Winter Flock Maintenance

This article on winter flock maintenance for waterfowl is being republished from Acorn Hollow Bantams website with permission from Lou Horton.

Even though the winter season is a period of relative “down time” for waterfowl breeders, there are some “flock maintenance” items that need to be addressed. Early to midwinter is an excellent time to administer wormers to flocks of ducks, geese or chickens because the birds are not being stressed by either breeding or showing activities. That is important since most wormers involve stressing the birds while the worms and eggs are killed/expelled from the bird’s bodies. By the way, most wormers recommend a repeat treatment a week or ten days after the initial treatment. Do not neglect to follow that recommendation if you want the wormer to thoroughly cleanse your birds of those parasites.

Even if the flock is on range, do not neglect to supply a form of grit for those periods of the year when snow cover makes what they would pick up naturally unavailable. If the birds are not laying (or about to begin laying) do not supply oyster shell because the consumption of too much calcium can harm birds not using it to form shells.

winter flockBoth waterfowl and chickens are subject to louse/mite infestations and that is particularly true if the waterfowl do not have access to open swimming water. Ivomec is a good dual purpose product to administer since it will worm and eliminate external parasites at the same time. It does require handling each bird but in my opinion, it is a good product.

As mentioned earlier, the presence of swimming water for waterfowl is a big plus. Not only does it allow the birds to cleanse their plumage and kill some parasites, it also allows them to minimize the mucous buildup around their eyes. Such buildup not only is unsightly but it harbors bacteria that can cause an ongoing low grade infection. Daily bathing will minimize or entirely eliminate the problem in otherwise healthy waterfowl.

Last but not least, I would like to recommend the regular (weekly) use of two products: water soluble vitamins and probiotics. Both products have the ability to help the birds withstand the rigors of extremely low temperatures and fight off potential health problems. Read the labels on whatever brands you use and follow them. Even vitamins can be toxic if given in excessive amounts. More is not better.

By Lou Horton