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Lice Infestation in Chickens

If you catch your chickens scratching—themselves not the ground—be on the lookout for lice in your flock.

By Jose A. Linares, DVM, and John El-Attrache, PhD

Lice are external parasites that feed on chickens’ skin and feathers. They are very small but visible, as they move between the feathers. Their whitish egg masses are located at the base of feather shafts.

Lice Symptoms
Lice-infested chickens act nervously, scratching and pecking themselves frequently. Their feathers look dry and ruffled. The constant irritation caused by lice leads to weight loss and decreased egg production. Severe infestation can be fatal for young chickens.

Can it spread?
Lice can spread from chicken to chicken. In fact, wild birds and new introductions to a flock are the most common sources of lice infestations.

Lice Prevention
The best way to prevent lice from becoming a serious problem is by examining your chickens frequently. Look between their feathers every two weeks. Also, be sure to quarantine and check new birds for lice before introducing them to your flock.

Lice Treatment
If lice have already infested your flock, insecticides are the most reliable method to get rid of this pesky problem. Lice are sensitive to most insecticides, but be certain to use a product approved for use with poultry; avoid contaminating eggs, feed and water. Two treatments of dipping, dusting or spraying seven to 10 days apart will break the infestation cycle.

About the Authors: Dr. Jose A. Linares, DVM, ACPV, is the Resident Director of the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, Poultry Diagnostic Laboratory in Gonzales, TX. Dr. John El-Attrache, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University.

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Lice Infestation in Chickens

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Reader Comments
I used a terrific product from Manna Pro called Poultry Protector. It brings a satisfyingly swift end to those creepy crawlies, but the egg infested feathers must be removed. The Poultry Protector will not harm human, bird, or eggs, it's active ingredient is a food preservative - potassium something or other ; ) The best thing is to not let your birds get infested, or it will cost a pretty penny to get it under control, especially if you have a lot of birds. I only have 5, so no big expense. You can spray the coop, and run with it too, but it may take a few treatments. I spent about $32 (two bottles worth) and a few weeks later the girls were nearly lice free; it's hard to completely get rid of all of them, but now I don't see any. I will have to keep my eye on them to prevent any further scourge.
Heather Z., Whittier, CA
Posted: 12/21/2014 3:27:13 PM
Hi Wendy,
This article has some additional information on treating lice and mites: LINK
Hobby Farms Editor, Lexington, KY
Posted: 12/19/2014 6:37:08 AM
Would like to see articles with more in-depth info on treatment. Many backyard keepers can't realistically afford to get vet treatment for chickens for things like parasites, and there's not much made exclusively for chickens available over the counter. Many resort to using other chemicals off-label.
wendy, Round Rock, TX
Posted: 12/18/2014 5:49:34 PM
I'm curious about if there's a certain type of plant which attracts mites/lice ? which plants should one steer away from on the farm to deter inviting them to begin with ? Whilst we don't have any of the sort , the information would be quite helpful .
Posted: 11/13/2014 1:17:56 PM
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