Preventing Coccidiosis and Other Tips for Raising Chickens

Learn tips on using permanganate for preventing coccidiosis, getting grit for your birds, and hatching your own fertile eggs.

| January/February 1971

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    Chickens need to have access to grit, as it is vital for chewing their food.

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As a follow-up to our article on getting started raising poultry, here are a few more tips for you chicken-loving homesteaders out there.

Preventing Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis doesn't have to be a problem for homesteaders who raise chickens. We used to buy .10 or .15 cents worth of permanganate of potash (the price is probably a bit more now for the same amount—2 tablespoonsful) and dissolve it in a pint jar of water. Permanganate of potash looks like freeze-dried coffee, only the crystals are dark purple. After it's dissolved, you add just enough of the pint mixture to the chickens' drinking water to turn it a faint lavender.

If you do this as soon as the chicks are hatched, they'll rarely get the disease because coccidiosis is actually a class of protozoan that live in a chicken's intestines as a parasite, and the permanganate knocks them for a loop. Of course, if you wait until the birds already have coccidiosis, you'll have to use a stronger mixture of the permanganate, and you may still lose a few chicks. It's better to use the potash as a means of preventing coccidiosis from the beginning. Any country drugstore should have it.

Got Grit?

Chickens need grit. It goes into their gizzard and is what they use for "chewing" their food. Some soils just do not contain enough fine gravel to supply this need (the chicks will even pick up broken bits of glass in such cases), and you may have to buy grit for your birds.

From the point when pullets are almost ready to lay, and on throughout their adult life, they need some ground oyster shell to eat. This replaces the calcium that is pulled out of their systems to "package" the eggs, keeps the hens healthier, and prevents soft-shelled eggs. Feed dealers have the material already crushed and bagged.

Hatching Chicks

There's no need to buy "store bought" chicks. You can hatch your own if you have fertile eggs. The average hen can cover 21 eggs, but she has to be set in a place where no one will disturb her. If you use your brooder house, you can set several hens in the same room provided each has her own box or nest. Sometimes, however, it's impossible to find a broody hen. If that's the case, you can scout around for one of the incubators that many old farmers have tucked away in the attic. We used to have one that held about 100 eggs.

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