I have been doing the whole chicken keeping thing for some time now. I am definitely not saying that I am an expert but I have learned some things along the way. And to tell you the truth I am still learning things all the time. I try to keep it as natural as possible over here. I figure if I am going to be eating my chicken’s eggs I want to keep my chickens as healthy as possible. This includes giving them a quality feed and meeting their nutritional needs, using natural methods to treat parasites and sickness and giving them fresh air and sunshine.
If you have read some of my previous blog posts you already know I have dealt with a severe lice infestation in my flock. I talk a little about it in my post about my first year homesteading here. Not Fun!!!! I know it is taboo to admit that you have had parasite problems because people seem to think that if your chickens get parasites you are not a good chicken keeper. Well I am here to tell you that is malarkey people! Yes, you can do all sorts of things to avoid these nasty creepy crawlies and it can help but parasites occur in nature and chickens live outside. Sometimes even when you are doing everything right things go wrong. It happens! I know the first time my chickens contracted lice I was devastated. I had done everything by the book and then some. And I still ended up with chicken lice. So don’t feel badly. I was in your shoes and I want to tell you there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I also want to mention that chicken lice do not live on humans! Thank goodness!
SUPPLIES NEEDED TO START RIDDING YOUR FLOCK OF LICE NATURALLY
- Diatomaceous Earth
- Wood Ashes
- A wheelbarrow or something else to dust your birds in
- An old towel
- A mask for yourself and your helper to wear while dusting chickens
- dropper bottle
- spray bottle
- tea tree oil
- olive oil or fractionated coconut oil or almond oil (whatever you have on hand)
CLEANING THE COOP
First you will need to clean your coop. This is an essential step to get rid of any lice that may have fallen from the birds and may be living in whatever type of bedding you use. I make a lice repelling concoction to help repel lice using water, vinegar, tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil works well too if you don’t have tea tree oil. Lice do not like the smell of either of these. and I also add olive oil. The oil coats the parasites killing them. I then put this mixture into a spray bottle for easy application. I usually use 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar and 40 drops tea tree oil. then I add 2 tbsps of olive oil. Make sure you shake it before you apply to distribute the oil.
Now you need to empty your coop (don’t forget to empty those nesting boxes) and burn the contents. It is so satisfying thinking of those nasty lice sizzling! Once your coop is empty. Wash down roosts, nesting boxes and walls. Basically every surface you can. I use buckets filled with water and vinegar. Do not use bleach it is too harsh on your chickens respiratory systems. I add 2 cups of vinegar to my bucket of water. If I have a lot of essential oils on hand I add some in the bucket as well. A few essential oils that repel lice are tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, and peppermint oil. Then I scrub, scrub, scrub a dub dub!
When everything is good and clean grab your lice repelling concoction and spray away. Get the walls floor, roosts and nesting boxes. Pay special attention to cracks and corners where those critters can hide! When your done let your coop air out and dry. Now you can move on to treating your chickens.
TREATING YOUR BIRDS
Before I begin the actual dusting process I mix up a dropper bottle containing a carrier oil and Tea Tree oil. Carrier oils I use are olive oil, almond oil or coconut oil. It all depends on what I have on hand. I use this to put a few drops on the chicken after dusting. A good ratio is 10 drops of carrier oil to 1 to 2 drops of tea tree oil.
I then make a mixture of Diatomaceous Earth and Wood Ash to dust my birds. So if you have a woodstove or a fireplace save those ashes! They will come in handy! Wood Ash is amazing for killing lice. It coats the lice suffocating and killing them. A quick word on diatomaceous earth. It can be harmful to a chicken’s respiratory system if it is inhaled in large amounts so you do have to be careful. Diatomaceous earth is made out of tiny fossils called diatoms. These diatoms are very sharp and slice up the parasite. They also cause the parasite to dry out and die. There is controversy over using DE but isn’t there with most things these days? I think its benefits outweigh the disadvantages. I am just careful how I use it. I do think it is a much better choice over other chemical dusting powders.
Before I clean the coop I remove my birds and place them in cages outside close to where I dust the birds. Then I dust a bird and release them to go free range. This way I ensure everyone is treated.
I mix a ratio of 3/4 wood ashes to 1/4 diatomaceous earth. I just mix this up in my wheelbarrow as I go. It is so helpful to have another set of hands while doing this. So you may want to plan in advance to have someone help you. You and your helper will want to wear masks as you don’t want to breath in the dust.
To help reduce the amount of dust the chicken inhales I have my helper wrap an old towel around the birds head and help hold the chicken. I find the towel over the birds head helps to keep the chicken calm as well. I then start rubbing the dust all over the chicken. Paying special attention to the vent area and under the wings where lice are most prominent. Then once the chicken has settled I have my helper remove the towel and carefully dust the birds head. Finally I use the my solution in the dropper bottle applying a drop or two of the tea tree solution under each wing and also a few drops near the vent area. Then I release the chicken to free range.
Just repeat this procedure until your whole flock has been treated. I give my flock some black oiled sunflowers seeds or mealworms after as a reward!
BACK TO THE COOP TO FINISH UP
Once your coop has dried out sprinkle the floor of your coop, roosts and nesting boxes with a little Diatomaceous Earth for extra protection. Replace your bedding and fill those nesting boxes. You can now let your flock have access to their coop once again. You can add some wood ash/DE mixture to all of their favourite dusting bath areas. If it is winter and they are unable to dust bath outside. You can add a dust bathing area to your coop. Other things to be mindful of are, if you have straw, hay or shavings in your run you need to get rid of it as well because it could have parasites in it. Check for any wild birds nests on, in and around your coop and remove them as this could have been the source of your problem. When you are all finished up be sure to wash all the clothing you were wearing. Even jackets and hats. This way if you did end up with lice transferring to your cloths you will not carry it back out to your flock.
THE GOOD NEWS AND THE BAD NEWS
So the good news is that you are on the road to ridding yourself of these nasty parasites. The bad news is that you have to do this whole process again in 7 days and yet again in another 7 days to really ensure you have gotten all the lice. Lice eggs hatch in 7 day cycles. Don’t worry by then you will be a pro at it and your coop will be sparkling clean! Sorry, I am just trying to look at the bright side. I do continue to spray the coop every couple of days with the lice repelling concoction in between the cleanings. I know this process is quite a bit of work but your chickens will be so much better off without all the chemicals that are in lice dusting powders that come off the shelf. And if you live in Canada there is little, to no products available on the market to treat lice unless you visit a vet. So why not give this natural solution a try.
Remember the key to success is being consistent and thorough. The earlier you catch a lice problem the easier it is to deal with. So check your flock for parasites regularly.