Mites & Lice Treatment And Prevention

Lice & mites can be a big problem. Learn more about this enemy and how to keep them off your chickens.
By willowbranchfarm · Dec 16, 2012 · Updated Dec 20, 2012 · ·
  1. willowbranchfarm
    Mites & Lice! Treatment and Prevention

    A parasite is any living thing that lives off another living thing. External parasites can either suck blood or eat feathers. Chickens with bad infestations become thin, don’t lay eggs well, and have reduced fertility. With really bad infestations your birds may die. Chickens can get anemia from these bugs. Hens, to some extent, can treat themselves by dust bathing. Dust bathing is really good for your chickens. It dislodges the parasites and also helps get dirt and oils off of them. Make sure your chickens have an area to dust bath and if they don’t, put a big pan filled with sand in their pen. Inspect your hens regularly for signs of parasites.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Pictures by cheeka

    Parasite symptoms: (All of these symptoms don’t apply to every parasite listed)

    • Itchiness
    • Bare patches
    • Lots of scratching
    • Loss of weight
    • Diarrhea
    • Symptoms of paralysis
    • Swollen legs with scales standing up
    • Laying slows or stops
    • Sitting hunched up with ruffled feathers
    • Reduced fertility
    • Listless

    Here is a picture of a mite infestation.

    Picture by bluebee


    Mites are spider like creatures. These bugs are under 1/25 of an inch in their length. Most are microscopic (can’t be seen with our eyes). They usually live off of blood, tissue cells, or feathers. They can be spread by contaminated shoes, other chickens, equipment, clothing, etc. Mites aren’t always on the chicken; some actually spend a good amount of time off the bird. Here are some common mites.

    Red Mites

    This mite has eight legs and crawls on the chickens during the night to feed on their blood. Red mites are gray until they eat, after filling up with blood they turn red. Found in tiny cracks, crevices, or in nesting boxes, these can actually kill chickens. Also check under the perches for red mites. Living up to one year without feeding on hens, take care to treat the birds multiple times. When using a broody hen, inspect the nest she will be brooding in very carefully, making sure to check every crack for these mites. Birds may not go up at night if the infestation is bad. In hot weather the population of red mites really increases. A single female can lay up to 120,000 eggs. Check your birds at night for red mites. They will be crawling around on perches and on your birds. They can bite humans if the infestation is really bad. These horrible little bugs can carry New Castle disease, Fowl Cholera, and Fowl Pox.

    Scaly Leg Mites

    Scaly leg mites are small mites that burrow under the scales on chickens legs. They spread very slowly from bird to bird. If the legs are seriously affected, the scales will be lifted and under the scale, it will be inflamed and bleeding. If it goes unnoticed for a while, the legs will have little white encrustations (crusts) between the scales. Remove these but only after soaking and several treatments of petroleum jelly or else they will bleed. Only really bad infestations cripple the bird. An easy treatment is Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline) on the legs. This will smother the mites.

    Notice the raised scales.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Pictures by TimBaumann

    Northern Fowl Mites

    A Northern mite is the most serious external parasite. It shows itself as damp patches on feathers, there will be many crawling around on the patches which occur in the neck feathers and vent feathers. The wings and tail affected by these birds looked like they have been chewed on. They also cause scabby skin and darkened feathers around vent. You may also see them (in bad infestation) crawling around on egg in nesting boxes. These mites multiply very quickly, so act fast with treatment. Take all the chickens out and put them in a different coop for a while. After a couple weeks in an unoccupied coop, these mites will die. Clean the hen house very well, making sure to get every corner. Treat your chickens every week until the mites are gone. Killing these mites is hard but not impossible. Chickens should not be put back in the infected coop until the coop has had time to air out from all the powders/sprays. Northern fowl mites are hard to control, don’t give up.

    Feather Mites

    These mites live on the feathers and eat the plumage. The damage to the base of the feather is very bad and ruins the feathers. Thankfully, they are not common in North America. Some types of feather mites cause so much irritation that the birds pull out and scratch their feathers in order to get relief.

    Chigger Mites

    Chigger mites are red and infest the skin of chickens as well as humans. They leave small itchy red spots where they have been feeding. These mites can be straw colored and are very small. The immature chiggers are the ones that feed on blood. Chiggers are commonly found under the wings, on the breast, and legs. When feeding chiggers inject poisonous saliva that liquefies the skin, they then feed off of that. It then causes really itchy skin, swelling, and scabs. Young birds stop eating, drinking, and may die. I’ve been bitten by a few chiggers before and it really itches.


