Our hens are constantly exposed to the action of factors harmful to their health, which can seriously challenge the survival of the chicken coop. Pests are the main type of threat to be aware of, to recognize it and know how to deal with it.
What are the parasites of chickens?
Verminoses are very common forms of parasites in chickens. They are not only dangerous parasites because of the harm they do directly to poultry, but also, and more importantly, because they make them receptive to suffering other diseases. Verminoses can be produced by roundworms called nematodes (thread worms that settle in the crop, intestine or stomach) or by flatworms called cestodes (which live in the intestine).
These parasites can attack chickens feeding on their eggs or hosts (such as flies, snails or earthworms). They can be carried by wild birds such as turtle doves and pigeons, so it is a good idea to keep chickens away from outside visitors.
Pollen lice are insects belonging to the Mallophagus order that feed on skin, feathers, scales, and sebaceous secretions.
Why are parasites dangerous to chickens?
Pollen lice are parasites that cause chickens to become annoyingly itchy, which can even lead the weakest specimens to death. This parasite spends all its time attached to the hen and cannot survive more than 5 days away from it.
It deposits eggs near the hen’s cloaca, eggs that hatch within a week: within two weeks the new specimens are ready in turn to reproduce.
How to eliminate parasites from the chicken coop?
Lice, if nothing else, are hosts that can be seen with the naked eye: they are about 2 mm long and light brownish in color. Their abdomen has an elongated shape, their head is oval, and their peak season is in July-August-September. The best remedy against chicken pests is not to have them, so it is necessary to keep the poultry house as clean as possible to avoid their incursions. Good practice is to thoroughly clean feeders, nests, perches and perform periodic sanitization of places where many animals congregate, especially during the summer period (the period of greatest proliferation).
A good rule is to proceed with poultry house disinfestation at least once a year, to be increased to once a week in the summer period if we have already had infestations.
In fact, in summer chicken lice have an easier way to spread, so checking the condition of the chicken coop more often reduces the risk of letting them have free range.
Products against chicken lice consist of environmental acaricides for livestock use, among which are pyrethrum- or geranium-based products.
How to recognize chicken lice
Head lice are as common as they are harmful presences that threaten the success of poultry farming.
Checking hens carefully allows you to minimize the occurrence of them. Although hardy specimens can withstand an infestation while reducing their performance, younger and older ones can even die from it.
To check whether lice have taken up residence, we lift the hens’ neck feathers: if we see small brown parasites moving to hide, it means the animal is attacked. We can also check for eggs of the parasites around the cloaca area, where they are usually laid
Hens attacked by lice show various symptoms including:
- weight loss
- inflammation of the skin
- decrease in laying
- sudden change of feathers
- ruffled plumage
- increased tendency to roll over
- tendency to scratch frequently
How to disinfect the chicken coop from pests
Mites are small animals that can hide almost anywhere, in the cracks of walls and wooden tools, so it is best to repair them when they are splintered to preclude their chances to proliferate.
Crucial, in fact, is to intervene promptly when we suspect signs of infestation in the chicken coop-this will make it easier to eradicate the pests and restore the well-being of our feathered friends.
To prevent roundworms from attacking poultry, we must make an effort to regularly clean the litter in the poultry house and chick house. When this remains clean, in fact, the heat of the feces is sufficient to sterilize the environment, eliminating the eggs of the parasites. The outdoor area must be free of puddles of water or dense mud. We can then pass a compound of 3.5 percent caustic soda with 5 percent lime spread once every two months to sterilize the parcels.
To remove pests that have already infested the chickens, we need to check their bodies and spray the affected areas with a natural pyrethroid-based pesticide (i.e., based on pyrethrin, a natural insecticide developed from the pyrethrum plant). Unfortunately, these products affect both pests and bees.
To facilitate pest control efforts, we can provide the chickens with a space filled with burnt wood ash to allow them to roll around and clean themselves up. Ash is an excellent remedy for hindering the proliferation of pests: we can then “bathe” the chickens with ash, rubbing them well all over to remove the pests, allowing time for the ash to act on their bodies.
How to cure chickens of lice and mites
To make chickens more resistant to parasites, we can give them a liquid food additive to be diluted with water 5/6 days a month. The product does not remain in the poultry’s body and they can be consumed regularly.
In the case of very substantial infestations, it is necessary to pass a pesticide, carry out the treatment again after 3 weeks and, if appropriate, proceed with a phytotherapeutic supplement to prevent the phenomenon from recurring. In any case, when resorting to drugs to treat chickens from parasites, it is necessary to adhere to the time stipulated by such products before consuming the meat of treated animals.
How to defend the poultry house from chicken mites
Effective remedies for lice and mites attacking poultry include garlic and Neem oil, which we can spray on the animals along with warm water. We can create a mixture of 300 ml of water, cinnamon, lavender, 30 ml of garlic juice, mint, and thyme and then spray it on the hens for a couple of days a week for two to three weeks until the pests are removed.