Best Tips How To Get Rid Of Lice On Chickens

So you think your chickens are dealing with guests and you want to know how to get rid of lice on chickens. 

Don’t feel bad if you keep a clean coop and you still end up with a problem. A mite infestation can happen to anyone. Just be ready to get in and deal with it. Don’t play around trying home remedies that someone mentioned might help.

woman holding a chicken

Make sure you know the difference between lice, molting, and simply broken feathers. 

These can easily be mistaken for a parasite of some kind. Molting is the whole feathers falling out very quickly over a few weeks. 

If it is a broken feather typically the ends of the feathers are messed up from messing around in brush or even getting in a squabble with another chicken.

Signs & Symptoms of Lice or Mites

One of the first things that people tend to notice is signs of feather loss. This comes from the mites actually eating the feathers.

Another obvious sign that your flock is infested with lice or mites is if they seem to spend too much time grooming and preening themselves. If you notice your birds pecking and fussing at their feathers more than usual you might want to look into it a bit more closely.

When you inspect your chickens, you’ll want to separate their feathers and look for any parasites or egg clusters. If you’ve ever had to deal with human lice or mites on your other pets, chicken lice look very similar.

Other symptoms that may occur include a drop in egg production and pale wattles.

Chicken mites or lice need to be treated immediately. Not only will this cause your flock to become stressed out, but anemia, leg weakness, or even death can result from blood loss and stress.

woman holding chicken eggs

 Most Common Types of Chicken Mites

If you’re wondering if there is more than one kind of mite that can affect your birds, then you’re probably not the only one who has this question. There is more than one type of poultry louse that exists and will be drawn to your flock.

 Regardless of whether you are dealing with mites or mites treatment is pretty much the same.

Rather than getting to nity gritty and confuse you. You can think of these external parasites in two categories. 

Shaft Lice: The shaft louse lays individual eggs along the shaft or barb of the feather. All of these external parasite types are small, but they’re easy to spot when inspecting your bird.

Body Lice: These can be found by separating a bird’s feathers and looking for egg clusters near the base of the feather but still on the body. You’ll mostly find them near the more thinly feathered area of your bird by the vent, breast, and thigh.

Here are some of the most common ones. I have dealt with both, unfortunately.

Poultry mites (Northern Fowl Mite): As the most commonly found type of poultry mites, the Northern Fowl mite can be difficult to detect early. If you see white clumps of eggs around the shafts of the chicken feathers, then you know it’s a northern fowl mite.

Scaly Leg Mites: Leg mites are some of the easiest to notice and the hardest to get rid of. If you notice the scales on your chicken’s leg start to lift then you need to treat for mites.

Unfortunately, these chicken lice are not visible to the human eye. Instead, burrow under the scales of your chickens’ feet, creating holes, causing an infection.

It can be scary or unnerving to deal with these infestations but know that you will not get a lice infestation from dealing with this. While the mites may bite you they will not stay on you. So be strong, wear rubber gloves to help and treat your flock.

If you’re still not sure whether chicken mites and chicken lice are the same thing or not, that’s okay. They’re both pests that can be treated in the same way. The main thing to keep in mind is that chicken lice eat dead skin from chickens, while chicken mites eat blood from chickens.

 How To Get Rid Of Lice Treatments

There are several different types of treatments available for these pests. 

Pro tip: For any type of dust or spray make sure you coat the chicken well and spread the feathers apart to make sure the medicine gets all the way down into the feathers and kills the mites. Its a waste of time and money if you just spray the chickens on the back or outside of the feathers and call it good.

Mite Spray For The Coop

Coop mite sprays are pretty easy to find. Try to find something that says it treats mites and lice so you cover your basis.

While natural ingredients might sound like a healthier idea. getting rid of these pests is far more important than keeping chemicals out of the flock. If you don’t act fast enough the mites could get out of control and you may have to put your bird down if it gets bad enough.

chicken standing on a half chicken coop door

Doing an extra step by using a mite spray when you’re already treating your chickens for other parasites is a great way to help them fight off chicken mites too.

Here are a few I would recommend:

I saw a lot of complaints about the smell but it worked great for us.

