Feather Lice, Shaft Louse, Small Body Louse

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by FeatherToad, Dec 8, 2016.

  1. FeatherToad

    FeatherToad Just Hatched

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    After scooping up my rooster for some chicken cuddles today I noticed a tiny critter scuttle into the feathers on the back of his neck... After a thorough inspection of his plumage, and also our six hens, it seems as though we have an early phase or very light infestation of feather lice; four was as many as I could find on a single bird, no obvious eggs. They look like Menopon gallinae small body louse AKA shaft louse. Any entomology nerds want to take a crack at this? I'll try to grab a couple more of these guys and get them under a scope next week.

    After everyone headed to the roost this evening they got a dusting with a diatomaceous earth and calcium bentonite. We hung them upside down to try to get the dust under their feathers better, though it probably really only got down to the skin around their vents and under their wings. And before anyone get crazy, yes, we covered their faces with a washcloth to keep the dust out of their lungs. We also dusted the nest boxes really well with diatomaceous earth. They'll be getting daily feather inspections to monitor louse levels for the next few weeks.

    I'm wondering what level of lice is tolerable? Our flock free-ranges, and wild chickens regularly visit our property to hang out. We can keep the wild ones out of the coop and run, but theres no keeping the wild birds, chickens or otherwise, out of our yard... I'm not about to lock up the chickens for the rest of their lives, so reinfestation is highly likely even if we could completely delouse them. I imagine there may always be a small number of lice hanging out on a bird? Could a healthy free-ranging hen really have ZERO ectoparasites? At what point should we be reaching for poultry protector, or even pyrethrins?

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  2. Ravynscroft

    Ravynscroft For the Love of Duck Premium Member

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    The issue is, once you have a few they multiply in leaps and bounds rather quickly... and they chew up the feathers, damaging them until they no longer protect the chicken properly nor keep them warm or waterproof...

    When our coats get worn and holey, we can just replace them with a new one... chickens must wait until they molt before their new coat and clothes are replaced...
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Welcome to BYC!
    Those are great pics...kudos!

    I do not believe that feather lice are that large nor that they spend much of their life outside the feather shaft.
    I have tried over and over to no avail to find pics of them.

    Those look to be body lice.....have you seen any clusters of hard grayish/whitish deposits at the base of the feathers especially around the vent area?
    Google chicken lice egg images.

    DE won't do much, tho it might help as a preventative for mites in the cracks and cervices of the coop/nest structure.

    I found lice fairly easy to get rid of, couple doses of permethrin powder took care of them.
    They came in with my first flock I bought as adults, I didn't discover them for months so most had them pretty bad.
    Don't think they are as detrimental to health as mites are, as lice feed mostly on old skin...don't think they eat blood at all.
    And they stay on the birds instead of living in the coop structure... only coming out an night to feed on blood, like northern fowl mites do.
    Best to get rid of them tho....they can stress the bird.

    As far as your wild and roaming domestic birds, can't help ya there....those vectors could certainly re-infest your birds.
     
  4. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member

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    Quote: I would treat with *permethrin* dust or spray, not DE, pyrethrin, or carbaryl (Sevin)

    -Kathy
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016
  5. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member

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    http://www.denniskunkel.com/DK/Insects/23182A.html

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    Chicken body louse (Menacanthus stramineus)


    Image Number: 23182A

    Unauthorized Use Prohibited (see Image Use)
    Rights Managed Image - License Required for Use - Photo Credit is Required
    Caption:

    Chicken body louse - adult and juvenile (Menacanthus stramineus). The chicken body louse is wingless and flattened. They have two sharp claws that they use to scratch the surface of the chicken for food. They occur wherever poultry hosts can be found. This chewing louse feeds on skin fragments, feathers and debris and causes the host's skin to be irritated, red, and scabby. As a result, infested birds lose weight and layers decrease egg production. Extremely heavy infestations can kill poultry
     
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  6. FeatherToad

    FeatherToad Just Hatched

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    Thanks for the input and great resources guys,

    I've checked everyone a few times over... so far no clumps of eggs and it seems as though there are fewer lice since the DE dusting. I'll probably find some permethrin powder to keep on hand in case things start looking worse.

    I feel like I would adopt a zero tolerance policy for mites... should I do the same for lice? Given there are lice vectors roaming around just waiting to reinfest clean birds it seems pointless... Dusting with insecticides continuously can't be good for the chickens, so what would a reasonable lice threshold be? Or is there one? Is this a lice-explosion waiting to happen or can healthy birds keep the lice levels in check?
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Not sure what I would do in your situation, it's a tough one, as my birds are confined and very rarely are they exposed to wild birds.
    Tho lice don't drink blood that could cause anemia, they can cause wounds that could lead to infection.
    I really don't know what condition not treating at all might lead to.
    I guess I would try to treat to rid the birds of the current lice infestation using permethrin then wait and see what the reinfestation rate might be.
    Maybe confine them during treatment and maybe don't range them as often to reduce risk<shrugs>


    BTW the products that contain 'DE with calcium bentonite(which is basically clay)' usually have very little DE in them.
    Bought one and later, after using as a premises preventative, read label carefully enough to realize it, and didn't bother using it again.
    Got pure food grade DE to dust/pack cracks and crevices in coop.
     
  8. Folly's place

    Folly's place Overrun With Chickens

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    My birds are also exposed to wild birds, and get mites, and once lice, and it's not good. Permethrin spray concentrate is the easiest best solution I've ever found, and it's approved for laying hens too! I have lost birds to mites, and once to lice before I learned better, and now I have zero tolerance for the little beasts. Spray the coop and birds while they are roosting at night, and check them weekly for signs of reinfestation, and treat again when it happens. If you use dust, wear at least an N95 dust mask to save your lungs! Mary
     
  9. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member

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    Two to three weeks ago I found my 8 year old rooster looking a quite ill, so I brought him in and found he had tons of lice, and I mean they were everywhere! So I did like @Folly's place suggests and treated with permethrin spray, though I probably used too much because he did get wet and chilled from it. [​IMG] It's been at least two weeks since I treated him and he's back to crowing, has gained weight, and still no sign of lice, so I think the spray must have a pretty good residual effect on the hatching lice.

    Going forward it's a zero tolerance for lice for me.

    @Folly's place , lice don't seem to suck blood the same way mites do, so why can they make birds so sick? Since treating this rooster for just lice I am convinced that a heavy infestation can kill them Before this I didn't think it was possible.

    -Kathy
     
  10. Folly's place

    Folly's place Overrun With Chickens

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    Lice will drink blood from damaged blood feathers, and that's not healthy! They will cause possibly fatal anemia, all by themselves. Mary
     

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