Wood ash kills lice and mites that live on chickens. Yes, just the plain old ash you get from burning fire wood. If you happen to have a wood-burning fireplace or a wood stove in your home, you already have a way to create your own natural treatment to rid your flock of mites and lice.
The house I am currently living in has a gas fireplace, but I have a good friend who heats her house with a wood stove. I regularly fill up a bucket with the ash she would otherwise throw away to take home and dump in my flock’s dusting areas, on Bee’s advice.
Providing my flock with ash to dust in whenever they like helps avoid the problem of external parasite infestations.
It is not unusual for chickens to have a few mites on them, but just like anything else, mites and lice become a problem when there are too many of them trying to feast upon your birds. If your birds’ combs and wattles are looking pale and dull, if your birds are always scratching at their ears, shaking their heads a lot or if you see mites, lice or nits on your birds, you may have a real issue.
I had been worried about these creepy-crawlies when I started my flock this past summer. Initially I made the mistake of going out and buying some chemical insecticide poultry dust… thankfully before I opened it up, I ran across Bee’s story of the Gnarly Bunch, and about how she used wood ash to rid her own birds of mites and lice.
I’m so glad I did! (Which reminds me – I still need to return the chemical-stuff to the store from whence it came!)
If you ever find you need to treat a bird - or a whole flock - for mite / lice infestation, plan ahead and get everything you will need, together. A suggested list would be:
- A helper
- 1 large bowl (big enough to fit most of a chicken into)
- Plenty of wood ash (make sure it’s a few days old and not smoldering… unless you wish to cook your birds instead of cure them)
- NuStock ointment
Fill your large bowl part way with a good amount of wood ash, and be sure to have more ash in reserve.
The best time to treat your flock is after dark, when your birds are roosting and drowsy. It’s much easier to catch your birds in a closed coop… in fact chances are you’ll be able to walk right up and gently pull the bird you wish to work on down from its roost. It might flap a bit in surprise, but chances are it will calm down quickly as it will be rather sleepy and subdued after bed time.
If light is a problem, then try first thing in the morning before your birds have been let outside.
Treat one bird at a time by setting it in your bowl of wood ash. While holding the bird with one hand (or by enlisting a friend to steady the bird while you rub the ash on it) work the ash deep into the feathers and onto the skin. Try to cover every inch of your bird, being careful around the eyes and nostrils.
Once your chicken has been fully saturated with ash, have your helper apply NuStock around the eyes, nostrils (being careful not to block the nostrils with the ointment) the legs and around the vent. (Or perhaps your helper could hold the bird and allow you to do the dirty work… ) Please resist the urge to vigorously shake the excess ash from your chicken…
If you have observed nits (louse eggs) which may look like dirt particles around the feather shafts, close to the skin, you’ll want to coat those nits with NuStock also. The NuStock will kill off the eggs, which is important if you want to break the life-cycle of these parasites.
(Photo Credit to: D. Kreuger)
NeemOil should be sprayed on the roosts of your coop to kill off any parasites running about on them. This can be done either before your flock goes to bed the night you plan on treating them, or the morning after. The wood ash and NuStock will control the parasites on your birds for a time, and likewise with the Neem Oil on the perches.
Your birds may look rather rough for a few days, but they’ll be feeling much better without those awful critters chewing on them and making them miserable! Provided your birds are otherwise healthy, the eggs they lay after being treated should be fine to eat - - after all, you haven’t used any chemicals or insecticides at all.
And whether or not you have had an issue with infestation… be sure to keep wood ash available to your birds to dust in year round. It will go a long way to keep your flock healthy and happy. You may even see your birds eat a bit of the ash every now and then. This helps control internal parasites and neutralize other toxins, naturally. Your chickens will know if they need it, so just provide it for them and let nature take care of the rest.