Lice do not normally affect egg production but are an irritant to the bird, causing stress, which may set off an outbreak of feather pecking or general bullying, leading to eventual cannibalism. Lice are spread from bird to bird by contact and are therefore spread more quickly in overcrowded situations. Eggs are laid in clusters and may be stuck onto feathers. After eight days the eggs hatch and the larvae begin feeding. Birds should be checked for lice at least twice a month. When handling the birds to be inspected, the most obvious signs are a white crustacean attached to the base of the feathers around the vent. Where large numbers of lice are involved, crustaceans will also be visible on the feathers under the wings. These are actually the lice eggs. By parting the feathers, small light brown to golden lice may be seen running between the feathers. They will bite and feed on the bird's skin scales. The lice life cycle is on the host and once parted from the host, such as moving onto an animal or human, it will not live very long.
Louse egg clusters on the base of a chickens vent feathers (above). Each egg is less than 1mm long.
Treatment is administered by liberally dousing affected birds with a suitable, high quality louse or parasite powder. Below are three of the best treatments for biting lice currently available.
*For more information on each product, click on it's image*
'Eradicate' Louse Powder
SPR Eradicate Powder is the best natural louse powder available. It is applied direct to the animal to create an environment that is totally repellent to lice, ticks and other ecto-parasites. SPR Eradicate Louse Powder is suitable for use on all ages of livestock and pets, and can be applied safely and as often as necessary. Once applied, the effect will last up to 7 days.
Mighty Organic Bedding Powder
Use Mighty Organic Bedding Powder (Diatomaceous Earth) for the residual control of lice, red mite and other biting insects. It is made up from layers of microscopic algae (called Diatoms) laid down in prehistoric times. Crushed to a fine powder and observed through a microscope, the Diatom particles resemble bits of broken glass - deadly to any insect but completely harmless to animals, fish, fowl or food. Mighty Organic Bedding Powder is also non-staining and can be safely used on all livestock and pets, as well as in organic production. It can be applied directly to the skin, as well as bedding, nest boxes, dust baths and poultry housing.
Battles - Louse Powder
Battles Louse Powder is a 'ready to use' insecticide that is made from an inert, finely ground diluent powder blended with Permethrin (0.47%). It has a low mammalian toxicity, combing rapid knockdown and kill with sustained residual activity. Use Battles Louse Powder for the control of pests such as fleas and lice, earwigs and other bristle tails, mites, ticks, book lice, cockroaches, beetles, moth larvae, silverfish, fleas, lice, bed bugs and ants. Battles Louse Powder also controls wood lice and wasps by treating in and around nests. To use, apply Battles Poultry Louse Powder directly from the container to nest boxes, dust baths, rugs, bedding, etc. Apply as required and re-treat as necessary. *Do not apply directly to animals.
An infestation of red mite (Dermanyssus Gallinae), will cause a drop in egg production, and according to the severity, even mortality. The mites are blood feeders and attack resting birds at night. The life cycle of a red mite is not dependent on the host. They live and breed in crevices, as near to their meal as possible. It was at one time thought that they lived only in wood, but they can be found living in any material that is adjacent to the bird including metal. The mite progresses through five life stages: egg, larva, protonymph, deutonymph and adult. Under favourable conditions this life cycle can be completed within seven days, so populations can grow rapidly - causing anaemia in badly affected flocks of poultry which presents as pallor of the comb and wattle. Apart from causing a drop or cessation in egg production, when entering the house disturbed mite will bite the intruder. A monthly check under each end of the perches will indicate any mite establishment. Only those that have sucked blood will be red; the others are grey in colour. At night they run along the perch, up the chicken's leg and onto the flesh, where they bite into a blood vessel and suck blood until full. They then return to the crevice and stay there until another meal is required. They do not live on the bird so will not be found by examining the bird during the day. Surrounding the crevices is a grey-type ash, which is the mite's' faeces. Birds suffering from the presence of large numbers of red mite look pale and jaundiced through loss of blood. A post-mortem shows only a skin which looks as though it has been profusely pricked with a fine needle. Red mite is carried by wild birds and prevailing winds. Control of red mite relies on the treatment of the poultry house prior to housing the birds, followed by regular monitoring of their environment, and treating as soon as any evidence of mite is seen. Red mite have been known to lie dormant for up to ten years, and for this reason all second hand poultry houses should be adequately treated before filling with the new birds.
