Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Creepy Crawlies - What they are and do
Please note that this is from an American site. Hopefully there will be pictures added soon

Common External Parasites in Poultry: Lice and Mites


Carrie L. Pickworth

Avian Disease Investigation Laboratory

Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine

The Ohio State University

Teresa Y. Morishita

Extension Poultry Veterinarian

Ohio State University Extension

Parasites can be detected on the external surfaces of the body by way of a thorough physical examination. Periodical examination of the flock can help to detect an early infestation and can help to prevent a larger flock outbreak. It is important to detect infestations early because of the restrictions on treatments available for food-producing birds. Moreover, many of the parasites have an environmental component so treating the environment is also necessary for controlling infestations. Prevention and early detection are the keys to successful treatment and control of external parasites in poultry flocks. The most common external parasites seen in poultry are lice and mites.

Poultry Lice

Poultry lice are tiny, wingless, 6-legged, flat-bodied, insects with

broad, round heads. They lay their eggs on the host bird’s feathers, especially near the base of the feather shaft. A female louse will lay 50 to 300 eggs at a time, which she cements to the feather shaft. There are several species of lice that affect poultry, and multiple species can affect a bird at any given time. Some species can be localized on specific locations like the quill lice; or others can be found over most of the body surface like the chicken body lice. The lice found on poultry do not suck blood as the lice found in other species of animals; rather they feed on dry skin scales, feathers, and scabs. However, they will ingest blood extruding from irritated skin. The entire life cycle of the lice occurs on the host bird, primarily in the feathers. Poultry lice are host specific and cannot be transferred to humans.

Fall and winter are the most common times to observe lice infestations. Inspect the ventral region of the bird for live lice crawling on the bird and for nits (lice eggs) as most infestations start in this area of the bird’s body. Eggs are white and commonly appear in bunches on the lower feather shaft. Feathers of infested birds may have a moth-eaten appearance. Due to the feather damage, the bird may have a dull or roughened appearance.

Poultry Mites

There are two major types of mites found on the body of poultry. They are the Northern Fowl Mite (or in tropical environments, the Tropical Fowl Mite) and the Chicken Mite (or Red Roost Mite).

The Northern Fowl Mite is the most common external parasite in poultry, especially in cool weather climates. It sucks blood from all different types of fowl and can live in the temperate regions of the world. As compared to the Chicken Mite, the Northern Fowl Mite primarily remains on the host for its entire life cycle. These mites can live off the host bird for 2 to 3 weeks. These mites are small and black or brown in color, have 8 legs, and are commonly spread through bird-to-bird contact. The Tropical Fowl Mite is comparable to the Northern Fowl Mite but lives in the tropical regions.

The Chicken Mite is a nocturnal mite that is primarily a warm weather pest. These mites suck the blood from the birds at night and then hide in the cracks and crevices of the houses during the day. Chicken Mites are dark brown or black, much like the Northern Fowl Mite.

The life cycle of mites can be as little as 10 days, which allows for a

quick turnover and heavy infestations. Mites can be transferred between flocks by crates, clothing, and wild birds. Mites are capable of living in the environment and off the host bird for a period of time. Diagnoses of mite infestations are similar to that of lice; however since mites can live off the bird and some are nocturnal, inspect birds and housing facilities at night especially if you suspect that the Chicken Mite is the cause of the infestation. Observable signs may include darkening of the feathers on white feathered birds due to mite feces; scabbing of the skin near the vent; mite eggs on the fluff feathers and along the feather shaft; or congregations of mites around the vent, ventral abdomen, tail, or throat. Since mites congregate around the ventral region, they can also reduce a rooster’s ability of successful matings.

Flock Symptoms

Flocks infested with lice or mites show similar general symptoms. Birds will have decreased egg production; decreased weight gain; decreased carcass-grading quality; increased disease susceptibility; and decreased food intake. If any of these generalized symptoms are observed, a visual evaluation is recommended. Inspect birds around the ventral region for signs of lice or mites since infestations usually start in this area of the bird.


