Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cocci seems to be under control, birds back to normal...

The two days on sulphaquin seem to have been enough to eliminate cocci symptoms in those birds that were starting to droop. All are active and eating well again.

I wouldn't say they're 100% healthy, but healing takes time. The two birds to the right of this photo were the worst affected, and will take longest to get well. However they were eating happily this morning, and perhaps look a little further under par due to the cold (it's quite chilly and breezy where the tractor is at the moment). Still, I'm happy enough with their progress. Coccidiosis can be very fast to take down birds and the two pullets to the right probably suffered the most.

At the moment I've got them on a 90% commercial starter diet — this contains a coccidiostat to keep the parasites from getting out of control. I'm just going to do this for a couple more days and then start to reduce the medicated feed again, in preference for a more natural diet. This weaning will take place fully over the next one to two weeks. Hopefully my mistake with moving the pen infrequently (plus heavy rain) was the only real trigger for their illness, and I won't be risking their health by continuing with the dietary change.

So here's the plan in detail. Watching closely for coccidiosis, I'll start withdrawing the medicated feed once more, and slowly reintroduce cracked corn, millet, protein meals, lupins, lucerne (alfalfa), sunflower seeds, sprouted grains, kefir, oats and meat (bandsaw dust from the butcher, or common mince). I'll also be adding very small amounts of seaweed meal for minerals (seaweed meal is too high in iodine to be fed in large amounts), and a pinch of salt (birds do need some salt, though I always forget to mention it).

The aim is to have 6 week old birds on a fully natural diet (that is, natural but not stringently organic), with processing time set for around the 10-12 week mark instead of around 7 weeks as with commercially reared birds. The point of that is to enhance flavour, protein complexity and therefore nutritional status of the meat, while letting the birds enjoy a tiny bit more life... Meanwhile I aim to keep 3 or 4 of the best pullets to attempt breeding from later on. 

Worth a shot? We'll all have to wait to find out...

Meanwhile he's a comparison shot of the layer chick (front) with one of the meat birds. As you can see, the meat cockerel has that slightly more 'tucked' look while the layer didn't seem to suffer coccidiosis at all.

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