*For more information on each product, click on it's image*
Award-winning red mite control from SPR Centre. Poultry Shield is also effective against bacteria, viruses, fungus, mould, algae and biofilms. SPR Poultry Shield works equally well with hard or soft water, is unaffected by temperature fluctuation, and has a long storage life. Containing NO poison or dangerous chemicals, Poultry Shield is completely bio-degradable, environmentally friendly and can be safely used in organic production. To use, dilute 1 part Poultry Shield to 10 parts water. Poultry Shield solution will kill mite and their eggs over a period of 2-3 days. Poultry Shield is 100% safe, so there is no need to withdraw eggs.
Red Stop Solution
Just add Red Stop Solution to your birds drinking water to protect them from red mite and northern mite! Red Stop Solution is added to the bird's drinking water over a period of 10 days, and then 1 day a week. This makes the chicken's blood completely unpalatable to the Red Mite - which then die of starvation over a period of time, and because they can't feed, they can't breed. Red Stop Solution is completely safe and does not have any affect on egg quality and therefore there is no period of egg withdrawal.
Northern mite are similar in size to red mite, but are grey to black in colour. Red mite live in the cracks in the house and come out at night to feed from the bird but northern mites live on the birds permanently and can be distinguished by their presence during the daytime on poultry, poultry eggs, and poultry houses. As chickens catch it from wild birds it is almost impossible to avoid contact with it at some stage so it is worth being extra vigilant with your own birds. Northern mite is sometimes hard to spot (especially in the early stages), and not all birds in the same flock will be affected; so all birds will need careful checking. Northern mite are more often observed round the bird's head and under their wings. Poultry suffering from a heavy infestation also tend to become miserable, weak and are unusually thirsty. They also become scabby on the comb, face and wattles. Treatment is administered by adding Red Stop Solution to your birds drinking water, or by using a spray containing pyrethrum such as Johnson's Anti-Mite Extra. Spray this directly onto the affected birds. The mite are difficult to kill and repeated spraying will be necessary.
A northern mite and signs of northern mite infestation on a chicken
Johnson's - Anti-Mite Extra
Johnson's Anti-Mite Extra is an effective, water-based 'pump spray' containing Permethrin, and is safe to use directly on poultry, cage birds and pigeons. Anti-Mite Extra kills red-mite, northern mite, lice and other common external parasites, and gives lasting protection against re-infestation. To help prevent re-infestation, also spray cage surfaces, cracks and crevices, where insect pests live and breed. Johnson's Anti-Mite Extra is not to be used on birds intended for human consumption. Contains: Permethrin 25/75 0.5 w/w.
Scaly Leg Mite
This problem had all but died out, but with the advent of increasing numbers of flocks now kept on range, it is unfortunately on the increase again due to poor management, i.e. not being seen and treated quickly enough to prevent its spread. Scaly Leg Mite is caused by a burrowing mite (Knemidocoptes mutans) which has an oval body and extremely short legs. The mite burrows under the scales of the bird's legs, creating tunnels where it is able to reproduce. As it proliferates, the scales are lifted grotesquely, and if left, eventually makes the bird lame. The scales often look like they are protruding outwards and parts of the scales will come off, making the legs look unsightly. Scales should never be picked or cut off as this will damage the legs. Birds need to be treated to kill the mites and then scales left to come away naturally through a moult. It can take up to 12 months before the scales have moulted and re-grown to look normal again. Scaly Leg Mites are too small to see without a microscope. Often the first indication of their presence is a brittle, flaky, or powdery appearance to the bird's legs.
A microscopic image of a scaly leg mite (Knemidocoptes mutans) and it's affect on birds legs.
Scaly Leg Mite is very easy to kill and there are numerous remedies. The most affective of these is just a plain and simple 'Vaseline type' product such as Battle's White Petroleum Jelly which is applied directly to the bird's legs. This results in suffocating the mite. The mites can also be killed by dipping the birds' legs into Surgical Spirit once per week for 3 to 4 weeks. How long the treatments need to be repeated depends on how soon the problem is spotted. When these mite attack feather-legged breeds, it is more difficult to spot, and the owner has to be more vigilant, especially with older birds.
Battles - White Petroleum Jelly
A soft white odourless and tasteless jelly for use in the general healing of minor wounds and abrasions, and for treating scaly leg mite in poultry. Applying Battles White Petroleum Jelly to a minor wound helps to promote faster epithelialization, wound contraction and early suppression of inflamation thus helping in general wound healing. Battles White Petroleum Jelly can also be used as an ointment base, and also as an emollient.
Battle's - Surgical Spirit
Battle's Surgical Spirit is a general purpose skin cleanser for use in the management of livestock, and can also be used against scaly leg mite in poultry. Use to sterilise surfaces, and cleanse skin abrasions and sores. Apply with a clean cloth, or cotton wool, to clean the surface of the skin as required. To treat scaly leg mite in poultry, dip the birds' legs into Surgical Spirit once per week for 3 to 4 weeks.