Stickfast Fleas occur mainly in backyard chickens during the warmer months. Commercial poultry sheds use concrete flooring, so they have mostly eradicated the problem.
They are small insects (about 1mm in size) that feed on the blood of poultry and stick to their skin, mainly the comb, wattles and above the eyes. They can also be found under the wings, around the vent and on the stomach. The young fleas (larvae) live in the dirt of the poultry yard and in the bedding and housing. In large numbers they can cause anaemia, loss of condition and skin irritations. If left unattended on weaker chickens they can cause death in severe cases.
They live for about 4 weeks. The female lays her eggs on the chicken and the eggs fall to the ground. In about 4 days the larvae hatch. The larvae shelter on the litter on the ground and after about 3 weeks they move into the deeper litter and weave a cocoon. After about 2 weeks in the cocoon they emerge as adult fleas and come to the surface and look for a chicken to feed off. They will also feed off other types of poultry, native birds and even dogs, cats and horses. It has been reported to affect humans.
These fleas are different from other fleas in that they stay attached to their host for the remainder of their life cycle. They bury their mouths in the host and breathe through their bodies.
The best way to break the life cycle is with a concrete floor. The larvae must build their cocoons in deep litter. The poultry must nest above the ground at night. Do not bring in affected birds and keep down the rats and mice as stickfast fleas also use these as hosts.
The adults can be suffocated with Vaseline, and or a 0.5% solution of Maldison. Use a spray bottle and spray it on the birds. Poultry Dust also contains Maldison and can be used on individual birds by shaking it over them. If you have a lot of birds you can put them in a chaff sack a couple at a time and sprinkle the Poultry Dust into the bag.
To clean the cages remove all the litter and lose items and burn them. Then spray the shed with a 3% solution of Maldison. Pay particular attention to cracks and crevices.
Repeat the procedure until infestation has been controlled. You may need to do this weekly.