2. External Parasites

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Aunt Sally

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2. External Parasites
« on: May 30, 2007, 13:06 »

The advice given in this sticky is that of the authors and cannot be considered as professional advice. It is, however, drawn from the experience of a large number of chicken keepers.

The administration of any veterinary medicine not indicated for the treatment of that condition in that particular species is illegal.  If you wish to use such a medicine it will need to be prescribed by your veterinary surgeon.   
This means that when you administer, or admit to having administered, a drug which is not licensed for poultry use in the UK, which you have not obtained on prescription through a UK vet, you are acting illegally and could be prosecuted. 
Please bear this in mind when posting about medical matters in an open forum where your comments are available for everyone to read.

Lice / Mites / Fleas / Ticks / Bugs / Flies

External parasites are of great interest to poultry keepers as they can be a great nuisance to our hens and on occasions can cause serious illness and even death  :!:
The chicken will slowly decline rather than falling ill suddenly.  The main symptoms are weight loss or slow growth, reduced egg production, scratching and biting themselves, damaged feathers, listlessness and death. 

The external parasites most encountered in the UK are lice and mites so I will for now restrict this sticky to them.


De-beaked birds are more susceptible to lice as they cannot preen efficiently. 

Lice which affect birds chew their host rather than biting, they do not suck blood, they feed on dry skin scales and feathers.  They cause irritation by the act of movement on the skin and the action of their mouth.  They can cause the bird so much irritation that the birds will not sleep, eat or drink properly.  They may injure themselves by scratching and pecking their own bodies.  There are a number of avian lice which affect different parts of the bird€™s body.  They usually travel on to your birds from wild birds or from used equipment and crawl from bird to bird or by contact with infested feathers (especially during a moult).  Some lice may carry other diseases.

The louse lives for several months going through its entire life cycle on the bird's body.  The female louse lays her eggs €˜nits€™ on the bird's feathers and sticks them there with €˜glue€™.  These hatch after between 4 to 7 days and the nymphs which hatch look like the adults but smaller and nearly transparent.  They go through several moults and develop colour as they grow.  When it is mature the louse mates on the bird and starts laying its nits.


Inspect your birds at least one a month.  Look for moving lice on feathers or skin and for white or grayish egg clusters at the base of the feathers.  Hold your hen gently and part their feathers (like stroking a cat backwards) so that you can see right down to their skin, try to look at all areas of the body.

Adult Lice on chicken

Lice eggs on base of feathers

Treatment and Prevention

The treatment for Lice and Red Mite overlaps to a great extent.  For instance Barrier red mite powder is effective against Lice as well as Red Mite. So it is fairly safe to assume you can use the same treatment for both.

Malathion powders and pyrethroid sprays where approved for bird application are very effective.

Barrier Red Mite Powder and Concentrate and Barrier Louse Powder are excellent for use in eradicating lice and mites from your hens or hen house.  It contains only pure and natural ingredients which are entirely non-toxic and is suitable for use in organic farming systems.  Red Mite Powder contains minute slow release granules that remain effective for up to six weeks - depending upon infestation and conditions.

Poultry Shield actually makes contact with the mite and their eggs. The reaction on contact with mite is to break up the wax coating causing dehydration and death of the mite. It also penetrates the protective coating of the mite eggs producing a similar reaction. The kill time from contact of Poultry-Shield with the mite to eventual dehydration is approximately 48 hours.

Ivermectin NOTE: this product is not licenced for use on poultry.

Ivermectin Eprinex discussion on the Pekin Bantams site

 NOTE: this product is not licensed for use on poultry, so I cannot recommend its use on chickens

This product is used by some keepers to spot on the back of a chicken's neck to kill external parasites (lice, scaly leg worm etc) and also to treat for internal worms. 2-3 drops on the back of the neck, on the skin (like with cat/dog flea drops). With a repeat after 3 days if the birds already have an infestation. And a preventative dose once a month, or less in the winter.

An egg withdrawal period of 7 days would be recommended, but that is up to the owner, the eggs should not be given away or sold to anyone else.  Although it is not licenced for poultry Ivomec has been used to treat worms in humans in the developing world.

Ivermectin Eprinex differs from regular Ivomec, which is more expensive and is manufactured for injection rather than as a 'pour on'.

Frontline NOTE: this product is not licensed for use on poultry.  The tests needed to be licensed for use on food producing animals have not been done. Tests to ensure its safety for use on poultry have also not been done.
It can be used but only when deemed necessary by a vet. The only legal route to the use of Frontline on poultry is by vet's prescription. The vet is then able to give any necessary after care.

Ivermectin Eprinex will treat endo- and exo-parasites, whereas Frontline only treats exo-parasites.

Babe got this information from the vet:

Quote from: Babe
I love my Vet, he's fantastic.

OK so here's what he said about frontline for chickens.

although not licensed for poultry in the UK, it is widely used and found to have great results.

use cat, kitten or puppy strength.

3-4 drops for large fowl.
1-2 drops for a bantam or smaller chickens.

Never use on a chick until fully feathered - then only 1 small drop!

always place on the back of the neck, some people will say under the wing - do not put it there!! back of the neck only.

it will kill all mites and give about 3 months cover on poultry so can be used quaterly as a preventative measure.

has shown wonderous results on scaly leg mites.

you will need to treat all your poultry the same day, to prevent cross infection

a good spray of jeyes fluid the same day in all the crooks and crannies of your coop is also advisable.

Frontline doesnt get into animals blood stream so should not affect eggs, but he says that until its poultry licensed he wouldnt like to say for certain, maybe wise to give them 5-7 days to err on the side of caution.

hope that helps.