    These pests are either blood sucking or chewing parasites. But chicken lice only eat feathers or shedding skin. Lice vary in size and shape length is 1/25 to ¼ inch. Most are yellow or straw colored. They are very hard to see on white chickens but easy on dark. Luckily, lice die quickly when off of chickens. They’re many types of lice that can be seen, head, body, and feather lice. By grooming, chickens can keep lice at a minimum. So debeaked birds or overgrown beaked birds are more likely at risk for lice. Because lice bite chickens, they pull their own feathers out to try and make the irritation stop. Chickens lay poorly and have low fertility when infected with lice. They are spread through contact with other contaminated birds. You can see lice crawling around on the chicken's skin and vent. Louse eggs will be clumped on the feather shaft.

    Here are lice eggs around the feather shaft.
    Picture by demerson
    Body Louse

    Body lice chew through the skin into growing quills to get to the blood. You will find scabs on skin and light eggs. Body lice move really fast so it may be hard to see when you check your birds.

    Head Louse

    This is the most serious louse pest. They are very harsh on young birds and they spread from the hen to her chicks. Seriously infected chicks will die.

    Common Fowl Louse

    These are the most common louse. Because parasites itch, feathers are picked and scratched, making bare patches. They reproduce rapidly laying groups of eggs called nits.


    A good treatment for mites and lice wood ash for your chickens to dust bath in. Sevin Dust I found out has been banned for use on poultry. There are other treatments like poultry sprays. Treat by spraying on the chicken and on the roosts, nesting boxes, everything. I use Garden & Poultry dust to help prevent (not treat) mites and lice. They’re many other treatments for these parasites. Covering the nits in petroleum jelly prevents them from hatching and they then fall off.


    Always keep your chicken coops clean and dry. Use dust like Garden & Poultry dust to prevent these parasites. Make sure your chickens have a place to dust bath. Regularly check your chickens for these parasites (at night will be easier because you won’t have to catch them).

    If you have any question please feel free to ask.

    For further reading and forum discussions on lice and mites, see here:

    Share This Article

    Sam a, Arctic Henn, GGRinger and 9 others like this.

Recent User Reviews

  1. Chickenbrainiac
    "All Clear now"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed May 16, 2019
    Thank you so much!! Finally a clear explanation on chicken external and internal parasites. It all makes sense now - and with the explanations from you and in the books I've read now I can see that mites and lice are clearly very different. My girls definately have lice so I'll be heading to the Warehouse today
  2. ronott1
    "Excellant article"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Aug 28, 2018
    Very good information on treating Mites and Lice
  3. CCUK
    "Great advice and information."
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jul 30, 2018
    It made me itch just reading this! But really good advice.


To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!
  1. Kimberlys bantams
    I'm almost POSITIVE we have chickens with leg mites. We have 4 separate coups/groups of chickens & guineas. We treated one group a couple months ago because it was obvious they had leg mites and at least one girl had mites on her body. Treatment was time-consuming, but it brought the birds back to good health. Now I see that at least one of my bantam cochins has leg mites. I don't know how to coat the completely & thickly feathered legs with vaseline? Any suggestions on treatment for these mites or how to get the vaseline on the legs?
  2. UluLaté
    One of my chickens was lethargic, eyes half closed and had a scarlet belly. I went to look at her vent and there were tiny bugs everywhere. Checked all the birds and sure enough, majority had the bugs. So when dusting them with diatomaceous earth failed, I took my birds and dipped them in a warm bath of Permectrin II solution. Then I doused the concrete floors and sprayed the walls with it. After it dried, I sprinkled diatomaceous earth on the ground and put down some shavings.

    The bugs are gone.

    We will re-treat at day 10.

    So far we are happy with the results.
    1. Maya Vance
      khind likes this.
  3. Groverfarms
    I'm currently dealing with a 'Lice' issue. I use quotations because I thought it was Mites until I read your article and thread comments.

    I saw ONE of my two dozen feathered children with Lice around her eyes. It was very slight, but as soon as I saw them, I immediately inspected her vent. My worst nightmare..... infestation.

    Well needless to say I went into full panic mode and started ripping the coop and run apart down to the wire in an attempt to prevent spreading. BOY, the shit you find in the coop and run that you never knew existed...literally. I threw up a little in my mouth.

