With summer upon us, mites and lice are a massive issue with our backyard chickens. If you aren’t careful, they can overrun your poultry flock and infest any other livestock you might have. These tiny parasites can seem impossible to get rid of. But today, we are going to tell you how to treat chicken mites and lice with a few foolproof methods.
What Are Mites And Poultry Lice?
Most people know that mites and lice are pesky little bugs. But what you probably didn’t know is that they are actually two different types of pests. Lice live on the skin and feast off the dead skin cells, while mites will feed off the blood.
But even in these two parasites, there are different breeds in each. The most common chicken mites are Northern fowl mites, scaly leg mites, and red roost mites, aka red mites. And as for louse, your chickens can either have body lice or feather shaft lice. However, these common external parasites are all treated in the same way.
Where Do Chickens Get Mites?
Chicken lice and mites come from several different places. The most common place your chickens will get parasites is from wild birds. But you could also get mites and lice from mice, rats, raccoons, coyotes, and more. Any local wildlife can bring mites and lice into your yard and cause a mass infestation.
The other most common way for your birds to get external parasites is from new additions. If you have obtained your chickens from a large hatchery, their chances of bringing home lice are high. That is why isolation is critical when you get new chickens.
Signs And Symptoms Of Mites
The first thing every chicken owner needs to familiarize themselves with is how to identify mites. These tiny bugs are hard to spot and get out of control quickly. Even though they have short lifespans, they can lay thousands of eggs in a single week. So here are a few things to be on the lookout for.
- Missing feathers, especially around the vent and under the wings
- Scabs around the face and other areas of scratching
- Skin irritation and inflammation
- Constant scratching, biting, or rolling in the dirt
- Scaly thick legs called scaly leg mites
- Dirty vent area
- Reduced egg production
- And you can see them if you look closely
If you see these signs in your flock, the chances are high that you have lice infestations.
How To Treat Chicken Mites And Lice
There are several different types of mites and lice, but they all show the same symptoms. And luckily for you, you can treat them all in almost the same ways. The best way to get rid of these parasites is to work from the outside in. That means treating the coop, run, yard, and chickens themselves. And here’s how.
The best defense against chicken mites and lice is to give your chickens access to a dust bath. Having a pit of fine sand and dirt for your chickens to roll around in not only cleans your chickens but also chokes out parasites. Your chickens will love getting into the dust bath and having a good roll around. And they are cute while doing it.
While dust baths are great, you can add a few things to make them more effective. One popular addition is wood ash. This addition is a fine powder made from burning wood until only the white calcified powder remains. And while it might seem like this ash could be harmful, it’s actually very beneficial. It chokes out the lice and mites, and you can even add it to your chicken feed to boost the immune system.
Another great product to have around for all uses is Diatomaceous Earth or D.E. When you use food-grade D.E., you can use it around the coop, yard, and even directly on your chickens. The way Diatomaceous Earth works is that it breaks down the hard outer shell of pests. So sprinkling this everywhere your chickens live is a sure way of killing parasites and their eggs.
To use D.E., sprinkle some in their dust baths, the coop, nests, on roosts, and in the yard. Don’t leave any place untouched where the chicken lice and mites can hide. And if you are looking for the best D.E. for your money, we recommend Harris Diatomaceous Earth. It comes in a 5-pound bag and comes with an easy-to-use dusting tool.
Out of all the mite breeds on earth, the hardest ones to get rid of are scaly leg mites. These mites burrow under the skin to reproduce and feed on your chicken’s legs. As you can imagine, the process is painful and hard to fight. So to combat this, we recommend using an oil bath.
Fill up a bowl with olive oil and hold your chicken to where the legs are entirely covered. Letting your hen stay there for at least 15 minutes helps the oil permeate the skin and choke out the mites. After this footbath, slather the legs in a bit of Vaseline to prevent the mites from reentering. Then repeat every day until the mites are gone.
Apple Cider Vinegar
There is no doubt that apple cider vinegar has a very distinct and pungent smell. But did you know that it’s also a natural acid? It’s also an excellent chicken lice repellent when diluted with a bit of water. You can mix 1 cup of vinegar with 2 cups of water to spray around the coop. The smell is enough to repel most bugs, and your pests will be gone in no time.
Or you can add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a gallon of water. It will work from the inside out, expelling through the skin to repel mites and lice. This might not be enough to use on its own as a treatment for an infestation. But it could prevent future problems if you use apple cider vinegar once a week.
DIY Mite And Lice Spray
Making your own mite spray is perfect for how to treat chicken mites and lice. And you already have all of the ingredients in your kitchen. All you need is:
- 2 cups of warm water
- 1 cup of cooking oil (you can use vegetable or olive oil)
- And one tablespoon of blue dawn dish soap
The oil in this mixture suffocates the lice and mites and prevents eggs from hatching. And the small amount of dish soap helps emulsify the oil into the water. You can use this spray all around the coop and directly on your chickens to treat any infestation. It’s natural, cheap, and safe all year round.
ProZap Garden & Poultry Dust
Another tricky chicken mite to get rid of is the Northern fowl mites. These mites are particularly difficult to get rid of because they are resistant to pesticides. And if you have them in your area, they become immune year after year to whatever pesticides you use.
One of our favorite treatments for this is ProZap’s Garden & Poultry Dust. You can add this powder directly to the dust bath or to the chicken itself. It’s also great to sprinkle around the yard, coop, and run. The only thing you have to be careful about is not to get it near the flock’s food and water or the nesting boxes. This treatment contains 0.25% Permethrin that is not safe for consumption, so be cautious.
Keep The Chicken Coop Clean
One aspect of controlling an infestation is to keep the coop and run clean. While this won’t get rid of your mite and lice problems, it will help in other ways. Clean coops and short grass in the run reduces the likelihood of mites and lice taking over your backyard.
Regular cleaning will also help you identify a parasite problem before it gets worse. So you can clean and treat any bugs and their eggs. You can even go as far as to wash with soap and water and then giving your flock a medicated dust bath.
Isolating New Hens
And we conclude how to treat chicken mites and lice by isolating your new birds. Keeping new additions to the flock as far away as possible from the existing ones will slow the infection rate. But if you aren’t careful, you could still spread the parasites to your flock.
To make the most out of your isolation period, never tend to your isolated hens first. Instead, go out to your existing flock and do all of your regular chores there. Then you can go to the isolated ones to reduce the risk of transferring mites and lice from you. The next thing you should do is actively treat both flocks to tackle the problem before it gets out of hand.
And Let Your Problems Be Gone
That’s everything you need to fight your chicken lice and mite problem. And for the best results, try combining a few tactics. Soon, these external parasites that make your skin crawl will seem like a thing of the past.
Below is a Pinterest-friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!