Thursday, February 23, 2012

Belated Gong Xi Fa Cai- of Birds & Dragons

Ah, new years & new resolutions-- time to get back into the discipline of keeping a timely blog.  In honour of this year's celestial annual animal:  (This is a TED talk with paleontologist, Jack Horner.)  This changes my view of my flock.  While I beg to differ with Mr. Horner about chickens being cool, I love learning that I am raising a herd of avian dinosaurs!

Right in time for Imbolc, new lambs have been wandering the property, new chicks (Ameraucanas) are in the brooder, and our Salvia elegans-- which is supposed to be an annual in our zone, survived the mild winter and actually has a wee bloom on it which seems to please the hummingbirds.  Daily egg harvests are rising with the lengthening days, while the new cedar sided barn gets closer to completion.  We are all eagerly awaiting Spring.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Guinea for Your Thoughts

Guinea Fowl.  Such strange, whimsical, and curious creatures with a name that lends itself to amusing plays on words-- like the title above or 'begin the beguinea'- hee, hee.  Their spirits and intelligence are quite different from my other poultry; more feral, more loquacious, and more unpredictable.  While some may think they are rather dim, I prefer not to refer to other creatures as stupid.  Species other than humans have an appropriate intelligence that we often fail to grasp or appreciate.  Considering the havoc we have wreaked on our earth, I think it is supremely shortsighted as well as egotistic of humans to think we are intellectually superior.

Why do I keep these crazy beasts?  My ambition is to provide guinea flocks to vineyard properties for pest control.  They eat all kinds of pests including ticks.  Additionally, guineas are incredibly entertaining to watch and have been excellent aerial predator deterrents.  They make me think of a group of old men with hunched backs; wearing cardigan sweaters with pantaloons hiked to above their waist.  When traveling over the landscape, their movements as a flock are fluid and synchronous, like a school of fish.  They yammer, they sing, and they scream at a deafening level if they spy a hawk.  A Redtail Hawk recently landed on a nearby pine tree, ambitiously taking stock of the poultry run.  When I came to investigate the focus of the shrieking guineas, the hawk appeared disgusted and promptly flew off.  His cover was completely blown by these alert, LOUD birds.  They are definitely not appropriate for urban flock keeping.  They have a song for greeting the sun and one for its daily retirement.  They have egg laying songs, greeting flock members songs, talking about the humans they see songs, and alert songs.  Beyond vocalizing, they seem to enjoy playing the fence, creating a "thuong" sound by plucking the wires of the fencing material with their beaks.  Thankfully, our neighbours are as enchanted with the guinea "ambience" as we are.

My original flock hatched from fertile eggs that I got off eBay.  (Yes, you can buy hatching eggs on eBay!) Their eggs are extremely pointy; soft shades of buff to khaki with incredibly hard shells.  The yolks are a truly saturated bright orange.  I originally hatched 16 from 18 eggs, but 2 keets (baby guineas) never developed to be particularly strong and sadly faded away as teenagers.  Beyond those two, the reminder are incredibly robust and one of the best hatches of birds I have ever had.  (I find them to be far more disease resistant and weather hardy than chickens.)  On hatching day, I came home to find what was evocative of a 'Jiffy Pop', with keets popping out of their eggs like popcorn in the incubator!  This flock includes a mix of rare plumage colours- Buff Dundotte, Brown, Slate, and Lavender.  We have had a few hatchlings this year from these birds.  Their bright apricot coloured legs and beaks are adorable.  As adults, their large, dark eyes fringed with long lashes and the wiry hairs on the backs of their naked necks hold definite appeal and add to their comedic, slapdash looking appearance.

Our flock spent their introduction to outdoors in an extremely large parrot cage to imprint on our large poultry pen.  After inhabiting this for a week, they were released to spend their days roaming the run and within just a couple of days, returned themselves to the cage at night.  Once they starting learning to put their wings to use,  they drove us rather crazy since often all but one guinea would depart from the run, with the other 13 would running back and forth along the outside of the pen distressed that one of their flock members was still inside.  This caused considerable damage to our fledgling rosemary hedge and made them pretty unpopular with its creator, Thomas.  It took many weeks for them the develop enough confidence to disperse into smaller groups or individually and not neurotically try to all remain together every second of the day.

