Readers offer feedback on past MOTHER EARTH NEWS articles about chicken diseases, starting a local bike shop, dealing with rattlesnakes and treating hay fever.
Eating local honey every day and chewing honey comb may help mitigate seasonal allergies and hay fever.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/ AHILEOS
Patricia Earnest's article about treatments for chicken diseases in the March/April 1974 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS is a disaster. One old-time remedy I'd advise for her: "An ounce of prevention ..."
 "Chickens still get sick," the author says, "sometimes with fairly lethal diseases ... "; "Vicious" is a better term for Newcastle disease, pullorum disease, infectious bronchitis, etc. There is no treatment for these conditions. Disinfect the premises with lye and start over with clean birds.
 "Roup is caused by cold, damp or drafty quarters ... "; Roup is caused by a protozoan (Trichomonas gallinae). Pigeons and wild birds pick it up and transmit it to chickens via contaminated water. To prevent it, keep such carriers away from your flock — or at least from their drinking water — and try a little Clorox in the liquid. Dimetridazole (0.05 percent) in the water will help prevent severe illness if the disease occurs.
 Gapeworms "lodge in the hen's throat" ... nuts! The larvae of the gapeworm live and mature in the lungs, trachea and bronchi, causing a severe pneumonia in young birds. Holding the chickens upside down by the legs is as ridiculous as holding a human pneumonia patient in a similar position.
Gapes is transmitted when birds eat the larvae or eggs of the pest, or when they eat earthworms, snails and slugs containing the larvae. Prevention consists of keeping the flock off freshly plowed ground where they will pick up many earthworms, and giving 0.1 percent thiabendazole in the feed for two weeks.
 In cases of scaly legs, "that old cure-all potassium permanganate" just turns the legs purple and is virtually worthless. The vaseline Ms. Earnest recommends is somewhat effective, since the disease is caused by a mite and the idea is to smother it with a fine oil. A better, more penetrating coating, however, is one part kerosene to two parts raw linseed oil.
 "Liver trouble", etc. The description of the symptoms suggests a condition known as bluecomb disease, of unknown cause. Stress predisposes chickens to this trouble and should be avoided. Especially, make sure they have water at all times ... and in liquid form, not frozen in the winter. Try one of the following additions to the flock's drink: blackstrap molasses (2 percent), potassium chloride (0.5 percent) or oxytetracycline (1 to 5 grams to 5 gallons of water).
 "Feather pulling is not a disease ... "; It most certainly can be! The condition is called gumboro disease and there is a vaccine which can be put in the drinking water. It's not 100 percent effective but is of worth in large flocks.
A couple more points: Many antibiotics are as "natural" as kerosene or vaseline ... and "newness" should not be a criterion for drug selection. For example, ephedrine was introduced into this country in the 1920s but had been used in China for a few thousand years.
I'd advise Ms. Earnest to chuck her present literature and do one or both of two things:  Buy The Merck Veterinary Manual.  Get hold of some old Chinese manuscripts dealing with medicine, since the Chinese remedies were more advanced in A.D. 1 than the 19th century American remedies espoused by Ms. Earnest.
I'm not a poultry pathologist — merely a graduate vet trying to pass the New York State licensing examinations — but if any readers have questions regarding animal health I'd be more than happy to answer.
Shirley G. Wade's article about avoiding and dealing with rattlesnakes from the March/April 1974 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS contains some good advice and some that is obviously the product of ignorance. I was born and raised in Arizona and have spent a good part of my time outdoors ... and I find some of Ms. Wade's suggestions foolish and ecologically unsound in that they emphasize the killing of snakes.
A large rattlesnake exterminates a highly significant amount of gophers, mice, rats, etc. every month of its life, and many other predators find the snakes themselves quite palatable ... so that the creatures have their own niche in the food chain and total ecology of an area. Furthermore, any rattler that's given an avenue of escape will remove itself immediately from confrontation with human beings.
The sentiment expressed in Ms. Wade's article leads to the kind of indiscriminate killing that has put so many names on our "endangered species" list (the timber wolf and mountain lion are fine examples).
Shirley G. Wade's suggestions on how to avoid snakebite seem to me to be in direct opposition to all the things MOTHER stands for. Here are some facts most people don't know about rattlesnakes and "rattler country":
 If you're in the United States, you're in rattler country. Thirty-three forms of rattlesnakes are found in the U.S. and only three states (Alaska, Hawaii and Maine) have none at all.
 According to a government survey on the diet of rattlesnakes and copperheads, over 90 percent of their food is rodents (rats, mice, gophers, etc.). One large diamondback had the remains of over 50 mice in its stomach. You'll have a larger harvest with snakes in your field.
 Rattlers do not attack human beings (it would be like us trying to attack King Kong). They are terribly shy creatures. Keep away from them and they'll keep away from you.
 Rattlesnakes are not gentlemen. They don't rattle to warn you that they're about to strike, they rattle because they're scared (and rightfully so). Also, snakes are deaf and therefore don't realize that they're rattling.