Mites are one of the most common and important problems encountered by poultry keepers.  There are a number of mites which are of interest to us including:

Red Fowl Mite
Northern Fowl Mite
Scaly Leg Mite, Scaly Skin Mite
Feather Mite, Quill Mite

Mites are not insects but are Arthropods, they have eight legs. They are very small about 1mm in length and some are even smaller.  They live on blood tissue cells and feathers.  Most mites spend a lot of time off the bird and are spread by contaminated equipment clothing and shoes and by infested birds including wild ones, they can also be carried by rodents.  Most mites live in the bird€™s night accommodation rather than on the bird themselves, some remain on the birds, some hide in feather parts, some burrow under the skin, or make their way deep within the body to live in the lungs, liver, or other organs.

Mite infestation causes irritation, low vitality, feather damage, increased appetite and low egg production, stow growth and if the infestation is severe, anaemia and death. Mites can transfer to humans, they may not bite but can cause dermatitis.

Red Mite

(Dermanyssus gallinae) is the most common mite found in this country and is more of a problem in the summer than the winter as it becomes inactive as the temperature drops.  Red mites are grey until they suck the chicken€™s blood and turn red.  They live and lay their eggs in cracks and crevices in the chicken house and can survived for up to 6 months off the chickens which means housing can remain infested for a long time after hens are removed.  They breed rapidly and an infestation can build up very quickly.   The mites are active and feed at night, and are not usually found on the bird during the day except in a heavy infestation some may stay on the bird during the day and may even invade the roof of the bird€™s mouth causing serious anaemia. The hen€™s eggs may have small streaks of blood on them, and hens may be reluctant to go into their coop to roost.  Red mite will also bite humans.

Red mites are very small, about 1 mm.  This is a magnified picture of an infestation in a wooden hen coop

The size of red mites can easily be seen in this picture taken by our member 'Roughlee Handled'.

Checks, Treatment and Prevention

Frequently inspect the nooks and crevices in your hen coop.  The picture above will give you some idea of what to look for, if in doubt wipe any suspected deposit with white kitchen paper and you will see it smeared with red (your chicken€™s blood). 

Treatment of red mite is by cleaning the accommodation thoroughly.  Danger areas can then be dusted with Red Mite Powder or Poultry Shield or other product containing Synthetic Pyrethroid, Pyrethroid, or Permethhrin and Piperonyl Butoxide.  Repeat at weekly intervals until the mite has gone.

A heavy infestation may need a prescription from your vet.

 Dusting with the above or a non chemical method of prevention such as Diatom is recommended at all times.

Suppliers of red mite treatments: 

Domestic Fowl Trust
Microshield Solutions
SPR centre

Northern Fowl Mite

The Northern Fowl Mite (Ornithonyssus sylviarum) is more aggressive than the Red Mite. They live on the bird itself continuously, and will feed around the clock. They may spread Fowl Pox and Newcastle Disease.  You'll see very small red/brown mites, and discoloration of the feathers due to the eggs and waste of the mite.  They and are small grey/black and can often be found near the vent with scabbed and cracked skin around the vent.  In bad cases, scabby comb, face and wattles can be seen.  Controlling this mite requires that the treatment be directed at the bird rather than the accommodation.

Checks, Treatment and Prevention

Inspect birds and accommodation frequently looking for mites crawling on the bird and in the nest, also look for darkened vent feathers and scabby skin around the birds vent.  If found dust the birds and accommodation with Mite Powder.  Repeating weekly until the infestation is gone.

Scaly Leg Mite

Scaly Leg Mite (Knemidocoptes mutans) is found on the scales of the legs and feet, you may see lifting of the scales, and separation from the skin of the leg underneath. The legs and feet may become swollen, tender and have a discharge or exudate forming under the scales and can give the bird trouble walking.

Picture courtesy of ClareT

Scales can be seen to be lifted by the mites

Checks, Treatment and Prevention

Scaly leg mite can be treated by a direct contact treatment with a substance which will suffocate the mite such as petroleum jelly, vegetable or mineral oils, but may need treatment by a vet.  It is wise to treat the chicken coop with mite powder or spray repeating after one week, and also treat their companion birds. 

DO NOT PULL OFF OR PICK THE SCALES.  They will fall off and be replaced when the chicken moults.

The mites below are, thankfully, rare and are just given for your interest !

Scaly Skin Mite
Scaly Skin Mite (Epidermoptes bilobatus) is rare and causes Avian scabies.  It burrows into the skin causing inflammation and itchiness.  The skin thickens with brownish-yellow scabs which may become infected with a fungal infection.  It is difficult to control and can cause death.  Culling infested birds is usually required.

Feather Mite
Feather Mite (Knemidocoptes gallinae) are barely visible and burrow into the skin at the base of the feathers causing the chicken to scratch and pull its feathers out.  They are more prevalent in warm weather.  Control of this mite is difficult, and infested birds may need to be culled.

Quote from: Bodger
Feather mite are a fairly common pest and one that can be a real nuisance to people who show poultry. Their work is most obvious in the tail feathers and manifest as horizontal lines across the plume. These lines are areas where there isn't any feather growth.

They don't really hurt the bird too much but certainly spoil your birds appearance.

Powder or aerosol wont get to the pest because much of their life cycle is spent munching inside the quill, the following treatment tends to be used by 'fanciers' The method involves Duramitex and total emersion of the bird in a solution of this product and water. Keeping the birds face and beak out of the water, the whole of the bird needs to be totally emersed in the warm solution so that the whole of the bird is covered. These pests are virtually microscopic.

Quill Mite
Quill Mite (Syringophilus bipectinatus) inhabits a feather quill resulting in partial or total loss of the feather leaving a powdery deposit  in the quill stump.  Affected birds may need to be culled.

There are some mites which can even infest internal parts of birds. 
« Last Edit: July 03, 2017, 20:13 by Aunt Sally »


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