    I quarantined it off until I could grab each girl, inspect and treat. One by one, I assessed and set each one back into the cleaned coop. Thankfully, only three had Lice. Two of those were very mild cases. I used Adam's Flea and Tick spray for animals. The one that was really bad, has eggs around her vent feathers. The live lice are dead. I bathed her in Vet's Best Itch Shampoo, let her dry off in the sun, then sprayed the Adams on her butt.

    But here's my questions.
    Are the eggs still safe to eat?
    Do I need to throw the eggs away?
    For how many days?

    Thank you in advance for any advice.
      Rileychickens and Hybridchucks like this.
  4. Lunachixster
    Thanks so much for all the great and informative information!
  5. 21hens-incharge
    Great to timing to find this in my e-mail from BYC.
    I discovered mite eggs on my bird yesterday. :sick
    Today is all about die bug die. It is winter here. Not a cold winter but still in the 20's at night.
    I am using permethrin spray on them and the coop. Well back to it.:thumbsup
  6. bwalters
    can also use again Avon skin so soft oil spray for under wings and around vent area.
      Susiezapponi likes this.
  7. bwalters
    also can use ADAMS flea spray under birds wings and around vent area safe for chickens use the dog version.
  8. Kathy Sistare
    Just read all of your threads on lice and mites. Do they live in the cold winter months too, or just when its warmer? We live in CT and it has been freezing cold since Christmas.The only time I can check my hens out is when I catch them in our laying boxes.
  9. bwalters
    for leg mites ! awesome cure and will cause old scales to naturally sluff off and legs will look like those of a young bird.....AVON SKIN SO SOFT SPRAY OIL [has to be the ORIGINAL version not the new scented varieties.] My NPIP tester said that I had the nicest smelling birds! LOL
    also gather up those soft long pine needles in the fall and put in nest boxes under hay and it deters lice and mites especially -- can also sprinkle them on the coop floor before adding your new bedding
      Susiezapponi likes this.
  10. LaurieL
    I’m all about prevention, prevention, prevention as this seems a whole lot easier than treating an infestation. I’m going to use sand as litter in both the coop and run and plan on incorporating diatomaceous earth in both, also sprinkling some under the bedding in the nesting boxes. I also plan on making oregano, lavender, sage, mint, and marigold prevalent in the coop and run as these repel pests - scattering some in nesting boxes, hanging bunches around the coop and run, and even providing it fresh in a grow-box for them to nibble on. I read you can even add some to their feed.
  11. GMarie65
    I found a few lice on my chickens, I just introduced 5 new keets and 8 new chicks. I did check them before I introduced them (they came from the same breeder) and did not see any on them. I do regularly check my chickens and had not seen any before. Is it common for chickens to have a few mites/lice? I am starting treatment on them tonight before it gets out of control. But what is the best to use for them and coop and nesting boxes/run? Thanks in advance!
    1. Texas Kiki
      Permethrin based spray.
    2. GMarie65
      Thanks Kikis Girls is there a certain percentage?
  12. KarennFallon
    Not sure I actually have a problem yet, but, reading up on it now and they are BIRDS, how can we not eventually have to face this?! My best layer has stopped laying so I'm suspecting I may be having a problem. My particular situation is that I have no space to set up an alternate coop for 12 hens if I have to wash, vaccum, spray and allow to dry, waiting for bugs to die. What would be an possible method of treating? Shouldn't I treat the whole flock as a prevention? Arg!! Also, would a Deep Litter Method encourage infestations?
      CzyChikenMath and country_chic86 like this.
  13. Bird Mimic
    A very timely article.
    Recently, our whole house was infested by bird mites.
    Everyone was getting bit, and having them crawling all over us.
    It all came from what we thought was a cute situation.
    Some doves decided to make a nest in the eaves of our front entry door.
    We enjoyed them, and the bit of nature they exhibited to our family, as we have this happen on a few occasions.
    The nightmare began shortly after the babies were weened, and left the nest.
    These birds were infested, and we didn't know it!
    The thousands, if not millions of mites migrated into our house through the screen, once the nest was abandoned.
    They were looking for a new host.
    What did we do?
    1. Wash everything!
    2. Shampoo & steam clean upholstery and carpets.
    3. Lysol & Simple Green was our new friend, as we were constantly cleaning and disinfecting everything with it.
    4. I used poison spray outside. (hose application was easiest)
    10 days later, eggs may hatch and cause you to treat again!
    (It's been 7 days so far, we'll see what happens)
    What a nightmare!
    Here's the good news; Our chickens in the back yard have not been affected.
    (cross fingers)

