Poultry Lice

If you bird seems rumpled, restless and  have what appears to be a dirty vent, it is time to take a look and inspect them for lice.  Lice are transparent and become golden or cream colored as they age.  They lay and "glue" their white eggs to the base of feathers, usually in the vent area or under the wings.  They are easily seen by the naked eye, especially at the vent area.  They are most prolific in fall and winter and at the time of molt since they feed on dead/dry feather and skin cells which are more common during molting season.  Lice spend their entire life cycle on the bird and can't survive off the bird for more than about a week.  


Who:  All birds; especially:

  • Chickens
  • Ducks
  • Geese
  • Turkeys
  • Guinea Fowl
  • Pigeons
  • Wild birds

Where:  Worldwide

When:  Any age bird can have them since often the transmission is from hen to chick, or from wild birds to domestic flocks.   

Why:  Contact between birds, often between hen and chicks


  •  Once lice have been passed to a bird, female lice lay eggs on the base of the feathers, which will hatch in about a week.  They become fully formed adults in about a month and can live for months in ideal conditions.  
  • Once off their host, lice can only survive for a few days.  


            Common Symptoms:

  • Skin Irritation due to lice and scratching
  • Rumpled Appearance
  • Drop in Egg Production
  • Restlessness
  • White nits glued to the base of feathers
  • Death in very young birds with infestation


  • Dust birds with Sevin or Poultry Dust
  • Dust bedding
  • Provide dust bathing spot with loose dirt or with insecticide mixed in.  
  • Ivermectin 1% drops (This may not be approved for use with chickens in all areas. Always check your local regulations.)   
  • Neem Oil - odor repels lice while also moisturizing the skin, reducing the dead skin cells which lice feed upon
  • Treat the entire flock if lice is found.   Other birds may not appear to be affected however eggs (nits) may have spread before evidence of lice is seen.   

Vaccine:  No

Coop care:

  •  Always dust bedding when cleaning out the coop.
  • Provide dust bathing sites with dry dirt or with insecticide mixed in either in the coop or in a dry area around the coop.
  • Avoid overcrowding to avoid spread from bird to bird.


Affects:  Skin, feather shafts and vent area

Clinical Diagnosis:  Diagnosis is made through visual inspection of the birds skin, feathers and vent.   Lice and nits (eggs) are visible to the naked eye.    

Parasites with similar symptoms:  Mites, ticks and fleas.  

Duration of symptoms:  The symptoms will generally continue until the infestation is treated.   Birds can sometimes self-treat if afforded a good location for dust bathing.   

Morbidity:  High.   It spreads by contact between birds.  

Mortality:  Low.   Higher in young or sickly birds.  

Transmission to people:  Chicken lice may crawl onto humans, however they cannot survive since humans do not provide a food source for this species of lice. 



Damerow, Gail. The Chicken Health Handbook: A Complete Guide to Maximizing Flock Health and Dealing with Disease. North Adams, MA: Storey, 2015. Print.



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A righteous man cares about his animal's health...

Proverbs 12:10a