Information, Treatment and Prevention  


Lice do not normally affect egg production but are an irritant to the bird, causing stress, which may set off an outbreak of feather pecking or general
bullying, leading to eventual cannibalism. Lice are spread from bird to bird by contact and are therefore spread more quickly in overcrowded situations.
Eggs are laid in clusters and may be stuck onto feathers. After eight days the eggs hatch and the larvae begin feeding. Birds should be checked for
lice at least twice a month. When handling the birds to be inspected, the most obvious signs are a white
crustacean attached to the base of the
feathers around the vent. Where large numbers of lice are involved, crustaceans  will also be visible on the feathers under the wings. These are actually
the lice eggs. By parting the feathers, small light brown to golden lice may be seen running between the feathers. They will bite and feed on the bird's
skin scales. The lice life cycle is on the host and once parted from the host, such as moving onto an animal or human, it will not live very long.


Louse egg clusters on the base of a chickens vent feathers (above). Each egg is less than 1mm long.

Treatment is administered by liberally dousing affected birds with a louse or parasite powder.

Below are three of the best treatments for biting lice currently available.

For more information on each product, click on it's image.


'Eradicate' Louse Powder
SPR Eradicate Powder is the best natural louse powder available. It consists purely of tea tree oil, cedarwood oil, and piperonal - on a base of fine maize flour. The powder (which also has a pleasant, natural fragrance) is applied direct to the animal to create an environment that is totally repellent to lice, ticks and other ecto-parasites. SPR Eradicate Louse Powder is suitable for use on all ages of livestock and pets, and can be applied safely and as often as necessary. Once applied, the effect will last up to 7 days. SPR Eradicate Powder does not stain clothing, and can be easily brushed out of animal's coats. It can also be applied to nest boxes, dust baths and bedding as a preventative to infestation.


Mighty Organic Bedding Powder
Use Mighty Organic Bedding Powder for the residual control of lice, red mite and other biting insects. It is made up from layers of microscopic algae (called Diatoms) laid down in prehistoric times. It is then mined, and milled to the correct grade. Crushed to a fine powder and observed through a microscope, the Diatom particles resemble bits of broken glass - deadly to any insect but completely harmless to animals, fish, fowl or food. Most insects have a 'waxy' outer shell covering their bodies. Mighty Organic Bedding Powder scratches through this shell causing the insect to dehydrate, leading to eventual death. Therefore, it controls insects by physical means rather than chemical, and thus has no chemical toxicity. Mighty Organic Bedding Powder is also non-staining and can safely be used on all livestock and pets, as well as in organic production. Mighty Organic Bedding Powder can be applied directly to the skin, as well as bedding, nest boxes, dust baths and poultry housing.


Battles - Louse Powder
Battles Louse Powder is a 'ready to use' insecticide that is made from an inert, finely ground diluent powder blended with Permethrin (0.47%). It has a low mammalian toxicity, combing rapid knockdown & kill with sustained residual activity. 
Use Battles Louse Powder for the control of pests such as fleas and lice, earwigs and other bristle tails, mites, ticks,
book lice, cockroaches, beetles, moth larvae, silverfish, fleas, lice, bed bugs and ants. Battles Louse Powder also
controls wood lice and wasps by treating in and around nests. To use, apply Battles Poultry Louse Powder directly from the container as a fine dust to surfaces, and use in the following situations: poultry houses, domestic pets, animal houses etc. Apply the powder to nest boxes, dust baths, rugs, bedding, etc. Apply as required and re-treat as necessary.
Do not apply directly to animals


Red Mite

An infestation of red mite (Dermanyssus Gallinae), will cause a drop in egg production, and according to the severity, even mortality. The mites are blood feeders
and attack resting birds at night. The life cycle of  a red mite is not dependent on the host. They live and breed in crevices, as near to their meal as possible.
It was at one time thought that they lived only in wood, but they can be found living in any material that is adjacent to the bird including metal. The mite
progresses through five life stages: egg, larva, protonymph, deutonymph and adult. Under favourable conditions this life cycle can be completed within seven
days, so populations can grow rapidly - causing anaemia in badly affected flocks of poultry which presents as pallor of the comb and wattle. Apart from causing
a drop or cessation in egg production, when entering the house disturbed mite will bite the intruder. A monthly check under each end of the perches will indicate
any mite establishment. Only those that have sucked blood will be red; the others are grey in colour. At night they run along the perch, up the chicken's leg and
onto the flesh, where they bite into a blood vessel and suck blood until full. They then return to the crevice and stay there until another meal is required. They do
not live on the bird so will not be found by examining the bird during the day. Surrounding the crevices is a grey-type ash, which is the mite's' faeces. Birds
suffering from the presence of large numbers of red mite look pale and jaundiced through loss of blood. A post-mortem shows only a skin which looks as though
it has been profusely pricked with a fine needle. Red mite is carried by wild  birds and prevailing winds. Control of red mite relies on the treatment of the poultry
house prior to housing the birds, followed by regular monitoring of their environment, and treating as soon as any evidence of mite is seen. Red mite have been
known to lie dormant for up to ten years, and for this reason all second hand poultry houses should be adequately treated before filling with the new birds.


A red mite and images showing signs of red mite infestation in a poultry house

Below is the best treatment for red mite currently available. For more information on the product, click on it's  image.


