There’s one word that can instill fear into every poultry owner’s heart like no other… chicken lice.
You might come across them when you go to hold one of your favorite hens and see what looks like white insects scurrying to hide amongst her feathers.
Unfortunately, they’re not easy to completely eliminate and they can devastate an entire flock in a short span of time. Leaving you eggless/meatless and not to mention the costs to restart a flock (only in extreme cases) along with treating the coop and run…
Small flock owners like ourselves are not immune to these annoying pests- they can affect any flock of any size.
Interestingly enough, lice are not blood suckers, but actually eat the dead skin flakes and can really mess the feathers up.
However, if the chicken does have a wound- which they invariably will because of the itching, then the lice will feed on the blood too.
Fortunately, I’m going to share my tips with you so you can get rid of chicken lice naturally without all of those nasty chemicals!
Table of Contents
Why Chicken Lice Are So Hard To Get Rid Of
Lice, like many other pests (fleas, bedbugs), have short life spans, but their lifecycle is stuck on repeat mode.
That means that while you can kill off adults, you still have to prepare for the onslaught of eggs and the eggs hatching. Essentially, there’s three different life cycles that you’ll be dealing with.
These cycles are short, in fact a louse will hatch in the feathers about 4-5 days after the egg was laid.
From there, it’s only 12 short days before they reach full maturity and then the cycle just repeats itself.
Preventing Chicken Lice, Fleas, and Mites
I prefer to take the road of prevention instead of having to do damage control later….
So just because your flock appears to be lice free, doesn’t mean they can’t get them from other wild animals or birds that are in close quarters of your flock.
That’s why it’s important to maintain hygiene in the coop and run as well as try and keep wild animals away from your flock as much as possible.
Keep Chicken Coops and Runs Free of Wildlife
Coop hygiene is important if you want to keep these little buggers away.
Tidy coops make it less desirable to pests like lice, and other wildlife like mice, to take refuge.
You can make your coop and runs less attractive to wildlife if you keep the feed and water areas clean as much as possible and also store extra food in air tight containers that wildlife won’t open.
This also means not leaving food laying around, scrubbing food and water dishes frequently, keeping the plant and grass growth near or in your runs at a low level that doesn’t cause a fire hazard or create the perfect habitat for things like mice and wasps, and fleas.
If you find that your coop is frequently visited by wild birds, consider putting netting over the run to help keep wild birds from interacting too much with your flock.
Encourage Dust Baths
Your chickens naturally have an urge to dig shallow holes into the ground and “bathe” in them.
It might look funny to you, but this is actually a natural mechanism that chickens use to help keep themselves groomed and parasite free.
As it turns out, allowing them to bathe in the dust makes it more difficult for the lice to latch onto your chickens, which makes it harder for the lice to lay eggs and cause a whole host of problems for you later down the road.
So if your chickens don’t have an area where they can take dust baths, start working on that pronto.
It doesn’t have to be fancy and your chickens won’t care one way or the other if it’s a small kiddy pool you filled with wood ash and DE, or if it’s a scrap tire that you wanted to recycle.
If you don’t have one, here’s an idea of how to create one on the cheap:
Most of the time, offering a small area where there’s sand, DE, or Wood Ash is sufficient enough.
Make Quarantine a Priority
If you’re not quarantining your new chickens, start doing it now.
Sick chickens are easy to overlook since they may appear to be healthy at a quick glance.
It’s not until they’re really run down that it becomes more apparent that something is wrong.
Don’t take any chances.
Quarantine new chickens before adding them to your flock.
A good quarantine time period seems to sit between 2 and 4 weeks.
This will give you plenty of time to realize that something is wrong and treat the new member/s before adding them to your flock.
Just be sure to make sure the new member/s are completely healthy before you do add them in with the rest.
Be a Good Shepherd to Your Flock
Not only are you responsible for providing proper food, water, shelter, and protection- but you are responsible for their health too.
That means keeping an eye on them and maybe inspecting them every so often.
For people with larger flocks, this may be difficult to do; but even if you look over a couple of chickens in your flock, you can get a basic idea of the health of your flock just by doing this every now and then.
Especially since if one chicken has lice, they probably all have them.
So if the few chickens you check are lice free and healthy, the rest probably are too!
How Do I Know If My Flock Has Been Infested?
Possible signs include but are not limited to:
· Chickens that act lethargic.
· Weight loss.
· No interest in eating or drinking- even for their favorite treats!
· Pulling out feathers.
· Scabby, reddened skin or dull looking feathers.
· And more obvious, mites or lice crawling on the skin or in the feathers.
How Do I Treat Chickens For Lice?
