Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Poultry parasites -- external parasites

Parasites can take a toll on the birds. Exterior parasites (mites and lice) bite and feed on the birds' blood and weaken them. In severe cases, a chicken can die from parasites.

Photo courtesy of Flickr
Lice & Mites
You rarely see lice and mites on waterfowl. It can happen, but it's much more likely to find these external parasite on chickens and turkeys.

To check for lice: Check around the vent. They go to the vent for moisture. If you move the feathers, if it's a bad infestation you'll see the lice move. Also check under the wings. If you don't see actual bugs, but see red marks, that could be bite marks from the lice.

To remove lice, use a commercial livestock insecticide powder. Use as directed, or just hold the bird upside down and sprinkle the powder on their rear end and under their wings. You should have quick results with this type of powder. Check again in two to three weeks. That should be enough time for bite marks to heal, so if your bird has new bite marks, treat again as needed.

Mites are a little harder to see since they tend to be smaller than lice. They tend to stay on the feathers rather than the skin. To treat mites, look around the vent and under the wings. Also look under the hackles, and the crest on crested birds (Polish, Crevecoeurs, Sultans, Silkies). You are looking for egg pockets, which are brown and stuck to the shaft of the feather. These mites can be treated with the same powder as lice.
Don't forget to treat the coops when you treat the birds. You can use the powder, which is relatively inexpensive and the best bang for your buck.

Back in the 1950s, we would put wood ashes in a drum and let the chickens dust themselves. When the commercial remedies became readily available, we'd mix it with the wood ashes.


Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Leg mites 
The mites go underneath the scales on chickens' legs. Their feces forms a crust on the outside of the chickens' legs. It can get very lumpy, but is easier to treat than lice.
To remove mites from legs, use any type of oil. Rub the oil on the chicken's legs to drown the little buggers! Cover the leg well. You can break some of the larger chunks off if you're careful. Wait a week. If you don't see signs of improvement, treat with oil again. This is a proven method of removing mites that is also cost effective. 

There are other natural remedies for these parasites, but I have not tried them.

These parasites are species specific. If you get poultry lice on you, you'll itch and probably have a panic attack, but they are not the same type of head lice that are attracted to humans. They will not stay on you!

As always, post further questions in the comment section.

--Dale aka Turkeyman