March 2010

How To Dust A Chicken

I knew that eventually I would want to dust my chickens for mites.  My hens live in a chicken tractor, which is like a mobile chicken pen and coop.  As I move it around the yard, it encounters areas which have been in contact with wild birds.  The robins, for example, are running all over the yard this time of year.

If your chickens live in an enclosed pen, then you may never have to dust for mites.  And yet, somehow the mites often seem to creep in!  Watch your chickens for increased itchiness.  Check the undersides of their perches for little black specs - bird mites love to lurk under the perch all day, then creep out at night to suck the blood of your sleeping birds.  And although bird mites don't colonize people, a lot of chicken owners discover that their chickens have mites after their arms get covered in bites while cleaning out the coop.  Gross!

Birds Only Breathe In One Direction

You know, I like to think I have a pretty good grasp on science, and biology, and how the world works.  And then some little fact trots along and knocks me right on my butt, thereby pointing out that the world is far more strange and complicated than we sometimes give it credit for.

This is one such fact, which I stumbled over last week: birds breathe in only one direction.  Most animals, such as ourselves, have "bidirectional respiration."  We inhale, fresh air comes into our lungs, it gets exchanged for all the carbon dioxide and other waste products, and then the old air is exhaled.  Fresh air in; stale air out.  This is also called "tidal respiration," because it's similar to the way the tides move in and out.