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.
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  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.
    [​IMG]
    Picture by bluebee


    Mites
    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 treatment 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 bit by a few chiggers before and it really itches.

    Lice
    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 chickens skin and vent. Louse eggs will be clumped on the feather shaft.

    Here are lice eggs around the feather shaft.
    [​IMG]
    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.


    Treatment
    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.

    Prevention
    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.
    ~WillowBranchFarm~

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  1. 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. KikisGirls
      Permethrin based spray.
    2. GMarie65
      Thanks Kikis Girls is there a certain percentage?
  2. 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?
      country_chic86 likes this.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. KikisGirls
      Invest in some Permethrin spray and skip buying DE.
      You'll be much happier.
      rlhagan56 likes this.
  5. KikisGirls
    DE Will not cure lice or mites.
      rlhagan56 likes this.
  6. 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?
  7. 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 ...
  8. Hybridchucks
    Great info!!!
  9. 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.
  10. RodNTN
    Great aritcle!
  11. flewdcoop
    Excellent article, well worth reading. I really like having this knowledge available.
  12. 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?
  13. chicken farmer
  14. 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.
  15. cvillarrealb
    Great great article. Thanks for such important info. I will prepare a dust bath box with DE, sand and some dirt
  16. LuckyLouanne
    This is the first article that correctly states sevin has been banned for use in poultry. Kudos to you for keeping us safe.
  17. mymilliefleur
    Great article! I use a mix of ACV citrus cleaner and a mild lice and mange soap for cattle. It works very well.
  18. 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?
  19. Smilin Teri
    Do mites live in sand ?
  20. Mountain Peeps
  21. 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???
  22. ChickyDick
    Hi All,
    Can anyone help me with the dosage of moxidectin on poultry please?
    Thank you in adviace!
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. chickery-do
    Ih and what about Lactic Acid on them?
  26. chickery-do
    What about DE? Could you do an update or email me on this please, I'm very curious. Thank you
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. Tadkins472
    I use food grade Diamatacious earth mixed in with the sand bedding and it seems to keep them at bay.
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. katsdar
    Has anyone tried the wood ash? and would BBQ charcoal ash work too?
  34. 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.
  35. Studio2770
    Well I don't have an extra coop laying around if there is an infestation...
  36. 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.
  37. 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!!
      AmyMoore likes this.
  38. 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!
  39. 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
  40. sparkleeyes
    Yet another thing to keep an eye on. Thanks for helping to keep us informed!
  41. BYC Project Manager
    Congratulations! Your article is now featured on the homepage carousel! Thanks for submitting it to our BYC Article Writing Contest.
  42. Sally Sunshine
    Love this article!! Thanks!
  43. willowbranchfarm
    Yes they are better or worse in certain areas. However I don't know all the country's they are common in or uncommon in.
  44. countrygirl74
    I'm curious... are all these mites/lice found all over North America or are there certain areas of the country that are better or worse for contracting these? For instance, we don't have chiggers in Arizona. I'm just wondering if there are certain ones to watch out for in certain states and climates...
      Chick Nana 6 likes this.
  45. willowbranchfarm
    Thanks guys. I will add that in MsBagawkbagawk.
  46. MsBagawkbagawk
    Great article! Petroleum Jelly smothered on the nits works great too. It smothers them and they don't hatch, and eventually they just fall out.
  47. sumi
    Very good article! I didn't know there were that many different chicken bugs *shudder*. No more cuddles! Bring on the dust LOL
      Chick Nana 6 likes this.

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