What do chicken mite/ lice look like?

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We have some kind of bug/mite on the chickens and in the coop. They get on us if we handle the chickens yuck! They look like little light brown/cream, we also have the ones that are called red mites too. I checked this evening on the roost and saw several red mites when I smashed them it was if they were full of blood. How do I treat this before it gets out of hand. A couple of the hens have feather loss around their tails and vent area, I thought they were maybe molting but now I think it's due to feather plucking to relieve the irritation. Can these mites/ lice infeast people? My daughter handles them daily so I NEED to know. I have had them on my arm and just showered to get rid of them. Please give me as many ideas of how to get rid of them. I keep our coop very clean, I use wood chips as litter as well as in the nest boxes. I throughly clean( or so I thought) twice a year. Washing with a bleach and soap mixture. I have the heebee-jeebees right now writing about it. I'd like to stay away from to many chemicals though, I'm trying to keep it organic, but also want then gone ASAP ! Thanks for all your help.

-- Kelle in MT. (kvent1729@aol.com), August 15, 2001


Hi, Kelle, I know what you mean about the heebie-jeebies from this, went through it a few years ago. I tried every organic "cure" I could find--dipping their legs in vegetable oil, baking soda for them to dust in (supposed to dehydrate the mites) and lime and Diocamcus (sp) earth. For some reason they didn't affect me, but my poor husband would come out of the chicken house crawling with them on his arms. Anyway, we finally compromised, and went with the "chicken lice dust" we got at the local farm store. The directions were to completely dust the chickens, the house, and especially the nests. We put a minimum amount on the roosts, and made them a dust-bath in the yard which was made up of mostly sand, baking soda, DE, and lime. We added a few Tablespoons of the lice dust. The canister of dust we got was supposed to treat 25 chickens. We used maybe a 1/2 cup out of it, and treated 125 or so hens, and it took care of the problem. Good news, we haven't had a problem since. I hope this helps. Kathie p.s. the dust did tend to really stick to the hens' legs because of the previous treatment with vegetable oil. Don't know if this was a contributing factor in such a small amount of poison helping or not.

-- Kathie in Western Washington (twinrosefarm@centurytel.net), August 15, 2001.

Mites live on the birds. Lice usually (or can) live off them, and come out to feed. You can have both. What you saw were probably lice - just the one type - the red ones were red because, as you saw, they were full of blood they had sucked from your poultry. The lice will live in microscopic cracks and crevices in wooden perches or shed frames, and will love the cover they can get in your wood chips. You'll need to get rid of all that litter, and ideally burn it to get rid of the infestation - otherwise eggs can survive and re-infest. Talk to an extension agent or a store that can sell insecticides and miticides (can be different - insecticides don't necessarily do much to mice, lice, ticks and spiders (which are all related)).

I think what you'll need to do is plan first, then start early one day, clean out all the litter, spray or wash-down everything with a pesticide, dose the birds (wash or spray or dust - get expert local advice), then leave it that way. You'll likely have a withholding period before you can use the eggs. You may need to repeat some or all of this, maybe the next day, maybe later. Take into account how long lice eggs would take to hatch. When you're happy that things are under control, paint all woodwork to seal cracks where lice can live. Some people make perches out of polypipe to avoid having them get infested with lice - takes the birds a little while to get used to using them, but they do. The sooner you do this the better, while you have warm weather, and before the lice start preparing to over-winter.

As to whether they can get on you - yes! I don't know whether infest is quite the right word - you won't be their preferred host. However, they will get on people, and they will bite, and they will also just plain give you a horrible crawling sensation (literally) - particularly if they get in your hair. I've spent some uncomfortable times after cleaning out nests left by lice-infested starlings and sparrows and Indian mynahs. I don't personally know of diseases they might carry to you, but then I'm not an expert. I'd prefer not to take too many chances. After all, Lyme disease is carried by parasites who don't really LIKE people.

-- Don Armstrong (darmst@yahoo.com.au), August 15, 2001.

I was reading an old animal husbandry book a couple of years ago, and it gave a recipe to use for this, much safer than chemicals in a store today and no withholding the eggs. Use about 4 oz of sulfur, mix in huge bucket with 1/8 cup dishwashing soap. I use warm water, dissolve all the sulfur and soap. Dip each chicken in this solution, being careful not to get in their eyes. Boy do they come out clean and looking good after they dry. But this only cures the chickens, not the lice or mites in the hen house. You may also spray henhouse with this solution.

-- Barbara Vozar (vozarbi@sensible-net.com), August 15, 2001.

Thanks to all who gave advice. I'm going to call my extension office today and see what they recommend. Barbra I had read about the sulfur solution too and might try this first to try to avoid those chemicals, also I can't afford to loose eggs because we sell them and this is what pays for their food. How do they get lice and mites? Is it all from other "wild birds". I check them every month and I've never seen anything on them until this month, can it spread that fast or was I just not seeing them. Thanks again for all the great advice, I love this page it's become my favorite place to be. I've learned so much from all of you, it's like a family reunion everyday.

-- Kelle in MT. (kvent1729@aol.com), August 15, 2001.

I bought some blue strips from McMurray's - Die No Mite strips, I think. I hung them around in the coop and haven't had a problem since. They are very long lasting. I don't like using pesticides either, but I HATE mites! At least you don't have to spray & dust all over.

-- Jean (schiszik@tbcnet.com), August 15, 2001.

Wild birds will certainly carry them - again talk to the extension agent. Feral birds are generally worse, because they are out of balance with the environment, and there are not natural predators to control their parasites. Remember those rotten things that built their lice-infested nests where I had to get rid of them. Also, once you've got a few, they'll build up and suddenly the numbers become enormous. It's not quite this simple, but if you graph something (say weeks) along a horizontal axis, and numbers (say ten times as many each week) along the vertical axis, you'll see that the graph stays low for a while, and then very rapidly heads for the sky. 1/1, 2/10, 3/100, 4/1,000, 5/10,000, 6/100,000, etc.

-- Don Armstrong (from Australia) (darmst@yahoo.com.au), August 15, 2001.

I'll try the "die no mite strips" in conjunction with the sulfur wash. Don, I feel as if we have 6/100,000, seriously I don't think its that bad but it's like spiders I just can't quit scratching at the thought of them " scratch, scratch, scratch. LOL!!! Thanks for the info.

-- Kelle in MT. (kvent1729@aol.com), August 15, 2001.

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