• Jenn

It’s That Time of Year Again

So I was going to write about the necessities and the extras for the interior of the chicken coop but that’s turning into quite an extensive post that may need to be broken down into 2.

Since the season has started I thought I would write about the dreaded ticks. To me it’s the worse time of year and puts a complete damper on the spring season. We haven’t seen any yet in our yard or on our animals but we know they are out there and it won’t be long before they show their ugly heads. Yuck!

Ticks are arachnids meaning they have 8 legs and are a part of the spider family. My fellow arachnophobes you are entitled to fear these suckers as much as I do.

Ticks are considered parasites because they feed of the blood of mammals. They have been around for a long time too, 90-94 million years at least!! Ticks live all over the world but prefer humid and dry areas. Why they are here is beyond me.

Ticks find their meals by sensing hosts via the host's breath (carbon dioxide), body odour, body heat, moisture or vibration. Contrary to popular belief they do not jump, fly or drop down from trees. They often cling to leaves or grasses waiting for their victims to brush by.

Some ticks immediately bite into their victims and begin to suck their blood. Others, I think the species around here, take several hours to locate a spot to feed preferring the soft tissues or moisture spots such as ears and armpits. I’ve noticed here that ticks prefer to hide under the dogs collars and feed there.

When feeding ticks become 200 to 600 times their original size and do not let go until they are completely engorged. They will feed 8-10 days and their saliva has anti-inflammatory properties which keeps mammals from feeling them feed.

Ticks can carry several diseases and pass them onto their victims. A growing common disease in our area is Lymes disease. It’s proven, however, that a tick must bite and feed of their victim for at least 36 hours in order to pass on diseases to the victim although some disease can pass onto the victim by improper removal and thereby cause the tick to dispel blood back into its victim with what ever disease it may be carrying.

Proper removal of ticks is highly important and every year social media posts come out with ways to remove ticks so it doesn’t hurt. The problem with these posts is that a lot of them work but also cause the tick to spew back into the victim. The tried and true way to remove ticks us to grasp their at their head and rip them straight out without squeezing the engorged part of the body. My rule of thumb is to make sure there is skin attached to the ticks mouth. There is a tool you can buy for animals called tick twisters that work great too. My skin rule ensures I don’t leave the head attached which can cause an infection.

Wood ticks are the main tick in our area and are not known for carrying Lymes disease, however, it is still a good idea to take a tick you take off to your local health unit for testing just to be sure. Another tick starting to come into the area is the deer tick, these ticks are know for carrying Lymes disease and are significantly smaller than wood ticks. See below:

Our tips and tricks for ticks:

- keep lawn cut short

- stay out of long grass or in the bush (if you do make sure you do a tick check after)

- tuck your pant legs into your shoes and boots

- light coloured clothes make it easier to see ticks on your clothes. (white socks!!) - we're extra cautious in May and June but ease off in July, August and September. They are out there all the time but seem busier at the beginning of the year. - arachnids don’t like peppermint oil so I put Peppermint oil on my boots sometimes. - Stay on the centre of pathways away from brush and long grasses

- They have a hard enough shell that they are difficult to kill, burn them until they pop or douse them in rubbing alcohol and then for good measure flush them down the toilet to ensure their death.

- Chickens love ticks and when we have a flock we notice a significant decrease in tick activity

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