Common Chicken Parasites

Causes and Treatments

Chickens’ immune systems are naturally strong. However, they are still prone to certain parasites, diseases, and infestations. Fortunately, it is possible to avoid these conditions if the symptoms are detected and treated soon enough. Early treatment ensures that the entire flock is safe from widespread contamination.

What causes infestations in chickens?

When chickens are overpopulated, their immune systems become weakened due to stress, and they become more susceptible to infections and diseases caused by parasites.

Adding birds that are not quarantined to an existing flock can cause infestation, considering that the new birds may be infested.  It is always advisable to quarantine a new flock separately for a while (perhaps two weeks) to see if they show signs of infections. If there are none, they can then be added to the main flock.

Another leading cause of infestation is poor sanitation.  A dirty chicken house will harbour different harmful bacteria that could cause adverse health to the flock.  To avoid this, always keep your chicken house dry, cleaned and free of manure, dirt, and waste food.

Common Chicken Parasites and how to treat them

Lice – Although lice feed on dead skin and will not bite the chicken, it causes chickens severe discomfort, and in the bid to get it off their skin, the chickens end up pecking at themselves.  Continuous pecking leads to wounds and severe irritations.  Out of curiosity, the other chickens try to peck the affected chicken to remove the lice, but this leads to depression and death.  Lice-infested birds are the leading causes of lice infestation in a flock. The best treatment is the direct application of lice powder to the affected bird while hosing down the coop and filling all cracks and crevices with boiling water.  Finally, dust the whole coop with diatomaceous earth.

Red Mites – They thrive in dark and damp environment.  If not detected early in an infested chicken, it could spread to the entire flock in a few days.  Red Mites target the blood of the chicken, hence to avoid death, it is best to treat a case of red mite infestation promptly.  Rodents and wild birds are the two main carriers of these mites, and they transmit them when they come in contact with chickens.  You can identify a red mite by their blackish red colour, and their affinity for darkness.  On discovering red mites, quickly dust your chickens with mite powder.  Also, spray the coop generously using red mite spray to disinfect it.  Finally, ensure that you observe the coop closely for the possible presence of red mites.

Scaly-leg mites –, scaly leg appears on the scales of the leg. The presence of the scaly-leg mites causes lifted scales, and the implication could be a lame chicken.  Contrary to the red mites, the leading source of scaly-leg mites is an infested ground.

The most effective treatment is to first remove the mites, by brushing the leg of the fowl with warm soapy water, after which you rub in/spray a scaly-leg mite cream/spray into the scaly leg. While applying the spray or cream, ensure that it reaches under the scales.