Do your chickens have mites or lice?

Believe it or not, every hen keeper will at least once go through that state of despair when they discover a louse or mite on their hen. If this unfortunate event has happened to you, you need not despair. How do you deal with unwelcome guests or, better still, how do you not let them into your hen house?

Parasites in hens

HenUnfortunately, chickens are an unprotesting host for parasites, and so the mites are happy to make their home on them. But neither you nor your hens share the joy of the little vermin. They are at risk of a drop in laying, irritation and, in the worst case, death.

Most often you will see mites and lice in your hens. The difference between the two is that while mites feast on hen's blood and thus cause anaemia, lice feed on hen feathers and dust. But both pests can wreak havoc.

Do not neglect prevention

Prevention is the best thing you can do for your hens, so don't underestimate it. Early detection is of course ideal, so you should check your flock regularly, at least once a week. Don't forget about their perches, nests and gaps in the coop.

You can also give your hens a dust bath. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in all corners of the coop - it will help prevent pests and parasites.

The biggest vectors are wild birds. It is therefore important to restrict their access to the hen feeders to keep them at a safe distance.

Also change old litter regularly with new litter, ideally once a week. If the weather is not favourable, you can't go wrong with a second weekly change. You can use hay, straw or shavings.

How can you tell if your hen has mites or lice?

If something hurts you, everyone is guaranteed to see it in you. It's the same with chickens, who are often very uncomfortable with parasites. In hens, you will notice a lack of appetite for food and water, weight loss, apathy or reduced egg production. The hen's feathers take the brunt of it - they look dull and are lost a lot when infested, especially on the back, where the mites like it best. You probably won't see mites at close range, but you might see fleas or lice.

Here comes the treatment

If you find an infested hen in your flock, put her away from the others. Disinfection is important - so clean the whole henhouse, laying nests and feeders. Leave infested hens in the poultry house as long as possible, and dust under their wings. You can also help by applying natural oil to smother the parasites.

Remember also that each new hen should remain in quarantine for a fortnight. This is because you need to make sure that the new member of your flock does not introduce any parasites among its fellows.