Guinea Fowl originate from Africa.  They are used for food, eggs, and for plumage.  They also are featured in African folk tales as well as Greek mythology.  These birds bring me a lot of joy and are a privilege to keep.  I hope if you are a farmsteader or ever become one that you have a chance to live with Guinea Fowl.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Northwest National Show

The chickens are coming!  The chickens are coming!  Geese, Ducks, Turkeys, and Guinea Fowl, too!  This Saturday, April 16th at the Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson, Washington from 10-5pm.

The Pacific Northwest Poultry Association is hosting their annual Spring show with over 900 birds.  This event is free to attend and is the national meet for serious chicken exhibitors as well as the national meet for Silkie breeders.  There will be 4-H demonstrations, engaging speakers, artisans & publishers with their poultry wares, a silent auction, a raffle, breeder/chick auction, and gorgeous birds for sale.  There will also be a catered banquet (tickets are $15) that evening with a dynamic wine auction featuring award winning wines from the Willamette Valley, the Applegate Region, and the Gorge.

Come on out-- speak to experienced poultry farmers/breeders, learn about the diversity of breeds, and get an eyeful of spectacular poultry specimens.  If anything, those of you who are poultry obsessed can give your family a break and yak about birds with people who won't glaze over when you talk about your flock.....
How could I possibly be dull?!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fluffy Signs of Spring - Raising Chicks

For those of us who keep poultry, even those brand new to the phenomena- late winter/spring is the typical season for raising chicks.  It's an optimal time to allow for the chicks to develop in a protected place during the remaining weeks of our rather inclement weather and still provide time for them mature into egg laying before the inclemency returns.

Pistils Nursery got our first chicks of the season yesterday!  We start a bit later with chicks at the nursery than some suppliers, as we prefer them to travel to the shop when temperatures are less icy-  Please know that we don't list what breeds we are expecting on our website as sometimes there are last minute substitutions and we would rather not be a source of disappointment.  Give us a ring at the store for what's in- 503 288 4889.  If you have a breed(s) you are seeking, let any of us know and I will endeavour to acquire them.  (I try very hard to fulfill breed desires, but know that some breeds are very rare or might be hard to get at the time when you want them.)

If you are purchasing chicks from a retail outlet-- like a feed store or nursery, or directly from a hatchery, the majority of chicks are shipped through the mail.  (Be aware that while some outlets may buy their birds from a local, that local is often a "broker" who is still ordering chicks via mail.)  It seems rather bizarre, and less than ideal for little ones to come in boxes through the postal service, but hatcheries have been shipping chicks for a little over one hundred years.  How does this work?  Well, just prior to hatching, chicks absorb the yolk sac in the egg into their abdomens which provides enough food and water for about 72 hours.
Most hatcheries ask that you order a minimum of 25 hatchlings in order for them to keep each other warm.  Some suppliers are now shipping fewer than that number using heat packs instead.  (I know of one hatchery that will throw in surplus rooster chicks if you order fewer than 25 to serve as warm, living packing peanuts.)
special delivery
Raising chicks is a big delight to a lot of poultry keepers.  It can be dusty, put out 'off' odours, and there is a strong possibility of raising a rooster (a no-no in most urban environments) but few things are more appealing than fluffy little chicks (though ducklings are arguably, even more adorable).  Having birdsong emitting from the brooder is one of the charms.  Additionally, raising chicks allows you to know your flock from the get-go and to socialize with your chickens so that they will be more companionable.  Some breeds seem inclined to go with this nurture.  A few will be more with the flow of nature.  Typically, Mediterranean and some Oriental breeds can be a bit feral in temperament.  This is a good trait for them to possess as it will often predispose these birds to escape predation.  These breeds are usually calmer with hand raising, but might not develop into your best buddy as an adult.

