Backyard Poultry Workshop – Amy Murillo – 2 of 5


Good morning, so I am an entomologist so
I do not study chickens I study insects and related arthropods and I happen to
be interested in things that like to feed on chickens are associated with
chickens so I’m gonna be talking about insects today. If you have questions
please hold them to the end. I’ve built in extra time so we can answer all those
and that can help us stay on track with time and hopefully maybe I’ll answer
some of those questions as I go through this talk. So the way I’ve structured my
talk today is I’m gonna start by talking about how you can help prevent
ectoparasites from getting on to your chickens and then we’ll talk about the
different parasites that you might encounter and how you can identify those
and what you’re dealing with in your flock and finally at the end we’re going
to talk about management. Notice I don’t say eradication. These things can be very
tricky once they get on to your flocks so really the best strategy here is to
try to manage the numbers as best you can and maybe not go straight for
eradication of these insects. They’re very good at what they do so we need to
respect that. I want to mention that a lot of the information I’m going to
present today comes from backyard flocks here in California so by working with
Monica and the California poultry Federation I was actually able to have a
survey of backyard flocks and go out on to properties maybe just like yours
and actually look for ectoparasites. So a lot of things I’m going to present, they
come from California backyard flocks and it was thanks to people like you that
made this research possible so that’s kind of part of what we do in the
university and trying to actually have research that helps people here in California. So where are ectoparasites coming from.
First of all it’s worth mentioning that anyone can get ectoparasites. It
doesn’t mean that you’re a bad flock manager it doesn’t mean that you have a
dirty flock. It can happen to anyone and it can come in from things like wild
birds; some of these ectoparasites are nest parasites, so that’s how they get introduced to your property. It can come in from
rodents or be moved around from rodents. So nothing we’re going to talk about
actually directly infests rats or mice but what happens is they can act as
taxis and and move things around on your property and anyone who has animals
on their property they’re probably dealing with rodent issues, so this can
be something that can help spread ectoparasites. New birds: so when you
introduce new birds to your flock they might be infested at low levels – you
don’t notice them – and then they introduce them to your entire flock.
Supplies: so even just cleaning supplies, they can get moved around, they can move
around things, things like egg flats if you’re sharing those, if you have
ectoparasites get onto those and you move them around, that can be a good way
to introduce these things. And finally people: nothing we’re going to
talk about today is a human health threat, however, we can again just like
the rodents move things around accidentally. So why do we want to know
what ectoparasite we’re dealing with? What would be the advantage to actually
knowing what you’re dealing with? The reason we want to know is because you’re
not going to necessarily treat everything the same way and by having
that knowledge of what is impacting your flock, it might give you a clue of where
they’re coming from or how to manage them. Everything we’re going to talk
about today is an arthropod, so a quick biology lesson. Arthropods are
animals that do not have backbones and so they have exoskeletons. Mostly we
deal with insects so insects are six legged; you interact with these
on a daily basis whether or not you know it. And then the other group we’re gonna
be talking about is the mites and ticks so these are related to insects but
they’re actually more closely related to spiders so they’re going to be
eight-legged and I’ll refer to these generally as arthropods today. Alright,
so, we talked about knowing your active parasite because it’s going to help you
with your decision-making, knowing a little bit about the life cycle – I’m gonna make you all amateur entomologists today – knowing a little
bit about them, again, will help you with your management, and then how are you
going to figure out what we’re dealing wit. So instead of sending you all home
with microscopes, we’re gonna talk more generally about the description of these
parasites, so things that you can do at home without any special equipment and
then also how these insects or mites interact with your chickens. That’s
also going to give you some context clues for what you’re dealing with. And
there’s three main groups I’m going to talk about today: the lice, fleas, and
mites, and we’re gonna start today with lice. So, chickens do get lice. They are
chicken specific for the most part. They might get on if you have other
galliformes, poultry, turkeys. There might be some host switching. But for the most
part these are gonna be very host specific and there are several different
species that you might encounter. You can have one or more than one species on
your bird. And they are going to be feeding on the feather material. So, this
is how lice can cause damage and they’re going to be on the skin and in the feathers
and they can be all over the body. But where they are on the body might be more
species specific than others. These are some of the species that are found on
the body. It’s going to be a little difficult to decide exactly which one
you have. They’re all going to be kind of treated the same way. I actually have
with me chicken body lice that I will pass around as an example. And this is
what they’re going to look like on your chicken. So, when you pick up your chicken
handle it and look at the feathers, we’re gonna see egg masses. So, this is where
the lice will lay their eggs. They lay them in clumps and you’ll be able to see
that when I pass around this ziplock. There are clumps of feathers and you
might actually notice this before you notice the actual lice. It will change, kind of, the appearance of their feathers. And then the actual lice
will be running around the body and they’re typically pale beige color. So,
I’m going to pass these around please don’t open the ziplock and
everyone will be fine. And also, I’ll just point out the feathers will have a
chewed appearance. So, they’ll be lousy looking. That’s where that comes
from. It’s…they’re all chewed up from these
feathers. Chickens can also get head lice, so this can be another area where you’ll
want to look. These lice tend to be a little darker in color. I don’t have any
of those with me today, but that’s another area to specifically look at. Yes,
and everyone’s itching. I should have warned you all. First talk of the day,
really setting you up for the rest of the day to be itchy. And then the
eggs will also be laid in this area. They don’t tend to be as clumpy as – that’s a
scientific term, “clumpy” – as the chicken body lice. But that’s because these
feathers are shorter in this area. So, when they lay them, they don’t get
into the quite as big of masses as in the head region. And finally, the
chicken wing louse. These are a little bit trickier to find. They don’t seem to
cause as much damage. So, you’re not going to necessarily notice these as easily.
