One unfortunate aspect of farming almost all farmers will encounter at some point during their career is parasite infestation of the animals in their care.
When dealing with parasites, farmers often find preventing and treating outbreaks one of the most difficult jobs, yet it’s also the most important to maintain herd health.
Daily parasite prevention, treatment, and examination are an important part of protecting the health of the animals they care for and protecting the health of themselves and their customers and families.
Chickens can get fleas, just like many other animals. Chickens are susceptible to flea infestations. In addition to causing a headache for farmers, infestations of these parasites can ultimately cause several health-related concerns in poultry.
Although fleas may not be nearly as common as poultry lice and mites in chickens, they can cause serious illnesses in flocks ranging from mild irritation and inflammation to serious bacterial infections and life-threatening anemia.
The scaly leg mite and Northern Fowl mite are particularly common.
Farmers dealing with a flea infestation will want to ensure they follow appropriate prevention and treatment methods for their flock to avoid any potential health concerns for their chickens.
How To Tell If Your Chicken Has Fleas
The most common type of flea found on chickens in the United States is a parasite known as the sticktight flea, aptly named for the way they imbed themselves into the skin of affected birds.
These fleas are small, flat, reddish to dark-brown parasites and are fairly easy to spot with the naked eye as they typically appear on poultry in large numbers.
Sticktight fleas tend to appear in groups and prefer to take root in bare spots around the eyes, face, comb, and wattles on chickens, making them easy to spot but difficult to remove.
Are Chicken Fleas Dangerous?
Although these fleas don’t typically carry any serious diseases, their bite is often painful and irritating to chickens.
As a result, many backyard chickens infected with this type of flea may appear lethargic, distressed, or may even begin refusing food and water.
They often develop secondary inflammation, swelling near the site of attachment, and purulent skin lesions.
Often, swelling around the eyes becomes so severe a chicken’s eyes will swell shut, affecting their visions and sometimes resulting in permanent vision loss.
Large numbers of sticktight fleas can consume excessive amounts of the hosts’ blood, resulting in severe anemia and ultimately death if left untreated.
In addition to sticktight fleas causing illness in chickens, these fleas are also transmittable to other hosts, including cats, dogs, and humans.
Can Chicken Fleas Affect Egg Production In Hens?
In general, the egg-laying capacity of hens deteriorates when a chicken experiences extreme levels of stress.
Stress in chickens is influenced by several factors, including poor housing conditions, overcrowding, and illness.
In addition to having serious health implications for all chickens, flea infestations can greatly reduce the egg-laying capacity of hens.
Farmers relying on egg sales as a means of income will want to ensure their hens remain free of internal and external parasites to keep their chickens healthy and yield the highest amount of viable eggs to sell to consumers.
What To Do If Your Chicken Has Fleas
Flea infestations in chicken flocks are a huge issue for farmers as they may be very difficult to remove and eradicate once a backyard flock has become infected.
The first step in treating a flea infestation involves removing the live fleas from affected chickens.
This is an extremely time-consuming task as the application of fipronil to kill adult fleas followed by manual extraction of each flea in a flea population is the only approved method of removal.
This removal is accomplished by using a pair of conventional tweezers available at most convenience and drug stores.
Alternative methods involve bathing chickens in a mild soap solution or covering common fleas with a thick layer of petroleum jelly to smother them and aid in their removal.
In addition to removing live fleas from birds, the entire coop and other living quarters should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected as sticktight flea eggs may be present on straw or other bedding material.
If possible, chickens should be moved to a new chicken coop as sticktight poultry flea larvae live and develop within the soil.
If this is not possible, the use of approved insecticides or natural food-grade diatomaceous earth may be beneficial in reducing the risk of parasites within the soil and preventing the reinfestation of flocks.
Preventing Fleas in Chickens
When it comes to fleas and types of fleas, preventing an infestation is much easier than treating an outbreak.
Following appropriate prevention measures is one of the most important things a farmer can do to ensure their chickens remain happy, healthy, and flea-free.
Farmers wanting to protect their flock from unwanted parasites can take several measures to prevent infection, including:
- Preventing wild animals or other potential carriers of fleas from entering yards or chicken coops
- Providing chickens with dusting areas* containing approved preventive insecticides or natural additives like diatomaceous earth
- Practicing good daily cleaning habits
- Providing routine parasite and general health inspections for each chicken
*If you see chickens rolling in dirt, they’re cleaning themselves.
Read more on this topic and what you need to provide in our article at the link.
Insecticides Approved for Flea Prevention in Chickens
Some insecticides prevent fleas in chickens when applied to housing components in chicken coops.
The most common insecticides include:
- Food grade diatomaceous earth
- Synthetic carbaryl
Many of these agents come as powders or sprays, with some requiring dilution before application.
Farmers should ensure they read the instructions and warning labels on all insecticides or seek the advice of a veterinary professional before using these products, as many of these agents contain chemicals that may be harmful to flocks and humans if used incorrectly.
Some farmers also say garlic powder will do the trick.
Don’t feed your chickens garlic, but use a garlic spray or put some cloves of garlic out of reach of the chickens for a natural repellent.
Additionally, farmers should always ensure they wear appropriate personal protective equipment when handling any insecticides, including respiratory masks, gloves, and close-toed shoes or boots.