Even a baby Naked Neck is irresistable!
When selecting your chicks, consider your goals with keeping a flock.  If you are free-ranging your birds, or have limited room you may want to consider the bantam (miniature) breeds as they do a lot less damage on the gardenscape.  Smaller chickens are great for young children as they are less intimidating and easier to hold.  Little eggs are also nice for cooking as they allow you bite size eggs for appetizers.  Feathered footed breeds, or breeds with short legs are also good choices.  (The Dorking, a British heritage breed is not such a "scratcher".)    DO YOUR RESEARCH AND UNDERSTAND YOUR SELECTED BREEDS' TRAITS-- their temperament, laying ability, adult size, tendency towards broodiness, space needs, etc.  This will insure that you don't have surprises that may make chicken keeping less than joyful for you later on.  The Henderson Breed Chart - and Feathersite - are good places to get started.  You can raise different breeds together.  If you are seeking a selection of different breeds but can't source them at the same time, you can introduce chicks to each other as long as they are within two weeks of age.  Please note that this works most of the time-- it isn't a good idea if you are raising an extremely small breed(s) like bantam Modern Games or Seramas with large breeds if the small breeds are the younger of the two.
A little too much size diversity.
Know that while many breeds of chicks come "sexed"- meaning that someone peeked in the chick's vent to determine its gender, there is a 5-10% margin of error.  ("Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel had an episode on how it is done.)  Sometimes this margin can fall fully in one or two individual's chick selection.  Bantam breeds do not come sexed as they are so tiny upon hatch.  (There is one hatchery that prides themselves on sexing bantams.  I have ordered from them in the past, paying a premium for this service, and was less than impressed.)  With bantams, you will more than likely have some roosters in the mix and should consider purchasing extras to make sure you get the number of hens you want.  Have a plan for what to do with the fellows once they mature.  Some feed stores in Portland like Linnton Feed & Seed will take roosters and pass them on for free, but call them first-  I take my surfeit of roosters to Geren's Farm Supply-  They have a nice barn called the "Critter Corner" where they house unwanted farm animals.  It's sweet and spacious and gives my boys a nice place to be in the company of other birds until they are rehomed.  They give me a few dollars for each rooster which I can take in cash or farm supplies, and in turn they sell them on.  Just know that if you are a softy like me, you may come home with some other creature.  In my case, a beautiful red Mini Rex rabbit. 

 You will need a container to house your chicks with walls high enough to keep out drafts and to keep chicks in.  A range of vessels will work such as cardboard boxes, plastic recycling carriers, stock tanks, even a bathtub.  (I use a metal sheep stock tank that is 4' high, 4' long, 2' wide; the nursery uses the same.  These are handy, but are not inexpensive.  If you do a lot of brooding they are great to have.  Make sure to disinfect between brooding clutches.  They also make great planters or water features when you are done with raising chicks.  They are available at large feed stores like Wilco or Coastal.)  You will need about .3 square ft. per bantam chick; .5 square ft. per standard chick for the first week; doubling this space allotment per week.  Place your brooder in quiet, temperature stable place that is safe from predators/rodents and free of drafts.  If you are brooding in your house, choose a spot where you don't mind some dust or smells.  Kitchens or your sleeping space may not be the best choice.  Chicks chirp and cheep at all hours.  It is also a good idea to have something that you can place over your brooder when the chicks get larger to keep them from jumping out.  This typically starts at around 3.5 to 4 weeks of age. I find window screens work well and are inexpensive and easy to find at salvage places like the Rebuild Centre or Habitat for Humanity's ReStore.
I'm out! I'm out!
You will need clean, non-slippery, absorbent bedding to a depth of at least 3" in the bottom of your brooder.  Good choices are wood shavings, untreated wood pellets, or peat moss.  Straw can get moldy if it gets wet-- and it will, and is not recommended for this reason.  Sand can cause crop impaction.  Some people suggest covering the bedding with paper towels for the first few days to prevent the wee ones from eating it.  I have yet to have chicks ingest their bedding and don't personally follow this step.  There is also a lot out there about cedar shavings being harmful.  I have spoken with lots of elder poultry keepers that have used cedar for over 40 years without detriment.  My first choice is pine shavings or wood pellets, as they are more absorbent than cedar-- wood pellets are less dusty, but I have used cedar without incident.  Change your bedding as soon as you smell 'off' odours.  Once a week is a good rule of thumb.  I notice that I smell feed that gets into the bedding getting a sour funk long before dropping smells are prevalent.  Some folks raise birds on wire flooring.  While it can keep droppings clear of the brooder environment, chicks can catch their toes and bend or break them.

