Parasites are one of the biggest pests for the backyard flock raiser. Know who you’re up against and what they look like so that you can treat them!
Carried By: Beetles, Earwigs, Grasshoppers
Symptoms: Can cause no symptoms or can cause weight loss and weakness
What they do: Cecal worms invade the ceca, the blind pouches attached to the intestines. They rarely cause serious problems though they are the most common worm.
Ascarids or Large Roundworms
Carried By: None
Symptoms: Pale head, droopiness, weight loss, diarrhea, and death
What they do: Roundworms invade the intestines, attaching to the intestinal wall and preventing the body’s absorption of essential nutrients by taking it all for themselves. Chickens usually become resistant by three months.
Carried By: Earthworm
Symptoms: Droopiness, weight loss, diarrhea, death
What they do: These are hairlike worms that invade the crop and upper intestine. If your chicken sits with its head drawn in, it likely has capillary worms.
Carried By: Earthworms, Slugs, Snails
Symptoms: Gasping, coughing, head shaking, death from asphyxiation in young birds
What they do: These are red, fork-shaped worms that attach themselves to the windpipe and can cause breathing trouble and throat irritation.
Cestodes or Tapeworms
Carried By: Ant, Beetle, Earthworm, Slug, Snail, Termite
Symptoms: Weakness, slow growth, weight loss, death
What they do: These long, ribbonlike worms attach to the intestine and absorb nutrients. They infect large numbers of birds, but are rarely fatal.
Flukes or Trematodes
Carried By: Dragonfly, Mayfly
What they do: These leaf shaped worms attach themselves to the inside of the body or beneath the skin. They are prolific in swampy, unsanitary areas.
All worms can be treated by de-worming. If you suspect your birds have worms, as a vet to run a fecal sample to determine which worms are present and which medication is right to treat with.
What they look like: Small grey specks crawling on your chicken at night. They turn red after their bodies are full of chicken blood.
Treatment: Control red mites by cleaning your coop thoroughly, dusting your birds, and dusting every possible crack and crevice with an insecticide.
Northern Fowl Mites
What they look like: Small grey specks that crawl over nesting boxes, eggs and birds during the day. They also cause scabbing around the vent and are more prevalent in the cooler months.
Treatment: These mites procreate quickly, so dust everything with an improve insecticide. Keep your birds dusted and pay special attention to any cracks or crevices where they could be hiding out.
Scaly Leg Mites
What they look like: These little guys burrow under the scales of your chickens’ legs. You won’t know they’re there until the chicken shows symptoms of lost scales and stiff legged walking.
Treatment: These are slow spreading and can be controlled by brushing the legs of your birds with a mixture of kerosene and linseed oil, one part to two parts, once a month.
What they look like: Tic appearance can vary by region. Most tics are pea-sized when hungry and various colors of brown.
Treatment: Keep chickens away from areas where tics generally reside. Keep roosting boxes off the ground, keep tall grass trimmed down and avoid having your coop near trees.
Chickens that are tormented frequently by mites may refuse to go into their coop at night or become restless at bedtime because they are anticipating a painful night. Consider lining nesting boxes with tobacco leaves and using cedar chips for nesting. You can also give ivermectin to birds that are not meat or egg birds. This will make them unappealing from the inside out.
Lice are an all around nuisance that may stop laying and cause your birds to pull out their feathers. You can see them crawling on the birds, find their eggs at the base of feathers and see scabbing around the vent from where they have been chewing on the skin. Treat all your birds if you spot lice on one as it spreads quickly. Repeat the treatment twice, every seven days, to kill any eggs that hatch between treatments.
Sticktight fleas are the most common and though easy to remove on a bird are more difficult to get out of housing. Apply a flea salve to the face of the bird, and remove all bedding. Heavily dust the coop and repeat every two or three days over the course of a two week period.