🦟 Mites and Lice 🦟

Small insects – BIG problem. Mites and Lice are external parasites that like to live on your backyard chickens. Either parasite will drain your chooks of vitamins and minerals, leading to a variety of deficiencies and worst case, death.

I recommend checking your flock at least once a month if possible. Night-time is a good time. If you find it hard to catch them – get them while they are sleeping!

Mites survive by feeding on the blood of your chickens. Some live on the chickens, some live in their housing and come out to feed at certain times.
Lice do not feed on the blood – they survive by ingesting the skin scales and debris in their feathers. They also live their entire life on the chicken.

Red mite
Common signs:
➡️ Weight loss
➡️ Reduced egg production
➡️ You may notice clumps of red mites or their excrement within their coop or nesting areas
➡️ Pale comb due to anaemia

Red mites are usually spread by wild birds coming into contact with your chicken coop. They the hide in cracks, crevices and any dark spots in the chicken coop during the day, and then come out at night to feed on your feathered friends, once again retreating when the sun comes up. They LOVE timber for this reason. These guys are tiny and you may not notice them until you get a full blown infestation.

The treatment is two-fold:

The Chooks
Ensure you are treating your chickens at night, when the mites are active. You can give them a dust of Pestene, or Diatomaceous earth, which should dehydrate the mites and effectively kill them. You could also use a spray such as Avitrol Mite and Lice every few days until you clear the infestation.

The Coop:
The chickens housing will need a thorough clean. Make sure you dispose of any bedding as well – do not compost this! You then need to use an insecticide. Diatomaceous earth, Pestene, and Coopex, will all work well here. Make sure you apply to all crevices, nesting areas and dark areas generously.
I like to sprinkle one of the above products through the nesting material each time I change it. I then top it with our beautiful Nest Blend to really make sure the ladies are covered.
We also use plastic nest boxes. This makes it really hard for mites to find somewhere to live.

Scaly Leg Mites

Scaly leg mites live on your chicken’s feet, where they feed and also leave droppings. You will notice their legs appear scabby and scaly. If left untreated, this spreads throughout the rest of the flock really quickly.
To treat, soak your chooks feet in a warm bath of water, and gently wash away any excess scales. Dry the feet and apply a medicated solution such as Aristopet scaly leg and face treatment. I then cover with a vasoline or oil to really smother any live mites and hold the medication in. Because there will still be eggs there, you need to repeat this every few days for a week or two, just to make sure you get them all!

Australian lice are commonly referred to as ‘shaft louse’ because they live on your chicken’s feather shaft. If you look at the base of the feather shaft and see a clump of debris – these are the eggs, and you have a problem. You will also see live lice running around – they are about 1-6mm in size and often a mustard colour.
Shaft louse feed on the scales and feather debris of your chickens. If left untreated, they will cause a number of problems for your chooks.
Common signs:
➡️ Feather pecking
➡️ Weight loss
➡️ Skin irritation
➡️ A pale comb
➡️ Listless nature
➡️ Drop in egg laying production

The easiest way to prevent lice, is to provide access to a dust bathing area. You can add some Pestene or Diatomaceous earth to known dust bathing spots in the garden. Also, try to limit any wild birds in the chicken coop or run.
If you’ve found lice on your chickens, dust them with Pestene powder or Diatomaceous earth and dust the coop thoroughly.