You have a few options when it comes to treating your chickens for lice:
· Like Sevin dust (not recommended and you can even read what happened to this poor lady when she went this route)
· Coumaphos- Co
· Tetrachlorvinphos- Rabon 50
· Tetrachlorvinphos/diclorvos- Ravap EC
These are usually only recommended for someone that probably has more than 15 chickens…
Some recommend using special shampoos and flea dips that are meant for dogs but I’d be careful with this and maybe consult a veterinarian first.
· DE and wood ash.
· Essential oils like tea tree oil, lavender, rosemary, peppermint, and eucalyptus.
· Adding garlic and/or brewers yeast to their food.
· Garlic juice and adding crushed garlic to their food.
Natural remedies work great if the infestation is small, however if all of your flock seem affected, it might be best to skip natural treatments and go straight for the chemical remedies instead.
Just a heads up though, there’s a lot of controversy about DE being safe if inhaled by animals, so make sure you do some research, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll be focusing mostly on wood ash and DE for treatment purposes.
Little Known Trick To Treat a Flock Without So Much As a Squabble…
I learned this trick from someone whose video I watched on YouTube, unfortunately I can’t remember their name to credit them with this tip (Thanks!) but when I started butchering my own chickens, I didn’t want to chase each of the chickens around and then bring them back to the place where I slaughtered them.
Wouldn’t that defeat the entire purpose of trying to raise my own animals?
Having them live a relaxed life up until the point of slaughter?
So the person on the YouTube video suggested going into the coop at night and then calmly grabbing the chickens to either do the deed or to put into a smaller darker crate till the next morning, when they would be slaughtered.
While you may not be slaughtering your chickens and I don’t recommend it if they’re infested- even a little bit, this trick will still work if you need to treat your chickens or administer medications without stressing yourself and the chickens out.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
How To Eliminate Lice, Mites, and Fleas On Your Chickens and In The Coop/Run
Here’s what you’ll need and how to get started:
· DE- You want the food grade, no exceptions.
· Wood ash- doesn’t need to come from a special tree or anything, it’s just the ash remains that you get after burning wood. Make sure that the wood hasn’t been treated for chemicals and there’s no sharp bits like nails. I recommend using wood from trees and avoiding milled wood.
· Scoop shovel- to scoop up the shavings and droppings.
· Wheelbarrow- to make carrying out the shavings and droppings super simple.
· Burn barrel- to burn the shavings and droppings to prevent re-infestation.
· Simple Green Concentrate- can find it in most cleaning aisles at your grocery store or order it online.
· A mist type sprayer- so you can mix the 1:1 Simple Green/Water and spray it all over the run and coop quickly and efficiently.
· A pillow case that will be used just for this purpose.
The process can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it.
For me, I prefer simplicity, so here’s how I’d advise you to tackle these nasty buggers once and for all.
If your coop has an attached run, I’d gently herd or lure the chickens out with their feed or favorite snacks and block the door to the coop so the chickens cannot enter.
This is super important for the next step.
Pull up a big wheelbarrow or your burn barrel and start shoveling and scooping out the coop and nest boxes.
You don’t have to get every single piece, but you want to get as much as you possibly can.
Remove the wheelbarrow or burn barrel and prepare a mixture of Simple Green (it’s nontoxic and smells great!) with water.
A 1:1 ratio works well and I like using one of those large pesticide sprayers to do this, that way you can hang it off your shoulder or carry it while you use the spray wand to coat every vertical and flat surface as much as you can with the mixture.
Walk out of the coop for a while to allow the mixture to dry- this takes about an hour on a really warm day.
After an hour or so, come back out and start spraying everything down with a hose, or dumping buckets of water onto every surface you can.
Allow to dry again and replenish the shavings or nesting material.
This would also be a good time to clean the feed and water dispensers if you haven’t already.
Once this is all done, don’t let the chickens back into the coop just yet.
Now, depending on which treatment you’ve chose to treat your chickens with (I’m hoping the natural route), you’re going to take care of that now.
Do this when the coop is about 80% dry so you’re not waiting all day.
When treating the chickens, treat each one individually and then release the treated chicken into the coop. Remember, don’t open the coop door just yet because we’re basically quarantining the treated chickens from the non-treated chickens/area.
If you let even just one infected chicken back into your clean coop, you’ll have to start all over.
Once all the chickens have been treated and are safely placed in the coop- hopefully with a yummy chicken treat like dried meal worms or kitchen scraps…
Then it’s time to repeat the same washing process to the outside of the coop.
Spray everything down with your Simple Green mixture and allow it to dry- rinse everything down and I’d allow everything to dry before you turn the chickens out again.
You don’t have to, but it just keeps the chickens dry.
Repeat this process every week until all of your coop and run is lice and mite free.
Wrapping It All Up
Getting rid of lice can be a pain in the butt, but if you follow my tips to get rid of chicken lice naturally, you can do away with the nasty chemicals and get everything back to normal in short order.
Have you ever dealt with a lice infestation?
How did you handle it?