Keeping Chickens - It's Time to Give Your Birds Their Summer Makeover

Keeping Chickens - It's Time to Give Your Birds Their Summer Makeover

With the warmer weather comes unwanted bugs, biting insects and nasty parasites that live off other living creatures. If you keep chickens, it's the time of the year when houses need to be disinfected and the birds themselves debugged albeit very carefully. As with other animals that people keep as pets, chickens are prone to horrid beasties like mites and lice which can literally suck them dry leaving them sick and anaemic which could end up being life threatening.

The great thing about keeping chickens whether it's in a back yard or larger piece of ground is that you are guaranteed to have fresh eggs every day. That's just one of the bonuses of keeping poultry. However, if your chickens are suffering with a bad infestation of mites, lice or other external or internal parasites you'll find their egg production is dramatically affected and your birds will start to look thin, lethargic and not happy at all.

These are sure signs it is time to give them a summer makeover or you could end up losing a few of your precious hens. Chickens love taking dust baths and it's really important they have access to an area or two where they can rub away in the dirt which to a certain extent gets rid of a few of the bugs they may have picked up. However, this is not enough and you would still have to treat your hens with a safe product in order to completely rid them of these nasty blood sucking bugs.

You can use an old flat pan and create a dust bath for your birds which you could either place in their chicken house or somewhere outside that's nice and dry. Sand is great for them to have dust baths in although any sort of dry dirt will do but you would need to change this regularly to keep it clean and free of any poultry droppings.

Signs It's Time to Give Your Hens a Make-over

There are some pretty obvious signs to watch out for when your birds are suffering from external parasites which are listed below:

  • Bare patches on their feathers
  • Lots or scratching and itchiness
  • Loss of weight and condition
  • Diarrhoea
  • Symptoms of paralysis
  • Swollen legs – due to mites under the scales on their legs – a condition called scaly legs
  • Decreased egg laying
  • Birds sitting hunched up and their feathers are ruffled as if they are cold
  • Listless and lethargic birds

If you notice any of the above signs, then it's time to give your bird's housing a thorough clean which means disinfecting their coops with a safe product that will not harm your birds. The best time to do this is first thing in the morning on a dry and sunny day as soon as you let your hens out for the day. You need to open up the chicken house or hutch so you let in as much fresh air as you can and then douse the whole area paying particular attention to perches and nesting boxes with a cleaning product like Poultry Shield. This is a product that's specifically formulated and safe to use around chickens which makes it an ideal choice when disinfecting coops and chicken houses – especially if they are made out of wood.

Wooden coops are lovely but they are also the favourite environment for bugs and especially those really nasty bugs called red mites which hide in the nooks and crannies found in wood. As soon as the sun goes down they attack your birds in the hundreds feeding off their blood and making the hens very sick and anaemic which could ultimately prove fatal if left untreated. Once you have thoroughly disinfected your hen's housing, you should shut it up again for the day so the product remains concentrated and therefore more effective making sure you keep your birds out.

Next – Treating Your Birds

The next step is to treat your birds which you should do after you are happy their housing is bug free. The reason being that it is not worth treating your hens first if they then go into a bug infested chicken coop that night. When it comes to the best product to use on hens and cockerels there's a lot of specifically formulated powders and lotions which are great and most are very effective although rather messy to use. You also need to be very careful none of the product gets in your birds eyes which could cause an irritation.

By far the best product to use on chickens is Frontline for dogs. If you buy the product that's formulated for medium or large dogs, it's the ideal solution to kill off all mites and lice your hens and cockerels might have on their feathers and bodies. You only need to put a tiny drop of the product on the back of your bird's necks, one drop above their vents and then a tiny drop under each of their wings. This will kill off all bugs and if there are any eggs attached to the feathers below their vents, you can carefully cut these off using a sharp pair of scissors.

If you miss any of the egg balls"" don't worry because as soon as the lice or mites hatch out, they will die because your birds have been treated and the product which will be effective for a couple of months at least.

When it comes to treating scaly leg, you can use Vaseline but you need to rub this in very well and again the best time to do this is in the evening when your birds are already on their perches because it is easier to catch them and then gently rub their legs with the product making sure you go all the way up to their elbows. You'll find any scales or horrid hard bits that have formed on your birds legs will fall off by themselves or your birds will peck them off themselves. You may have to repeat the treatment if the condition is bad and you need to be patient because it does take a few days to work. Never try to pull off any scaly leg because you will make the area sore and this could become infected.

Treating Internal Parasites

The best product to use for any internal parasites your birds may be suffering from is Flubenvet which you can get from your vet or a good pet shop that sells poultry food and products. It's a seven day course but it is very effective at treating all internal parasites including gapeworm.


Your hens will love you for giving them and their houses a makeover in the summer because you will effectively be making their lives a lot more comfortable because your hens, cockerels and their houses will be bug free! You'll soon notice the difference in their behaviour and you'll be able to start collecting their eggs again 5 to 7 days after you've treated them, if they lay any eggs in between time, you should throw these away and not eat them!




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