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Backyard chickens harbor greater diversity of ticks, mites, and lice than farm-raised chickens

Filed in National Health News 1/14/16 at 9:38 am     1380     Medical Xpress

Backyard chickens may live a sweeter life than chickens on commercial poultry farms, but roaming green grass and scratching real dirt exposes these birds to a different suite of parasites than those found in most commercial facilities. A paper in the latest issue of the Journal of Medical Entomology by University of California, Riverside scientists Amy C. Murillo and Bradley A. Mullens reveals what’s crawling on backyard birds, and the answer will likely make chicken fanciers itch.

The researchers surveyed 100 adult hens in 20 different backyards in southern California and searched the birds and their coops for ectoparasites. They found a much greater diversity of ectoparasites on the backyard chickens than has been reported in commercial flocks.

Ectoparasites were found on most of the flocks surveyed (80%),and lice were the most common and abundant. Six different species of louse were found on the chickens, and some individual chickens had hundreds of lice. Sticktight fleas were found in only 20% of flocks, but infestations could be quite severe. The northern fowl mite (Ornithonyssus sylviarum) was the most common mite, but the scaly leg mite (Knemidocoptes mutans) and the chicken red mite (Dermanyssus gallinae) were also found.

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