[5) Most people who are bitten by rattlers are bitten while in the process of "banging the snake to death".
 Knee-high snake boots are uncomfortable and a waste of money and energy. I've walked among hundreds of rattlesnakes in only ankle-high footwear and have never been bitten. The fangs of a large reptile may penetrate the leather anyway.
 Snakebite kits are extremely dangerous. If you use them — or the cutting-sucking method — and survive, it will be in spite of the treatment and not because of it. (Recent Red Cross manuals advise that both these measures are unsafe.)
 The only true medical treatment for rattlesnake bite is an injection of North American anti-venom (Wyeth). It can be given by a layman in extreme emergencies but should normally be administered only by a doctor.
 Only one out of ten snakebite victims dies even with no treatment at all. Of those who have the bite treated, only one out of a hundred dies:
 In my extensive experience with rattlers, I've found them shy, beautiful, graceful and ecologically important. Unfortunately, they're getting scarce. I hope enough people allow these and other creatures to live in harmony on their land to save the rattlesnake from going the way of so many species.
Sioux City, Iowa
As a bicycle mechanic with a fair amount of experience, I'd like to add a few words of warning to Gary Holmes' March/April 1974 article about starting a bike business.
 Gary says: "If possible, assemble a couple of bicycles before you order parts so you'll be familiar with the various bits and pieces." It seems to me that if you aren't already on speaking terms with those bits and pieces, you shouldn't be in the bicycle business.
Get some experience first: Either work with an established dealer for a while, or start off — as I did — just doing repairs out of your own home and buying parts as you need them from the local bike shop. (You may be able to persuade the owner to give you a small discount.) I operated that way for several months before I was offered a job in a shop. Now, a year later, I'm just about experienced enough to open my own place (which I would do were I not more interested in homesteading).
 It's very hard not to get burned ordering bicycles, even if you're a veteran in the business. The inexperienced dealer hardly stands a chance. Most of the 10-speeds now manufactured are absolute junk and will take up much of your time and money with "guarantee" work (when you — not the factory — must do the guaranteeing). This is true even of makes with good reputations ... the big companies have cheapened their products incredibly in the past few years. Making many of these machines work involves everything from replacing parts (usually at your expense) to framebending or redesigning the drive train.
 Gary says he can assemble a 10-speed in 15 minutes. I don't believe he can do this without cutting corners. I'm pretty fast and it still takes me an average of 50 minutes per bike ... but that includes checking and usually adjusting hubs, bottom bracket and headset, truing the wheels (and sometimes dishing the rear one), making the gears work perfectly and checking every nut and bolt on the bike.
Incidentally, the best handbook for a bike shop is the Schwinn dealers' manual. Try to get a copy from a friendly Schwinn agent (it's not available to the public). Second best is Glenn's Complete Bicycle Repair Manual by Clarence W. Coles and Harold T. Glenn. This book bears a strong resemblance to the Schwinn guide ... it even contains some of the same mistakes.
Several months ago I wrote a letter—which appeared in MOTHER NO. 24—asking for a natural cure for hay fever and suggestions for reading materials on this subject. Since then I have received 70 helpful responses from all over the United States and even from Canada and Sweden. I can't answer all those letters individually, but I'd like to share the ideas with the people who wrote to me and with the rest of MOTHER's readers.
Of the 70 letters, 40 concerned honey. Most of these writers told me to eat a lot of raw local honey year round and to chew the combs and/or cappings during hay fever season. The theory is that the bees visit the plants in the immediate area and gather pollen ... including the types that are causing the allergic reactions. Immunity is built up by consuming the small amounts contained in the honey and wax. See Vermont Folk Medicine by Dr. D.C. Jarvis for further explanation.
The next most common suggestion was to follow the advice of Adelle Davis in Let's Get Well and Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit: Take large amounts of vitamin C, backed up by extra vitamins A, B and E and pantothenic acid.
Several people advised me to eliminate certain foods from my diet, one at a time. Specifically mentioned were milk, wheat, sugar, salt and carbohydrates. Others told me to try eliminating emotional stress. Four writers urged that I see a chiropractor, and three proposed snuffing salt water.
Less frequent suggestions included: drink goat's milk or cocklebur, pennyroyal or mint tea, eat pollen, chew young comfrey leaves, take calcium tablets, acerola vitamin C or goldenseal, get a lot of potassium, try foot reflexology, yoga, Edgar Cayce inhalants or mucusless diet healing, put vaseline on the nostrils at night and see an allergist who treats with organic extracts.
The following additional sources were recommended: Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss, Get Well Naturally by Linda Clark, Food Is Your Best Medicine by Henry G. Bieler, M.D., Prevention magazine from Rodale Press, Mucusless Diet Healing System by Arnold Ehret and Helping Yourself with Foot Reflexology by Mildred Carter.
I'm trying the most common suggestion first: I've been eating a lot of local raw honey and I have some cappings and comb ready to use this summer. If that works we'll start keeping our own bees ... if not, I'll experiment with some of the other advice. I'd like to thank everyone who responded to my letter.
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