Being a new chicken herder myself, I was asking that very question not that long ago. Chickens don't exactly sit still while you pour powder on them. I had visions of making Shake n' Bake. (Ahem..we'll talk more about that in a minute.)
So off I went to ask the wonderful and mysterious Great Google and found some real gems that I thought I would share with you would-be chicken owners.
Let's start first with what a mite infestation looks like:
Isn't that just awful?
It's a good idea to inspect your chickens for lice or mites carefully every couple of weeks so it doesn't get out of hand if they do pick up these pests. You'll have to look closely near their vent area (that's their poop chute for you newbies) and under their wings. Mites or teeny tiny and will be hard to see. Lice are much easier - look near the base of the feathers for clusters of eggs.
Mites like to hide in the cracks and crevices of the coop and then come out to feed at night. If your girls are stomping on the roost, you may have mites. I recommend checking them at night because they're less likely to raise a fuss and the mites will be more active and easy to see.
If you find mites, the best treatment is to clean out the coop completely and then dust it, the roost and the chickens. You'll have to repeat this in 10 days or so and possibly beyond that if you have a serious infestation.
I use diatomaceous earth, which is very fine granite powder that cuts into the mite's or lice's exoskeleton and kills it. It's completely harmless to the bird. Some folks recommend dusting with Sevin dust, but Sevin is known to harm honey bees and it clearly states on the container that it is harmful to domestic animals. The chemicals could leech through the bird's skin and find its way into the eggs, so please be aware of that. For those reasons, I personally choose not to use it on my chooks but I know there are lots who do. Another option is common cat or dog flea powder containing permethrine, but that's also a toxin that could get into the eggs. I've been very successful with DE, so I'm going to stick to that for now.
Before I saw this video, I had just been dusting the chickens and then fluffing it through their feathers as best I could. It wasn't easy to get the powder up under their feathers this way and I usually ended up with more of it on me than on the chicken. So I was fascinated by how he flipped the chicken upside down and it was completely docile. I just had to try it out this weekend and it worked!
Oh, and that "shake n bake" method I was thinking about? I wasn't the only one that had that idea. Here it is on video:
One other thing I would add that these videos don't show: you really should wear a bandana or some other kind of protection over your mouth and nose when you do this, particularly in the confined space of the coop. Breathing those fine dusts in can cause some respiratory issues, so best to just avoid it.
I hope you found these videos as useful (and laughable) as I did!
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