But they like to live in these primary feathers of the wings and we found the
best way to look for them is to actually hold the wing up to light and backlight
them. And if you have a coloration, if your chickens have coloration, or specks
in these feathers, it can be really difficult to see. But they’re going to be
these lateral…they’re going to align themselves perpendicular to that main
vein and be in that feather. So, the lice: their life cycle happens
completely on the bird. So, they live in very close to association with the
animals. All of the life stages are going to be found on the chicken. So from the
egg and then when they hatch into these immatures – which we call nymphs – all of
them are going to be found on the chickens and the adults. So, they are on
the host. And this whole process takes about 14 to 21 days. So, this is a little
bit longer compared to some of the other parasites and this is important because
if you are trying to treat, and then you see lice a couple
weeks later, it doesn’t mean you have a new infestation. What it might indicate
is that eggs have hatched and so this is still that same infestation, but now you
just have the young lice again. So, this might be something that you’re going to
have to purposely and directly try to treat multiple times for. Alright,
moving on to the fleas. So, there’s really only one species of flea that we see in
association with chickens and poultry, and it’s the sticktight flea. And I
have bad news: they’re not chicken specific. So, if you have other animals –
many people who have backyard chickens also have other animals on their
property – it can be a problem for them as well. And they get this name because of
their feeding preference so these fleas have very long mouth parts they’re
not like your cat or dog fleas where they feed periodically and they’re
hopping around a lot. They’re actually going to embed in the skin and they
really love the face of the chicken. So, the comb, the waddles, near the eyes…
that’s where you’re going to see these fleas. And this is what this is going to
look like. I’m gonna point out these are where fleas are stuck. They also really
like ground squirrels. So, if you’re dealing with ground squirrel issues – that
can be a wild animal that can be introducing them to your property – which
can make it even more tricky to deal with because they’re going to be
constant introductions. If you have cats, they love the exterior margin of the
ears on cats. So, they can be bringing them onto your property. And this is what
you’re going to want to look for. And this is just an image of a flea I pulled
off of a chicken, so you can see this is all skin material so they really really
do stick onto the animals they’re feeding on. So, their life cycle
is going to be very different from the lice. So, the adults I just showed you,
they are on the chickens. They’re blood feeding. So they’re causing irritation to
the birds through their blood feeding. They’re going to mate on the chicken and
then the females are gonna lay their eggs. She’s
not even going to detach. She’s just going to stay stuck, in feeding on blood, and dropping eggs into the environment. So the eggs and the immatures, they’re all going to
be off host. They’re gonna be developing in the litter or bedding around the
birds, which can make management tricky for another reason. So, you don’t know
where all the life stages are. And they take quite a while to develop. So, this
process could take one to two months. So, again like the lice: if you’re trying to
treat and you see fleas continuously, it could be indicative that you have
immature life stages in the environment. And just to point out – this is some
sand under a microscope. You’re going to have to focus on the adults. You’re not
going to find the immatures. This is what the immature looks like. So, you’re not
going to be able to see this in the environment you’re not going to know
where they are. So, you’re really going to have to focus on the adults and kind of
this macro approach to flea management. Alright, finally, we’re going to talk
about mites: mites are my personal favorite. This is what I’ve done a lot of
my research on for my PhD. And we’re going to start with scaly leg mites.
These mites are chicken specific and they like to live in the skin under the
scales. These mites are microscopic. This is an image of it on the right hand side.
They’re super cute, but you’re never gonna actually see them. You’re only
going to be able to see the signs of them. And I want to point out they have
these eight legs – these stumpy legs – they’re not moving
very easily in the environment. They’re not crawling around on these legs. So, the
good news is it’s hard to transfer. They have to be transferred by direct
contact between birds. And all of these life stages are going to be on the host.
They don’t survive very well in the environment because they are so small.