    Moral of this story; Never let wild birds nest close to your property!
    It's just not worth taking a chance, that causes so much trouble.
  14. Provadance
    We have a dozen hens in MA. Never had insect problems on the birds before, but I was finding these very tiny bugs on me, and getting bit a lot. Wife doesn't seem to get bitten. The local pest control guy didn't recognize them, but I finally found out they are mites. So, now on to control methods, and thanks for the article. They have probably been carried in the house too, not sure how to handle that. Maybe I'll put some DE and sand in the bathtub and have a dustup every night. :) But, I will be avoiding picking up the chickens, and when collecting eggs too.
    1. Texas Kiki
      Invest in some Permethrin spray and skip buying DE.
      You'll be much happier.
  15. Texas Kiki
    DE Will not cure lice or mites.
  16. hlhutchinson
    You said that you use garden and poultry dust to prevent, do you just put it in their dust bath, or put it in the coop too?
  17. strangeanimal
    I'm very glad to see there was alr(eady an article devoted on this subject , really , it looks like ' eww but that is tiny so it is harmless ' yet it is far from that ...
  18. Hybridchucks
    Great info!!!
  19. poodlechicks
    Good article! Several months ago I had a problem with scaly leg mites and wanted to try a more natural treatment. I had tried petroleum jelly before, and it took a long time of diligent treatment for a noticeable improvement, let alone all the sticky mess. I then read on a "lice and mite treatment" thread about castor oil. My hen is now free of leg mites and it took much less time for her condition to improve. I totally recommend castor oil and wish I remembered the poster to thank him/her for the
    excellent tip.
    1. buttertart
      Might sound like a dumb question, did you feed her the castor oil, or rub it on her legs? I feed my chickens leeks fairly regular as I read it is a natural deterrent for pests for them.
  20. RodNTN
    Great aritcle!
  21. flewdcoop
    Excellent article, well worth reading. I really like having this knowledge available.
  22. lizardandchicks
    After you dust the chickens with treatment, I heard you are suppose to dust the coop as well, in case of mites. But I am worried that my chickens will try to eat the dust, and since it is poison, that can't be good. What do I do?
  23. chicken farmer
  24. Lady of McCamley
    @LuckyLouanne Could you site your source for the ban of Sevin use in poultry? I have searched EPA and USDA and the most I an see is that Sevin has been repeatedly reviewed and re-registered for use and has again come up for review which should be finalized by 2016. However, I can find no mention of any ban, other than it would not fit organic use as it is not on the approved list of chemicals. I do find lots of Ag sites that recommend its use in poultry, so I am not sure that "ban" is correct. There are voluntary rescinds, but there is no official ban that I can see.
  25. cvillarrealb
    Great great article. Thanks for such important info. I will prepare a dust bath box with DE, sand and some dirt
  26. LuckyLouanne
    This is the first article that correctly states sevin has been banned for use in poultry. Kudos to you for keeping us safe.
  27. mymilliefleur
    Great article! I use a mix of ACV citrus cleaner and a mild lice and mange soap for cattle. It works very well.
  28. FourteenChicks
    My hens have a horrid infestation of mites. They live in the wooden post in the corner of the pen and there is a lot of them. I have tried everything and nothing has worked. I'm going to try vasolene but do you have any recommendations about the coop?
  29. Smilin Teri
    Do mites live in sand ?
  30. Mountain Peeps
  31. The Farm
    Ok well i have raised chickens, ducks and pigeons for years but now i am having a problem we live in OK so it has been in the 70s in the days and around 36 at night and i have had about 8 of my chickens die out of the blue. Today i went out to the farm and 2 of my OEB roosters had their feathers dored down and just sat on the ground and 1 more ended up dying so the other one i stuck under a heath lamp whatds wrong???
  32. ChickyDick
    Hi All,
    Can anyone help me with the dosage of moxidectin on poultry please?
    Thank you in adviace!
  33. fresheggsdaily
    Wood Ash and DE as well as keeping a clean coop and providing a dust bath area should be effective treatment. Using Sevin Dust or other carcinogens or pesticides on your hens is just nuts! I would NEVER use that on any of mine. If you stay on top of your flock's condition and health, an infestation should never get so out of hand that you need to resort to using chemicals.
  34. Tacampbell1973
