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External Parasites of Poultry

A number of arthropod pests attack poultry in Mississippi by either sucking blood or by feeding on the skin, feathers, or scales on the skin. Mites and lice are the most destructive external parasites of the state's poultry. Occasionally other pests such as fleas, ticks, and bedbugs infest poultry and cause problems.

External parasites may cause considerable loss to a poultry operation, particularly with lowered egg production. Serious pest problems are more likely to occur on laying flocks than on broilers. Infestations of external parasites on poultry can be economically controlled with good sanitation and with proper use of insecticides.


Mites

In Mississippi, several species of mites may be found on poultry.

The northern fowl mite is the most serious pest infesting poultry, becoming more of a problem in cool weather. This pest spends its entire life on the animal, sucking blood and irritating the bird. The entire life cycle of the mite can be completed in as little as a week. Most mites on the bird are located around the vent area (anal opening). During control procedures, it is very important to direct insecticide applications, with high pressures, to the vent area.

Mites are often noticed first on the eggs or are detected by egg handlers. Birds should be checked for mites by examining the base of feathers around the vent. The mites produce a rough and matted appearance of the feathers in this area because of a build up of dried blood and mite excreta or feces.

Although mites spend their entire life cycles on the birds, they can live off the birds for several weeks, provided temperature and humidity are suitable. For this reason, a house vacated for less than 3 weeks may have mites, which will infest newly place d birds. Mites also can be introduced into a house on egg flats or other equipment moved from an infested house.

Determining when to treat birds for mites requires consideration of several factors. If the birds are scheduled to be removed soon, treatment may not be economical. Mite populations build up faster on young birds than on older birds. Because mites are wor se in cool weather, an infestation can be expected to increase in fall and decrease in spring.

The chicken mite lives in secluded areas (cracks and crevices on roosts, cages, nest boxes, walls, or ceilings) during the day and crawls onto the birds at night to feed. While on the birds, the mites pierce the skin and suck blood. Heavy infestati ons of these mites will cause birds to have pale combs and wattles. These mites are more numerous in warm weather. The entire life cycle of these pests can be completed in as little as 10 days. Chicken mites are seldom a problem in caged-layer operations because there are few places to hide and lay eggs. They can be a serious problem in breeder houses where nest boxes and slats offer ideal hiding places. Broiler flocks usually do not have these mites in serious numbers because the short grow-out cycle pre vents build up. These mites may go unnoticed unless the birds are examined at night. Determining mite population levels on the birds is difficult because they are scattered evenly over the bird. A better method is to examine cracks and crevices for mite presence. It is not necessary to treat the birds for control of chicken mites, but treatment of the premises must be thorough to be effective. The chicken mite can live several weeks without a blood meal. For this reason, vacant houses should be treated t horoughly before new birds are introduced.

Scalyleg and depluming mites are occasionally found on flocks in the state, particularly on farm flocks. Scalyleg mites primarily infest the legs and feet, where they tunnel in the upper layers of skin. A severe infestation will cause a crus ty outer covering on the legs and feet. Depluming mites burrow into the skin at the base of the feathers, causing infested birds to pull out their feathers.


Lice

Several species of lice infest poultry. The chicken body louse is the most common. The others can be found occasionally, but they seldom are found in significant numbers. These minor species have basically the same biology and habits as the chicken body louse and the same control strategies will control them. All lice on birds are chewing lice; none suck blood. They constantly irritate the birds with their claws and mouthparts as they crawl over the bodies of the birds. Lice seldom leave the bodie s of infested birds except to move to other birds. Body lice may build up huge populations on birds. Large infestations can cause loss of body weight and a significant drop in egg production. The entire life cycle can occur in as little as 3 weeks. Lice eggs are laid in masses and adhere to the base of feathers. When examining birds for lice, the whole body should be examined, because they are not as concentrated around the vent as are northern fowl mites. The adult lice are large (one-eighth inch long) and yellow. The white egg masses at the base of the feathers are the best indicators of a lice infestation. Like northern fowl mites, lice populations build up in cooler weather. As with northern fowl mites, consider the time of year and age of the flock when making control decisions.


