Parasites and your chickens

Unfortunately with the warmer weather comes insects and there are a few that can affect your poultry. Two major ones are RED MITES and LICE and it’s very important you keep an eye out for these and treat promptly or you can end up with a major infestation on your hands and poorly chooks.

RED MITES live mainly in the coop and come out at night to feed on your birds blood. They are tiny (the size of a pin head or smaller) and range from light brown to black red depending on whether they’ve had a recent blood meal. Check around crevices and under perches in the coop (at night with a torch is a good time) or look for signs of an ash like material along wood joins. Hens seem hesitant about entering a coop? Then have a good hunt for these bugs. The mite has an incredibly short lifecycle and can produce fully mature reproductive adults within 7 days if conditions are ideal. Because of this it is very important to treat any infestations you find promptly and to repeat coop treatments weekly for at least 3 weeks. Regular clean outs of the coop every 2-3 months will help keep this parasite under control and make your birds much happier at night.

Our second main pest are LICE and these differ in that they live on the bird rather than in the environment. If your birds look a bit raggety, egg production has dropped and they’re looking a bit daggy around the back end have a good check for these little creepy crawlies. They are long, thin little bugs about 3mm long and a light cream to tan colour. Most can be found near the vent area or under the wing. If you part the feathers quickly you’ll see them running away. Other signs are collections of small white egg sacs at the base of the feathers. There are a number or treatments for these, some have with holding times for meat and eggs so please consult the clinic for an option that best suits you. Ensuring your chickens have a proper area to dust bath is a great start as this is the chickens natural way of dealing with external parasites.

You need to also keep an eye out for WORMS, these can live in the guts of chickens and cause diarrhoea, weight loss and reduction in egg production. Worm eggs like warm and damp environments so cleaning out the coop regularly to ensure that the litter doesn’t become too damp can help prevent them. Moving your chickens to a different area regularly can also help as many of the worm eggs can survive on the grass.

There are some veterinary products that can be used if you suspect your chickens have a parasite problem. Remember most products will have an egg withdrawal period. Speak to your veterinarian for more information.


A centre of veterinary excellence for North Canterbury.