External Parasites

This is the time of year that flock keepers should be aware of poultry lice and poultry mites. Both types of pests can be detrimental to the health of your birds, so it is a good idea to look at them often during the warm months and to take preliminary precautions.

Before you begin panicking, be aware: Poultry lice are not the same bugs that humans get. They do not suck blood. Instead, they feed on dry skin, scales and feathers. If a poultry louse gets on you, it will simply fall off or wash off, so you don’t need to be concerned about becoming a host for poultry lice.

You also cannot contract poultry mites, of which there are two types, the Northern Fowl Mite and the Chicken Mite. Both types of mites thrive on the blood of the chickens. The Northern Fowl Mite is the most common parasite in chickens. The Chicken Mite is nocturnal and hides in the cracks and crevices of the chicken house during the day.

If your flock is infested with either pest, the symptoms will be similar: lowered egg production, loss of appetite, more susceptible to diseases and less weight gain. If you observe any symptoms, the first step is to look for lice or mites on the birds. The ventral area is usually the first to be infested, so look there for signs of bugs.

The second step is to thoroughly clean the area. Sanitation is a key to getting rid of either lice or mites, so you will want to clean the floors, walls, and nest boxes. Sevin Dust is recommended because it can kill both parasites, but be sure not to contaminate the birds’ food and avoid inhaling the dust.

Make sure to read all of the labels and safety information on the Sevin Dust packaging.

I recommend putting the Sevin Dust in a can with a perforated end that can be used like a shaker. You can sometimes find it sold in such a shaker. You can then shake the dust onto the vent, saddle, neck feathers and ruffle it through the rest of the feathers.

You should perform all of the treatments on the same day, and it should be repeated every two weeks until the infestation has been eradicated.