I'd have liked to have entitled this piece 'Many things you didn't want to know about lice but one day may be happy you did'.
In the following instructable I am attempting to condense two of the articles I have written on the common poultry louse Menacanthus stramineus into some of the key bullet points. Both articles are also supported by a film, each of which is included here. A link to the original articles, for those interested in further study will be found in this instructable.
I hope the following will be useful both for those of you who may be thinking of raising chickens and want to keep them organically or for those already faced with a lice problem and would like to deal with it naturally and holistically without recourse to synthetic chemicals.
A word about Lice as ectoparasites (external - on the skin, feathers, down): -
It would be self-defeating for lice to kill the host.
Lice work in symbiosis with the bird, performing a cleaning function for the feathers and skin, they are also edible!
Menacanthus stramineus is host specific and will die if it stays too long off the bird.
I will share how to identify these lice and how to determine why and when they have reached significant population levels, so as to threaten the general well-being of your flock. (FIRST FILM ON STEP TWO)
A foreword on treating with essential oils:-
Except for Lavender essential oil and in a case of severe infection, Tea Tree, I would never use a pure essential oil upon a bird.
Oils should be diluted in a suitable organic carrier oil, such as olive, sunflower or coconut.
The ratio I use is one teaspoon (5ml) of carrier oil per bird to 1-3 drops of essential oil.
However, when, as in this case, I am treating several birds at once I usually use no more than 10 drops at any one time in a large pipette bottle (100ml) of carrier oil.
In the case of a very powerful oil, such as essential oil of oregano, I would not use more than 3 drops in total for the flock. These are the rules I apply to my own birds and I have found that they work. (SECOND FILM STEP TWO)
Step 1: Lice - Knowing What You Are Dealing With
LIFE CYCLE AND LIFE STYLE
Lice are insects. In appearance they are small, caramel-coloured and shiny also thankfully, visible to the naked eye (1 to 3mm in length). (PHOTO ABOVE)
short life span, which in adult form, is from 2 to 3 weeks
maturity within a few days
and are prolific egg layers (50 to 300 eggs),
these the female attaches to the base of the feather shafts in clusters, known as 'nits' (PHOTO ABOVE)
Lice have chewing-type mouth-parts, unlike mites for example, which have piercing ones for sucking blood.
feed on debris from feathers, dry skin scales and scabs
feed on blood, where it has already emerged from punctured skin or damaged feathers.
In my experience, when in large numbers they can also cause dermatitis around these same areas.
WHERE WOULD THE LICE BE ON MY BIRD?
Lice gather and lay their eggs around the places the bird would find difficult to groom or reach. There are various factors affecting this ability - both physical and emotional. To identify if your own bird comes into the category of a bird at risk, please check for more details in my article here
In the main however these include:
the area around the vent,
under the wings at the top,
back of neck just above the wing,
top of the head and if they have one, crest.
WHEN WOULD THEY BE ON MY BIRD?
Autumn - Fall and other times or situations which can bring birds into a moult, these include, changes in weather patterns, stress and heavy metal toxicity
and young birds growing into new sets of feathers.
During prolonged periods of rain often leading to lack of dust bathing facilities.
Step 2: TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
BEAUTY AND THE BEASTIES
FILM ONE (TOP)
Takes you through a visual identification of the problem with three of my birds - Chamois white-laced bearded and crested Polish - Rufus, Garbo and Stanislas.
FILM TWO (MIDDLE)
Shares how to treat with essential oil of lemon eucalyptus eucalyptus citriodora and how to keep your bird calm and stress-less whilst undergoing the treatment. In my blog article I go into much more detail about the actual physical function of this oil and the relationship between lice infestation and diet and deficiency. These include some of my thoughts on preen oil and research on the multi-functions of the uropygial gland. They are outside the remit of this instructable but if you are interested in how this relates to lice infestation and your birds ability to cope with them then please do check here
DIET AND DEFICIENCY
Lack of Vitamin A and quality invertebrate protein have been linked to lice infestation, there have been various studies done and papers written. I go into much more detail on my blog and if you are interested in further study please ask me for the links to specific research. Some of these will require you to join associations to become a reader but these are usually free. It is something to be aware of however and one of the reasons I feed a lot of organic greens and carrots! I also provide access to my compost bins. FILM THREE (BOTTOM)
Hope you find this useful and if you do please feel free to comment and make observations or ask questions either here on instructables, on the blog or on the respective films. If you are interested in sharing more of my experiences in raising quail, chickens and pigeons organically and holistically then maybe join my blog or sub to my youtube site.
All the very best,