An Update on Ectoparasite Infestation in Poultry

The ectoparsite is defined as it is found on or in the skin of its host and comes under the phylum arthropoda. Arthropod is made up of arthros and podos where arthros means a joint and podos ‘a foot’. It is categorized into two classes such as Insecta and Arachnida. The fly, flea, lice and bugs are considered as insects while, ticks and mites comes under acarines. The body of arthropods is metamerically segmented and possesses chitinized exoskeleton. In insect it is having distinct head, thorax and abdomen and bears one pair of antennae, two pairs of wing and three pairs of legs. The compound eyes are present with separate sexes. Although, antennae, compound eye, wings and division of head, thorax and abdomen is absent and adults having four pair of legs in acarines.

  1. Flies
  2. Mosquitoes:
  3. It is having small spherical head with slender body. Dichoptic in males and holoptic in females. Antennae are segmented 14-15 in number. Females suck the blood while male lives on the plant juices. Eggs laid both on floating as well stagnant water. The eucephalus type larvae are found. In poultry culex act as vector for fowl malaria caused by Plasmodium gallinaceum and borrelia anserina causes fowl spirochatosis. However, Aedes also transmit the plasmodium gallinaceum in fowl.

Prevention and Control:

  • To control the larval population by using larvicide such as methoprene.
  • Also used adulticides to control adult population (applied the surface where mosquitoes rest) such as malathion, carbamates (propoxur), deltamethrin, cyfluthrin etc.
  • Window and door should be screen with mosquito net to prevent their entry.
  • Avoid the unnecessary storage of water in containers, water tank, tyres etc.
  • Provide good hygiene, ample quantity clean water and proper light.
  • Sick bird should be segregated and isolated from healthy flock.
  • Necessary treatment provide at earliest.
  • Musca domestica:
  • It is a fly of medium size. Moderately hairy and dull black in colour. Its prooscics is retractile in nature. Two large eyes and segmented antennae are present. The mucsa commonly called as house fly. It act as intermediate host for tape worm parasites in poultry i.e. Choanotaenia infundibulum.

Prevention and Control:

  • The manure should be removed regularly.
  • Destroy their breeding places.
  • Maintain the hygienic condition in and around poultry shed.
  • Use of insect growth regulator by blocking the formation of new fly larvae.
  • Use of preventive clothes/fly net to avoid their annoying behavior.
  • Use of surface spray to control the larvae in different places i.e. manure storage area, feed and dead bird etc.
  • Make strategy for the use of insecticide to control the larvae when all sheds are treated effectively rather than individually.

2.   Flea: It is wingless ectoparasites of poultry. Mouth part is adapted for piercing and sucking type. Body is laterally compressed. Legs are strongly developed and adapted for leaping and jumping.

a.   Echidnophaga gallinacea: It is also known as stick tight flea. There is no genal and pronotal combs.

b.   Ceratophyllus gallinae: It is common chicken flea. Pronotal comb is present.


  • Flea causes great irritation to the host.
  • Mostly attacked poor/debilitating conditioned host.
  • By frequent biting affected bird become restless, retarded growth and dull coat.

Prevention and control:

  • Keeping all the premises free from litter, dust and debris.
  • Elimination of flea from host by use of chemical compound such as Methoxychlor, Rotenone and Pyrethrum etc.
  • Poultry shed should be treated with suitable insecticide.
  • Proper screening of the birds and care should be taken.
  • Infested bird isolated as soon as possible.
  • Avoid the overcrowding of the birds.

3.   Lice: Small in size, wingless and host specific and serve as ectoparasite on bird. The lice found in birds are called as biting or bird lice. Body is dorsoventrally flattened, head is broad, reduced eye and mouth is biting type. Its transmission from one host to another host by contact.

      a.   Menopon gallinae: Commonly known as shaft louse of poultry and occurs on the shaft of feather of poultry. It is considered as commonest louse found in poultry.

b.   Menacanthus stramineus: Commonly called as body louse of poultry, occurring on skin where less feather such as thigh, breast and anus. The eggs having operculum and laid in cluster in feather. It is considered as serious pest in poultry.           

c.   Lipeurus heterographus: head louse of fowl is common name and occurs in feather and skin of neck and head of bird. Lay singly eggs in feather. Considered as most harmful louse for causing heavy mortality in chicken.

d.   Lipeurus caponis: Commonly called as wing louse of poultry and located underside of wing feather.

e.   Goniodes gigas: Commonly called as large body louse of poultry and found on body and feather.

f.    Goniocotes gallinae: Small in size and occurance in fluff at base of feather called as fluff louse of poultry.

