Like most animals, chickens can develop serious cases of ticks. Not only can this be very irritating for the flock, but ticks can also be considerably harmful if not treated promptly. Chicken ticks are not dangerous to humans, and they are most active at night. Chickens most often host ticks in warm climates, and there is a possibility of these little devils transmitting spirochaetosis and Pasteurella infection to your flock.
Your chickens are most likely plagued by fowl ticks, also known as blue bugs. These ticks are soft-bodied and may be anywhere from a light reddish-brown to a dark brown in colour. They can live for one year without a single blood meal, though they must eat before reproduction. Females can lay twenty-five to one hundred eggs at a time, and will typically produce about seven hundred in their lifetime. These eggs will be laid in the cracks of walls and wood, causing them to quickly flock to poultry sheds as ideal nesting spots. As you can see, ticks can be quite a nuisance!
If you suspect your chickens of having ticks, check for anemia, skin blemishes (gently push aside the chicken's feathers to check for scars or lumps), emaciation, weakness, reduced productivity, and, in rare cases, paralysis from toxins in the tick saliva. Once you have determined that your chickens have ticks, you will want to seal any cracks in the poultry housing and spray an insecticide in these areas.
Ticks are very hard to get rid of, and so it is important to try to prevent them as best as possible. First and foremost, avoid overcrowding the birds; the closer the birds are kept together, the higher the chances are of ticks being spread. Poor sanitation will also be a cause of ticks, and so old manure, bedding and food should be avoided at all costs. Ticks love to hide under piles of manure, and so all feces should be scraped off the floors, walls and perches and burned. The floors of the poultry house should also be kept dry. When introducing new birds to the flock, make sure to quarantine them for a few weeks, as ticks are most often transmitted when new birds arrive.
If your flock does become infested by ticks, burn the old bedding and manure and paint kerosene on all perches, floors, and along wall cracks. This will help keep the ticks at bay. Feel free to use Malathion spray, as it will not affect the eggs. Once you have gotten rid of the ticks, it is absolutely essential to follow up by applying the preventive procedures described above.