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Diversity and Prevalence of Ectoparasites on Backyard Chicken Flocks in California

Amy C. Murillo, Bradley A. Mullens
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jme/tjv243 tjv243 First published online: 11 January 2016


Peridomestic (“backyard”) chicken flocks are gaining popularity in the developed world (e.g., North America or Europe), yet little is known regarding prevalence or severity of their ectoparasites. Therefore, five birds on each of 20 properties throughout southern California were surveyed in summer for on-host (permanent) and off-host dwelling (temporary) ectoparasites. Only four premises (20%) were entirely free of ectoparasites. In declining order of prevalence (% of premises), permanent ectoparasites included six chicken louse species: Menacanthus stramineus (Nitzsch) (50%), Goniocotes gallinae (De Geer) (35%), Lipeurus caponis (L.) (20%), Menopon gallinae (L.) (15%), Menacanthus cornutus (Schömmer) (5%), and Cuclotogaster heterographus (Nitzsch) (5%). Only one flea species, Echidnophaga gallinacea (Westwood) (20%), was found. Three parasitic mite species were observed: Ornithonyssus sylviarum (Canestrini & Fanzago) (15%), Knemidocoptes mutans (Robin & Lanquetin) (10%), and Dermanyssus gallinae (De Geer) (5%). Many infestations consisted of a few to a dozen individuals per bird, but M. stramineus, G. gallinae, M. cornutus, and E. gallinacea were abundant (dozens to hundreds of individuals) on some birds, and damage by K. mutans was severe on two premises. Off-host dwelling ectoparasites were rare (D. gallinae) or absent (Cimex lectularius L., Argasidae). Parasite diversity in peridomestic flocks greatly exceeds that is routinely observed on commercial chicken flocks and highlights a need for increased biosecurity and development of ectoparasite control options for homeowners.

  • poultry
  • louse
  • mite
  • flea
  • Menacanthus
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