Lice and Mites, oh my!

Chickens can be prone to pesky pests. Mites and lice may be a problem for chicken, ducks, quail, and other fowl. It is important to be able to distinguish between the parasites and treat if necessary.

What is the difference between Lice and Mites?


Lice are a wingless straw colored ectoparasite. They spend their entire life on an animal host. You can find nits, the louse’s eggs, attached to the feathers if the bird is infested. Lice can be found anywhere on the bird’s body, especially the vent area.

Poultry Mites

Mites are small moving specks when you first glance at them. They are wingless arachnids. They have eight legs are not host specific. They can parasitize many animal species. Mites are normally more active in the winter time than the summer.

There are three types of mites that are very common in poultry. The Chicken mite, also known as the Dermanyssus gallinae, feeds on poultry only during the night. During the day, they normally are found off the bird, and more on housing equipment or bedding. The chicken mite are red to black in color. Because these mites suck on blood at night, you will need to inspect your birds at night to see if they are hosts to these unwanted pests.

The second most common mite found in poultry is the northern fowl mite, or Ornithonyssus sylviarum. This mite sucks blood during the day and night. This mite is also red to black in color. One way to find out if your chicken has this pest is to check the skin during the day and if there are dried blood remnants on the skin, the vent especially, the bird may be infested. Northern fowl mites can be a nuisance because they can crawl on your skin if you pick up eggs or birds. This is another indicator that your bird has this type of mite.

The third type of mite is Scaly leg mites. Because this mite is microscopic and unable to be seen with the naked eye, the signs of this parasite is just like the name entails. The bird shows brittle and flaky skin on their legs. If you touch on their scales, you will feel a powdery substance. As the mite progresses, you will notice more masses and a crusty appearance.

Birds with parasites tend to lay less than those free of them. Preventing lice and mites is your best option. Purely Poultry offers many products that treats against these parasites

Treatment and Prevention

There are many products out there to treat poultry. There are dusts and sprays that can be used as a treatment or preventative measure. Make sure the dusts and sprays are specifically made for poultry. The products should be applied directly on the bird. Make sure you get the vent area, around the neck, and under the wings. Applying the products onto the bedding and nest areas is a good preventative.

Some recommended products are Diatomaceous Earth and Prozap Poultry Dust. For Scaley Leg mites, you can use Petroleum Jelly, Vet rx, or the Scaly Leg Protector.