions:  19.5T x 20D x 23W

 

 

Resolving Issues in the Breeding Loft

Well its just about breeding season again!

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to treat your entire loft for canker. Be sure to change the canker medication you use every now and then to reduce the possibility of developing a medicine-resistant strain in your loft.

Many fanciers opt to use a 4 in 1 as preventative treatment, which treats canker, coccidiosis, e.coli, and salmonella in one simple treatment. Additionally, a de-wormer can be safely used before there are babies in the nest. Small stable colonies of canker, e.coli and coccidiosis are normal inhabitants within the pigeon’s body. Extra stress during the breeding season can cause these populations to gain traction and cause both adults and babies to become symptomatic. Better than any medicine treatment or supplement, the key is to practice good husbandry! Frequently cleaning drinkers and providing fresh water is probably the number one thing we can do for our birds to reduce the spread of disease!

Pairing

Before putting a new pair together, it can be helpful to place the birds in a divided nestbox where both birds can see each other. This setup especially helps with aggressive cocks, who may drive a hen too aggressively when she may not be receptive. Provide the cock with a nest bowl where he can call to the hen. Providing both birds nesting material such as tobacco stems will also increase pairing and breeding activity. After a few days, once the hen appears to be interested, remove the divider and allow both birds to meet.

Infertility

Infertility issues can stem from either the hen or cock. Generally, if eggs appear normal and contain a normal sized yolk but no chick forms, this is normally the result of an infertile, old, or very young cock failing to inseminate the hen. Cock fertility tablets can be given to increase libido and improve overall physical condition. Feathers around the vent of both cock and hen can be trimmed back with scissors before the start of breeding season to increase cloacal contact and increased fertility. Cut feathers around the vent rather than pull them, as pulled feathers quickly regrow.

A month or so before breeding season, increase the amount of Vitamin E in the diet. Vitamin E is shown to increase libido in both the cock and hen. Wheat germ oil is very high in vitamin E (255 mg/100g), with the highest content of vitamin E of any food that has not undergone prior preparation or vitamin fortification. Sunflower seeds are also very high in vitamin E. Take caution with feeding oils and/or fatty seeds/nuts like sunflower (also peanuts) as they can spoil easily and cause issues in the crop. Store oils and oily nuts/seeds out of the sunlight, purchase smaller amounts more frequently, and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Not Laying

E.coli. infections of the uterus can lead to chronic infertility. Separate any hens (which are still breeding age) which have stopped laying, treat with Amoxicillin and Ideal pills for 10 days.

Egg Bound Hens

Be sure to have several types of grit available year-round for all birds, double check that your grit has calcium, vitamin D3 and magnesium included in the mix, or you will need to supplement this separately. A lack of these key minerals may result in soft shelled eggs, which can cause egg-binding in the hen. Egg-binding can be fatal. Eggs may break and cut into the lining of the reproductive tract and cause bleeding. Sepsis may result due to the breakdown of the egg contents and bacterial growth, as well as their inability to pass excrement.

Old hens are more susceptible to egg-laying issues, especially when they are nearing the end of their reproductive years, as their reproductive tract muscles are not as strong and the last few eggs they pass may also be softer or irregular.

If you experience a hen which appears hunched over and depressed, fluid or egg contents in the feathers around the vent, and/or sometimes unable to move her legs or tail (the egg can put pressure on the spinal cord), it’s time to bring her to a warm, dark and quiet location. If it not too cold/windy where the hen is housed, soak her in a warm bath and gently massage her back to relax the muscles, for about 10 minutes. Gently dry the hen and offer her a heating pad on level 1, although it is important that she be able to move off of the heat source if she chooses. A few drops of oil can be given orally, and a lubricant can also be inserted via 1cc syringe into the vent of the hen. Give calcium liquid orally as calcium helps to induces muscle contractions. Return the hen to her warm, dark and quiet location, repeat as necessary every few hours. If the hen is of value/importance and the above fails to produce an egg, bring her to a vet where they can further assist her.

Dead-in-shell

If chicks die in the shell before hatching out, add Breeding Preparation to the drinking water. More often than not, this is due to an iodine deficiency in the hen. Iodine naturally occurs in fertile soil, but when the same food crops are planted on the same plot over a long period of time, minerals are not cycled back into the soil and mineral deficient food is produced. If Iodine added to the water does not remedy the situation, your birds may be experiencing a form of paratyphoid, but this usually will have manifested itself prior to the breeding season.

Splay-leg and Rickets

A lack of calcium, vitamin D3, and magnesium can also be detrimental to the formation of healthy bones in the growing chick, and may result in splay-leg and/or rickets. Chicks with splay-leg appear as if they are doing the splits in their nest bowl. Splay-leg can also be caused by poor or no nesting material in the nest bowl. Legs can be bound together, and the leg position corrected if caught early enough.

