There’s an “oh shit…” moment many chicken owners have experienced. It’s the not-so-fun moment you find parasites on one of your chickens.
If you find adult poultry lice or lice eggs on one of your backyard chickens, get ready to treat all of the your chickens. Hey, they sleep together. If one of them has parasites, it’s safe to assume they all have it.
Can humans get poultry lice??
Let’s start by answering the most important question that’s probably on your mind – if your pet chickens have lice, does that mean your dogs, cats, and children will soon be covered in lice, too?
That’s a scary thought, and fortunately, the answer is no. Whew!
The kind of lice that live on birds can’t live on humans, dogs, or any other kind of host. In the lice world, fortunately for us, these parasites are host-specific.
If you pick up a chicken with lice, don’t worry – you can’t “catch” the chicken’s lice and bring them home with you. :)
Plan A for treating poultry lice: DE (diatomaceous earth)
At first I tried using diatomaceous earth, which is a non-toxic powder. It doesn’t have chemicals in it; it just has a microscopically rough texture that will cuts mites, lice and other small parasites.
My husband and I dusted each of the hens with it, getting under their wings and near their vents.
I checked the hens two weeks later, and there wasn’t much change. They still had adult lice crawling on them and still had feathers full of lice eggs.
Plan B for treating poultry lice: Permethrin powder
After waiting to see if the DE worked (and it didn’t), it was time to bring out the bigger guns with permethrin powder.
This is what the container I bought looks like (sorry for the poor quality):
The Permethrin powder container said it was 0.25% permethrin. It also said to use caution when handling it; the permethrin container recommended protective eye wear, protective gloves, and wearing long clothing to cover all exposed skin.
I like to know about the products I’m using on my pets and my food, so I did extensive research on permethrin and how to properly use it.
To my surprise, I found extremely varying information and directions. Some websites said permethrin is safe and non-toxic, and that it might give some people a slight rash but that’s about it.
We decided to take the “better safe than sorry” approach and wear protective gear.
After getting all dressed up, we had to figure out the best way to apply a generous amount of powder to treat each of the chickens.
It took two of us to do this – one of us held the hen’s feet and wings while the other person could focus on rubbing the powder inbetween feathers. It would’ve been challenging with only one person.
After each of the birds were dusted, they slowly walked away, clearly irritated by the invasion of their privacy, then gave a big shake. The dust cloud was funny.
I’m happy to report that after nearly 6 weeks post-permethrin treatment, there are still small clumps of lice eggs at the base of some of the hen’s feathers, but there are no adult lice to be seen.