They can desiccate and die very easily if they’re off the host. And
so, for this mite we’re going to be looking more for the signs of it. So, the scales
are going to have this white crusty appearance to them. And the next image
I’m going to show you is a little bit graphic, just to warn yo. What happens if
this goes untreated is this can become secondarily infected with bacteria or
other things in the environment, and it can cause a lot of issues. So this bird,
you could see on the left hand side, this leg is almost completely necrotic
material at this point. This bird was no longer able to walk. The way the vet was
able to confirm that this was scaly leg mite was he actually just cut a toe off
and the bird didn’t even react because it no longer had feeling. And so, it takes
a lot of special preparation to actually do the mites – see the mites – and he was
able to do that and confirm that this was scaly leg mite. So, this can be severe,
but at the same time it can be fairly easily to isolate. If you see it, you can
put those birds in quarantine and you could keep them away from spreading that
through direct contact. The other two mites I’m going to talk about are very
similar. So, I’m going to talk about them together. So, we have the chicken mite or
the poultry red mite on the left hand side. And then the northern fowl mite
on the right hand side. The northern fowl mite is probably the most common
poultry ectoparasite in the US and including backyard poultry. It is smaller.
So, this is about to scale. So, one mite is going to be bigger than the other. And
the way you’re going to tell them apart is where you find them. So, the northern
fowl mite lives on the chickens. They love those fluffy vent feathers. So, you
know, right by the chickens butt all those fluffy feathers? That’s where the mites
are going to primarily live. They live in the feathers and they travel to the skin
surface to feed. And if you have silkies – does anyone here have silkies? Okay, bad
news. Their whole body is like fluffy vent feathers. So, in that
instance, the mites can be found all over the body. And I have some northern fowl mites
here to share with you. Please again do not open the bags. And what I’ve done is,
I’ve just pulled a couple feathers so that you can see how many mites are on
just even a few feathers. And you’re gonna see all sorts of life stages
crawling around. So, the mite lifecycle: this whole life
cycle, again, is going to be taking place on the host. So, that is where you’re
going to find all of the mites. However, they can live off host for a few weeks. So, if
you have birds that are infested and you remove those birds, there could
still be some mites in the environment. And they’re gonna try to survive as long
as possible until they get a new host. This whole lifecycle is very short. So
with lice, it was 14 to 21 days. Fleas: 1 to 2 months. Mites is 5 to 12 days. What that means is that populations can grow very quickly.
So, very quickly you can go from having undetectable mite levels to having an
infestation like you’re gonna see in this ziplock bag here. So that means
you’re gonna have to monitor a little more closely for mites. This is a
video of me handling a bird that’s been infested for about 4 weeks and you can
just see the number of mites coming off this bird and onto me. This is what
happens when you decide to get a PhD in entomology. The good news is that they do
not like people. So, they are avian. They will infest wild birds. This is one of
those that really can be brought in from wild bird nests because if those birds
leave the nest when the younglings fledge, those mites don’t have a meal
anymore. They’re looking for food. That’s when they’re going to start searching
and that’s where you might have mites get onto your property and onto your
chickens. I..in seven plus years of working with mites…have never been bitten.
Some people claim that they can feel the bites. But I assure you, they don’t start reproducing. I do not have an active mite infestation, so…
Alright, so, the other mite we’re going to talk about is the chicken mite. This
is an emerging pest. So, this is something we’re starting to see more and more. We
used to never see this in commercial and now we’re starting to see this on even
commercial farms. The biggest difference is that they do not live permanently on
the birds. They’re going to be living in the environment off the hosts. So, you
might see…this is a very heavy infestation. I hope you wouldn’t see this
level, But this is just to illustrate that they’re going to be off the host
sometimes. You’ll see them on the eggs as dark spots crawling around, if you have
hiding places cracks and crevices in your nest boxes. I think based on what
I’ve seen so far they like astroturf mats. So, if you lift up those mats and
you see things crawling around, that’s going to be an indicator of these mites. So,
again very similar lifecycle as northern fowl mites, except for they’re not going
to be on the birds. They’re going to be mostly in the nest boxes or on the
perches, and they’re going to wait until nighttime to travel to the birds to feed.
So, in this way they’re very much like little vampires. They’re gonna wait til
their victim is sleeping, come out, and take a blood meal. They can survive for a
very long period without their host. So, up to nine months without a blood meal.
So once you get these into your flock, it can be very difficult to completely get
rid of them because they’re just gonna wait…lie and wait…for that new chicken
to come in so they can get a blood meal. And this life cycle is also very quick.
So, only 7 to 14 days before they’re able to go from egg to adults. So, again
these populations can build fairly quickly. Alright, so, I’m just gonna
mention a couple of other ectoparasites. These we did not find in our survey
but we are aware of them being issues in poultry and other places in the U.S. The
first is bed bugs. How many of you knew honestly that chickens could
get bedbugs? Okay, so, these are the same exact species that can affect
humans. They feed the same way on people as they do on chickens. So,
just like that last mite we talked about, they’re going to be in the
environment, in the nest boxes, waiting until the chickens go to sleep and then
they’re going to come out and take their blood meal. And this image on the right
hand side gives you a little bit of an idea of their size. So, they’re going to be
significantly larger than the mites. So, you’re not going to confuse these with
the mites. And these you’ll actually be able to see…you can count their six legs.
The other parasite I’m going to just briefly mention are soft ticks. I think
many of us are aware of ticks in the news, things like Lyme disease. They’re a
human health issue. Soft ticks look very different than hard ticks.
I always describe them as crinkled up raisins. That’s pretty much what you’re
going to see, except for it’s going to have legs. And these are things that can
transmit diseases to your chickens. Again, we haven’t seen them recently in
California. I don’t know if it’s because of hot dry weather. They don’t seem to do
as well in there. But this is just something to be aware of if you do see
these in your flock. Alright, so, now the part you all want to know is…how do
we control these things? First of all I’ll just say, don’t panic! You can do
this. They’re not invincible but we need to
approach this in a very logical manner if we’re going to have any luck at
controlling or managing these ectoparasites. So, entomologists, we love
integrated pest management. I think because we work with insects all the
time, we have a lot of respect for how good insects and arthropods are at their
job. So, if you think for a second…these chickens that you have…they are the
entire world to these ectoparasites. It’s their food source, it’s their habitat, so
they’re going to be really good at hanging on. So, when we approach this, again, I mentioned at the beginning eradication is not our first step. First
what we want to do is we want to manage – knock back these levels – and then
hopefully, at some point, get to an ectoparasite-free flock. But this can take
some time. The first and most important step when we’re looking at pest
management is going to be prevention. So what can we do to help limit exposure of
our birds to these ectoparasites. Then, we’re going to want to monitor. I
mentioned some of these ectoparasites. They reproduce very quickly. So, they can
become a problem fast and it’s a lot easier to deal with small numbers of
ectoparasites than it is to deal with large numbers. So, having a monitoring
strategy and keeping a lookout for these things can be really helpful. And finally,
when we do get to the management we’re going to use different techniques. There
is no one silver bullet that’s going to work for everyone. Tou can’t just go out
and spray one magical thing and everything goes away. So, we’re going to
look at cultural tactics. So, things about how we raise the animals that might help.
There are some chemical options, and then there’s also non-chemical options that
we can use as well. So, prevention: this is going to go hand in hand with basic
sanitation and biosecurity. So, things that are going to help keep your
chickens healthy overall are also going to help keep your chickens ectoparasite
free. So, first thing: excluding wild birds and their nests. So, again these birds can
bring ectoparasites onto your property. If they’re nesting near your
birds, when they leave the nest, they might be leaving mites with them. So,
that’s something that if you can exclude that, that can really be
helpful. Excluding rodents this is easier said than done.
I am always dealing with rodents with my chickens. But doing things like
preventing feed spillage, or keeping your feed in rodent proof containers, trapping for rodents, anything
you can do that can help mitigate the rodent problem, that is going to help
prevent the spread of ectoparasites. Quarantining and examining new birds: I
have an asterisk here because based on my survey, I suspect that this
is how most ectoparasites get onto backyard flocks. In my experience, once
people have one chicken, they were they’re going to want more chickens. Tt’s
almost like Pokemon, they’re gonna want to collect all the different breeds or
all the different types. And that’s okay, but you need to take precautions. And
again, this is not just for ectoparasites, but this is also going to go hand in
hand with disease control. So if you can quarantine these birds, at least two
weeks for ectoparasites for disease – I know it’s recommended even longer – so if
you can keep those birds separate and monitor them. So, some of these
ectoparasites – the lice and the mites – at low levels, they’re gonna be very hard to
detect. But if you keep that bird quarantined for a few weeks,
there are parasites and those numbers build up, it’s going to be easier for you
to detect and then you can treat that one bird or couple birds, instead of
having to treat your entire flock. So that can really, again, help from having a
small problem than dealing with a much larger problem. Cleaning equipment, even
just hosing down shovels once you’re done removing manure, stuff like that
that can really help with ectoparasites. Limit visitors to your flock. Again, this
goes hands a hand with biosecurity. Tou might not know that you picked up a
couple of mites when you’re collecting eggs this morning and then you know drop
them off when you go visit your friend. But that’s definitely possible, and that
goes with limiting same-day visits to other flocks. So, you don’t want to
accidentally move things and you don’t want people bringing them onto your
property. Monitoring: so, I hope one of the things that you’ve taken away is that
all these ectoparasites have a little different lifestyles where they’re
dealing with, where they live on the bird. So, because of that the way you monitor
is going to vary. So, for some of these so, everyone’s gonna have their own property,
everyone’s going to be a little bit different you’re gonna have to tailor
this to what you have. And all these ectoparasites, it could be a little bit
different. So, for some of these you’re going to have to just get in there, and handle the birds, and look directly for ectoparasites. So,
this is my technique, especially for mites. I’ve found that chickens poop more
often than not, so always make sure you got the cloaca pointing away from you.
And kind of just go through those feathers and start looking for things.
With the lice, it might be easier just to look for those big egg masses. But you
are gonna have to handle some birds. If you have a large flock or your birds
don’t really like to be handled, one way to kind of target your approach is to
look for birds that have compromised beaks. So, birds that have either
commercially beak trimmed beaks, or broken, or otherwise warped
beaks they tend to harbor more ectoparasites because they’re not as
able to groom as efficiently. So, that can be a good strategy if you’re trying to
limit the number of birds you’re handling. The other thing is males. So, if
you have roosters, they are more likely to harbor ectoparasites. It has to do
with testosterone, but if you have males in your flock, that could be a good place
to start. And that’s also probably how they’re going to start spreading
among the flock. Another way for the ectoparasites that live off the host,
you’re gonna have to get a little more creative, little more active. I suggest
you all invest in a headlamp. Go full entomologists. You should all get one of
these. It makes it a lot easier to go through and look, if you’ve got nest
boxes and dark places. All those houses I showed up before, when I was doing my
survey I was crawling in all of those with my headlamp, looking for parasites.
Get the kids to do this, if you want. This can be a really good activity for them.
Get them a headlamp and have them go and look and under those perches, and looking
for things. And who knows? You might find some good stuff instead of
just ectoparasites. Another way that’s a little more passive is by offering a
trap. So, for the chicken mites that live off the host, if you offer them a place to hide during the day, and if you have mites,
they’ll go there. So, this is just corrugated cardboard. They need these
little hiding places. They’re gonna be looking for somewhere dark and safe
during the day to hide. So, you can put these out leave them out for a couple
weeks. Make sure the chickens don’t destroy
them or eat them. And then what you can do is you can remove this cardboard and
tap it on to a light background – a piece of white paper or something – and if any
of that dust stands up and walks away, that’s gonna be your sign that you might
be dealing with some mite issues. Cultural controls, so things that
you can do based on your management. One thing is removing litter regularly,
if this is an option for you, especially after treatment. Now I want to point out
specifically we talked about these stick tight fleas. The adults are on the birds
but all the immature stages are in the environment. So if you do something that
treats those adults but you don’t do anything to your litter, it’s only going
to be a matter of a few days or a few weeks before you start seeing fleas
again, because they’re still in the environment and they’re just hatching
and becoming adults again. So, especially after a treatment, if you can clean up
that environment, you have a better chance of solving a larger problem.
Filling cracks and crevices: so, I just talked about trapping and introducing
habitats, but if you also remove habitats from your environment, having sealed
nest boxes so it limits the ability of mites to hide out in the environment,
That can be helpful. One thing that does work is bathing chickens. I’ve done this.
The birds are never happy. You’re never happy. But if you have only a few birds
and you really just want to knock back this, especially if you’re showing birds
and you don’t necessarily want to use other techniques, this will work. Just a
tiny bit of soap. You don’t want to do this too frequently because you don’t
want to mess with the natural oils on the birds. But it can work. Make sure it’s nice and warm out so those birds can dry very quickly. Again,
they’re not going to be happy with you so make sure you’re doing this outdoors.
And just also be aware that this is probably not going to get rid of all the
egg stages. But again, if you’re just trying to look for multiple ways to
knock down parasites, this is one way you can do it. Alright, chemical control treatments: There are lots of options…well, there are
some options, I’ll say that…at your local feed store. I’m not going to go into
specifics it’s gonna vary based on where you are, what’s gonna be available. But as
a safety, I’ll talk about how you use these things. Always read the labels.
Insecticides are not inherently bad. It’s they’re used improperly. So, if you use
them properly, it can be a good option. And making sure you’re protecting
yourself and your animals. So, don’t just go and pick out anything. Make sure it’s
actually something that is approved and is usable on chickens. And make sure you
follow the instructions so you don’t hurt yourself either. So this is just an
example of a label. So, these labels are going to tell you what insects they work on
or arthropods. So, what is your target that you’re going to use. It’s going to tell
you where you can use it. So, this one is not for “on bird use”. It’s for the
environment. So, it’s going to tell you that. It’s going to tell you what the active
ingredient is. So, this is the actual chemical that is going to be killing
your target insect. And then on the back here it tells you exactly how to use it.
So, if you follow these instructions, you can use chemicals safely as possible and
it can be a good option for helping you knock back insects and arthropod pests. Now, I’m going to talk about things not to use. So, off label use can be really
dangerous. Not only for the birds, but also for you. And one thing that I’m
finding and lots of people tell me about is they’re using Frontline on their
chickens. Good! That was a good reaction!
Everyone just went ‘eww’. That is the knee-jerk reaction. So,
Frontline has the active ingredient Fipronil in it. It works for a very
long time. So, if you have cats or dogs, you might use this. I know I use this on
my dog. It works really well. You put it on once a month, or sometimes once every
three months, and it works really well for your cat or dog.
These formulations are species specific. So, you would not buy dog Frontline and
put it on your cat. It could kill your cat. So, why would you buy dog Frontline
and put it on your chicken? One of the reasons why it’s dangerous is it’s very
lipophilic, which means oil loving. So, if you put this on your chickens, chickens
have lots of natural oils. It gets incorporated in them it’s a systemic
material, which means it gets into the tissues and they can get into the egg
material. So, very recently in Europe they found Fipronil – this active ingredient – in
the eggs. People are going to jail for it. This is very serious.
It can cause human health issues. Yes, it will kill all the ectoparasites, but at
what cost are you doing that at? So, if you’ve done this you know someone
someone tells you they’ve used Fipronil, just don’t ever eat those eggs again, because they don’t know how long it lasts. So, this is just one example, but
this is a very serious one that, especially if you go online – again, we
were talking about Dr. Google earlier – people will tell you it works miracles.
Yes, it kills ectoparasites. But it’s not necessarily safe for your birds and it’s
definitely not safe for you. So, this is definitely something to bear in mind.
Okay, let’s move on to some non-chemical control options, or botanical controls. So
these are still chemicals but they they sound safe because they’re plant
derived. So we have things like pyrethrum, which is a chemical derived from chrysanthemums.
There’s lots of other options out there – people get neem, garlic based and other
essential oils. I said they sound safe. Just because it comes from a plant
doesn’t mean it’s actually safe. So, again be careful when you’re using these
options. Because they are not synthetic chemicals, they don’t necessarily have
the same rigorous testing as other chemicals. They’re not necessarily FDA or
EPA approved. So, when you’re using these things, just be careful that they can be
used on the chickens. They’re not going to hurt your birds. There is going to be more
variation with these. This again, goes with botanicals. They’re not
synthetically made, so there can be more variation in the plants. They typically
don’t last as long either, so just be aware if you do start looking at
botanical or essential oil options, that they don’t have very long residual. So,
you might need to use them more frequently or rotate it with other
options. Yes and what about the chicken? So again, just because it comes from a
plant, it sounds safe, doesn’t mean that it’s actually going to be okay for the
birds. And I’ll defer all that to the veterinarians, if you have questions
about that. Alright, so, non-chemical controls one
great option is diatomaceous earth. This is an organic approved material. And it’s
fairly easy to get either in feed stores or online. One important thing is to make
sure it’s food grade. There are different types of diatomaceous earth. You do not
want the kind that are used in swimming pools, because the material is different
and it can actually cause lung damage to you. And the best way that we have found
to use diatomaceous earth is to make the chickens work for it. So, chickens and
other birds perform dust-bathing behaviors. These behaviors help keep
their feathers in good condition. So, they’re going to do this fairly
regularly. And they are going to be much better at getting these materials into
their feathers then we ever will be dusting them ourselves. So, I’ve got a
short video showing you a chicken dust bathing. And you could see her kicking up
that material really working it into her feathers. So, if this bird has
ectoparasites and we introduce an insecticidal material to this dust bath,
she is going to treat her ectoparasites all on her own. And this is something that we
have shown in studies. So, we’ve worked a lot with this. And the best way we found
to do this is to introduce a specific dust box. So, we like to use plastic
containers. This is a concrete mixing bin. It’s inexpensive and it’s really
heavy-duty plastic. So, the chickens are going to perch on it, they’re gonna poop
on it, it’s real easy to hose out every once in a while and keep clean. And we
use sand as the main substrate. So, washed sand works really well; it doesn’t
have a lot of extra dust in there. And they’re going to be attracted to fine
materials. And the sand itself is not going to do anything for the
ectoparasites. However, again, if we introduce an insecticidal material, such
as this food grade diatomaceous earth, that DE is going to scratch the cuticle
of the insects and ectoparasites and it causes them to desiccate and die. So,
that’s how this is working. As terms of how much DE, most of this is going to be
sand. We introduced about 6 cups of DE to the sand. Make sure that you wear a dust
mask because it can irritate human lungs. Chickens have a different respiratory
system. They’re okay with this dust. So, they’re going to be in it, their face is
going to be in it, they’re fine. But you want to make sure you – the human – is safe
when you first introduce this. And let them dust bathe. Some tricks…I’ve heard
people…their chickens already have a place they like to dust bathe. So,
it’s difficult to get them to use the box. Put the box where they like to dust
bathe. There might be something about that spot and Dr. Blatchford will talk a
little bit more about you know, like, sunlight and things that help promote
dust bathing. But there might be something about that spot that you don’t
know what it is. So, put the dust box there. I will mention a lot of people
tell me they’ve used DE and it doesn’t work. They threw it in the environment and I’ll tell you…so…when I was doing my
experiments, I removed the dust boxes and there’s plenty of DE already in the
substrate. So, this is litter, bedding, straw. It’s a little bit dark to see, but
these are chickens dust-bathing. So, there’s DE there. It did nothing for the
ectoparasites. And the reason seems to be is the sand is a really good carrier.
It’s a fine enough material that helps get that DE into the feathers. So if you
just go out and put DE in there, you know, where they’re foraging and whatnot, it’s
probably not going to do anything. Having that dedicated dust box, with the
sand, really seems to work the best. Other options, especially, I get lots of
questions about scaly leg mite, what to do about that, or the sticktight fleas.
You can use things like Vaseline or mineral oil. What Vaseline does is it clogs up their spiracles which is how insects and
arthropods breathe. And so, if they’re not able to breathe, they will die, or they’ll
drop off. So that is essentially smothering them. And the same sort of
idea with the mineral oil. Alright, if you need more resources, again, I think
a lot of people defer to the Internet. It can be a really good resource, but make
sure you’re using good websites. So, things that end in “.gov” or “.edu”, these can
be much more reputable sources for you to turn to. It doesn’t have to be
University of California. It can be other states. It could be North Carolina. It can
be University of Florida…they have good resources as well that you can use if
you’re looking for insect or ectoparasite information. So, University
Extension…it can be really good for this. Beware of blogs. There’s a lot of people
who mean well, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve vetted these sources. Again, I’ll
bring up the Frontline example. This is something that has really taken off on
blogs, so please just be careful. There’s something about
insects and insect control that really just gets lots of misinformation out
there on the Internet. And one trick if you want to make sure that
you’re finding good resources is to use the scientific names. So, I didn’t present
any of them today. They’re long. They’re hard to remember. But you can do an
initial Google search, find out what that scientific name is, and then plug that
back into your Google search. And that can really help you find good university
websites and resources. I’ll just mention that we do have a veterinary entomology
website. This is a nationwide effort. So, veterinary entomologist from all over
the country contribute to this. We have not just poultry; if you have horses, or
cattle, or other animals, we have resources here on this website. We have
information on pest management. We have information about pesticides. And we also
have a directory of veterinary entomologist, if you want to contact
someone directly. So, this can be a good reference for you. With that, I’ll just
remind you, you can do this. You don’t have to burn everything to the ground
and start over from scratch. It can be done. And with that, thank you so much for
your attention and I’d be happy to answer your questions. [clapping] So the question is are these DE dust boxes safe for other animals? The answer is yes. So, they are
used in other animal and livestock situations. And this food-grade…people
actually eat this. So, this is generally regarded as a safe material. So, the
question…the follow-up question…is how often do the materials need to be
replaced? This is really going to depend on your flock and how many animals use
it. In our studies, we found that we could leave the sand in there and we just
introduced maybe a cup or two of DE every week. We had a fairly high density
of birds though, so you might not even need to replace it that often. And then
maybe once a month, you dump the sand, hose it out. The birds are going to poop
in it, they’re going to bring stuff in there.
So, again, this is really gonna be flock dependent, how you how you upkeep it. Yes? So the question is what happens when DE gets wet? It will dry so the actual
material that is affecting the parasites… it’s not changing when it gets wet. What
might change is the birds might not be as willing to dust bathe in it if it’s
wet. So, if there is a way to keep it under cover, that would be preferred. But we’ve
had our sand and our DE get wet and it doesn’t necessarily affect its
usefulness. It might just affect how the birds are using it. Yes? Okay, good
question. So, the question is about lifecycle of bedbugs first and then soft
ticks. So, bedbugs are variable. They depend a lot on temperature and the host.
It’s going to be between lice and fleas probably, so 14 plus days for bedbugs to
complete their lifecycle. Soft ticks: they’re very long-lived creatures. So,
actually there have been reports of soft ticks living years without a
host and then when they have a host present itself, coming out of this stupor
to feed. So, I can’t give you the exact numbers, but the soft ticks – and ticks in
general – they’re really good at just waiting it out until there’s a host. Yeah, [laughs] bad news. Yes? Okay, so, the question is how to kind
of fill in these cracks on nest boxes? So, a lot of nest boxes I’ve encountered,
they’re wood and they might not have good joints. So, if it’s like a big block
of nest boxes and you have kind of these dividers, there might be cracks behind
the dividers. I tend to think of things like caulk…if you can go in and caulk
those cracks and crevices and fill them so that they can’t become hiding places
for mites, or bedbugs. or ticks. But that’s gonna vary a lot based on
your own situation. I don’t know what the effects of a stain might do, in that case.
Okay, that’s a good question..is there need to clean the outside run? That’s
going to depend on your property. Some of these ectoparasite…if they are
dislodged, and they’re in the environment, they might not survive very long if
they’re exposed to the sun directly, hot dry weather. The fleas…it might depend on
if they can get cover, so how deep the litter might be. So, that’s…unfortunately
I can’t answer that with a blanket question. It’s really going to depend and
it might depend on what kind of ectoparasites you’re dealing with. Yes?
That’s a good question. So, the question is about if you have lice and
mites on the same flock, how you might go about controlling? And one thing I didn’t
mention was in our survey, we actually found a lot of instances where birds
were parasitized with more than one type of ectoparasites. So, it’s very
common to have multiples louse species. But, we also found lice and
fleas, or fleas, lice, and mites. There’s lots of different combinations one thing
that we have found is with mites, they don’t do very well when there are lice
on the birds. So, that might be something where if you’re a little patient the
lice might actually drive out the mites. And I know that sounds very weird to
kind of use lice as a bio control agent to get rid of your mites. But the lice
are only feeding on the feathers. They’re not blood feeding. So, they’re less
damaging if you want to look at it from that standpoint. So, it depends on your
tolerance. If you don’t want any of them… so, what you would probably do…so they’re
all on the host, is find something something like the DE where it’s going to
be affecting everything on the host. That would work for both the lice and the
mites. So, start there. Yes, so the follow up question is how do I treat the
environment? So, because the lice and mites are mostly on the host, I would
focus on on-host treatments but if you’re worried about maybe mites got off
and they’re hiding out in the environment, you could also use a premise spray or something to treat the environment. That
would be a good two-way approach to try and handle that. Yes? I knew there was
gonna be a question about Ivermectin. That’s something that you need to
consult a vet for. I know that you can buy Ivermectin kind of over-the-counter,
but everything I’ve seen is for different types of animals. So, cattle or
dogs or cats. And again these formulations, they’re generally species
specific. So, if you’re putting something that’s meant for cattle on your chickens,
that could be really dangerous. I’m not a vet. I can’t tell you exactly why that’s
dangerous or what might happen. I have heard of veterinarians using Ivermectin
for things like scaly leg mite because it is in the skin. So, Ivermectin systemic
it gets into the tissues. So, I’ve heard of that but I would consult a vet and
really find out what you can use and what will be safe for the bird. And then
also for the eggs down the line. Yes? Oh, yes, okay. So there is a website called
Farad. F-A-R-A-D.org that has kind of off-label use. It’s a resource that vets
use and it can be a resource if you want to use something off-label, how to use it
safely. Yeah, so, just to paraphrase that for the mic: with food animals, it can
be really dangerous to use things off-label because they can get
incorporated into the meat or the eggs. So, with Ivermectin specifically, you
should not be eating the eggs or any of the meat when they’re on that. And
consult with a veterinarian, because it can be really dangerous. One of the
things with your cats and dogs, and why things like Frontline work for them, is
we don’t eat our cats or dogs. It doesn’t matter the withdrawal period, how long
it takes for that material to get out of the tissues. With things like chickens, it
can really be important. So, the question is about if you bathe them what kind of
soap to use? I just use a little bit of dish soap.
It works really well. Don’t use cat or dog specific stuff, or
things that might have an insecticide. You might not know how that’s going to rub
off or get incorporated in the chicken. It’s just good old dish soap, works
really well. Just a little bit. Yes? So, the question is about flies and actually, I
could give an entire hour conversation just about flies. Just real quickly:
flies are associated with the manure. And anytime you have birds, you’re gonna have
manure. And that’s where they’re going to be coming from most likely. So, if you can
treat the manure – and when I say “treat”, I just mean make it unsuitable for flies,
so either dry it out or remove it so the flies can’t use it. That generally is
good. So, you’re managing the manure when you’re trying to manage flies.
Specifically the question was about fly strike. So, fly strike is when there are
eggs laid that turned into maggots on the animals and they
typically do not feed on living tissues but sometimes they can cause problems.
This is not typically a huge problem in poultry. This is more of an isolated
incident. Keeping…if you have birds that have
underlying issues. So, if they have things like enteritis where they’re having
diarrhea, or other health issues that can build up in the vent area, and that’s
where you might start to see flies. So, you really need to treat the underlying
cause of those issues. And that should help clear up the flies because this is
not typical in poultry to have things like fly strike. So, and…that’s
something I didn’t mention either. A lot of these ectoparasites…if you have you
know healthy birds, they can usually fight these infestations. They’re either
grooming or they have immune responses. So, when you come in and interfere you’re
just helping with that little extra bit. But if you have lots of issues, it could
be that your birds are not – you know, there’s some other underlying health issue going
on with the birds. I hope that answered your question and I will be
around through lunch, if you have additional questions or you
think of something. So, please come up and ask me. So, thank you very much! [clapping]

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