The babies will need heat for the first 6-8 weeks of their life.  One to seven day olds need to be kept at approximately 95 degrees fahrenheit.  You then reduce the temperature by 5 degrees each week.  If the brooder is too cold, the chicks will huddle in a dogpile under the lamp.  If too hot, they will run around manically and pant.  Adjust the height of the lamp accordingly.  Some people use thermometers to monitor temperature in the brooder.  I have yet to do so as the chicks' behaviour informs me of what is appropriate for them.
The classic heat lamp with a wimpy clamp.
The chicks will be ready to go outside when they are well feathered out (no more fluff on the heads) and temperatures are stable at 55 degrees and above.  Depending on the number of chicks you are raising, sometimes a desk lamp is sufficient to provide enough warmth.  If you are using a heat lamp with a clamp, make sure that the clamp is beefy enough to hold the light if a chick were to leap on it.  If it is not, get a strong clamp from the hardware store, so you don't burn your house down or at least don't melt your brooder if it is plastic.  It is best to use a bulb with good heat output in the red spectrum, as chickens don't see this light spectrum well and it is less stressful than having a bright light shining on them 24/7.  My own preference is for ceramic heat emitters.  They screw into a light bulb socket and put out warmth, not light.  They can be spendy- $35-45 a bulb but are cheaper to run than traditional heat bulbs.  They come with a 5 year warranty and can be found at pets shops that sell reptile supplies.  I find they are worth the up front expense since I brood frequently and they are far more durable than the red bulbs which burn out after only a few months.  They are paying for themselves in the long haul.  With the emitters I find that the chicks seem calmer because they experience a true night time just like they would if being raised with a hen.  The emitters are also nice to have as you can use them in the coop without extending daylight hours if you want to supplement heat in the winter.
My hero, the ceramic heat emitter.

Lastly, you need to provide clean food and water at all times.  Make sure these containers are set where your birds can reach them.  When you first introduce your chicks to the brooder environment, dip each of their beaks into the waterer to allow them to find it immediately.  Placing both the waterer and feeder up on blocks or hanging them at the height of the smallest chick's back can help with keeping bedding out of these vessels.  (Rabbit style waterers or bottles with nipples are good choices for keeping water clean.  Again, put the chicks beaks against the dispenser so they know where the water is.  Place a saucer below the dispenser to keep bedding dry.)  Make sure that you have enough vessels or ones that are large enough so that every chick has space to eat or drink without being crowded.

I add 1 tsp. blackstrap molasses per quart of water to provide electrolytes and trace minerals for the first week.  I then move on to using 1/4 tsp. apple cider vinegar per quart which also adds trace minerals and some acid which is beneficial to chickens' physiology.  It keeps algae/mold from growing in the waterer.  (Do not use vinegar if your water vessel is metal!  It can cause an adverse reaction and release heavy metals.)  

