As you may have noticed I blog the problems we face, as well as the successes. But this one I am a little ashamed to blog. Not because we have done anything wrong, but just the stigma or association that goes with it- human or animal... LICE!
That's right, after having chickens for four year or more we have our first real problem with chicken lice, or maybe their mites. To be honest we are not sure which is which, as am having conflicting information- Google can be a dangerous thing!
Either way we want them gone as they can cause reduced egg production, feather loss; due to over pruning as a result of the irritation, and in young birds even death.
I read a few posts suggesting poultry lice and mites with poor health, and to a certain point I would have to agree; If they are left untreated then this is poor health and care. However I think as with humans they are easily spread through contact with those who are infested. So in the case of fowl; poultry shows, introduced birds and wild birds…much like the human form!
Our infestation, may have something to do with the returning the whistlers (wild whistling geese); these guys make themselves at home in our area every winter. As its too late for prevention (in this case); though some of the technique I have read I will be doing once we have eradicated them- sprinkling ag-lime over their dust bathing areas, and spraying their nesting boxes with diluted Teatree or eucalyptus oils- funny not alot of thing like these oils! We will also need to looking at improving our feed locations. We did place nets over our birds last year, but a few would still make it in... and one or two couldn't or wouldn't make it out.
But as for now, we need to treat them, I read about people rubbing Vaseline or Vicks on their chicken's legs or even spraying them with WD40, though I think these are more for scaly mites… not that I am too sure about spraying our fowl with WD40 anyway.
So on the weekend we placed the affected birds in quarantine, completely cleaning out their housing and pen, changing all bedding materials and dusting the replacements with ag-lime. But not after we thoroughly soaked every mm with an animal/poultry lice and tick treatment. We keep 2 treatments here permanently for treating our animals (cattle, pigs, dogs). Chemicals are not something I am big on inflicting on any anything where possible, and yes there are alternatives. But when it comes to their welfare (which yes some may see as a contradiction) you do not mess about with ticks or mites in the tropics.
Once this was done I turned my attention to the birds themselves, then the rest of the flock. Even though it only appears to be amongst our growing roosters (at this stage). We want it to stay that way- so we treated everything. Just in case. And we will do the same again in a week or two, just in case of any eggs (and not the chicken variety).