Parasite Problems on Chickens

Chickens are generally easy to keep, but there are health problems that can arise. Owners need to observe them closely to monitor the state of their feathers, skins and legs.
There are quite a few parasites that pose a threat to the well-being of your poultry. Different parasites can be seen on the head and body of chickens. These parasites appear as black, brown or red “spots” and they are mites, fleas, lice and ticks.
Cleanliness is very important in controlling parasites. Inspect your birds regularly for mites, ticks or fleas. Remove droppings regularly, once a day if possible. Clean, wash and disinfect cages/houses and remove dead birds as soon as possible.
There are various chemicals available to kill these parasites, but you need to know which of these parasites you are dealing with, so that the correct chemical can be used.
As a general rule of thumb, if the parasite lives on and off the chicken, e.g. in cracks and crevices, then treat the birds and the environment. Before using any chemical make sure that it is correct for the parasite that you want to kill. Read the instructions carefully. Keep these chemicals out of reach of children, pets and livestock.
There are specific methods for the various parasites. Flies can be controlled by using sprays or larvicides. Fly traps and papers can also be used.
Chickens should preferably be kept on concrete floors. However, if they are kept on sand floors, the floors can be sprayed with Malasol 1 %. This is to protect the chickens from the soft tick.
Other skin problems are caused by pox and by bites.
Pox is a viral disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. Pox sores are seen on the unfeathered areas such as the head, neck, feet and legs. The sores begin as red pimples which develop into pimples filled with fluid (vesicles) and then pus (pustules). Finally, as the pustules burst open, crusts or scabs form. There is no treatment for fowl pox, as it is a viral disease. The lesions can be kept clean and free of flies if they are in a sensitive area such as around the eyes. Fowl pox can be prevented by vaccination.
Loss of feathers can be caused by mite infestations. These cause irritation and result in scratching and loss of feathers. Deficiency of certain nutrients and stress factors such as overcrowding can also result in pecking among chickens leading to the loss of feathers.
Clubbed down is the result of failure of the feathers to rupture from their sheaths, causing the feathers to have a coiled structure. The underlying cause is vitamin B2 (riboflavin) deficiency.
For more information on external parasites of chickens go to the Gauteng Smallholder website and read the full article under our Frequently Asked Questions.