SPR - Poultry Shield
Award-winning red mite control from SPR Centre. Poultry Shield is also effective against bacteria, viruses, fungus, mould, algae
and biofilms. SPR Poultry Shield works equally well with hard or soft water, is unaffected by temperature fluctuation, and has a
long storage life. Containing NO poison or dangerous chemicals, Poultry Shield is completely bio- degradable, environmentally friendly and can be safely used in organic production. To use, dilute 1 part Poultry Shield to 10 parts water for an instant kill.
Poultry Shield can also be used at 1:20 for general disinfection of the poultry house after mucking out. Simply dilute and spray
the house and equipment liberally - Poultry Shield solution will kill mite and their eggs over a period of 2 to 3 days. The birds can
then be re-introduced almost immediately. Poultry Shield is 100% safe, so there is no need to withdraw eggs.


Red Stop Solution -  Just Add to Bird's Drinking Water to Protect them from Red Mite and Northern Mite!
Red Stop Solution is different from any other anti-Red Mite 'eradicators' because it eliminates all Red Mite by starving
them to death. The solution is added to the bird's drinking water over a period of 10 days, and then 1 day a week. This makes the chicken's blood completely unpalatable to the Red Mite - which then die of starvation over a period of time,
and because they can't feed, they can't breed. Red Stop Solution is completely safe and does not have any affect on
egg quality and therefore there is no period of egg withdrawal. Red Stop Solution is a natural, organic solution, any
eggs laid during periods of treatment are not affected. * Red Stop Solution has organic certificates throughout Europe.


Northern Mite

Northern mite are similar in size to red mite, but are grey to black in colour. Red mite live in the cracks in the house and come out at night to feed from the bird
but northern mites live on the birds permanently and can be distinguished by their presence during the daytime on poultry, poultry eggs, and poultry houses.
As chickens catch it from wild birds it is almost impossible to avoid contact with it at some stage so it is worth being extra vigilant with your own birds.
Northern mite is sometimes hard to spot (especially in the early stages), and not all birds in the same flock will be affected; so all birds will need careful
checking. Northern mite are more often observed round the bird's head and under their wings. Poultry suffering from a heavy infestation also tend to become
miserable, weak and are unusually thirsty. They also become scabby on the comb, face and wattles. Treatment is administered by using a spray containing
pyrethrum such as Johnson's Anti-Mite Extra. Spray this directly onto the affected birds. The mite are difficult to kill and repeated spraying will be necessary.


A northern mite and signs of northern mite infestation on a chicken

Johnson's Anti-Mite Extra
Johnson's Anti-Mite Extra is an effective, water-based 'pump spray' containing Permethrin, and is safe to use directly on poultry, cage birds and pigeons. Anti-Mite Extra kills red-mite, northern mite, lice and other common external parasites, and gives lasting protection against re-infestation. To use, spray each bird lightly from the rear at a distance of about  30cm (12 inches), avoiding the eyes and beak. For small birds, use one to two pumps of spray, and for larger birds use three to five pumps of spray. Remove any food and water before spraying, and repeat the treatment weekly or as required until the infestation is cleared. To help prevent re-infestation, also spray cage surfaces, cracks and crevices, where insect pests live and breed. Johnson's Anti-Mite Extra is not to be used on birds intended for human consumption.
Contains: Permethrin 25/75 0.5 w/w.


Scaly Leg Mite

This problem had all but died out, but with the advent of increasing numbers of flocks now kept on range, it is unfortunately on the increase again due to poor
management, i.e. not being seen and treated quickly enough to prevent its spread. Scaly Leg Mite is caused by a burrowing mite (Knemidocoptes mutans) which
has an oval body and extremely short legs. The mite burrows under the scales of the bird's legs, creating tunnels where it is able to reproduce. As it proliferates,
the scales are lifted grotesquely, and if left, eventually makes the bird lame. The scales often look like they are protruding outwards and parts of the scales will
come off, making the legs   look unsightly. Scales should never be picked or cut off as this will damage the legs. Birds need to be treated to kill the mites and
then scales left to come away naturally through a moult. It can take up to 12 months before the scales have moulted and re-grown to look normal again.
Scaly Leg Mites are too small to see without a microscope. Often the first indication of their presence is a  brittle, flaky, or powdery appearance to the bird's legs. 


A microscopic image of a scaly leg mite (Knemidocoptes mutans) and it's affect on birds legs.

Scaly Leg Mite is very easy to kill and there are numerous remedies. The most affective of these is just a plain and simple 'Vaseline type'  product such 
as Battle's White Petroleum Jelly which is applied directly to the bird's legs. This results in suffocating the mite. The mites can also be killed by dipping
the birds' legs into Surgical Spirit
once per week for 3 to 4 weeks.  How long the treatments need to be repeated depends on how soon the problem is
spotted. When these mite attack feather-legged breeds, it is more difficult to spot, and the owner has to be more vigilant, especially with older birds.

Battles - White Petroleum Jelly B.P
A soft white odourless and tasteless jelly for use in the general healing of minor wounds and abrasions, and
for treating scaly leg mite in poultry. Applying Battles White Petroleum Jelly to a minor wound helps to promote
faster epithelialization, wound contraction and early suppression of inflamation thus helping in general wound
healing. Battles White Petroleum Jelly can also be used as an ointment base, and also as an emollient.


Battle's - Surgical Spirit
Battle's Surgical Spirit is a general purpose skin cleanser for use in the management of livestock, and can
also be used against scaly leg mite in poultry. Use to sterilise surfaces, and cleanse skin abrasions and sores.
Apply with a clean cloth, or cotton wool, to clean the surface of the skin as required. To treat scaly leg mite
in poultry, dip the birds' legs into Surgical Spirit once per week for 3 to 4 weeks.



S.P.R. Centre. Greenfields Farm, Fontwell Avenue, Eastergate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO20 3RU.

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