Scaly leg mite
However, some trials show good results in sheep and goats, others no difference. There is no research that we can find into their efficacy in poultry, so we can’t tell you whether it works or not as poultry physiology is very different to that of livestock like sheep and goats.
The other issue is the amount of cucurbitacin found in pumpkin seeds varies greatly depending on the variety of pumpkin, the time of year it is harvested and how it is then processed, so even if it does work, there’s no advice on what variety is best to use, how to maintain the levels of cucurbitacin to best effect, or how much is effective.
Wormwood ( Artemesia absinthium) is a herb traditionally used for its vermifugal properties (killer of internal parasites). Research has shown its use can kill up to 94% of Barbers Pole worms in sheep and goats, and it is a key ingredient in a NZ product called Betadrench.
However, again, there’s no science to show whether it has the same effect on poultry, and wormwood can be toxic so it’s not something to be recommended, especially when there are no recommended safe dose rates, or even a preferred way of feeding it to birds, eg dried, powdered, fresh. Red mites (which live in the coop, not on the bird) and the various other insect species like scaly leg mite, fowl mites, lice and fleas, can easily infest your coop and are often very difficult to get rid of. They are easily spread by wild birds infiltrating your run, and can even directly move from wild birds to your flock. You may also inadvertently introduce them when you bring in new birds or equipment which are carrying the mites, eggs or larva. Mite eggs in particular are very resistant and can survive for up to two years in the environment until a suitable host comes along.
A chemical insecticide treatment like Ripcord, when used properly, is probably the most effective control method if you have an infestation, but if aromatic plants and herbs are also used on a regular basis (see page 61) you should be able to keep the population of crawlies at a reduced level. Spraying the coop and perches and nests with neem oil is also useful. These buggers get a special mention. This is an external mite that burrows under the scales of the legs of poultry, and sometimes into the skin around the face, lifting the scales, and slowly encrusting their legs. Have a look at the smooth scales of the bird pictured at right and compare them to your flock: if the scales look like they have lifted (as with the bird pictured above), your birds probably have scaly leg mite.
It is particularly hard to treat using an insecticide, although a topical product like ivermectin pour-on (see
instructions on page 59) can help.
The best way to get rid of it is to combine something like an application of ivermectin with a physical suffocation of the mites. Petroleum jelly or another greasy product works well: spread it thickly and thoroughly over all scaly parts of the hen’s body using an old tooth brush so you get it deep into any crevices. You will need to repeat this every day or two over at least a week as it will be rubbed off as a bird moves around.
An insecticide like neem oil can be added to the jelly, or sprayed on the legs first. There are a couple of sprays on the market that may also have insecticidal and healing properties.