For feed, use a chick formula (ideally with 20-22% protein).  Chick food is traditionally crumbly in texture.  Add a cup of tiny grit (pulverized rock) for about every 6-8 cups of food or sprinkle it over the food in the feeder.  Chickens do not have teeth.  Food is ground up in their gizzards with fine rocks to aid digestion.
Using a medicated chick food for the first week or two can help prevent a Coccidiosis outbreak.  It has the anticoccidiostat amprolium in it.  (Do not feed or administer amprolium if your birds were vaccinated for coccidia.)  Amprolium restricts vitamin/mineral uptake which in turn creates an inhospitable intestinal environment for the coccidia to thrive.  Coccidiosis is a condition from protozoa (Eimeria genera referred to as coccidia) that is common; often present in even the cleanest of settings and the most robust flocks.  These protozoa produce egg capsules known as oocysts which can be ingested by chickens and then are crushed in the gizzard releasing the coccidia, known as sporozoites.  These sporozoites lodge in the bird's intestinal wall where they mature and reproduce, shedding more oocysts that get excreted out.  The life cycle is rapid and can become out of balance in small, enclosed environments which quickly get over run with oocysts, causing the birds to ingest enormous quantities which can physically overwhelm them.  Signs and symptoms of an outbreak are droopiness, huddling with ruffled feathers, loss of interest in water & feed, retarded growth or weight loss, droppings that are watery, or mucous or pasty in texture, tan or blood-tinged (diarrhea).  Chicks can perish.  Keeping your brooder clean, and the chicks uncrowded as well as stress free will help prevent outbreaks.  I use medicated feed for the first week for birds that are not hatched at my farm; organic feed for ones that are, and as feed for the remaining weeks of brooding the others.  If I have a weak, listless chick, I have had success on some occasions feeding them a minute amount of yoghurt.

Dietary supplements-  At two weeks of age I provide other goodies like finely grated carrot, finely chopped greens (chickweed is a favourite ironically- it's also very healthy), minced garlic, and crumbled hard boiled egg.  Make sure these are finely chopped so that there is no chance for crop impaction.  An impacted crop (the pouch where food is stored before heading into the digestive tract) can get clogged and cause starvation if not corrected.  At this stage I also add a grassy divot to the brooder.  It provides entertainment; a place to scratch and climb, fresh greens to nibble, and maybe some bugs, as well as getting them exposed to the earth and all its microscopic bounty of bacterium.  I recently read about feeding small of amounts of worm castings to their feed.  Since I do vermicompost, I am going to give this a try.  It has the same goal of adding beneficial microbes and sounds like a nifty thing to do!

