Lice and mites are common external parasites of poultry. Lice are insects, while mites belong to the same family as spiders. There are a large number of lice and mite species that can infest poultry under the appropriate conditions. They are either blood-suckers or live on dry skin scales, feathers or scabs on the skin. Adults can survive for 4-5 days away from the host. Therefore, infestation can be spread not only by direct contact between birds but also through contact with infested litter etc. They are more common and difficult to control in floor-based housing systems than in cage systems. Symptoms of infestation can include scratching, poor feather condition, unthriftiness, nervous behaviour and with severe blood-sucking infestations, anaemia.
Flocks should be kept away from backyard or wild birds and individual birds examined regularly for adults and eggs. Infestations can be treated with appropriate chemical pesticides, either as dry powders or liquid sprays. Effective biosecurity procedures such as clean out between flocks using an all in-all out replacement system will help manage these pests.
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