No one wants to think about creepy crawlies crawling all over their chickens, but it certainly isn’t something you want to ignore, either. As we dive into chicken keeping, I often look to experienced, knowledgeable friends for what to do in any given situation.
Knowledge is power, and gleaning that knowledge from someone else is a great idea! Dana over at Piwakawaka Valley is one of those knowledgeable friends and today, she’s going to share with us how to naturally treat chicken fleas, lice, and mites! I love natural solutions! Let’s hand it over to Dana and get started!!
Treating Chicken Fleas, Lice and Mites Naturally
Hi there, I am Dana from Piwakawaka Valley , I am a homesteading, homeschooling mama of 3, living in the south of New Zealand. Thank you Danielle for having me here today! I am here to share my knowledge on naturally treating and preventing fleas, lice and mites in chickens.
Chickens are naturally a resilient, generally disease free bird. But they do fall victim to several different types of parasites at times. In small numbers these seldom cause any issue, but given the right conditions, their populations will explode exponentially.
A heavy infestation on these blood sucking bugs cause stress, resulting in a decline in condition. Fleas, lice and mites are different bugs but similar natural treatments work with all of them as they all have similar aversions and weaknesses.
What are Fleas?
Chicken fleas are small and brown and visible to the naked eye. They live on the bird, and can survive off of animals in long grass for short periods. They hop from host to host. The adult fleas that you see only represents 5% of your flea population. The other 95% exists in egg and larvae form.
What are Mites?
Mites are a distant cousin of spiders, they even have eight legs and a quite tiny.
Red mites: They live in nooks, cracks and crannies in the chicken coop, particularly the perches and nesting boxes. They come out at night and feed on the chicken’s blood. These mites are very difficult to get rid of once they’ve become established.
Northern Fowl Mite: Small and blackish brown. All stages live on the chicken and are generally found in the vent region.
Scaly leg mite: These live in between the scales on the chickens legs. Causing them to look rough and thick, then the chicken may go lame.
What are Lice?
There are up to 50 species of lice found on chickens They are all soft-bodied, pale-colored, flattened-bodied insects. They do not suck blood, but they eat skin flakes and chew feathers. If there’s a large population of lice living on your hen, they will cause irritation and can be so annoying that the bird will fail to thrive.
The colonies of eggs at the base of the feathers can be highly irritating to the chicken, and when they are in large numbers, even preening won’t remove them. Lice can be found on the breast, back, vent, and under the wings of birds
Symptoms of Fleas, Lice and Mites
Generally the symptoms of these blood sucking parasites arise from a combination of itch, irritation, discomfort and blood loss. Heavily affected chickens will display decreased egg production, irritability, malaise, restlessness, anaemia and, on occasion, death
It’s best to catch an infestation early, so monitor regularly for parasites, both on the animals and in their living quarters. Once you have identified which ectoparasite you may be dealing with, there are several control options. To inspect your chickens, look amongst the feathers against the skin, particularly around the breast, tail and vent areas.
Scaly leg mite are found on the legs (surprise!). They lift the legs scales making the whole leg look rough and scaly. A chicken might have a limp and be favouring one leg.
Treatment of fleas, lice and mites in chickens:
Traditional pesticides are available at farm stores, but be sure to read and follow the label instructions before applying anything to your chickens! Many of us prefer a more natural treatment approach for ailments on our blocks so I have provided several natural treatment options. With natural treatments the management of these pests is best achieved using an integrated approach, using several of the options together.
When treating your coop and flock for fleas it is often necessary to repeat the process again 10 to 14 days apart. Used long term these treatments can help prevent a re-infestation.
Suped-up Dust Bath
Chickens LOVE their dust baths! Why not set up a suped-up dust bath for them to help treat parasites while they are at it? You will need one dust bath for every 10- 15 or so chickens, and put it somewhere it won’t get rained on so they can use it all year long.
A box, tire, rubber maid tub, old jam pan or plastic paddling pool.
2 parts dry dirt/dust
1 part wood or paper ash (not coal or from burning rubbish)
1 part sand
1/2 part diatomaceous earth
Gloves and mask
Optional – dried and powdered Sage, Lavender or Rosemary
I use a small bucket as my ‘part’ measure. You may want to wear a dust mask and gloves for this next bit as it does throw a bit up into the air. Put all ingredients into your container and stir together well. That is it really, simply leave somewhere out of the rain/snow and let the chooks have at it.
Garlic is a potent natural cure-all for many many things, including parasites! To feed chickens garlic is so easy! Simply put a couple of crushed cloves in their drinking water or some garlic powder in their dry feed to keep fleas, mites, lice, ticks and internal worms at bay.
3 Whole bulbs of garlic
Optional – 1 teaspoon (total) any combination of these essential oils – bay, cinnamon, clove, coriander, lavender, spearmint and/or thyme
In a food processor, whiz up the garlic until finely chopped. Add the water and pour into a large jar or bowl to seep for a day or two. Strain out the garlic by lining a sieve with a coffee filter, paper towel or double layer or butter muslin/cheese cloth. Dilute with a further 4 cups of water and add essential oils. Then pour into a pressure sprayer to spray the hen house with or a misting bottle to spray the individual hens with.
Spray your hens and hen house weekly as a preventative or every other day for three weeks in the case of an infestation. Concentrate around the vent and under the wings on the birds and cracks and perches in the house.
To treat leg mites spray the legs daily with garlic spray, using an old tooth brush to gently get it up under the scales. Smother the legs in either petroleum jelly or a similar natural alternative like a home made bee balm (we have a recipe here http://www.piwakawakavalley.com/recipe/homemade-balm/ ), Sierra Sage Green Goo or Waxelene.
Diatomaceous earth works because the particles in it are incredibly sharp, these sharp edges cut the bodies of parasites causing them to dehydrate.
Using food grade diatomaceous earth in a sport sock with the top tied shut is a great way of powdering it on to your birds without throwing it everywhere. Simply dab the sock on the bird’s underside while parting the feathers.
You can sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the floor of the coop and in the nesting boxes as well.
You can make a spray up to use 2-3 times per week anywhere that animals are living or sleeping inside or out to help keep fleas, lice and mites away.
1/4 tsp. of Eucalyptus or Wintergreen Essential Oil
1/4tsp total of any combination of the following: bay, cinnamon, clove, coriander, lavender, spearmint and/or thyme
1 1/2 cup of water
Simply mix and spray around sleeping quarters.