Chicken lice may decide to take up residence on your hen(s) from time to time but, while unpleasant, they are thankfully easy to deal with if caught early.
The entire life cycle of lice happens on your hen’s body meaning dealing with lice is easier than tackling an internal parasite such as worms.
There are some signs to keep an eye out for in order to spot lice on your hens, as well as preventative measures to take and treatment you can administer – here we run down our top tips for dealing with chicken lice.
Chicken lice – how to spot them
Lice are often found on hens that are debilitated or unwell; healthy hens are very good at keeping them at bay by preening and dust bathing and for this reason not every bird in your flock will necessarily have lice if you find them on one.
It’s worth bearing in mind that hens with damaged or overgrown beaks may find it harder to keep their feathers clean.
Live adult lice are visible to the naked eye and are golden in colour, approx. three millimetres long, and lay white eggs (nits) on the hen. Lice are easily spotted running on the skin under the wings and around the base of the tail; they survive by eating feather parts, dead skin and blood.
Lice lay their eggs, also called nits, in clusters on the skin and around the base of feathers, and these clusters are very hard to remove without plucking out the feather.
Symptoms of chicken lice
If you spot one of your hens looking a little under the weather, it’s worth checking her for lice, just in case. There are several other signs of chicken lice to look out for, including:
- Visible lice on your hens’ feathers, crawling around the shaft
- Over preening, or paying more attention to her feathers than usual
- Feather loss or broken feathers
- Skin redness or soreness
- Clumps of eggs stuck to feather shafts
Treating chicken lice
Lice have a three-week life cycle, so it is important to keep treating the hens by dusting them three to four times a week with louse powder and continue this application for three weeks. Be sure to work it into their feathers and onto their skin.
It is important to use a product that will target not only the adult lice but also the eggs and nits. Heavy infestations may require specifically targeted products on prescription.
Providing a dust bath made up of a dry mix of wood ash, compost and Diatomaceous Earth allows hens to clean their feathers and keep lice at bay and you can also use Diatomaceous Earth or louse powder to dust the coop.