When you hear the words “lice,” “fleas,” or “mites,” if you’re anything like us, you likely already start to feel itchy. Just the thought of those tiny eight- or six-legged pests crawling anywhere near you, your family, or pets probably has you on edge. But did you know that your chickens can also contract pests called chicken mites or chicken lice?
With all of the possible illnesses or diseases your flock can get, a lice infestation can be one of the most annoying to get rid of. Even if you get new birds from a reputable source like Freedom Ranger, you always want to practice good biosecurity and check your chickens before introducing them to your flock.
In today’s post, we’re going to take a look at different types of chicken mites or lice, the symptoms to look out for in your flock, and a few other common questions you might have.
Most Common Types of Chicken Mites
If you’re asking yourself, “There’s more than one type of mite that can infect my birds?!” then you’re probably not alone. Unfortunately, there’s more than one type of chicken lice that exists and will be attracted to your flock. Here are a few of the most common ones:
- Northern Fowl Mites: As the most common type of poultry mites found on birds, the Northern Fowl Mite can be challenging to detect early. If you see white clusters of eggs around the shaft of the chicken feathers, you know it’s a Northern Fowl Mite.
- Red Roost Mites: Very similar to the Northern Fowl Mite, are Red Roost Mites. But unlike their counterparts, these ectoparasites (a parasite that lives on or in the skin) do not live their entire life cycle on the birds. If your bird is mite-infested, you’ll only notice these pests coming out to feed on the birds at night.
- Scaly Leg Mites: If your chicken’s feet are looking a bit scaly or crusty, they may have fallen victim to the Scaly Leg Mite. Unfortunately, these chicken mites are not visible to the naked eye. Instead, they burrow under the scales of your chicken’s feet and legs, creating tunnels and leaving feces behind, which causes the infection.
While there are many more types of these pests, you can rest assured that you and your family won’t get a lice infestation as a result. While chicken mites will still bite you (so take precaution when you’re treating your birds), they won’t stay on you and will return to the chickens.
Most Common Types of Chicken Lice
It’s a little confusing, but yes, there is a slight difference in chicken mites versus chicken lice. Regardless, they’re both pests and a nuisance for your birds, so here are a few common chicken lice types:
- Body Lice: Similar to mites, body chicken lice can be found by parting a bird’s feathers and looking for egg clusters near the base of the feather. You’ll mostly find them near the less feathered areas of your bird by the vent, breast, and thigh.
- Shaft Lice: Slightly smaller than body lice, the shaft lice will lay individual eggs along the feather shaft or feather barb. All of these types of louse are tiny but will be easily identifiable when examining your birds.
If you’re still unsure of the difference between chicken mites and chicken lice, that’s okay—they’re both pests that are treatable in the same way (we’ll get to that later). The main thing to remember is that chicken lice feed on the dead skin of your birds, while chicken mites feed on their blood.
Signs & Symptoms of Lice or Mites
While it may seem obvious, one of the tell-tale signs that your flock is lice or mite infected is if they seem to be over preening themselves. The thought of these pests makes most of us itch, so imagine how it must feel on your birds! So if you notice your birds pecking at their feathers more than usual, you may want to check them a bit more closely.
When you inspect your birds, you’ll want to part their feathers and look for the pests and the egg clusters that we mentioned above. If you’ve ever dealt with human lice or fleas on your pets, chicken mites look very similar.
If you don’t see any of these parasites or egg clusters yet, it may be too early to notice. A few other early signs you can look out for are feather loss, a reduction in egg production, pale wattles and combs (due to anemia from blood loss), or just an overall unhappy chicken.
It’s important to note that chicken mites or lice should not go untreated. Not only will this stress out your flock, but anemia, lameness, or even death can occur in your birds from the blood loss and stress.
How to Naturally Treat Mites & Lice
While there are plenty of methods to prevent chicken mites or lice in your flock, once you have an infestation, you’ll need to treat your birds to avoid further spread. The problem is, most treatments use harmful chemicals that are not good for you, your birds, or the environment.
Here at Freedom Ranger Hatchery, we always want to show our dedication to traditional and environmentally-friendly farming. We want our birds and your birds to be as healthy and natural as possible, which is why we suggest a few of these natural treatments for chicken mites.
If you don’t have a dust bath area for your chickens, consider making one in your yard. Chickens will use a dust bath naturally, which helps prevent a lot of parasites before they become a problem.
To help avoid chicken mites, you can put some wood ash or food-grade diatomaceous earth (more on this later) into their dust area. Both are natural, and your chickens will thank you for the extra help against pests.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) may sound scary, but it is actually a naturally occurring type of sedimentary rock. When it’s ground up, it creates a white powder that can be sprinkled into your chicken’s dust bathing area, or even directly onto their feathers.
When using it, be sure to use a food-grade brand, and be careful you don’t breath too much of it in. You’ll also want to keep it away from your chicken’s eyes. If you are still unsure about it, wood ash can do the trick as well.
Keep the Coop Clean
Just like with humans, your chickens don’t get lice because they’re dirty. Mites or lice can easily latch on to your birds from other animals, wildlife, or even you!
With that in mind, though, it’s still a good idea to keep your coop clean. Especially during the warmer months, which chicken mites and lice prefer, take the time to clean out bedding and the resting areas for your birds.
Coop Mite Spray
Coop mite sprays are relatively easy to come by, but you’ll want to make sure it uses natural ingredients that won’t harm your birds. Using a mite spray while you’re doing other preventative treatments is a great extra step to do to help fight off chicken mites.
If you need some spray in a pinch, you can do a natural mixture of water, dish soap, and oil. There are several recipes you can find online that use various ingredients, but ultimately the spray will help to suffocate the pests and prevent mites or lice from spreading further in your flock.
The adage of “garlic cures everything” may not necessarily be accurate, but it can help in several ways in your battle against chicken lice and mites.
Putting garlic or garlic juice in chicken’s diet can help since most of the parasites don’t like the taste of it in the chicken’s blood. You can also create a mix of water, garlic juice, and a type of essential oil (like lavender), and spray it directly on your chickens and around their coop.
Start Your Flock Off Right
Practicing good biosecurity is essential to making sure your chickens stay happy and healthy. Taking precautionary measures similar to what we mentioned above will also help you prevent mites or lice infestations in the future.
But one of the best things you can do for your flock is to make sure you get any new birds from a reputable breeder like Freedom Ranger Hatchery. While infestations can occur anywhere and anytime, you can rest assured you’ll always receive happy and healthy chickens from Freedom Ranger. Contact us today to learn more about our birds and to see how we can help your flock take flight!