Suspect worms in your flock? Sprinkle powdered cayenne pepper on top of your flock’s feed once per day, for three days. Can also be used weekly as a preventative. The cayenne powder burns away intestinal parasitic worms.
Old timers swear by this cheap and holistic approach to keeping their chickens healthy. Also safe for ducks, geese and guineas. I don’t have turkeys or other fowl so I haven’t tried it.
Symptoms of infected birds may include:
Low egg counts in spring, summer or other ideal laying conditions, weight loss, anemia, watery output and general poor health. Of course always consult a veterinarian as well if you have concerns.
This image is from a couple of years ago, but the story still applies.
This girl in my arms is Peg, the duck. After we moved to the farm I decided on purchasing a few more ducks to add to our existing flock of four. I went to a local barnyard sanctuary and found Peg and one other female kept in a duck yard… with 80-some drakes. If you know anything about male ducks, then you know they have insatiable appetites for mating. Imagine how battered these two ladies were! I took them both and brought them home along with a drake. Our flock grew to seven.
Peg recovered quickly, along with her other female friend. I thought she was a badass then, and she continued to show her strength after 2 male goose attacks (that gander is no longer here), and a fox that preyed on my flock before Aaxlu arrived. Still she was friendly, followed me, and I so appreciated her resilience.
On this particular afternoon here, I found Peg who had wandered too far from home. Usually after I finish farm work for the day, I shower and change into “real clothes”—hence the dress. You’d think I would learn that this is when all the action starts. 🤣 I had just grabbed my camera to take a photo outdoors and I headed into the woods. That’s where I found Peg. She was attacked by a heron and pierced through the chest. She died shortly thereafter.
As for the photo, I remember I had turned the camera on and set the tripod down for this angle. My phone and timer are on the other side of my skirt. When I found peg nearby, I abandoned my little photo shoot and scooped up Peg. It wasn’t until I returned for the camera and phone later, blood stained from tending to my duck, that I found this image on the camera. It was like a little Christmas gift from Peg.
I’m sharing this story because I continue to be impressed by the strength of animals. Not just with Peg but with Finnegan, my horribly abused and rescued Clydesdale. This holiday season, if you intend to purchase a pet or animal, please consider adopting from a shelter, sanctuary, or rescue organization. Their work and funding is needed and the animals, at least in my experience, are so deserving of a second chance.
I always make sure to include crops for the flock when planning my annual gardens. Ducks, chickens and geese all benefit from both fresh and dried herbs, flowers and vegetables. Many are medicinal and offer immune support in addition to being tasty treats. Here’s a few I grow and how I use them in the coop:
Lemon Balm (shown)
I use this in my nesting buckets both fresh (summer) and dried (winter) because it’s a naturally calming plant. The strong lemon scent is a great pest and insect deterrent plus this hardy perennial grows back vigorously each year. Careful—it can spread quickly!
I offer basil leaves fresh in the summertime as a snack. These fragrant leaves are a natural antibacterial and help repel flies.
An absolute favorite of mine. I cut the tall stalks in bunches and hang in the coop in the summer. The scent repels flies as the herb dries. The dried plants are then shredded and packed for later use in nesting boxes in colder weather. Anise Hyssop smells like licorice and is said to calm birds while also helping relieve congestion if taken internally.
These sweet flowers keep unwanted pests away in the garden plus they attract pollinators. I like to pluck the flowers and feed them to my ducks and geese in the summer and fall as floating treats in their water buckets. They love their peppery flavor and some folks believe them to be a laying stimulant (I have not tried this).
Thyme is an amazing plant. It’s filled with healing properties; it’s antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant... basically anything “anti-“ that’s good. It’s great for placing around bumblefoot-affected birds in their bedding as it is said to aid in staph infections if used topically or ingested.
Cayenne pepper, ground into a powder, can be sprinkled on top of feed. It acts as a natural dewormer—and, if your flock isn’t laying because of a parasitic cause, cayenne pepper can help them restart.
The list goes on and on. What do you grow for your flock and why?
I’m getting guardian goose questions on repeat lately as people start to place their spring chick/duckling/gosling orders. So let’s talk about what a goose can and can’t do for the homestead.
For more information you can see my Instagram highlight of published articles I’ve written on geese called “Writing.” My website has a free goose guide download which I’ll also link to.
Angela is the farmer and content creator behind Axe & Root Homestead LLC. This historic six-acre permaculture farm is home to two Clydesdale horses, ten honeybee hives, five sheep, two guardian dogs, barn cats and a flock of 40 geese and ducks. The farm produces maple syrup, fruit from a small orchard and loads of garden produce for consumption, preservation and donation to the local food pantry.
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