Lice eggs at the base of the feather shaft.
Lice eggs at the base of the feather shaft. Credit: Ohio State University Extension.

Several species of lice live on chickens and cement their eggs on the base of feather shafts.

Identification of the species is based on examining an adult microscopically and the area of the chicken’s body they are found on.

The eggs of Menopon gallinae, the chicken shaft louse, appear as clusters of tiny cream-coloured balls. These lice are generally not regarded as pathogenic, and most birds have small populations of several species at the same time.

If the bird is immunosuppressed by another condition, then the number of lice increases and the feathers appear moth-eaten. The lice are large enough to be visible to the naked eye.

Abnormally large numbers of lice on a chicken should initiate a full clinical examination in addition to a husbandry and diet review, as usually there is an underlying problem.

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