Effect on host

  • It causes irritation and annoyance to host by crawling movement.
  • Affected bird become restless, loss of condition; disturb sleep, decrease egg production.
  • The affected bird may injured themselves or damage their feathers by biting and scratching their body.
  • Hairs matted and coat becomes shaggy and rough.
  • Feed on the epidermal scale, epithelial and barbules of feather.

Prevention and control

  • Provide better management and good feeding for control of lousiness.
  • Keep host away from the lice because it is host specific and cannot survive without host for longer time.
  • The insecticide used against lice in bird in form of dust.
  • Keep clean the shed and premises with suitable insecticide.
  •  Regular screening of bird should be done.

4. Bugs:   

  • It has flat body and piercing and sucking type mouth part.  Thorax having three pair of legs and metamorphosis is incomplete type.

a.   Cimex lectularius: Commonly called as bed bugs. Buggy odour is the characteristic feature of insect. It bites in night hour and hide during day time in cracks and crevices of floor and walls and furniture etc.

Prevention and control

  • Thoroughly cleaning of shed, beds and furniture.
  • Reducing the hiding places for the bedbugs.
  • Fumigation or heat treatment is very effective control strategies.

5. Ticks

  • Integument is leathery and it is considered as soft tick, means do not have dorsal shield.

a.   Argus persicus: Commonly called as blue bug or fowl tick. Body is flattened and pointed anteriorly. Mouth part is situated ventrally and eyes are wanting. Its dark intestine is visible from from outside due to translucent outer covering.

Effect on host

  • Disturb sleep, decrease egg production and deplete the blood.
  • It is causative agent for tick paralysis.
  • Act as vector for transmission of spirochaetosis, Aegytianellosis and Anaplasmosis.

Prevention and control

  • Poultry shed should be cleaned regularly.
  • Avoid the hiding place for ticks.
  • Isolate the infested bird from the flocks.
  • Avoid the mixing of healthy and infested flock.
  • Suitable insecticide used as dust to the birds.

6. Mites

  • It is minute in size and mouth part contains a pair of (chelicerae, pedipalp) and median toothed structure known as hypostome. There is lacking of segment in body.

a.   Dermanyssus gallinae: It is also known as red mite of poultry. It looks red when it recently sucks the blood from host. It also transmits the spirochaetosis in poultry.

b.   Ornythonyssus bursa: commonly called as tropical fowl mite. Anus present on the anterior half of anal plate.

c.   Ornythonnyssus sylviarum: Elongate to oval shaped and also called as northern mite of poultry. Its eggs sticky, whitish and lay on the host body. It transmits the fowl pox.

d.   Cnemidocoptes gallinae: It is a burrowing mite and commonly called as depluming itch in poultry. Firstly it attacks the feather then other part of host.

e.   Cnemidocoptes mutans: It is also a burrowing mite and called as scaly leg of poultry. It causes lameness to feet of affected host.

Prevention and control

  • For treatment of premises use dust or spray of malathion or carbaryl.
  • Mixture of sodium fluoride, water, soap and sulphur   is used as dipping.
  • Cleaning of poultry shed by spraying of chemical.
  • Detection of mites by skin scraping from the lesion is helpful for treatment the disease.
  • Infested bird isolated from flock and treated at earliest.
  • Avoid overcrowding and hiding places and provide proper light.
  • Screening of poultry shed should be done regularly.
  • Strict hygiene and better management should be followed in and around the shed .

Alok Kumar Singh1#, Sunil Kumar Dhayal, Rakesh Sen, Shalini Tiwari and Nivedita Dwivedi

1Department of Veterinary Parasitology, College of Veterinary Science & A.H., Kuthuliya, Rewa
B.V.Sc & A.H., Student, College of Veterinary Science & A.H., Kuthuliya, Rewa