Lice in Chickens: Causes and Treatment
Lice in chickens cause significant discomfort and health problems. These pests can easily spread from bird to bird and are difficult to eradicate once they have taken hold in a flock. We will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of poultry lice in chickens and inform about various methods for controlling and preventing infestations.
Signs of Lice in Chickens
Most parasites, such as lice, are seen on the chicken’s body, with nits around the feathers and crawling lice around the vent area or on their body. But even without noticing any bugs on your hens, you’ll notice something’s up with your flock before examining them.
We’ll address the most common signs of lice in chickens:
- Visible lice around the feathers: Lice are small, brown, or gray insects that can be seen crawling on the chicken’s feathers.
- Excessive preening: Chickens may excessively preen themselves to remove lice from their feathers.
- Reduced egg production: Lice infestations can cause stress and irritation, decreasing egg production.
- Loss of appetite and listlessness: Lice can cause itching and discomfort, leading to a loss of appetite and listlessness.
- Weight loss: Chickens that are infested with lice may lose weight due to decreased appetite and increased stress.
- Anemia: Lice can feed on the blood of chickens, leading to anemia and weakness.
- Reddened skin: Lice can cause irritation and inflammation on the skin, leading to redness and soreness.
- Feather loss: Lice can cause feather loss as chickens excessively preen themselves to remove the pests.
- Increased mortality: In severe cases, lice infestations can increase chickens’ mortality.
- Lice found on comb or wattles: Lice can also be found on the comb or wattles of chickens, indicating an infestation.
First Aid for Lice in Chickens
It is essential to be prepared to provide first aid for your birds in case of a lice infestation. By taking a proactive approach and following best practices, you can help keep your chickens healthy and free from lice. Several over-the-counter products that are very effective against lice and parasites are available. We’ll also address natural prevention remedies.
Diatomaceous Earth (Food Grade)
A source of amorphous silica as a natural pesticide against fleas, mites, lice..
- Ivermectin: Pour on 0.2mg-0.4mg/kg of bodyweight (at maximum of 0.5mg/kg). Spread the feathers on the neck and apply the drops on the skin of the chicken. Repeat after 7-10 days to kill larvae that hatched in the meantime. For full instructions on Ivermectin, check our guide on Ivermectin.
- Permethrin: Remove bedding, feeders, waterers and chickens from the coop. Dilute at a rate of 1 part concentrate in 19 parts water (6.4 fl. oz. per gallon) and spray on coop surface, perches,… Let dry before letting chickens back in the coop.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Add 1 or 2 tablespoons per gallon of drinking water.
- Diatomaceous Earth: Preventative measure against parasites in the chicken coop. Sprinkle on top of the chicken coop bedding, nesting boxes and in nooks and crannies.
How to Prevent Lice in Chickens?
Implementing some preventative measures can help reduce the risk of lice infestations in your flock and ensure the health and comfort of your chickens. Preventing these parasites is essential for ensuring the health and well-being of your birds. Poultry lice can cause significant discomfort and health problems for your chickens and are easily spread from bird to bird. Once these parasites have taken hold in your flock, they are difficult to eradicate.
We will discuss various methods for preventing lice in chickens. From maintaining clean coops to using natural treatments, we will provide practical tips and advice for keeping your chickens lice-free. Following best practices and being proactive can help keep your chickens healthy and free from lice and other pests.
Preventing lice in chickens:
- Inspect chickens for lice regularly: Lice infestations can be difficult to spot, so it is important to inspect chickens for signs of lice, especially when noticing scratching and feather loss.
- Keep coop and run clean and dry: Lice thrive in dirty and damp conditions, so it is important to keep chickens’ living areas clean and dry to prevent lice infestations.
- Use lice-control products: There are several products available that can control lice in chickens, such as dusting powders, sprays, and dips.
- Isolate infected chickens: If you find lice on a chicken, it is important to isolate it from the rest of the flock to prevent it from spreading.
- Treat the entire flock: If you find lice on one chicken, the entire flock is likely infested. Therefore, treating all chickens, not just those showing symptoms, is important.
- Use natural remedies: Some natural remedies, such as neem oil and diatomaceous earth, can be used to prevent lice in chickens.
- Maintain proper hygiene: Regularly clean and disinfect the coop, including nesting boxes, roosts and feeders, to prevent the spread of lice. To read more on hygiene around the coop, check out our article on ‘Biosecurity‘.
- Quarantine new birds: If you are introducing new birds to your flock, it is essential to quarantine them for two weeks before adding them to the flock.
- Follow good management practices: Maintaining good practices, such as providing proper nutrition, regular veterinary check-ups, and good sanitation, can help prevent lice infestations and keep your chickens healthy.
- Don’t overcrowd your coop: Overcrowding increases lice’s chance to spread from bird to bird. Ensure that your coops and runs provide adequate space for your chickens.
How to Treat Lice in Chickens?
Whether you are a backyard farmer or a small commercial poultry breeder, it is essential to be informed about the options for treating lice and how to eliminate these pests from your flock effectively. Taking a proactive approach and following best practices can help keep your chickens healthy and free from lice.
There are several treatment options for chicken lice. One is the use of insecticide dust or sprays specifically labeled for use on chickens and poultry. These products can apply to the birds and their environments, such as the coop and roosting areas.
- Ivermectin: Another option is to use ivermectin drops externally to each bird and repeat after 14 days.
- Using insecticide sprays: Pyrethrin 1% sprays are usually effective against those ectoparasites like lice. Insecticides like permethrin and tetrachlorvinphos sprays are also useful to treat chicken louse.
- Never use amprolium (Corid): It’s recommended not to use amprolium to treat chicken lice because amprolium is most effective against protozoal diseases like intestinal coccidiosis caused by the Eimeria spp.
Natural Treatments of Lice in Chickens
While chemical treatments are available to control lice, many poultry farmers and owners prefer to use natural methods to protect their flocks. Therefore, we will also discuss various natural methods for treating lice in chickens. From dust baths to essential oils, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the options available for controlling lice infestations without relying on chemicals.
- Dust bath: Dust baths are very effective in preventing external parasites in chickens. You can easily make a dust bath for your birds inside the run.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and water and spray it on the chicken’s feathers. Repeat the process once a week.
- Neem Oil: Mix a few drops of neem oil with a carrier oil such as coconut oil and apply it to the chicken’s feathers. Repeat the process once a week.
- Essential Oils: Mix a few drops of tea tree, lavender, or eucalyptus oil with a carrier oil, like coconut oil, and apply it to the chicken’s feathers. Repeat the process once a week.
- Garlic and Onion: Mix minced garlic and onion with water and spray it on the chicken’s feathers. Repeat the process once a week.
- Diatomaceous Earth: Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth on the chicken’s bedding and inside the nesting boxes. This will dry out the lice.
Lice infestations in chickens can cause significant discomfort and health problems. To prevent lice infestations, it is important to maintain good hygiene in the coop and surrounding area, avoid overcrowding, and regularly inspect birds for signs of an infestation.
There are several methods for treating lice in chickens, including Ivermectin, insecticides with Pyrethrin, or natural treatments like diatomaceous earth, essential oils, apple cider vinegar, and herbs. It is important to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer when using any treatments, and to avoid overuse, as excessive use of insecticides can lead to resistance.
Dr. S. A. Roky is a licensed veterinarian and an academic researcher with a vast experience with poultry. He runs a veterinary clinic and has a huge clinical knowledge of poultry diseases, symptoms, signs, and treatment.