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How do chickens get lice?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by dianacirce, Sep 20, 2013.

  1. dianacirce

    dianacirce Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 6, 2013
    Nickerson, NE
    I've been raising chickens since earlier this year and got 3 chickens from one person and 6 from another. They were all healthy and clean, with the exception of my bantam. I did a lot of research to see what kinds of problems I might have, and saw that lice and mites were one thing to look out for.

    I've been treating my coop with DE, and provide the ladies with a dust bath with DE in it, and clean the coop entirely on a regular basis, but I discovered today that they have somehow gotten poultry lice. How do they get this? I am fairly certain they didn't have them when I got them, and I was getting eggs until earlier this week. Now, all the sudden my ladies quit laying, one has gotten really fluffy feathers on her rear end, and my bantam has preened herself to nearly bald on her rear end. I'm at a loss. I've read to use sevin on them, but the idea of using a pesticide really bothers me. But I also don't want this to be a constant battle.

    Any help woud really be appreciated
     
  2. BantamLover21

    BantamLover21 Overrun With Chickens

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    Jul 24, 2013
    Lice and mites live in the environment, on wild birds, and on other chickens. Because they're everywhere, even with every precautionary measure, almost every flock will eventually become infested with external parasites. Large infestations of mites/lice can cause lethargy, weight loss, feather loss, a drop in egg laying, and even death. Fortunately, though, they are relatively easy to treat.

    You appear to have been doing a good job trying to prevent parasite infestation (using DE, dust baths, clean coop, etc.). But now that your hens are infested, basically the only effective treatment is a chemical. The best product to use is 5% Sevin dust or poultry dust, which can usually be purchased at a garden store. To treat, dust the Sevin/poultry dust through each bird's feathers. Re-dust 7-10 days after the first treatment to kill any lice that hatch from eggs. You should also clean out your coop, spray it down with vinegar or liquid Sevin, and then put in all fresh bedding.

    The feather loss in your hens is probably because of the lice or being picked on by the other hens. I would watch your flock and see if you have a bully that is yanking out the other birds' feathers. Also, how old are your hens? Most birds will begin molting at 1-1 1/2 years of age, so your hens could be beginning to molt. To help them grow in feathers faster, try giving them some high protein foods (wet cat food, mealworms, etc.).
     
  3. dianacirce

    dianacirce Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 6, 2013
    Nickerson, NE
    Thank you for the reply, Bantamlover. I do think she is preening herself bald. Right now, I don't notice any bullying. I have 4 and they are all very sweet natured, and while there is a dominant female, none of them are mean or peck at her. They tend to hang out in pairs, my two Easter eggers together, and my bantam and mixed breed together.

    Is there any sort of a natural way to get rid of them? I am very uncomfortable with the idea of using chemicals on my birds, although I will do what is necessary to get rid of them.

    Also, any other preventatives? I read that wild birds, and sometimes rodents, will pass along lice and mites. I'm not in the city, so I'm probably more likely to have to deal with rodents in the coop, but this infestation is obviously lice, I've looked at tons of pics online and there is no question in my mind.
     
  4. BantamLover21

    BantamLover21 Overrun With Chickens

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    Well, there is Poultry Protecter, (http://www.mannapro.com/products/poultry/poultry-protector/) which is an all-natural mite/lice deterrent. You can sometimes find it at a livestock/farm supply store, as it is somewhat common. In my experience, sometimes Poultry Protecter works, and other times it doesn't. But you could try it and see what happens.
     
  5. dianacirce

    dianacirce Out Of The Brooder

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    1
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    Jul 6, 2013
    Nickerson, NE
    I did happen to find that product at my local TSC. I checked Bomgaars, but they didn't carry anything like that, not even DE. I have a really hard time with the idea of putting sevin on my animals, tho I know others do it with no harm done. But then again, I try to "organic" and "natural" everything. If this spray doesn't eliminate the problem, then I will move onto the sevin. It appeared that while one bird, the older/smaller bird, was severely infested, none of the others have had the same fate. I saw one insect on the bird that hung with the bantam, and absolutely no eggs, and I didn't even find any insects on the other two. I know that doesn't mean they are bug free, but I do know they really, REALLY liked their dust bath.

    Today we completely took everything out of the coop, all bedding, nesting boxes, roosts, etc. and scrubbed everything top to bottom, inside and out, with vinegar and water (was what I had read on several sites to do), as well as closed off any possible way for rodents and wild birds to get into the coop and run area, and made sure we were good and draft free for the winter. We sprayed that Poultry Protector everywhere, including the ladies, and will do it again day after tomorrow, as directed. Then it says once a week as a preventative.

    I really hope we have the problem licked. I am supposed to get a couple new ladies this week, and we have a friend hatching 9 eggs for us that should be hatching in a couple. I know we won't put the young ones in with the others any time soon, but I would really rather not have any additions while we are having issues. I want happy, healthy birds, and I know it stressful enough making changes in the coop without them having to deal with potentially harmful parasites.

    I am so glad I found this forum!! Thank you for your help :)
     
  6. BantamLover21

    BantamLover21 Overrun With Chickens

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    Mites are an annoying problem, aren't they? Your birds can be fine one day, and then two days later they're covered in mites. Sometimes the mites are easy to get rid of; other times they're not. My flock has experienced several mite infestations, all of which have been treated, but have still been hassle that I would rather not have dealt with.
     

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