Lice in Poultry


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What are Poultry Lice?

Poultry lice are ectoparasites that feed on the skin, scales, feathers and blood of the bird. Many different species of louse attack poultry, but some of the more common species are Menacanthus stramineus and Menapon gallinae (both chewing lice). However, other species that may be found on birds include Cuclotogaster heterographus (head louse), Lipeurus caponis (wing louse) and Goniocotes gallinae (fluff louse). With special adapted mouthparts, poultry lice chew/bite on their hosts scab tissue and dry scales, however if the bird's feather quills or skin are punctured, poultry lice will also feed on their blood (Menacanthus). This feeding often causes great discomfort and irritation to the poultry, who then scratch themselves in an attempt to rid the lice. However, the scratching can lead to further infection and ill health.

What do Poultry Lice look like?
Poultry lice have no wings, are unable to hop or jump and are very small. Ranging between 2 and 3.5 mm in length, poultry lice are oval shaped but have a flattened appearance. Their six legs allow them to crawl and scurry through feathers quickly. Poultry lice are usually a yellowish tan colour, although their eggs are white and can look like clusters of white sugar. Their eggs are laid and attached to the base of the feathers, with cementing strong saliva. It is the saliva that often causes the itching/irritation on bites, encouraging the poultry to scratch and gnaw.

Poultry lice lay their eggs mainly around the thigh, breast and feathered vent areas of the bird's body. The eggs laid by poultry lice take between 4 and 7 days to hatch into nymphs, then a further 10 to 15 days to reach adulthood (after a number of moults). The female adult poultry louse can lay hundreds of eggs in its life time (which usually lasts not much more than 3-4 weeks). The poultry louse will spend its entire lifecycle on a single bird and are host-specific (will not usually infest human or our pets). If removed from its host, the poultry louse will not survive more than a few days, unless it transfers to another type of poultry.

Poultry Lice

poultry louse
Poultry lice are more commonly found on the weaker of birds or those that are unable to groom themselves properly (such as the injured or birds that have had their beaks trimmed). The presence of a severe lice infestation can cause poultry to produce fewer eggs, not feed properly (weight loss), develop ill heath (stress), sleep deprivation (due to itching & biting at night) and even cause fatalities. As poultry lice are usually more prevalent during autumn and winter time, bird's should be inspected and thoroughly checked for lice on a regular basis (some suggest fortnightly) to avoid infestations and dangerous outbreaks.



Poultry Lice Treatment
If your birds have poultry lice, identifying the specie of louse may help with determining the correct treatment methods. Separating the feathers and viewing the skin of the bird will show if they have ice - if there are any adult lice or clusters of eggs, treatment is needed. There are many treatments that can be used on poultry lice, but the more common will be pesticides (chemicals/insecticides). Pesticides are available in the form of dusts, powders, resin strips and liquid sprays. Whichever one is chosen, it is important that they are applied correctly and thoroughly. To clear a poultry lice infestation, the birds will need to be targeted under their feathers with the treatment reaching their skin. Poultry will need to be covered from the bottom as well as the top to give the best results, and all infected should be treated at the same time. If there is an infestation in a particular house or flock, they should be separated from any other birds (certainly wild) to avoid re-infestation or spread. As poultry lice eggs are resistant to some insecticides, two applications will be necessary 10-14 apart, to target any un-hatched eggs that may remain.

Thousands of people search to find out about different types of louse and how to get rid of them. Fortunately there are so many products available on line, you should be able to find what you want without too much of a problem. We hope that you have found this article on the poultry louse a useful guide and that any questions you may have had have been answered. You will find that this website is a great resource, whether you are looking to learn more, purchase related products or just seek some quiet information. Men, women and children are all affected by these parasites and we hope you have located the treatment you may need, be it a comb, lotion, cream, medication or shampoo. Treatments and remedies should be sought after quickly and if you have crabs you should seek medical advice so they cannot be spread to others.

Poultry Lice

Poultry Lice Treatment

  • Sprays, Liquids, Lotions, Insecticides and Medication for control
  • Facts and Information about a poultry louse, head louse, hair louse and pubic louse
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  • Need Poultry lice treatment? Find out what to do here
  • Symptoms of the head louse? Search our information on Combs!
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