What are Chicken Lice, and What Can You do to Stop Them?
Like almost every creature on the planet, chickens have parasites that live upon their bodies. When you have a parasitic infection that gets out of control, this can mean terrible things for your flock. The chickens will become agitated, restless, and in many cases will actually die. Just a small outbreak can turn into an epidemic that could destroy the whole population if not caught in time.
One of the most common types of parasite problems with poultry is chicken lice. They are small (2-3 millimeters long), quick, and light brown in color and are most often found toward the posterior end of the chicken. This is where they lay their eggs, at the base of the feather shaft. The eggs are white and clustered.
They eat the dead skin scales on a chicken and cause the area to become irritated. This can cause the bird great annoyance that can result in weight loss and even death in severe cases.
Overcrowding, that is putting too many chickens in one hen house, allows the chicken lice to spread and breed far more easily than if the chickens had more space. This mistake is one that many of those who raise chickens, both the novice and the more experienced, make. Since they are transmitted from bird to bird, this is one of the fastest ways that a population of chicken lice can spread.
You must also strive to keep the chicken coop as clean as possible. This helps to eliminate the chance of chicken lice breeding and spreading. Go through the coop every day to eliminate the waste and old food. Keep the floors dry, as well; moisture is a breeding ground for more than just parasites. If kept in a wet barn or coop, your chickens could end up sick.
Other factors that can introduce chicken lice to your flock are not quite as easy to contain. When new birds are brought into your flock, you should keep them separate from your own chickens for at least two weeks and observe them to see if they show any signs of infestation. While this method may work to discover if the new chickens you are bringing into your coop have chicken lice, there is always a chance that the parasite could come in on the wings of a wild bird.
Fortunately, these lice canít live on humans, so there is no risk of you getting lice as you treat your flock. In addition, they live only on the host bird, not in the surrounding environment, which should make treating them much easier.
You can treat the chickens with malathion, which is used to treat lice infestations in other creatures as well. You can then use an insecticide dust on your chickens, which will help to clear up the infestation. When you are dusting, be sure to take great care around the chicken eggs, as well as the feed area.
With a bit of foresight, cleanliness, and care for your chickens, you can avoid infestations by chicken lice