October 27, 2008

Foiled Again, Mr. Deer?

Posted in Garden Pests at 6:38 pm by yjohn

This year, for the first time, I encountered a problem with deer eating my crops. In a mini-farm, a small herd of deer can do a lot of damage in a hurry; so the evidence of their passage was rather obvious.

Not tonite, deer.

Now, I like deer just as much as the next guy. Especially for dinner. But I live in what is called a “compact area” meaning that it is illegal for me to shoot them with either a firearm or a bow. Too bad, because there is a certain justice to the idea that I should eat the animal who ate my crops.

Anyway, as that wasn’t an option, I needed another alternative. I can’t just let Bambi and Co. eat my family out of house and home!

I tried all those sprays that could be bought at the local feed store. Expensive and almost — but not quite — useless.

Much better, though admittedly more diabolical, was the old “peanut butter on tinfoil wrapped around an electric fence” trick. You see, like practically everything else on the planet, deer love peanut butter. Very few body parts are more sensitive to electricity than the mouth. I just got some cheap “step on it to drive it into the ground” plastic fence stakes, some electric fence wire and an electric fence energizer.

Problem solved. Or, as the deer said: “Drats! Foiled again!”

Okay, bad pun. But this is home agriculture, home of a sense of humor — even if it’s a bad one.


Vaccinating Poultry for Newcastle/Bronchitis

Posted in Livestock, Poultry, Veterinary at 6:11 pm by yjohn

Newcastle disease is a highly contagious viral illness of birds that has been recognized since the 1920’s. It manifests in various forms, some of which cause as much as 90% mortality in a flock. Newcastle disease infects and is spread by all manner of birds, and it is endemic throughout Western Europe and North America. Most birds don’t experience the levels of mortality and debility that manifest in domestic chickens, though. It is primarily spread by droppings. In plain English, this means that all that is needed for your flock to be wiped out, is for a sparrow to poop into your chicken yard while flying over. (As a side note, the virus causes a mild conjunctivitis in humans and is particularly toxic to cancer cells in humans while leaving normal cells practically unharmed. Research into this is ongoing.)

So vaccinating your flock is a good idea.

Cute chick!

Cute chick!

Meanwhile, while the Newcastle vaccine is available on its own, it can also be purchased as a combined vaccine for Infectious Bronchitis.

Infectious Bronchitis (IB) is caused by a highly contagious coronavirus that mutates rapidly. While the immediate mortality rate from IB tends to be low, it can permanently damage the kidneys and reproductive tracts of chickens, hurts shell pigmentation and makes the eggs unappetizing. Thus, especially if you visit the backyard flocks of other poultry owners, vaccinating your flock for IB makes sense.

So … now that you’ve decided to vaccinate your flock, how do you go about doing it? First you have to get the vaccine — which I order from Jeffers Livestock. Trouble is, the teeny-weeny 7ml (less than 2 teaspoons) vial contains enough dosage for 1,000 chickens. For those of us with a smaller flock of 20 birds or so, it isn’t practical to use the watering directions. So — how do you administer the vaccine?

The vaccine comes with directions. If you can’t find them, you can get them from the Jeffers website.

Two methods are of interest. The first is to use an included plastic dropper and administer one (very small) drop of vaccine either into the nostril or eye of each bird. My birds are pretty tame. They jump up onto my shoulders to keep me company, and have no real issue with me picking them up or handling them. So in my case, this method works just fine. I set up a chair in the chicken yard, bring a couple of pieces of bread with me, and as each chicken takes a turn jumping up onto my lap, I gently hold its head still and beak closed, and put a drop on one nostril. I then briefly close the other nostril with a finger until the drop gets sucked in, give it a piece of bread and send it on its way.

But not all chickens are so friendly and cooperative. When I was a kid we had some chickens who thought they were kamikazes or something, and securing their cooperation in such an endeavor was unlikely. So we vaccinated them through their drinking water.

The question is how do you translate dosage instructions intended for 1000 birds so they work for a small flock of 10-30 birds?

Here’s how I do it.

I re-hydrate the vaccine in the vial using high-quality bottled water, such as Dasani. I shake it thoroughly, and then dump it into a 100ml graduated cylinder. I add water to bring the total volume to 100ml. Now I know that each milliliter has enough vaccine for 10 birds. I set that aside.

Then I turn my attention to the waterer. I take it apart and clean it thoroughly with hot soapy water, rinse it thoroughly and then dry it with paper towels. My water at home isn’t chlorinated. If you have chlorinated water, do the final rinse with bottled water.

Then, I put 1 gallon of bottled water, 1 tsp of powdered milk and 1 ml of vaccine for every ten birds into the waterer and stir it up. Then I make sure that for the next 24 hours it is the ONLY source of water available for the birds. The next day, I clean out the waterer thoroughly and then fill it up with my normal watering solution plus a vitamin supplement. The vaccines are LIVE VIRUS vaccines, and they put some stress on the birds, so I give them the vitamins to help them deal with that.

Speaking of live viruses — I should mention that if you aren’t careful while playing with this vaccine, you’ll get a mild case of conjunctivitis — also known as “pink eye” or maybe some cold-like symptoms. Nothing serious though.