Note: I’m playing a bit of catch-up. Disregard the posting date and know that the lice arrived immediately after the mites. Good times! Yes, poultry can get lice. I thought only elementary school children were prone to these yucky little bugs, but once again nature threw me, the novice chicken keeper, a major curve ball. And yes, this happened right as we were resolving the mite problem.
Remember the hen I mentioned in the mite post that wouldn’t budge out of the nest box? Well, turns out she was having another issue that I will cover after I tackle this lice post. I noticed when checking near her vent for mites there were also larger bugs, a gross yellow-brown color, hovering there—LICE. Since we were already treating for mites I thought the DE would work on the lice. As we resolved the mite issue, the lice refused to abate no matter how often we dusted her with DE. We tried for a couple of weeks but to no avail.
Notes re: lice: They are not blood-suckers like mites. They dine on dried skin, feathers and scabs on the bird, but they will ingest blood if it’s available from irritated skin. Lice spend their entire lives on the host bird, which is good news in that they don’t invade the coop. You will find them on the skin and they deposit their eggs on the base of the feathers—gross. More good news: they are host-specific which means they won’t jump to humans.
Usually, if one hen has lice the chances are good that others will as well. If you find lice on one, be sure to check all of your birds. Chickens will get pretty annoyed with them if they get bad enough, so watch your birds for excessive preening as that can be a cue.
So what did I do? Bought m’self some Poultry Protector, an all-natural spray to rid birds of these foul little creatures, among others. The active ingredient is citric acid, so you can apply it directly to your birds. It works REALLY well, we found. A few applications to the affected areas and within about two weeks they were gone. The hens were so happy!
As with mites, lice seem to be a cyclical problem so be sure to check your flock often for any critters. Pale combs and wattles can be a sign of pests, FYI.