Chicken Body Louse
Menacanthus stramineus (Nitzsch), Menoponidae


Adult -- This yellowish, chewing louse has a flat body and is about 3 mm long. It has 3 pairs of short, two-clawed legs with 2 rows of setae on each abdominal segment and a pair of 4-segemented antenn ae.

Egg -- Readily visible to the naked eye, the egg bears characteristic filaments on its upper half. A single egg mass may be as long as 6 mm.

Nymph -- The nymph resembles the adult in shape though it is somewhat smaller and almost transparent at first.


Distribution -- Widely distributed, the chicken body louse occurs wherever hosts can be found.

Feeding Habits -- In addition to wild turkey, this louse also attacks the following domestic animals: chicken, turkey, guinea fowl, pea fowl, pheasant, and quail.

Damage -- The chicken body louse is most likely to be found on the lower body of its host. Here it feeds on skin fragments, feathers and debris. Its gnawing activities cause the host's skin to be irritated, red, and scabby. As a result, infested birds lose weight and layers decrease egg production. Extremely heavy infestations can kill poultry.

Life History -- Because lice develop close to hosts and remain warm, no overwintering occurs and infestations can develop any time during the year. Eggs are deposited in masses and glued to the base of feathers. Incubation lasts 4 to 7 days. The nymphs develop through 3 instars and become adults in about 2 weeks. Adult females deposit 1 to 4 eggs per day over their lifespan of 12 to 14 days. On the average, each female lays about 20 eggs. When separated from the host, the chicken body lice tend to hide in dark places and usually die.


Chemical treatments are available for flocks, housing, litter, and roosts. These treatments may be applied as paints, dusts, sprays or dips.