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Bedbug Infestation

Bedbugs (Cimex lectularius and C. hemipterus) are small wingless insects that feed on the chicken's blood at night. Bedbugs can cause chickens a great deal of stress. Heavy infestations may lead to excessive feather loss, cloacal irritation, lesions on the breast and legs, and even anemia in extreme cases (especially in younger and/or smaller-sized bantam breeds). In addition, bedbugs are known to harbor over 40 different pathogens.

What Bedbugs Look Like


Adult bedbugs are reddish-brown, flat, wingless, oval-shaped insects (typically 4-6 mm in length). After feeding on blood, the bedbug changes and appears more balloon-like and elongated.
Young bedbugs are much smaller than adults, and are a different color--they have a white-yellowish or translucent appearance and are barely visible to the naked eye.

Bedbug Behavior


Bedbugs are mainly nocturnal, hiding during the day in cracks, crevices and corners of coops and nest boxes. They feed by piercing the chicken's skin with their beak-like mouthparts, which allow them to withdraw blood. They will generally feed for 5 to 10 minutes, after which they return to their hiding spot to digest their meal which may take 3 to 7 days.

Female bedbugs lay their eggs in the crevices, where they hatch in 4 to 12 days. One female bedbug can lay up to 540 eggs in her lifetime. Under the right conditions, bed bug populations can eventually double every 16 days. When disturbed, Bedbugs let off a distinct, offensive odor similar to what stink bugs let off; this odor is the result of the oily secretion produced by special glands. Bed bugs can survive and remain active at temperatures as low as 7°C (46°F), but they die when their body temperatures reaches 45°C (113°F).

How to get rid of Bed bugs


Bed bugs can be a challenge to control. They can survive for months without feeding. Also, they are becoming increasingly more resistant (immune) to pyrethroid pesticides, such as Tempo® (cyfluthrin) and permethrin. Make sure to check the labels and follow the directions when using any pesticide product. Many are highly toxic to chickens, and should not be applied to the coop with the chickens inside. When spraying, make sure to spray all corners, cracks, and crevices---anything that may be a potential bed bug hiding spot. Since the eggs may not always be killed during treatment, spraying will probably need to be repeated after approximately 2 weeks (see label for instructions).

Clinical Signs

Pale comb or wattles
Weakness
Irritable behavior
Feather loss
Vent irritation
Lesions on breasts and legs

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Inspection of premises
  • Insect identification

Treatment

NameSummary
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) (food grade)Apply by dusting onto the chicken's feathers or added to their dust bathing area. Also dust all housing components. Replace bedding and nesting material.A Murillo et al., 2016; C Martin et al., 2012; D Bennett et al., 2011, G Damerow
MalathionUsed as a spray or powder applied to all housing components in coop.G Damerow
Carbaryl syntheticApplied as a powder (5% carbaryl) or spray (4 ounces of 80% carbaryl mixed in a 5 gallon bucket of water) directly on the chickens as well as all housing components. Replace bedding and nesting material.G Damerow
PyrethrumApplied as a powder or a spray on both the chickens as well as all housing components. Bedding and nesting materials should be replaced. When treating the bird, apply directly on the chicken's feathers, concentrating on the vent area. Note that it only kills the adult insects, not the larvae and eggs. Therefore, treatment will need to be repeated.G Damerow
PermethrinApplied as a powder (0.24% permethrin) or spray (3 ounces of 10% permethrin is mixed in a 5 gallon bucket of water), directly on the chickens as well as all housing components. Replace bedding and nesting material.G Damerow

Support

Prevention

  • Biosecurity measures
  • Regularly clean and disinfect coops
  • Seal off any cracks or crevices

Scientific References

Good Overviews

Blogs

Risk Factors

  • History of bedbug infestations on the premises.