How to fight the flea infestation

Two week old chicks at Jalyn Poultry Farm in Kitengela. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Dear Doctor. Messo

My birds are infested with fleas; I tried to eradicate with powder products, but with little success. My egg production goes down and the birds don’t finish their feed. What else can I do to help the situation?

Collins, Kissii

Dear Collins

Ectoparasites in poultry are a major problem observed mainly in chickens and turkeys in our warm tropical climate, causing high economic losses for commercial farmers, especially those who keep long-lived birds. Fleas and red mites are particularly notorious in backyard herds that have frequent contact with wildlife while foraging.

In flocks of laying hens that are caged intensively, the parasites cause irritation, scratching, blood loss (anemia), resulting in poor feed intake, low egg production, and weight loss and poor uniformity of the flocks. Some act as channels through which disease-causing organisms are transmitted into a healthy herd, particularly fowlpox and fowl typhoid. These organisms are tiny, tiny bugs that attach themselves to the host’s skin and feed on their tissues or blood. Some examples are lice, ticks, bed bugs, mites, and fleas.

How to identify them in a herd

The best time to identify these parasites is at night and in the dark, with a flashlight you can flash them out of the birds’ bodies, especially in the area of ​​the vents or sewer, in the plumage and under the chest and thighs , Light is known to stimulate their movement. The mites are blood-sucking organisms that generally like to eat at night and hide in cracks and crevices of poultry units during the day. Because of this nocturnal behavior, farmers looking for their presence during the day will not see them. The mites can burrow under the surface of the skin or the scales of the feet, causing the affected areas to thicken, appear gray and flat when hungry and black and swollen after ingesting food. Fleas breed mainly outside the host for many months in crevices and crevices in the poultry department. It breeds in nests and litter and is only used by the birds for feeding. The larval stages dig into the skin of the host, particularly the turkey, and cause painful irritation. The adult flea lives on the ground and is very difficult to see, but very easy to kill with the right disinfectant or insecticide.

How to fight these parasites

Once the herds are infested, they are generally difficult, time consuming, and expensive to get rid of. Therefore, it is best to prevent the introduction of the beetles right before filling up.

cleaning and desinfection

The main control measure is a foolproof cleaning and disinfection program that includes the complete removal of the old waste and disposal 1km from the site. This is followed by good wet cleaning with water and a multi-purpose cleaner. This is followed by terminal disinfection with an effective aldehyde-based product in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Protect birds from infestation

Do not mix free range backyard flocks near highly valued commercial flocks in the same facility. The houses should be at least 100 meters apart if you need to keep different age groups in one location. Obtain your chicks from parasite-free farms, especially if you rely on buying pullets at laying time. Make sure the birds are transported in clean and disinfected trucks and keep flocks of different ages away from each other. In some cases, these beetles are brought onto contaminated egg shells or crates. Make sure these are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before leaving them in place for ice collection.

Chemical treatment of affected flocks

Numerous organophosphorus compounds (e.g. malathion) are available and can be used in the environment and in birds. Some acaricides can be poisonous to birds or be found in meat or eggs. Therefore, do not use them without consulting your veterinarian. Sprays are good for treating birds or buildings, while diatomaceous earth is effective for treating bedding.

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