Terminology- 'Chick' refers to a baby chicken regardless of gender.  'Pullet' is a female chicken less than 1 year old, though commonly is used to refer to a female that is considered a teenager- not yet laying eggs.  'Cockerel' is a male chicken that is less than 1 year old.  'Hen' is a female over a year old, though commonly used to refer to females once they start laying eggs.  'Rooster' or 'cock' is a male over a year old.  'Chook' is the word used for chickens in crown countries like Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.  'Broody' is used to describe the behaviour of a hen that wants to set/hatch eggs and is also used to refer to a hen that engages in this behaviour.
Keep a Journal- You will be pleased that you did.  Record where/when you got your chicks, what breeds they are, any vaccinations, etc.  Notate your observations, maybe keep an egg log later.  These notes will help you immeasurably with your flock keeping journey.
Social Creatures- Chickens are social creatures and you need to have more than one for them to thrive.  They require physical body contact to develop normally both physically and mentally/emotionally.  Consider getting the limit your town/city allows.  If you have future losses due to a predator and are left with one chicken, finding new flock mates at certain times of year can be a challenge.
Pasting up- this is when feces builds up on the backside of the chicks.  This is fairly common during the first week to 10 days.  Keep a watch out for it as this can block the vent, causing excreta to build up in the intestine, inducing septicemia and can cause death.  Gently remove the paste with a warm, damp clothe.
This looks restful....
Sleeping- chicks fall asleep in all kinds of incomprehensible positions and often look like they are dead.  You will not believe how many people are convinced that the chicks at the nursery are dead when they are merely asleep.  Even one of the vets I use to work with came up to the counter and whispered to me sorrowfully that all of the chicks were dead.  Boy was she surprised (and embarrassed) when I went to check and they all popped up!
Cannibalism- You will not find chicks cooking their compatriots in a little pot over a fire.  This term is used for all kinds of destructive behaviour from toe to feather picking/eating which is common if chicks are crowded or bored.
Flightiness- Be aware if you are casting a shadow when you approach the brooder.  This elicits a predator response and will freak out your wee ones.  I like to play the classical music station on the radio 24/7 for my chicks.  I think the music is beneficial & calming, and hearing human voices talking throughout the day and evening will get them used to human sounds.  Having your brooder at eye level-- if possible, seems to keep chicks from feeling intimidated by having a large being looming over them.
Roosting- Add some roosts to your brooder when your chicks hit about 3 weeks of age to get them accustomed to roosting.  This will provide some more stimuli.
Handling- I don't handle my chicks much for the first 2 weeks short of removing pastiness if necessary.  Handling when they are small can prove stressful for them and can make them more susceptible to illness.  Always wash your hands before and after handling.
Correcting 'spraddle leg'.
Illness/Injury- Chicks that are ill or injured can get trampled by other chicks.  It is important that they are in the company of their flock mates since they are social, and to keep them warm.  I use a small wire basket that I can place over the affected chick that allows them to stay in the brooder and see their companions, but keeps them safe.  Make sure they have food and water.  If you have a chick with spraddle leg (hips are splayed) or crooked toes, you can wrap toes or brace legs with band-aids or self-adhesive wound wrap cut down to small strips.  Make sure you don't wrap too tight.  Sometimes eyes will stick shut.  Gently dropping  a small amount of warm water and/or eye wash over the eyelid and rubbing lightly will unstick it.  A good site for further assistance with health issues is-  This is a forum where you can post a thread with what you are experiencing and receive feedback/resources from other poultry keepers.  You are welcome to write me for assistance as well.
If only it was this easy!
Determining Gender-  This can be tricky and there is a lot of different information out there for deducing gender from how the birds behave, to how they develop.  Every one I know, no matter how experienced, has hypothesized incorrectly from time to time.  That outgoing bird you are convinced is a rooster can mature into a strongly confident hen.  The really feminine looking chick develops into a cockerel.  Different breeds develop at different rates.  Silkies are notorious for being androgynous until they are 4-6 months old!  I have noticed that as a rule (but not fool proof), the females get their tail feathers in before the males.  Scrutinizing comb & wattle development as well as plumage colour (if there is a difference in adult colouring) can help give you some clues.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Nit One?

the 'pearly masses' of nits
If only nits came in a count of  just one.  Though a count of none would be better.  This photo shows something poultry keepers wish to never have to see: nits.  These are the eggs of the poultry body louse, Menacanthus stramineus and are often described as "pearly"-- so poetic for something so creepy.  

There are nine species of lice that effect chickens.  Fortunately, only four species are common in N. America.  The above species and the head louse, Cuclotogaster heterographus are very common in the Pacific Northwest.  These external parasites are most likely to show up during autumn & winter.  They are typically introduced from wild bird populations and have nothing to do with the cleanliness of one's husbandry practices or lack thereof.
white crowned sparrow
The USDA recommends keeping wild birds as separate from one's flock as possible as part of their biosecurity program.  While parasites and/or disease can be introduced from other feathered beings, overall I think that this idea is folly.  Yes, these birds can be an "unknown factor" if we are faced with a massive outbreak of some poultry plague, but people have been farming for thousands of years and they didn't do it in a vacuum.  Keeping domestic birds separate from nature and natural surroundings can weaken their immune systems as well as their general hardiness.  It is also rather impoverishing to not have songbirds flitting about.  Yes, they eat food meant for the flock, and can introduce things like lice, but I believe that on the whole they keep my birds' health on its toes in a way that will be a boon to my future poultry generations' long term resistance to disease.

