Ask the Expert — Summer e-edition 2017

Using Apple Cider Vinegar

How often do you use vinegar? How much vinegar per gallon of water?

— Joe


Hi Joe,

Apple cider vinegar can be used in water for chickens to discourage slime build up and help your chickens stay healthy. It should be used at one tablespoon per gallon of water. If you have hard water you can double the apple cider vinegar. You can use it once or twice a week each week, or for one week straight per month.

You can use either the pasteurized apple cider vinegar or the organic raw vinegar with the “mother” in the bottle. If you use the raw vinegar, then make sure to store it in a cool, dry location with the lid tightly closed.

Hope this helps!


Stopping Fox Attacks

Do you have any tips or hints for foxes? I have one that’s thinning out my flock of guineas and all I ever get is a glance of him when they sound the alarm. My rifle is sighted in and at the ready but the fox always manages to be where I don’t expect him. Sly fox!

— Terry B.


Hi Terry,

Foxes are perhaps the hardest predators to stop. They are smart and they are patient. They’ll watch to get used to your routine so they know the best time to strike. With guineas, this may be hard, but try letting them out to free range at different times of the day. If you have a dog, make sure that it’s able to get to the places your guineas roam. The dog droppings will discourage the fox. Even if you have a dog, male human urine can discourage predators.

You can also try using the red flashing predator lights and leaving a radio on near the coop during the night.

Because predators do get used to a routine, vary up your techniques. It’s harder for them if they can’t quite figure out what you’re going to be doing.

The sad reality is that even with using all these techniques, it’s almost impossible to stop all predators. It’s best to move forward and try to learn from each encounter how to do better next time.

Hope this helps!


Muscovy Duck Babies Abandoned

Hi, I’m really hoping you can help me. I live in Miami, Florida and have a situation with Muscovy baby ducklings that are in danger. Of course no wildlife rescue group will help me since they are not protected here. So Mama duck and her 12 ducklings have been visiting my front yard for the past five to six weeks. I’ve fed them regularly and they’ve always hung out at or very near my home. But suddenly, about three days ago, only the ducklings showed up. Mama was nowhere to be seen all day. The next day, the same thing. I became worried for their safety and decided to catch and trap all 12 of them (what a mission that was!). Even after all the noise they made, no Mama appeared. So I had to assume something really bad happened to her and she was gone for good. I’ve been keeping them in a crate, safe and with plenty of food and water but they refuse to eat. Then today (3rd day of her gone missing), Mama suddenly appeared! I was so happy! She was wagging her tail and they all ran up to her and they all walked away together. But several hours later, I saw the babies all by themselves, again, all huddled up in my front yard. No mom to be seen.

I am so saddened by this! I now have to assume that she is abandoning them on purpose! Or maybe they are refusing to follow her? Either way, I’m so worried for their well-being … they are unprotected and not eating. I know it’s especially dangerous overnight.

Do you have an idea of what could be going on and if there’s anything I can do to help? I don’t know how long  Mom will be gone for this time and if she’s even coming back! Is it best that I trap them again? Or leave them out for Mom to come back for them again? I know they wont make it without protection! Thank you so much in advance for any info that you can provide.

— Cecilia


Hi Cecilia,

It may seem heartless, but in cases of wildlife babies in the spring, it’s often best to let nature take its course. Sometimes the mothers are nearby and although we think the babies are not being watched, they really are.

It’s surprising they won’t eat, especially since the mother had been feeding them before. You may want to provide feed, as you’ve been doing before (when the mother was with them), and maybe some sort of shelter if that’s a possibility. A guess is that the mother may have started a new nest, for another hatch. At five to six weeks of age, the ducklings should be able to be on their own, other than being able to avoid predators. So, if they are in an area that will keep out predators, they are probably okay. They were most likely stressed from being caught and kept in a crate, and that’s why they didn’t eat.

Beyond that, there’s not a lot that you can do.

Hope this helps!


Molting Concerns

I have four chickens: two Jersey Giants and two Golden Sex Links. The black ones molted six months ago but the Golden Sex Links haven’t. What should I do and should I be worried?

— Harrison


Hi Harrison,

There’s probably not a lot of cause for worry at this point. There are a few different possibilities about what’s happening. From your question, it’s hard to tell the age of your chickens so a lack of molt could be age-related. Adult molting usually happens around 18 months of age. If your Golden Sex Links are young, they won’t molt until they are older. It’s also hard to tell when the Jersey Giants molted. If it was last fall, then they’ll be due for another molt this fall. If they molted in the spring, that’s ok, but it’s not as common as a fall molt. It’s good to make sure they don’t have any other issues like stress, lack of water and food or signs of illness.

It’s also possible that your Golden Comets did molt and you didn’t know it. Some birds will go through a hard molt and you’ll see dramatic feather loss and regrowth. Others will go through a soft molt and you’ll hardly notice a feather out of place.

Unless you see other problems, then it’s probably not something to be concerned about, just something to watch in the future.

Sick Chicken

I am really concerned about one of my hens. She is three or four years old and is a Golden Comet. She has not been acting like herself. She is not stable on her feet. She is drooling a lot. She got her feed all wet. She will eat, but not a lot. She also acts sleepy. She does not seem to be able to keep her eyes open. She is not laying any eggs. Can you please help me?

— Kayla Kimberly


Hi Kayla,

Unfortunately, it does not sound like your chicken is doing well. At this point, it’s probably best to remove her from the rest of the flock so she does not get pecked and can rest comfortably. Give her a safe chicken hospital spot to convalesce with food and water. Chicken hospitals don’t have to be fancy. Some folks use dog carriers or plastic storage bins without the top. Just make sure she’s in a well-protected spot like a garage or mud room in your house.

The symptoms you’ve described are good to know but don’t point to a specific problem. It can be hard to correctly diagnose issues via computer conversations.

The best thing for your chicken would be to find a veterinarian that can handle poultry. He or she will be able to physically examine your bird and has access to diagnostic tools to find the results of blood and fecal samples. At that point, your veterinarian can help you choose the best course of action.

Good luck with your hen!


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Please note that although our team has dozens of years of experience, we are not licensed veterinarians. For serious life and death matters, we advise you to consult with your local veterinarian.

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