Can Chickens Get Fleas?


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Are you worried about your chickens being attacked by fleas? Are fleas responsible for your sick chickens? There is a possibility that your chickens have fleas if they are showing some symptoms like restlessness or loss of blood. What are the dangers of fleas to chickens? Read on to learn about flea attacks on chickens.

Can chickens get fleas? Yes.

Chickens that are exposed to fleas can become infested. Fleas can cause many symptoms in your chickens and can even lead to death. Chickens are not commonly infested by dog or cat fleas but rather have their own type of fleas.

The three major types of fleas that attack chickens are:

  • Sticktight flea (Echidnophaga gallinacean)
  • Western chicken flea (Ceratophyllus niger)
  • European chicken flea (Ceratophyllus gallinae)

What are the symptoms of a flea infestation? How can you prevent fleas from reaching your chickens? Is there any treatment?

Flea Attacks

Fleas are small insects without wings. They are external parasites to birds and mammals. There are over two thousand five hundred (2500) flea species in the world.

These pests attach their head to the body of their host and suck the blood for nutrition. When they are full (after a few days or weeks depending on the species of the flea), they leave their host.

Fleas are host-specific, meaning that different types of fleas prefer different types of animals to attack. Even though some fleas that prefer other animals can attack chickens, the types of fleas that prefer chickens are the sticktight flea, the western chicken flea, and the European chicken flea.

Let us discuss the types of fleas that attack chickens, where they can be found, and the part of a chicken’s body that they prefer to attack.

Types of Fleas that Attack Chickens

Although it is possible for types of fleas that prefer other animals to accidentally attack chickens, it is a rare occurrence. In this article, we will discuss the three types of fleas listed above.

Sticktight Flea

Sticktight fleas (Echidnophaga gallinacean) also called hen fleas are common in the tropical and subtropical parts of the world. They can stay attached to a chicken’s skin for up to 6 weeks. This kind of flea prefers the region around the eyes, comb, wattles, or other naked areas of the chicken.

Note: Symptoms of a flea attack on chickens will be given later

Western Chicken Flea

Western chicken fleas (Ceratophyllus niger) or black hen fleas are only found in the Pacific coastal areas of the United States of America and Canada. The western chicken flea, unlike other kinds of fleas, prefers the droppings of your chickens. They will, however, occasionally attack your chickens. A heavy infestation of the western chicken flea can be disastrous to your chickens.

European Chicken Flea

The European chicken flea (Ceratophyllus gallinae) or the hen flea (for people living in Europe), is found in every part of the world. This type of flea breeds on nests or corners in the chicken coop and attaches to your chickens for nutrition for a short period of time.

If fleas are common in your area, you have to put extra consideration into the hygiene of your chickens and coop. Now that you know the major types of fleas that attack chickens, let us move on to the symptoms of flea attacks on chickens.

Symptoms of Fleas on Chickens

Fleas are visible, so the best way to tell whether a chicken has fleas or not is to see the fleas. If however, you cannot find the fleas in your chickens, a few symptoms to identify a flea infestation in your chickens are:

  • Anemia
  • Blindness
  • Emaciation
  • Restlessness
  • Malnutrition
  • Skin irritation
  • Death of chicks
  • Decreased egg production

Fleas suck the blood of their hosts (your chickens). A heavy infestation of fleas can significantly reduce the blood of your chickens which can lead to the symptoms above. Young chicks are fragile and may die if attacked by fleas.

Do you have a flea infestation in your coop? How can you treat your chickens? How can you get rid of fleas?

How to Treat Chickens That Are Attacked By Fleas

The best way to treat the symptoms that you observe in your chickens is to remove the fleas with tweezers. When removing the fleas, check every exposed part of their skin including the head, crown, and anus. You should also check under their wings.

If you do not want to use tweezers, you can use a product that can be applied (or sprayed) on the skin of chickens. When using these products, please be careful and avoid the eyes of the chicken. Also, ensure that the skin of your chickens is not irritated by the products.

According to your preference, you can use natural or synthetic products.

Guy looking for flea removing products

Examples of natural flea remover products that you can use on your chickens are:

  • Olive oil
  • Brewers yeast
  • Apple cider vinegar

A few artificial products you can use for your chicken fleas are:

  • Petroleum jelly
  • BASF Insecticide Spray

When treating your chickens, you should also clean the chicken coop extensively. Products that you can use to wash the chicken coop to get rid of fleas are:

  • Carbaryl
  • Ravap spray
  • Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
  • Microbe Lift Chicken Coop Cleaner

When cleaning your chickens and chicken coop, lock your chickens in a cage so that they cannot escape.

Preventing Fleas from Entering Your Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop

How do you prevent a flea infestation? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Always clean your chicken coop
  • Prevent your pets and other animals from entering your chicken coop
  • Do not use an abandoned chicken coop without first cleaning it
  • Spread ginger, mint, or other flea-repelling herbs around your coop
  • Isolate every infested chicken, treat them before they enter the coop

Take these prevention tips very seriously, especially if fleas are common in your area

Other Common Parasites of Chickens

Are fleas the only animals that can attack your chickens? Certainly not. Other animals that are parasites of chickens are:

  • Louse
  • Bedbug
  • Red mite
  • Nematodes
  • Scaly leg mite
  • Northern fowl mite
  • Intestinal worms

Do you know the differences between bedbugs, mites, and fleas? The table below will help you:

CharacteristicsBedbugMiteFlea
Size4-12mm1.0-1.5mm1.5-4.0mm
WingsNoNoNo
ColorReddish-brownGrey or blackDark brown
SpeedFastSlowSlow
Visible to the eyesYesYesYes
Lifespan1 month2 weeks1-2 months
Body shapeOval and flatovalflat

Regardless of what kind of external parasite your chickens may have, the prevention and treatment tips in this article can help you. If however, you still see fleas in your chickens, contact a local vet for assistance.

Final Thoughts

Fleas can be found worldwide and they can attack your chickens. Depending on the severity of the infestation, fleas can cause anemia, decreased egg production, emaciation, or even death of your chickens. You should do what you can to prevent fleas from reaching your chickens and if they do, treat the infestation quickly.

Have you ever seen fleas on your chickens? What did you do to get rid of them? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Sources

April

April has owned and worked with domestic fowl including chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, and guineas since 1998. She has a B.S. in Agriculture from Cal Poly in Pomona, CA where she studied genetics, nutrition and reproduction.

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