The body louse species that I am dealing with feeds on skin detritus, as well as chewing on skin & feathers.  It is a small--about 1/8" long, straw coloured insect that is moves rather quickly.  It is specific to birds and does not feed on mammals; not pleasant, but easy to control.  So far, even though I have a chicken flock of over fifty birds, I have found the presence of nits and the occasional louse on only one these chickens- my Golden Brabanter rooster, Bigfoot.  (He just will not dust bathe and this rebellious personal habit has now created consequences.  Some new foundlings were also brought to me recently with lice as well.  They were quarantined and have since been treated.)  However, I know that like fleas, if I see one of these buggers more must be around.  Though I have yet to see one of them on the waterfowl, the guineas, or the other chooks, and I handle ALL of my birds regularly- some of them every day.
Me? Lice? Will you still cuddle me?
diatoms- wow!
A natural choice that a number of flock keepers turn to is food grade diatomaceous earth or pyrethrin/permethrins, which are effective products.  Diatomaceous earth ( is composed of the exoskeletons of diatoms, a microscopic marine invertebrate.  It is sharp to the soft bodies of insects like fleas, lice, etc. It slices the adults, and dries/ruptures eggs (though not lice eggs).  Pyrethrin/permethrins are an insecticide produced from chrysanthemums that disrupts the nervous system of insects (but has little effect on eggs).  DE & pyrethrins/permethins are very fine and powdery and not advisable to get in your lungs.  For this reason, I choose not to use them with my poultry for dust baths or sprinkled in bedding, though I would consider fumigating the coop with DE (while wearing a mask) to get rid of any parasites that might be hiding in crevices.  If I find I ever have to do this, I would keep the chickens out while dusting and then vacuum up the residue.  Since the act of dust bathing or scratching at bedding produces clouds of dust, I believe that if it's not healthy for me to be breathing, it's not a good choice for creatures as small as a chicken to be inhaling.

An unnatural choice is Ivermectin.  Introduced in the 80's, Ivermection is a broad-spectrum parasitic medicine.  It is often injected into the nape of the chicken's neck.  It can be challenging to administer the appropriate dose, and side effects can include blindness, tremors, and seizures.  Not something I want to chance.  (Like so many medical products, I doubt the companies manufacture them because of the goodness of their hearts.)  Eggs should not be eaten for a couple weeks after administration.  (If you read the poultry sites there are people who do eat them and say they did not become ill, but really folks, toxins can stay in your body a long time and they are rarely benign indefinitely.)
Instead, I use aromatics in their bedding-- clippings of fresh rosemary, lavender, sage, mint, fennel, chamomile, etc.-- whatever I have in abundance on the farm.  For the coop they get branches and long stems; for the dust bath, I cut these herbs finer.  In summer these help keep down flies as well.  Flies do not care for chamomile or fennel.  Shredded, dry citrus peels are also a good addition to the coop bedding.
rosemary-not just for roasting

Cedar shavings often get a bad wrap on poultry sites, but I have not observed any problems using them for coop bedding and have spoken with a number of farmers that have used them for over forty years without detriment.  They are certainly effective when it comes to deterring insects.

A monthly tea of garlic in the flock's water is also beneficial for removing/preventing both external & internal parasites.  I use 8 minced cloves per gallon that I let steep the night before.  In a pinch, 1500mg garlic oil tablets also work-- 2 per gallon.  (I also offer a non-treated container of water, to prevent dehydration in case a bird will not drink the flavoured water.  The treated water is always completely consumed long before the untreated one.  I have yet to experience eggs with off or sulphurous flavours like a lot of literature suggests.)

To remove the existing parasites, I gave Bigfoot (and the foundling pullets) a bath in warmish water with a gentle liquid soap and lavender oil.  Prior to his bath, I used olive oil to dissolve the clusters of nits at the feather bases.  Coconut oil is supposed to also be great for this as well as having other healthful benefits--  For the other birds, they get spritzed every few days with a spray composed of warm water, lavender oil, coconut oil, and lemon juice.  There is a product on the market called Poultry Protector that works well-  It's an enzymatic that I have used will good results, but it is rather pricey and does not remove nits.  All of these treatments are also good for mites, fleas, ticks, etc.  Thankfully, ticks & fleas are pretty uncommon on chickens in our area.  I am knocking on wood right now, as I have not had these other parasites on my birds.
A clean Bigfoot
For those of you that do buy birds from me-- please know that I am very conscientious about their health/well being.  I give a three month health guarantee with all my birds.