Chicken mites and lice

Mites and lice are commonly a problem in the warmer months (summer and autumn). These insects breed very rapidly, so without the correct prevention and treatment, they can very quickly become a big problem. Mites and lice can cause restlessness and irritation, a loss in body condition and a drop in egg production. Both mites and lice are species-specific, meaning they cannot survive on humans however, they may still bite you.

Red Mites

Red mites are the most common mites and are very difficult to eradicate. These mites live in the chickens housing rather than on the chickens themselves, however, they feed off the chickens. Red mites suck blood so there is a risk of them causing severe anaemia (low levels of red blood cells) and even death. These mites only come out at night so you may not necessarily see them.

Both the chickens and their housing need to be treated in order to get rid of the mites. A dusting powder is the recommended prevention and treatment, such as Appleton’s De-Mite Powder. It is important to ensure all surfaces, perches and nesting areas are covered by the powder as the mites like to hide during the day. The powder works by scratching the waxy outer layer off the mite’s body to dehydrate and then kill them. Wear gloves when handling and avoid breathing in the powder.

Scaly Leg Mite

These mites are often first noticed when chickens develop scaly legs. The mite burrows in between the scales on the chicken’s legs, causing raised, crusty and thickened scales. They can cause significant discomfort and the birds may appear to be walking with difficulty. These mites can be attracted by damp bedding and poor hygiene. Ensuring good ventilation in your chicken coop can help prevent dampness.

The best way to treat scaly leg mites is to use an oil-based spray or ointment such as Washbar’s Mighty Mite Spray. The spray is chemical-free and non-toxic with no withholding period. The spray works by suffocating the mites and repelling other insects. The spray will also soften the crusty scales, with results seen in a few days.


In chickens, lice do not suck blood, instead they feed on dead skin and feather debris. The lice cause irritation as they burrow into the feather base (follicle) and remain there for their entire life. Lice are commonly found around the chicken’s vent (where the eggs and faeces come out). A chicken with a lice burden may be seen to have a reddened area around the vent. Lice may be seen as small brown flecks and there eggs look like white or clear flecks. Give us a call if you think your chicken has lice.

All prevention and treatment products featured in this article can be purchased directly from our clinic. If you have any questions or concerns, give us a call or come in and have a chat with one of our friendly staff members.