Lice ~ where does it come from and what is the best treatment?


In the Brooder
10 Years
Jun 2, 2009
Hello all,
I have had my chickens for a while now --the one in question for two years and the addition of two more approximately 1 year ago. Recently I noticed poop accumulating on my chickens butt, I took it upon myself today to check things out and give her butt a bath to see what was goign on....this is when i noticed trillions of lice eggs around the vent on the shaft of her feathers.
After doing a little research it would seem that lice is not that uncommon...but my question is..WHERE DID IT COME FROM??? i have not made any additions to my small flock and nothing obvious has changed. Also, finding things to treat the lice with is not as easy as one might assume. I read everything from Sevin Dust, to python dust, to DE ~ Its all very confusing. I even had someone tell me they were surprised my chicken wasn't dead yet
DEAD YET???? He said he has had chickens for years and never ever heard of such a thing.
Unfortunately I had to go with what I could find in my area which was the python dust (and i wont be surprised if THAT kills her seeing as its for livestock... the big kind!) ~ but I diluted it with the DE. Cleaned out the coop--hosed it down and sprinkled a little python dust in there. Also slightly treated their favorite "dust bath" site in hopes of preventing further spread. Now I know that if one has it they all do, but honestly treating her was a nightmare and she is the tame one. Am I using too much? What if i'm not using enough. I've read that the lice only live on the host so I'm hoping that will work in my favor.
But to have a chicken die of simple lice just seems silly to me....but at this point who knows what is going to happen.

Any advice or thoughts would be welcome.
I'd stick w/ the Sevin dust (though this other sounds effective as well).

I've dealt with lice & mites - which are shed from wild birds - before without any real incidents. We did have a BR who died last year b/c of a combination of internal parasites and mites. She was too far gone by the time we realized what was wrong with her.

Hang in there. You're doing the right thing.
I have used Python dust before and it all worked out ok. no deaths. I use Seven most of the time. the wild birds bring them in. just dust them ALL down really well and dust your hen house and any area they like to dust themselves.
makes me itch thinking about it.
Thanks for the comments! I dusted the inside of the coop with the python dust, along with their favorite dusting spot... I was only successful in dusting the one hen who had the obvious problem as she's the most tame and easiest to catch~ but am hoping the other two will make enough contact with the python dust over the next day or two to help aid in stopping any further spread!

WILD BIRDS!!!! This must be the problem, I have noticed an increase in bird population in my yard over the last month...but forgot they are great at spreading mites and lice.

As for the guy who had never heard of this before...but has had years of bird experience. I'd like to ask him how big his flock is. Maybe he has too many birds to notice something liek this. Sometimes I think the fewer birds the more likely you are to notice every little thing! For me, its no different then the cats and dogs in my house, when somethings wrong with them I notice.

In the meantime I will also try to find some place that sells the sevin
I had to chuckle. I've been a hairdresser/barber for over 25 years and I wish I had a dollar for every Mom that asked me, "HOW DID MY KID GET LICE??" They are evil little beggars that kill by chewing on the chicken's skin until it's bloody (they are not really blood suckers BTW, they are flesh and dander eaters), which opens up the skin to a bacterial infection and disease. Mites are another story. So, just to be sure you're actually seeing lice and not mites, here's a link to a fact sheet with photos so you can make a comparison.

for treatment - do yourself a favor and treat ALL your chickens individually with the appropriate killer (permethrin), which is an active ingredient in Python dust. Put some dust in a plastic garbage sack, insert hen, hold the bag closed around the neck and give the bag a good shake (this is called the "shake and bake" treatment here on BYC). Also put some of the Python dust in their favorite dust bathing spots. The most important thing you need to know is that you absolutely MUST re-dust all your birds within 10 days of the initial treatment. The eggs (nits) attached to the feathers are difficult to kill so it's important to retreat within 10 days in order to kill any newly hatched lice before they have a chance to mature and lay more eggs. You need to break the cycle of infestation, as it were.

Poultry (avian) lice are host specific to birds, so you don't need to worry about getting lice yourself from handling your chickens. While it isn't critical that you clean out your coop and spread Python dust in there, it certainly doesn't hurt. As to using diatomaceous earth...I use it liberally in my coop/run and dust bath areas as a preventative measure, but it is not really effective in dealing with an infestation. Use the permethrin to kill everything off, then by all means use the DE as a prevention.

One last bit of info - those egg clusters are cemented to the feathers pretty firmly. They don't fall off even though they are dead. They will remain (usually) until the feathers are either plucked out by the chicken or during a molt.
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wow...thank you so much for all that information! This is exactly what i was looking for. And its good to knwo that those eggs will remain there until molt. I would've been panicking that i wasn't doing something right. I'll get the remaining two birds treated today.. and it sounds like the python dust is the way to go.
I have to admit I was nervous it would kill the birds, but the bird that was liberally doused in it yesterday came strutting out of the hen house this morning unphased and her feathers were looking clean again! So that made me feel better...and you suggesting to put it in their dusting spots is making me feel even better about it.
Shake and bake, I can do that with two...but one of my hens is NASTY! I mean, peck at my hands nasty. I might not be able to shake and bake her as well as the other two, but i'll do my best!
again, thansk for all this great advice!
I use Permethrin 10 livestock and premise spray as a preventative. Its easier than the powders. I just mix it up in one of those pump weed sprayers, and go around at night and spray everyone. Last around 30 on the bird, so I do it every month or so. Ive only dealt with lice once, and I think that was around 2 years ago.

It can come from wild birds visiting with your flock, they drop a couple on the ground and your bird happen to get them on them, and then your dealing with a lice infestation.
A natural treatment is wood ash. Sounds simplistic I know. Have had chickens and a few other birds for three human generations. Have had a wood burning stove or fire place and have always found that the chickens have found the ashes to bathe in. Sometimes they eat it and it has never harmed them and we have never had lice. Fleas maybe but never lice.

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