Bedbugs

Although considered mostly an "old fashioned" human pest, bedbugs can be serious pests of poultry. Bedbug behavior is much like that of chicken mites. Bedbugs feed on birds only at night and only for a short time. The rest of the time they hide in cracks and crevices. They are seldom a problem in caged-layer operations, but they can be important pests in breeder houses because of the availability of numerous daytime hiding places. Bedbugs in large numbers consume much blood from a flock and can cause weig ht loss, lowered egg production, and lowered feed efficiency.

Bedbugs can survive one to several months, depending on temperature, without a blood meal. Therefore, they can easily survive an empty house between flocks. The best way to check for bedbugs is to use a flashlight to inspect carefully cracks, crevices, sl ats, and nest boxes.

The best control method is a high-pressure spray treatment of the premises, making sure cracks and crevices are thoroughly treated. This can best be done in an empty house between flocks. A second treatment is recommended 10 days later to control those th at hatch after the first treatment.


Other Poultry Pests

Several other pests may occasionally attack poultry, especially free-roaming farm flocks. Several species of fleas and ticks are common occasional pests. Although control procedures for minor pests are not covered in this publication and pesticide labels do not list minor pests, many of the same insecticides used for the control of lice and mites will control minor pests.


CONTROL RECOMMENDATIONS

Bird Treatment


Pests

Material and
formulation

Mixing
directions

Amount
per bird

Days to
slaughter


Remarks

Northern fowl mite
Chicken mite
Lice
Depluming mite

carbaryl (Sevin)
50% WP
80% S
43% F
5% D


10 oz/gal water
6 oz/gal water
10 oz/gal water
ready to use


1 1/2 gal/100 birds


1 lb/100 birds


7




Do not spray nests, eggs,
feed, or water. Do not treat
within 10 days of vaccination
or other stress.




tetrachlorvinphos &
dichlorvos (Ravap)
23% & 5.7%



1 pint/6 gal water



1 gal/100 birds



0




Do not treat more often
than every 14 days.




tetrachlorvinphos
(Rabon)
50% WP



2 lb/25 gal water



1 gal/100 birds



0




Do not treat more often
than every 14 days.






permethrin
10% EC
5.7% EC
25% WP
.25% D


1 qt/50 gal water
1 qt/25 gal water
6 oz/11 gal water
ready to use


1 to 2 oz/bird
1 gal/100 birds
1 to 2 oz/bird
1 lb/100 birds


0




Cover or remove feed and
water. Do not treat more
often than every 14 days.


CONTROL RECOMMENDATIONS

Premises Treatment


Pests

Material and
formulation

Mixing
directions

Amount
per area

Days to
slaughter


Remarks

Northern fowl mite
Chicken mite
Lice
Depluming mite

carbaryl (Sevin)
50% WP
80% S
43% F
5% D


2 lb/25 gal water
1 1/2 lb/25 gal water
1 qt/25 gal water
ready to use


1 gal/700 sq ft
1 gal/700 sq ft
1 gal/700 sq ft
1 lb/40 sq ft


7




Avoid contamination of
eggs, feed, and water.
Repeat as needed.






permethrin
25% WP


6 oz/34 gal water


1 gal/700 sq ft


0







tetrachlorvinphos
(Rabon)
50% WP
3% D



2 lb/25 gal water
ready to use



1 gal/100 sq ft
1 lb/100 sq ft



0









tetrachlorvinphos &
dichlorvos (Ravap)
23% & 5.7% EC



1 qt/12 gal water



1 gal/700 sq ft



0


Bedbugs




carbaryl (Sevin)
50% WP
80% S
43% F
5% D


2 lb/25 gal water
1 1/2 lb/25 gal water
1 qt/25 gal water
ready to use


1 gal/700 sq ft
1 gal/700 sq ft
1 gal/700 sq ft
1 lb/40 sq ft


7




Do not apply directly to
poultry, nests, or eggs.
Repeat as needed.






cyfluthrin(Tempo)
20% WP


19 gram/2 gal water


1 gal/500 sq ft


0




Do not apply with birds
in the building. Allow spray
to dry before placing birds.

Revised by Douglas M. Gaydon, Ph.D., Extension Entomologist, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology

Mississippi State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or veteran status.

Information Sheet 331

Extension Service of Mississippi State University, cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published in furtherance of Acts of Congress, May 8 and June 30, 1914. Ronald A. Brown, Director
Copyright by Mississippi State University. All rights reserved.

This document may be copied and distributed for nonprofit educational purposes provided that credit is given to the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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Last Modified: Wednesday, 11-Feb-09 14:06:34
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