MARTIN’S 825686 s Pen Poultry Insecticide Spray 32oz Quart, White Bottle – See On Amazon

A Natural Mite Treatment Recipe

If you don’t want to use pesticides on your flock, then you can pursue natural methods to get rid of or control lice. 

Backyard Poultry magazine offers a recipe for lice and mite removal, consisting of the following ingredients mixed in a tub:

  • 2 cups of salt
  • 2 cups of distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups of gentle liquid soap, such castile
  • 5 gallons of warm water

Hold all of your chickens in the bathwater for five minutes, with only the head protruding. Rinse the chicken in warm water after the bath, and to dry the bird wrap them in a towel like a burrito.

Don’t rub their feathers back and forth like you do a dog. Repeat the bath two weeks later — the second bath kids the baby lice and mites.

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Treatment Of Leg Mites

The best thing you can do to treat the mites is to spray the legs with pesticide treatment for chickens and smother the legs in Vaseline. This will suffocate the leg mites.

For poultry lice and mite control, the most common treatment for small flock owners is using a dust powder or spray. Permethrin and tetrachlorvinphos are the two most common active ingredients used to treat birds with external parasites.

It doesn’t matter which insecticide is used; it’s important to follow the label instructions.

It should not be used on chickens less than 3 weeks old because they may have difficulty breathing. 

Mite And Lice Preventatives

These are some things you can do on a regular basis to help prevent lice and mites in your backyard flock.

Get Rid Of Wild Birds And Other Wildlife

This was the culprit of our run-in with mites. The wild birds brought them in because I was just keeping our chicken feeders full. A few found a good feeding spot and soon they brought their friends. 

Well, these little buggers are determined. So I had to stop keeping their bowl full and just feeding them what they could clean up day and night. 

It’s important to make sure that the chickens’ feed isn’t located in an area where wildlife can get into it. Try to put it somewhere where it’s not noticeable. 

You can put netting over your chicken run/yard area to keep them safe but the problem with that is some birds can still get through the chicken wire so I find it a whole lot easier to just feed the birds once a day instead of keeping the bowls full for days.

Clean Your Coop

Just because your flock got mites doesn’t mean the coop wasn’t clean enough. They would come in regardless of how clean the coop is. 

A good practice is to clean your coop out every quarter and spray down the inside with your pesticide treatment of choice. Spraying the walls, floors, nesting boxes, and roosting poles.

Diatomaceous Earth

DE may sound scary, but in reality, it is a naturally occurring form of sedimentary rock. It’s ground-up and makes it a white powder that can easily be sprinkled into your bird’s dust bathing area, and even directly onto its feathers. 

Some people will provide tubs of it as a dust bath for their chickens. I will also sprinkle it around the entire chicken run area as an extra precaution. 

Be careful when using it so that you don’t breathe too deeply into it. Keep it away from your chicken’s eyes. If you’re still not sure whether or not it works, wood ash can be used instead.

Again it works well as a preventative but not so well when a heavy treatment is necessary.

Dust Baths Are a Must

Dust baths are what help keep your chicken’s skin healthy. This is what will get rid of any fleas from their feathers and make them less attractive to lice.

You could provide a dust bath area. But to be honest, chickens are going to find a good spot they like and dust where ever they want.

You could make it the nicest place to bathe including sand, diatomaceous earth, and wood ash in their dust baths. And the little buggers would still go find a whole in the yard to dig in.

Quarantine New Chickens

This is common practice (or should be) with any new animal. Make sure to put them in a separate space for two weeks to 30 days before introducing them to your existing flock. 

If you start to see signs of lice emerge you are far better off trying to treat just the new birds instead of the old ones as well. 

It doesn’t mean someone tried to get one over on you. It could mean your chicken isn’t showing many signs of illness, but, your chicken is still sick or infest­ed.

So its time to get to work. 

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Be Careful with Broody Hens

If you have broody hens, keep an eye on them. They don’t get off their nest, and dust bathe as often as they normally would if they weren’t attempting to hatch eggs.

Parasites are more likely to infect them because of this. You’ll need to watch for signs of illness and treat any parasites found on your broody hens.

If you think your chickens have mites or lice the best thing you can do is treat it as soon as you see the problem. 

It can multiply in days and become far worse than you ever thought possible. 

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