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Fowl Tick Infestation

Other Names: Blue Bugs, Chicken Ticks

The fowl tick (Argas persicus) is a soft tick with a flattened, oval-shaped body. It is a common ectoparasite (external parasite) of chickens worldwide. As an adult, it is 6 to 9 mm long and a tan to reddish color before it feeds. After it feeds, it turns into a bluish color, hence the nickname given to the pest, 'Blue bug'.
The adult and nymphs hide in cracks and crevices in the coop, or tree bark, during the daytime. At night, they leave their hiding spot to feed on the chickens as they sleep. Usually it takes them between 15-30 minutes to feed. They leave behind red spots on the bird's skin, often under their wings.

Fowl Tick Life Cycle


Fowl ticks undergo four developmental stages. The adult female will lay close to 500 eggs in their hiding spot, which will hatch 10-30 days later (depending on the temperature). Once hatched, the larve will feed on the birds, and remain attached for several days. Once engorged with blood, they go back into their hiding spot and molt into the nymphal stage, followed by adult stage. Fowl ticks can live for very long periods (up to 4 years) without a blood meal, which means you must find where they are hiding in order to get rid of them.

Effects of Fowl Ticks on Chickens


  • Anemia: As a result of blood loss from the ticks feeding on them at night.
  • Stress
  • Tick fever: Ticks carry the pathogen responsible for causing this disease.
  • Transient paralysis: caused by toxins released in the tick’s saliva.

How to Control Fowl Ticks in Chicken Coops


First find where the fowl ticks are hiding. Second, use a high pressure washer or steam cleaner to spray into the crack or crevice in which their hiding, and wash out as many ticks as you can. Apply a pesticide in their hiding spot. Reapply several times. Inspect the chickens for tick larvae attached to birds. Remove with tweezers, followed by applying a triple antibiotic ointment.

Clinical Signs

Chickens changing where they perch
Chickens become restless in the evening and don't want to go into the coop
Pale comb/wattles (anemia)
Tiny dark specs (tick larvae) under the chicken's wings
Red spots on skin

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Insect identification

Reported Cases

  • Case 1: Tick-associated paralysis in a Chickens White Leghorn pullets 20 weeks old submitted to the diagnostic laboratory were found heavily infested with the larval stage of the poultry tick, Argas persicus. The birds were severely depressed and recumbent. The signs were quickly reversed when the tick larvae were removed. The rapid rate of recovery and negative results in detailed diagnostic procedures suggested that the tick larvae caused the paralysis. Ref

Treatment

NameSummary
Fipronil (brand name Frontline and Pronyl)Apply as a spray or drops to the skin on the back of the chicken’s neck, where they can’t reach to preen. 3 to 4 drops for large chickens, 1 to 2 drops for young birds and bantams.G Damerow
Spinosad (Trade name Elector PSP)Applied as a spray on all coop housing components.B Mullens et al., 2017; A Murillo et al., 2017; Dow AgroSciences 2001
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) (food grade)Apply to housing components. Replace bedding and nesting material.A Murillo et al., 2016; C Martin et al., 2012; D Bennett et al., 2011, G Damerow
SulfurApplied as a dust to all housing components in coopA Murillo et al., 2016, 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) on all housing components. Replace bedding and nesting material.G Damerow
PyrethrumApplied as a powder or a spray to all housing components. Bedding and nesting materials should be replaced.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), on all housing components. Replace bedding and nesting material.G Damerow

Support

Prevention

  • Discourage wild birds by removing bird feeders and bird baths.
  • Thoroughly clean any branches, stumps, or other tree parts taken from the woods. This tick often hides within the bark of trees.
  • Avoid coops built from rough sawn, unfinished timbers, especially tongue and groove styled.
  • Control rodent populations, as they can sometimes be carriers of mites and ticks.

Scientific References

Good Overviews

Blogs

Risk Factors

  • Adding tree branches, stumps and other tree parts to the chicken run without thoroughly cleaning it first.
  • High populations of wild birds on the property.
  • Living near woods (or lots of trees).