    Perfect. My broody hen has one of these. They are small and straw colored and are running so fast onher that Incant get a good look. None of my other birds have them, but have quarentined her and shop vacuumed the entire coop, sprayed with bleach water. Airdryed, and sprayed again with Poultry Protector. How do I find out what she has for sure so that I can treat it most effectively? I am itching too but pretty sure it is psychological...I hope. Poor baby has probablly had it since I have had her, but I have only recently been able to hold her to check. The other adult hen I tackled yesterday with a towel and caught her to thoroughly investigate. Mites orwhatever they are are only on her torso.It may also bear mention that she has a broken tip on beak so can't pick them offm herself.
  35. chickery-do
    Ih and what about Lactic Acid on them?
  36. chickery-do
    What about DE? Could you do an update or email me on this please, I'm very curious. Thank you
  37. Our Roost
    A reply from a more experienced chicken owner said eggs and meat eating was fine, Not to worry. I have had no problems with eating our eggs. Our birds have had one of the the mite types listed in this article. Thanks to mother nature and the current high heat index, our mosquito and mite problem has dwindled. Both have actually burned up and are dying off! A good time to do a thorough cleaning of the coop and spray or dust both with some well known products such as Ortho. I am going to try a one quart hose sprayer that you can mix your solution in. Good luck.
  38. HazensHens
    My three hens have lice and this is the first bug/health issue ive ever had with chickens. are the eggs still okay to eat while they are infested? I will be treating them tomorrow organically with apple cider bathes and a natural "poultry protector" spray.
      CzyChikenMath likes this.
  39. lauranickerson
    I just bought 5 laying hens from someone on craigslist that said they were perfectly healthy. I inspected them at home before putting them with my flock, and sure enough, they have lice (I think lice, and not mites, but don't know exactly what either look like). I put a few inches of D.E. in a wash tub and held each bird down in it while I covered them in it, being sure to rub it in everywhere. I don't really have a good separation area, and will have to keep them in the garage (which I don't want to do) until they are gone. Any idea how long I should do this or what else I can use? I really want to go pick up some Sevin dust and get it over with. Any ideas? *I'm going to post this in the Emergency/Disease/Pest thread as well.
  40. Tadkins472
    I use food grade Diamatacious earth mixed in with the sand bedding and it seems to keep them at bay.
  41. Our Roost
    Katsdar! In relation to using wood or charcoal ash, go to advanced search on the BYC web site and type in dust bathing. I know I read some wood types in those articles some where. Hope thats helpful.
  42. HenFriend
    Recently had major lice infestation, bathed worst affected with a weak dog shampoo then rinsed with water containing "Dyna Mite" natural pest repellant which is suitable for use on birds. Picked out as many nits as possible, glued on like concrete. Finally when the birds were dry I dusted with DE which I repeated every week. There are still the odd few lice around but I think I have got on top of the problem. Strangely some birds were heavily infested, others had nothing even though they are in together.
  43. katsdar
    Has anyone tried the wood ash? and would BBQ charcoal ash work too?
  44. MarcoPollo
    Diatomaceous earth did nothing for mites when I used it. I did a full coop cleanout, vacuumed, replaced bedding and then mixed in DE and also dusted the birds with it. Repeated 2 weeks later. Mites were everywhere still. I attacked the mites again with Sevin Dust in the coop, but not directly on the birds. It worked. Now I use poultry dust in the coop monthly when it's cleaned out, and on the birds only twice. I think DE might be ok prior to an infestation though. I might try it again some day instead of using poultry dust.
  45. Studio2770
    Well I don't have an extra coop laying around if there is an infestation...
  46. Our Roost
    No mention of diatomacious earth being used? Some BYC articles refer to this product as a helpful aide in controling mites and lice. Your input please.
  47. cluckcluckluke
    I found a mix of Sulfur, Lime and DE works great on lice and mites. It is also much cheaper to buy than the poultry dust.
    Great Article. Good read...but now I'm feeling imaginary bugs crawling all over me!!
      CzyChikenMath and AmyMoore like this.
  48. cheeka
    Very good article willowbranchfarm! I had not forgotten that you asked to use some pics... but kind of had... (face/palm) until today... when it is a featured article on The BYC and splashed on my facebook page! my babies... good job!
  49. Yard full o' rocks
    GREAT info....another solution that works very well is Petarmor for dogs (not the PLUS version) in the XL size (89 to 132 lbs). A package contains 3 vials normally. Add 2 vials to 16 oz of 90+% isopropyl alcohol (found readily at any pharmacy now) in a clean spray bottle, shake well and put one spray in the vent area (near, not "in") and one spray under each wing. The liquid needs to touch the skin, so separate the feathers
  50. sparkleeyes
    Yet another thing to keep an eye on. Thanks for helping to keep us informed!

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: