It's not uncommon for chickens to become infested with poultry lice. These parasites live on the body of the chicken. They have six legs, are usually tan or grey in colour and are about the size of a sesame seed. Lice feed on the bird's dry skin cells and feathers. Heavy infestations can cause a drop in body weight, decreased egg production and sometimes death in young birds. The eggs of poultry lice are called "nits." Once you've treated your flock for lice you must remove the nits to prevent a new outbreak.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Two wash tubs
- Warm water
- Puppy shampoo
- White vinegar
- Rubber gloves
- Blow Dryer
- Skin So Soft or Poultry Protector spray
Examine your chickens. Infested birds often appear ragged due to feather damage. Pay close attention to the vent area below the chicken's tail. Clusters of tiny white eggs are usually found at the base of feathers near the skin. Lice can lay up to 300 eggs at a time so the clusters may give feathers a bulbous appearance.
Fill both plastic or galvanised tubs with comfortably warm water. The tubs should be large enough to contain one chicken and the water level should be no higher than the top of the chicken's legs when standing. Add 1/3 cup of vinegar to one of the tubs.
Place the chicken in the plain water first. If it struggles, hold it gently until calm. You may need to wrap it in a towel to keep it from flapping. Don't let its head or beak dip beneath the water.
Bathe the chicken using a tiny drop of puppy shampoo. Wear rubber gloves during this process. Pay close attention to the vent area and hind quarters. It may take a bit of work to soften any dirt and droppings on the feathers. Carefully clip large matted clumps with scissors. Avoid clipping too close to the skin.
Rinse any residual soap from feathers in the tub filled with vinegar water.
Dry the chicken thoroughly, particularly if the weather is cold or if the birds are young. Use the blow dryer held at a safe distance until feathers are fluffed.
Reinspect the vent area of cleaned birds. If nits or clusters remain, spray base of feathers with Avon's Skin So Soft or natural product Poultry Protector and massage lightly. The ingredients will dissolve the cement and outer membrane of eggs, and help loosen the clusters from the feather shaft.
Tips and warnings
- When checking for lice, visit the hens at night while they're roosting. It will be easier to catch and handle them.
- If one chicken has lice, the rest of the flock probably does too.
- Check treated chickens each week until you are certain lice have been eradicated.
- Dust your chickens regularly with a poultry-safe pesticide powder or organic food-grade diatomaceous earth to prevent outbreaks. Also clean and dust the coop and nest boxes.
- Chickens don't enjoy being bathed, so enlist a helper if possible.
- Never put a wet chicken outside in cold weather or it may become hypothermic and die.
- Make sure your pesticide powder is safe for poultry, especially if the birds will be used for meat or eggs.
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