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Lice

Lice are often found on hens that are debilitated or unwell, and live their entire lives on the body of the host chicken; adult lice shun sunlight and will quickly scatter when feathers are parted. They cannot spread to humans or other species.

Lice live for one month and during this time a female louse will lay between 50 to 300 eggs. Adult lice are visible to the naked eye (3mm) and can usually be easily spotted running on the skin under the wings and around the base of the tail where they also lay their eggs in clusters. These clusters are very hard and difficult to remove without actually plucking out the feather (Figure 3).

Symptoms

  • Feather loss.
  • Frequent scratching.
  • Redness.
  • Live adult lice seen when feathers parted.
  • Clusters of nits attached to the base of the feather shaft.

Causes

  • Usually bird to bird direct contact and more normal in sick or injured birds.

Guidance

Note that this home remedy is not intended to offer a cure or replace veterinary treatment, but may alleviate symptoms where no professional support is easily available. The suggestions are based on experience gained with our own hens.
  • If a hen is unable to dust bathe or has a beak deformity preventing preening, it is advisable to check the feathering frequently for signs of lice eggs or adult lice. Moulting helps to reduce lice numbers (feathers should be collected and discarded).
  • Diatomaceous earth in dust baths will help.
  • Consult your vet for insecticide products which will kill the eggs.

Prevention

  • Healthy chickens will keep their bodies free from lice by daily preening and dust bathing.
Lice
Figure 1: Clusters of lice eggs
Lice
Figure 2: Clusters of lice eggs
Lice
Figure 3: Clusters of lice eggs on individual feathers

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