Young birds with rickets are unable to fully stand, misshapen beak or keel, bowed legs, drooping wings, hard bumps on the wings and legs. These bumps are actually small fissures in soft bone that have calcified (healed on their own). Rickets can also occur in adult hens, especially towards the end of the breeding season when they have depleted the calcium reserves stored in their bones. Hens may show a lack of appetite, be fluffed up and depressed, and be more prone to bone breaks.

Bone mineralization is a constant process and therefore correction of dietary deficiencies or imbalances can ease the condition if identified early enough.

Fostering Chicks

If foster pairs are not available to take on abandoned chicks, babies can be hand-fed. It’s smart to have a supply of hand-feeding formula such as Exact on hand. Many different types of feeding syringes are available, try a few and see which you prefer. After warming up the chick, fill the crop until it feels like a soft water balloon using slightly warm (but not hot!) formula. Overfilling the crop can cause damage to the tissues and result in infection. Check the crop every several hours, feeding again only when the crop is empty.

 

All of us at JEDDS hope you enjoy another season of happy and healthy birds!!

 

Prevention is the Best Medicine

Young Bird season (and Show season) tests the undeveloped immune system of our birds and many are bound to get sick, so make a plan to stay ahead of the game– build up their immune system and gut flora well before the first race or show. It’s also good practice to keep a few basic medications in your cabinet for the birds that have to be pulled out of your loft (the favorite go-to is Tony’s Treasures).

Pigeons are susceptible to a number of diseases, two of which can present neurological symptoms such as spinning and head twisting. Both Paramyxovirus (PMV) and Paratyphoid share common symptoms and it can sometimes be difficult to tell the two apart.

PMV is the most likely culprit for birds showing neurological symptoms. Birds are often unable to eat and drink due to their physical instability. PMV also affects the kidneys so birds drink excessively when they can and can have very loose droppings. It is not necessarily fatal so with proper care and observation, your birds can survive it.

 

Responding to Paramyxovirus:

  • Because PMV is a virus, it is unable to be treated/cured with medicine.
  • Remove birds that are showing symptoms. If supportive care is to be given, make sure food and water is within reach and monitor weight, birds may need to be tube fed.
  • Treat any secondary infections with antibiotics. *Some fanciers suggest using Enrofloxin for 10 days along with DMG 15 for 21 days to birds showing symptoms, 10 days for the rest of the flock – this rules out Paratyphoid and eliminates E.coli infection.
  • Vaccinate birds in loft with La Sota Vaccine by administering in the drinking water. This vaccine has a rapid titer/immune response, although offers only a temporary immunity for about 4-6 months. Observe the remaining birds in the loft and continue to remove birds that show symptoms.

Paratyphoid, sometimes called Salmonella, is a bacterial infection which can cause loss of appetite, diarrhea / green slimey droppings (sometimes with blood), increased thirst, stiffening of the joints (they may be unwilling to fly). Chronic Salmonella can affect the birds internal organs, as well as visible swelling of the wing and leg joints. Sometimes neurological symptoms can present. At this stage, Paratyphoid is very likely fatal, and occurs quickly.

In either case, immediately provide immunostimulants and probiotics as well as electrolytes (to combat dehydration). Remember, if you jump to treat your entire team with medicine, birds who are not clinically sick are now brought down and out of condition. Observation is key. Also, this is a great time to disinfect the loft and your crates.

To treat Paratyphoid:

  • Remove young birds in your team that are already showing symptoms, and treat using Enrofloxin, also make sure to provide a liver support supplement (Lewerstim and/or DMG 15).
  • Observe the remaining birds in the loft. If other birds seem to be getting ill, treat with Amoxicillin and/or Furaltadone. Also consider Avio’s Typhoid Cure or Chevita’s Furazolidon
  • If many birds in the loft are sick, treat the whole loft with Enrofloxin/ Lewerstim  and/or DMG 15.
  • Some fliers suggest vaccinating all remaining non-symptomatic birds in the loft (KM-1 Salmonella Vaccine), while continuing to remove any birds that present symptoms

 

*photo credit chevita.com

 

Tis the Season… for Adenocoli

 

With the start of Young Bird racing season underway, birds who once appeared at the top of their game may start to show signs of sickness. As young pigeons with fairly immature immune systems co-mingle in shipping crates with birds from other lofts under close and often stressful conditions, sickness is bound to find opportunities to spread.

The best thing we can do for our birds is to support their immune systems well before race day. With so many race supplements available on the market it is sometimes difficult to prioritize Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic Juice, Oregano, and/or Probiotics into our supplement schedule, yet really these are the most important.

