External Parasites And Treatments

Even the most experienced poultry keepers will likely deal with a case of external parasites on your chickens at some point. Mites, lice, and fleas can all reside on your chickens and in your coop. These parasites can cause illness and even death if you don’t actively look for them and treat them when necessary. Here’s a brief outline of chickens’ most common external parasites.

Red Roost Mites

This mite thrives best in warm weather. During the night, the mites can be found on the birds themselves, but during the day, they live in the coop, making detection difficult since you may not see them on the birds during the daytime. They can survive off of the chicken for about a month. Best treated by completely removing all bedding and nesting box material and burning it. Then use Elector PSP sprayed on the chickens’ bottoms and under the wings, roosts, nesting boxes, walls and floors. Once the coop is dry, new bedding can be added. Repeat in 7-10 days.

red roost mite 10X - Meyer Hatchery blog

Northern Fowl Mite

You will usually find this mite living around the chicken’s vent and possibly under its wings.  It can survive off of the chicken for about 3 to 4 weeks. Treatments for this mite include Elector PSP as described for red roost mites, or apply 5 drops of ivermectin cattle pour-on to the back of the neck for standard-breed chickens or 3 drops for bantam breeds. The life cycle is 7-14 days, so treatment should be repeated in 10 days.

Scaly Leg Mite

This mite burrows under the scales of the chicken’s legs, causing the scales to lift up and away from the leg surface, giving the legs a rough appearance. This infestation is extremely painful for the chicken, and untreated infestations can cause lameness. For scaly leg mites, soak the chicken’s feet and legs in a mild, soapy solution and gently scrub the loose scales and debris using a soft toothbrush, then apply petroleum jelly thoroughly to the entire surface of both legs. Repeat soaking, scrubbing and applying the petroleum jelly every three days until the scales return to normal.

scaly leg mite chicken legs - Meyer Hatchery blog


Chickens can get a variety of different species of lice, but they are all treated in basically the same way. Lice can cause irritation and restlessness to the point of exhaustion, which then leads to a lower rate of lay, poor nutrition, and susceptibility to other diseases and internal parasites. Different species of chicken lice prefer different parts of the body; wing lice, vent lice, and face lice are common names for some lice that infest chickens. Lice are bigger than mites and can easily be seen by the naked eye if you part the feathers and look carefully at the skin. You may also notice nits (eggs) and nymphs (baby lice) attached to the base of the feather shafts.To treat lice, use ivermectin topical drops as described above for mites. Elector PSP also works well for all lice species that infest chickens. Be sure to retreat in 7 days to eliminate newly hatched eggs that may have missed treatment, especially if using ivermectin.

Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and ticks are usually less common in chickens than mites or lice. The sand flea and sticktight flea are the more common of the fleas and ticks to infest chickens. A chicken’s natural tendency to dust bathe and preen themselves usually keeps fleas and ticks in check. Sevin dust can be added to dust bathing areas to increase the effectiveness of the dust bath.

A Note About Off-Label Use And Withdrawal Times

Because research has yet to be done on laying hens for many drugs and insecticides used for meat chickens, you will not easily find label directions for most products. Please take the information contained herein with the understanding that withdrawal times in laying hens have not been established in most cases. Meyer Hatchery will not be held responsible for any off-label drug or insecticide usage that you decide to use, even if suggested on our blog, videos, social media, or other information resources. We strongly suggest consulting a local poultry veterinarian for specific recommendations for any poultry health questions that arise.

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