Eww! My chicken’s feathers are dirty in the back. These feathers are broken, but it’s not time for a molt. What’s this thing crawling around in her feathers? Why aren’t my chickens laying; it’s spring! Are chicken’s legs supposed to be so scaly? Is it normal for chickens to peck at themselves? Are these red things crawling around on the roost chicken mites?
If you’ve ever had any of the above thoughts chances are, your chickens have parasites. Gross! Right? Once you realize your have a problem, the best thing you can do is treat it promptly and ruthlessly. Not only are parasites just, eww, they can cause serious problems or even death in your flock. Many experienced chicken keepers treat problems at home, but if you have any doubts, questions, or concerns regarding your chicken’s health, please consult a vet.
If your chickens look great right now it’s still a good idea to be prepared in case there’s a problem down the line. Giving each individual flock member a quick check every month or so can help you spot problems when they first start. And there are things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of having problems with parasites in the future.
Do My Chickens Have Mites?
There are several kinds of chicken mites you should keep a watch out for. One common one is the red mite. It’s most likely to be a problem during warm times of the year. They don’t live on your birds, but rather they live in the cracks and crannies of the coop and then sneak out at night to chomp on your bird’s blood. Little vampires.
To check for red mites, look for tiny red specks on the roosts or birds during the night. If you find them, give your coop a thorough cleaning. Next, treat the whole coop with an insecticide and then repeat in 5-7 days to catch any that just hatched.
Fowl mites will be tiny, red or black, and on your bird. They may even crawl onto you. Gross! Use a magnifying glass and check around the chicken’s vent with a magnifying glass to see them. Feather mites can cause the birds to pull out their own feathers
Leg mites cause the scales on the chicken’s leg to pop up. The most popular treatments involve coating their roost and legs in linseed oil or coating their legs in Vaseline.
If you see any ticks on your birds, use a pair of tweezers, grasp as close to the skin as you can, and pull it straight out. To get rid of them in the coop, thoroughly clean it and treat with a pesticide once a week for eight weeks and then once a month.
- How Do You Know If You Have A Sick Chicken
- How To Clean Your Chicken Coop The Right Way
- Chickens Take Dust Baths (But It Looks Like A Frenzy)
- Are Your Chickens Molting? Here’s What You Need To Know
How To Get Rid Of Mites
Insecticides that are effective against mites and tested as safe for chickens include Permethrin, Rabon, Ravap, and bifenthrin. There are dosing amounts for these products in a handy chart from the Mississippi State University Extension here.
Ivermectin hasn’t been officially tested in chickens, but it is effective in treating external and internal parasites. Officially, it doesn’t have a withdrawal period due to lack of studies, but there are owners who use it with a 21 day withdrawal time for chickens raised for meat and eggs. For mites, apply several drops of the pour on formula (like this one) to your chicken’s back. A few drops by mouth for internal parasites or scaly leg mites works too.
Malathion spray will kill mites, lice and other bugs in the coop, but it is controversial when used directly on poultry and will kill honeybees and other beneficial pollinators.
Some chicken keepers swear by diatomaceous earth and others insist that it does nothing at all. The diatomaceous earth is supposed to kill insects by dehydrating them, by sprinkling it on the coop and even on the chicken’s feathers. It has no withdrawal times for eggs or meat, but it can cause respiratory problems.
The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow recommends applying linseed oil using a paint brush to freshly cleaned roosts and other surfaces in the coop to get rid of mites in the coop.
Are Those Lice?
If you see small bugs, or clumps of eggs clinging to feather shafts, you’re most likely looking at lice. There are quite a few species, and they all look slightly different. There are some great pictures of what some lice look like from The Chicken Chick. Your chickens will also be itchy and peck and themselves.
Lice are spread from bird to bird, so check new flock members thoroughly and try to prevent contact with wild birds. The same products that treat mites will also treat lice, just make sure to apply them to the bird, not to the coop.
Bed Bugs and Fleas
Chickens can get bed bugs. Yay. They are more common in warm humid areas, and look like cockroaches, only about 1/4 of an inch. They are spread from one area to another by riding along on shoes, clothing, or equipment. It’s good practice to reduce visitors to your flock, and thoroughly clean any used equipment. They can be hard to get rid of, you probably should call an exterminator and relocate your chickens to a different area.
Fleas reproduce in chicken droppings, so keeping your coop clean will help discourage these. If you find them, treat your birds with Ivermectin or Pyrethrin. You can also apply three to four drops of Frontline on their neck according to the Chicken Health Handbook. Also use insecticides in the coop.
Preventing Chicken Mites and Other Bad Bugs
Healthy birds will always resist parasites most effectively. Make sure your birds have a good diet. Keep their coop clean. Provide them with an area to dust bath, which is a chicken’s natural defense against these sorts of things. A monthly look over of your birds will help you find any potential problems.
You can also use herbs in your coop, which certainly won’t hurt your birds. Some good options to repel pests are lemongrass, feverfew, marigolds, lavender, mints, and sage.
By treating these pests ruthlessly and early, you can return to having a healthy flock in no time.
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