Do NOT use antibiotics as preventative treatment, this really is asking for trouble, weakening the bird as well as multiplying the opportunity for the growth of drug-resistant bacteria in our lofts!! Instead focus on the bird’s immune system and strengthening the gut flora for increased health and resistance.

Sometimes even after all we do to prepare our birds for race day, they may still come home looking “off”. If symptoms begin to show such as lack of appetite, undigested food in the crop, increased thirst, diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, and loss of body condition, these are the beginnings signs your birds may have Adenocoli virus, a combination of both Adeno virus Type-1 and an E.coli infection. Not all birds in the loft will show symptoms at the same time or even at all, often just 5% will be symptomatic.

Expect other secondary infections (especially canker or respiratory) to occur during and after the outbreak of the virus, as the bird’s immune system will continue to be weakened for several weeks. Remember, don’t be disheartened if after it seems like the virus has run its course, birds that were not previously sick are now showing symptoms!

Treatment:

  1. Use an immune stimulant like Viroban, Medimune, and/or Vita Duif
  2. Next add Adenozap, DMG-15 or Lewerstim (for liver support), and Amoxicillin 10% (to treat secondary infections) to the water and treat for 7 consecutive days. Recovery may take up to one week.
  3. Follow up with a good Prebiotic/Probiotic!

Other Important Notes:

  • Keep loft clean and dry. Depending on your loft husbandry beliefs it may be time to disinfect perches, feeders, drinkers and crates.
  • Reduce training frequency and distance. Keep sick birds home from the races this week. Limiting stress and increasing rest means your team may be able to recover more quickly and continue the race season.
  • Do not ship symptomatic and out of condition birds. These sick birds do not have the necessary energy reserves and will do poorly at the races or may not return home at all.
  • Following treatment,  loft fly and observe. If they are active around the loft- slowly resume road training. For birds that were obviously sick and out of condition they may require an additional 1 week of rest following treatment depending on severity of symptoms.

The Benefits of Anise Oil


Anise Oil is derived from the perennial herbal plant, Anise or Aniseed. Pigeons are attracted to the sweet spicy aroma of Anise oil, which is often put on the food or grit to increase appetite and trapping success in racing lofts. This oil can also be used to help settle or re-settle birds in new lofts or boxes.But Anise Oil is so much more than a trapping or re-settling oil!

Anise oil has an impressive list of benefits for our pigeons;

  • Promotes digestive health
  • Increases libido
  • Helps to eliminate congestion in the respiratory tract
  • Acts as a insecticide in the feed
  • Helps to treat and prevent intestinal worms
  • Displays potent antioxidant action
  • Has antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties
  • Stimulates blood circulation
  • Boosts the metabolism and nervous system
  • Acts as a pain reliever for muscle pains and cramps
  • Has a calming effect

While inexpensive and often overlooked, Anise Oil contains massive benefits for our pigeons and should be in every fanciers arsenal!


Preventing PMV-1 with Lasota Vaccine

While PMV-1 Vaccine continues to be unavailable in the US legally, other temporary protection is available. We once again have Lasota Vaccine in stock! Order HERE
 
A recent journal article compared the effectiveness of treating Pigeon PMV with the Newcastle Vaccine available for chickens (ND Vaccine), compared against a local PMV-1 Vaccine, and a control group receiving no vaccine. 
 
The results show while the PMV-1 vaccine offered 100% protection/survivability to the virus, the ND Vaccine offered a more rapid and higher titer/immune response. ND vaccinated birds did receive protection to the PMV virus temporarily, with greatest protection around 2 months, and antibodies persisting for at least 6 months. ND vaccinate birds showed PMV antibody titers decreasing gradually to their lowest titers by the 12th month.
 
It was found that the ND Vaccine resulted in 50% survivability of birds challenged by the virus. In comparison, non-vaccinated birds experienced only a 10% survivability rate against PMV-1.
 
In summary- while the Newcastle Vaccine only offers temporary protection for our pigeons, the titer/immune response is rapid and does protect pigeons against PMV-1 for at least 4-6 months. Although the survivability rate when using Newcastle Vaccine is only 50%, this still offers our birds an additional 40% chance of surviving  (given the lack of PMV-1 specific vaccines on the market) compared to the non-vaccinated survival rate.

We hope to see a PMV-1 vaccine back in the US market soon, as racing and show pigeons are in dire need of protection. Furthermore, our unvaccinated birds pose a risk to other poultry throughout the country! Keep your birds healthy with oregano or apple cider vinegar in the water, as well as the occasional treatment of medicine a few times throughout the year. Healthy birds are less likely to be susceptible to viruses and more likely to survive the challenge. Additionally, until a PMV-1 vaccine is once again available, treat your birds with the Newcastle Vaccine (LaSota strain), and rest easier knowing you are giving your birds a fighting chance.

See the journal article here: