First off this is a common problem for chickens that can be carried in by wild birds. So if your birds have mites or lice it doesn’t always mean you aren’t taking proper care of your birds.
An infestation can cause a reduction in laying, pale combs and wattles, anemia and even death! Feather loss is another side effect (usually on the back) because a bird may over preen and pluck her own feathers in attempt to get relief. So treat your birds immediately to keep them from suffering.
What are mites?
They are just like fleas, lice or mosquitos in that they suck blood but they inhabit your birds’ feathers, and not your hair. A mite is very tiny thus it is hard to see, and some types of mites only come out at night. Sometimes they can be seen around a bird’s vent or beneath the wings (especially if your bird has light colored feathers). Although lice are larger, they are nearly as hard to see as mites because they are lighter colored.
Although there are various treatments for these parasites, they all tend to involve using a pesticide dust or spray on your birds. I know it sounds scary, but think of it like a flea dip for birds.
One way to treat them can be with a non-chemical solution, like Diatomaceous Earth. This works slowly since it sort of scratches the bugs to death. However if your infestation is severe, you may want to use something that will kill them on contact to provide your birds immediate relief, like a dust or a spray.
Dust is usually recommended since the birds usually enjoy the feeling of dust in their feathers, whereas they dislike getting wet. Be careful when applying the dust, though, that neither you nor your birds breathe it in. Use old spice shakers or fill a toe from a pair of ladies pantyhose with the powder and pat it on that way (it filters through like a powder puff). Make sure to apply the treatment around the vents and beneath the wings in particular. If you have a rooster make absolutely sure to treat him thoroughly, as if he has mites, he will spread it back around to the rest of your birds! Hold the bird firmly while applying the powder since your birds may decide to react to your kind ministrations by flapping their wings vigorously making a real dust cloud that you don’t want to breathe in.
Scaly leg mites: This can also cause problems for your birds, but they are treated differently. Your birds may have scaly leg mites if the scales on their legs begin to lift up. This is caused by the mite waste building up under the scales which is painful and eventually debilitating for your birds. You can treat for scaly leg mites by rubbing on petroleum jelly or even an antibiotic ointment that uses petroleum jelly as a base. Some people prefer to use oil, or even something like a Pam cooking spray. You will have to treat every two or three days for several weeks, and the scales may not return to normal.
Although some people recommend treating scaly leg mites with things like WD-40, don’t do it! WD-40 has strong fumes that can cause respiratory irritation to your birds. It also carries a caution recommendation that if it comes into contact with your skin, it should be immediately washed off – so why put it on your birds?
If you think your bird has mites and you are not sure about the best course of action, bring them to the vet for an evaluation. Remember, at Albuquerque Vetco we are now treating birds!