Our Feral Chickens and Wild Birds
Two of our feral hens hatched clutches of chicks this past week. Most of our egg layers are a half mile from the house in the back pastures, but we have a few mongrel yardbirds we keep around for tick control. They rustle all their feed, raise their chicks, and poop all over our patio. Here are some shots of the hens with their new chicks.
Also in the lean-to, between the roof and a windowsill, I found the nest shown below. I took the picture on tip-toe, so my hand was wobbly and the focus poor. Notice the dots all over the wood beam at the top? Zoom in and you’ll see lots of Red Mites. I’ve never noticed mites or lice infestations on our chickens, but these poor little guys must be getting bled dry. Just in the few seconds I was holding the phone near the nest, more mites dropped down from the roof and swarmed over my hand to take bites out of me. I’ve seen mites in songbird nests several times. Mites and lice can be a drag on poultry health and severe infestations hurt egg production. This is more of an issue in confinement, but I’m not sure why our chickens seem to do avoid this problem altogether. Perhaps because chickens take more dust baths than wild birds? Maybe their grooming habits are better? I don’t know. I’m just glad we don’t have to deal with these little bloodsuckers.
(By the way Jerry, I made no attempt at identifying these birds. The mother was a fast flyer not much bigger than these nestlings. A day after this picture, they all fledged and disappeared.)