Chicken Mites and Lice: How to Prevent Them in Your Flock
Updated: Aug 14
I remember the very first time we raised chickens. I wasn’t “all-in” if you will, for a few different reasons. First off, our flock was fully grown when we got them. We didn’t start from the chick stage. They weren’t the cute little balls of fluff that we could play with and get to know their personalities. So, naturally, we didn’t have that bond. Second, they were so stinky, dirty and dusty and none of those things appealed to me. Lastly, I read about chicken mites and lice. (Everyone pause and take a deep breath here). I was mortified at the thought of little microscopic bugs crawling around and possibly getting on one of us or our kids! Ewwww. Thankfully, now I know that chicken mites and lice don’t survive on humans. Whew! But back then, I had decided that maybe I just wasn’t cut out for being this “crazy chicken lady”.
Now, fast forward to where I am today. I’m crazy about my flock and honestly can’t spend enough time out in the coop snuggling, talking and just simply watching their goofy behaviors. I wear this “crazy chicken lady” label like a badge of honor! What changed? Education for one. I know so much more about these wonderful birds. Also, we’ve raised our flock from the chick stage which is a game changer. But, if I’m going to be completely honest with you, my feathered family members can still stink and create a lot of dust! Although I’m getting used to that part of backyard chickening, the little creatures I still don’t want to deal with are the mites and lice!
What Are Mites and Lice in Chickens?
Did you know that mites and lice are parasites and survive by feasting on other creatures like our chickens? Poultry lice can easily be identified by their straw-colored bodies, round shape and six tiny legs. These little critters tend to hang out near the base of a chicken's feathers, close to their vents. On the other hand, chicken mites start off light in color but turn red after feeding. Some mites are so tiny that they're nearly invisible which is why it's crucial to keep an eye out for symptoms and take preventive action.
Symptoms of Mites and Lice in Chickens:
If you find that you have mites or lice, you'll have to take steps to eliminate them. If left untreated, they can cause a range of health issues or even death. Watch out for these symptoms!
Blood smears on legs
Reduced weight gain
Pale comb and wattles
Decreased egg production or no eggs at all
Swollen legs with scales standing up – TIP: To kill this particular mite, use a petroleum-based product such as Vaseline on their legs.
How to Prevent Mites and Lice
Preventing mites and lice is simple. Here are four easy steps to help keep your coop mite and lice-free.
1. Keep your coop clean and tidy. One of the most important things you can do to prevent mites and lice is to keep your coop clean and tidy. This means regularly removing poop and debris from the roosting area, and cleaning any bedding or nesting material on a regular basis. You should also check for signs of infestation, such as tiny white or black dots on your chickens' skin or feathers, or irritated skin. Check out my favorite way to keep my chicken coop clean, the deep litter method.
2. Give your chickens a dust bath area. Dust bathing is a natural behavior for chickens that helps keep them clean and free of parasites. By providing a designated dust bath area, you can help your flock maintain good hygiene. To create a dust bath, simply find a sunny spot in your yard and fill it with sand, dirt and wood ash. Your chickens will instinctively start to roll around in the mixture which will help keep them mite and lice-free.
3. Avoid exposing your flock to other birds. Mites and lice can easily be spread from one flock to another, so it's important to avoid exposing your chickens to other birds. This means keeping your birds enclosed in a secure coop and run, and avoiding contact with wild birds or other backyard chicken flocks.
4. Use diatomaceous earth wood ash to treat the coop and dust bath area. Diatomaceous earth and wood ash can be effective at killing and preventing parasites in your chicken coop and dust bath area. Diatomaceous earth is a natural product made from fossilized algae which is safe for chickens but deadly to mites and lice. Simply sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the coop and nesting boxes, as well as in the dust bath area. You can also add some wood ash to the dust bath area which can help dry out and kill any remaining parasites.
To further prevent mites and lice, let me introduce you to my favorite dust bath additive - Preen Queen™. This amazing product helps keep your chickens' feathers clean and oil-free by absorbing excess moisture and odors (which attract mites and lice!) Preen Queen contains natural ingredients like zeolite, diatomaceous earth, peppermint and citronella essential oils to keep their feathers clean and pristine.
Until next time,
-The Wing Lady