Sanitation and cleanliness are the keys to lice and mite control. Sanitation includes cleaning and disinfecting housing facilities and equipment between flocks. Moreover, reducing people traffic through housing facilities is recommended. Eliminating the contact between flocks and wild birds can reduce the potential transfer of external parasites. Chemical control can include the use of carbaryl (Sevin®). Treat the walls, floors, roosts, nest boxes, and the birds simultaneously. When dusting an entire house, be careful to avoid feed contamination. One treatment method for small flocks or individual birds is the use of a dusting bath with Sevin®. Place the bird into a garbage bag containing the medicated powder with the birds’ head out and rotate/shake the bag to completely cover the bird with powder. Be sure not to inhale the medicated powder during treatments. The use of a facial mask is recommended to prevent inhaling this medicated powder. Because the life cycle of lice and mites is. approximately 2 weeks, treatments should be repeated every 2 weeks as needed. Carefully read all labels prior to treatment to make sure withdrawal times are followed for food-producing poultry. Severe lice or mite infestations can be treated initially with a kitten strength dose of a pyrethrin-based medicated spray on the birds to reduce the initial numbers. If problems persist, contact a veterinarian for treatment with such medications as Ivermectin?. Prevention is the best method of treatment. For poultry used in exhibition or for new poultry entering the flock, a minimum quarantine period of 2 weeks is recommended. During this time birds should be physically examined and treated if necessary.
There are various treatments readily available from feed merchants, pet stores and online.

For red mites that appear at night dismantle the house as much as possible and if the house has a felt roof replace this with Onduline if possible. Blow torch (carefully) all the cracks and crevices to kill as many off as possible or steam clean. To find out if you have red mites check the house at night, wipe a piece of white kitchen towel along the underneath of the perches and if there are red smears then the chances are it's red mites. Get some appropriate red mite powder and dust it all over the house before putting it back together. Duramitex is a liquid that some people use to good effect.

For lice - get yourself some appropriate lice powder, again from a feed merchant or online, dust your house at regular intervals along with your birds and their nest boxes, you can also put some in their dust bath to help. After the first treatment they should be treated 7-10 days later to kill off any eggs. Barrier do a product for both mites and lice and Ascott Smallholding are online and do products to cover most things you could possibly need.

For leg mites there are also various treatments - if the leg scales on your birds are raised then the chances are they have leg mites, it is very annoying for the bird and needs treatment, it looks as though they have a whitish crust on their legs,they spread by contact so all birds will need to be treated. Treat them at night when they are dozing and quiet,they will need treating once a week for 3 weeks, some people smear Vaseline on the legs (it didn't work for me) some use surgical spirit, I pour mine into a hand held garden sprayer as it makes it much easier to administer. It takes about a year for new scales to grow and do not be tempted to pick raised scales off!!

Surgical Spirit and an alternative Benzyl Benzoate can both be bought in a chemists.
More common than anyone would consider, and hits smaller keepers the most commonly.

These nasty little blighters are most commonly brought in by wild birds, although, flies, wild rabbits and other creatures that visit us will also bring them in.

Once the presence of them is known, the quicker the response, the better.

If there is spare housing available, then this is ideal. If not, then the problem can still be dealt with, will just take that bit longer to deal with. As with all mite infestations, good weather is favourable.

If spare housing is available, then the spare housing should be treated with Poultryshield, suitable protective clothing should be worn and the whole house should be disassembled as much as possible and sprayed with a 10% solution in all remaining nooks and crannies. Anything disassembled should be cleaned and treated with the same solution. A low pressure spray is ideal.

On making the cleansed housing available, the birds should then be treated. I would highly recommend Merial Eprinex treatment, which is a drop on treatment, administered to the birds on the back between where the wings meet. Other applications, such as Ivermectin are just not up to the job.

If there is a clear and present infestation, I would also recommend spraying the birds with a 10% dilution of the Poultryshield directly to the infested area (ususally below the vent, but on boys it can be fairly widespread, and with established infestations, will also affect the legs on girls and the neck area). When the birds are sprayed in this manner, it would be helpful to have a table (I used a plastic one), and a big bucket to take away all fluids that leave the bird as a result of spraying. The fluids will be a horrible yellow/beige colour.

In the houses that have birds with infestation, all nest and flooring material should be preferably doused with the Poultryshield and removed, either incinerated or removed from the premises completely. The house should then be treated as described earlier with the Poultryshield.

Once the house and birds have been treated, then the house should be allowed to dry out, be refurnished with Stalosan F and new nesting/beddings materials.

The whole process would need to be carried out again within 10 - 14 days, 14 being the maximum, and again, after another 10 - 14 days. By this stage, the erradication should be complete, if not, then further repetition of treatments should be carried out until complete erradication is achieved.

Obviously, this is only my recommendation, given my own experience.
Some may find this helpful when dealing with lice or mites 

CHUCKLERS RULE THE ROOST - Dave. Zen Seeker of The Board. rabbit run

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)