When chickens get lice or mites, it can cause a number of problems for your flock. From a dip in egg production to undue stress that negatively affects their immune system, these external parasites are bad news for your hens. When they show up, you want to get rid of them as soon as possible. So how do you do that?
I’ve found MannaPro Poultry Protector spray to be the most effective and quick non-toxic way to get rid of lice and mites. The issue is I own over 75 hens, so when I used Poultry Protector spray to kill lice and mites, I would go through a bottle a day! With each bottle ringing up at $12, it was an expensive treatment and I couldn’t keep footing the bill.
So I did my research and came up with a DIY Poultry Protector spray that costs me a fraction of the price (1/5 the cost to be exact!) and works just as well. In this post, I’m going to share it with you so you can help your hens and save a chunk of change too.
Please note: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you end up clicking and purchasing an item. I worked hard to find my trusted favorites and I want to share them with you so you don't have to deal with all the crappy junk I had to go through. Nuff said.
What are poultry lice and mites?
Lice and mites are external parasites. The difference between them is what they eat. Lice live on your hen and eat the skin and dandruff in your hen’s feathers. Mites can either live on your hen or in the coop and suck your hen’s blood.
Lice are yellow in color and are most visible at the vent on your hen. You’ll see what looks like white gobs of dandruff stuck to the base of feather shafts, which are actually lice eggs.
Red Mites look like little black or red specks on your bird, they feed on your hen at night so they spend their day living in the coop, which means cleaning out the coop is important!
Northern Fowl Mites are yellow and live on your hen which means treating your hen is the best way to combat them.
Lastly, scaly leg mites are microscopic but you’ll know when they crop up because your hen’s feet will start to get crusty and raggedy, the scales will be raised instead of flush and smooth. The best way to combat these is to suffocate them, more on that in a bit!
Crusty, raised scales from scaly leg mites
How do hens get lice and mites?
These external parasites are transferred to your chickens by wild birds and mice. I can tell you first hand how hard it is to keep these critters away from your flock when you feed your hens grain.
Without a doubt, I always see a few sparrows and finches helping themselves to the feed in the afternoon when I collect eggs. Combating them is like trying to keep the outside air from getting inside your coop - it’s impossible.
As for mice, we have electric mouse traps placed throughout our coops and garden shed to keep their populations down. I highly recommend these electric mouse traps because they offer a clean and humane kill that doesn’t run the risk of harming your hens or chicks like an open conventional mousetrap does. There is always one or two mice that outsmart the traps, but it’s better than an all-out infestation.
If you’re wondering could I get lice or mites from my chickens? The answer is no, they can’t be transferred to humans. Phew right?!
Ragged feathers from lice infestation
How do lice and mites affect my chickens?
Lice can cause ragged looking feathers and feather pecking, because they are itchy for your poor hen. They also cause a drop in weight, your hen’s comb will turn from a nice bright red to a pale pink, a drop in egg production, and your hen will become lethargic.
Mites can cause anemia from sucking too much of your hen’s blood, causing a drop in egg production and a pale comb.
All of these symptoms are bad news for the health of your hens so you have to be vigilant and act fast if lice and mites show up.
How to treat lice and mites in your chickens?
First and foremost you should keep a dust bath for your flock. We use small kiddy pools filled with crushed limestone, wood ash, and diatomaceous earth. The hens use this dust bath to kick dust up and around their feathers to keep external parasites at bay. To learn more about how diatomaceous earth helps kill lice and mites, head over to this blog post.
Second, always keep your coop clean and dusted. Every morning, I sprinkle my own DIY Coop Refresher (this recipe is 60% cheaper than the brand name Coop Refresher) all over the roosting area to keep the ammonia down. Then every week, I sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the entire coop, in nesting boxes, and I rub the roosts down with it. Be sure to wear a dust mask and gloves when working with diatomaceous earth because it’s extremely drying and like any fine particle when it becomes airborne, it can negatively affect your respiratory system.
For scaly leg mites, you have to slather your hen’s feet with a non-toxic Vix Vapor Rub alternative for five days. I highly recommend this non-GMO Healthy Jelly for scaly leg mites. Apply the thick salve at night when the hens are roosting. This remedy suffocates the scaly leg mites and kills them.
Lastly, spray your hens’ vents, legs, and coop with a non-toxic insecticide. Which brings me to MannaPro’s Poultry Protector spray!
What is MannaPro Poultry Protector?
MannaPro Poultry Protector is a non-toxic spray that kills external parasites. The active ingredient is potassium sorbate, which has a drying and desiccating affect on the bugs. Potassium sorbate is a potassium salt of sorbic acid, typically used as a preservative in food. While I definitely believe in avoiding eating preservatives, it can safely be topically applied to your hens in diluted doses.
Potassium sorbate is typically used in conjunction with sodium benzoate to act as an anti-microbial and preservative for skincare products. A toxicity study done in 2018 showed that of 478 subjects given high topical doses of potassium sorbate, only 2 people showed slightly averse reactions. If you are concerned you or your hens might react, do a small test patch before you go all-out.
The spray is applied to your hen’s skin, which means you must invert the bird and get the spray up and under her feathers around her vent, chest, and under her wings. You also spray the coop and roosting area. You apply the spray every other day for a week, then once a week thereafter.
I can tell you it works. When I used the brand name for a few months, I saw immediate results and was so happy to have my egg production back up to normal.
But the downside was how expensive it was. I knew I needed to DIY it in order to keep my girls healthy and preserve my budget!
DIY Poultry Protector Spray Recipe
I created two recipes for my fellow chicken owners. The first is for a large batch for those who own 25+ hens and are small-scale egg producers. The second is for the backyard chicken keeper with 4 to 25 hens.
Large Flock Batch DIY Poultry Protector Spray, 1 Gallon (25+ hens)
Small Flock Batch DIY Poultry Protector Spray, 16 oz (4 - 25 hens)
16 oz glass spray bottle
1 tbsp Potassium Sorbate Powder
1 tbsp Castile Soap
4 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
4 drops Citronella Essential Oil
4 drops Sweet Orange Essential Oil
With the brand name spray clocking in anywhere from $10 - $14, at almost $1 an ounce, the Large Batch DIY recipe clocks in at $5.5 in ingredients + $19 in supplies = $24.50 divided by 128 oz (1 gallon) equalling approximately 20 cents /oz. That's 1/5 of the cost of brand name Poultry Protector Spray.
So there’s the DIY Poultry Protector Spray for we chicken owners on a budget. What else have you tried to combat lice and mites on your chickens? Chime in below and leave a comment!
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Favorite Books of 2020
2. Braiding Sweetgrass
3. As Long As Grass Grows
4. The Small Scale Poultry Flock
5. The Zero Waste Solution