Who knew chickens had fleas?

Published 6:07 pm Tuesday, July 4, 2023

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On June 6, Greenville resident Joyce Till stopped by the Greenville Newspapers, Inc. office to show us an ad clipping a family member sent her. The advertisement for H.M. Cooper store in Milligan, Florida, advertised a recipe to cure chicken fleas at the bargain price of 50 cents.

The ad ran in The Greenville Advocate on May 17, 1893. At the time, 50 cents was a goodly amount, so the money back guarantee surely helped sell the product.

Our staff was amused and delighted to view the clipping. However, I was left with a nagging question, “Who knew chickens had fleas?”

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Growing up in and around north Crenshaw County, I never owned livestock, but I knew people who did. They never mentioned chicken fleas. Our dogs had fleas. Were they the same? Did fleas infest both dogs and birds? Inquiring minds wanted to know.

According to Entomology Today, chickens may, in fact, carry mites, lice, and fleas. Chicken fleas are dark brown and flat, like those found on the family dog, but the adults embed in the skin of the face of the chickens. Like other fleas, they cause stress and sometimes death in young birds.

And, like a dog’s fleas, they can infest other pets, including the dog, and also people.

For several months I have been slowly working toward building a backyard chicken flock. The run and coop are ready, albeit slightly damaged from recent storms. We have been acquiring equipment and asking around for advice about breeds, flock care, feeding, and all the usual chicken information.

Never had I considered my soon-to-be flock will also require flea treatments.

H.M. Cooper no longer operates a store in Milligan. I checked, because I wondered if they still offered that world famous chicken flea treatment. At 50 cents, it would be quite the bargain today.

And, when doing my poultry research, I wished I could ask my mother, who grew up on a working farm and played with all the baby pigs, puppies, and chickens. I bet she knew they had fleas and I also imagine she knew how to cure them.

All of us can look back on history, and still find information relevant today. Thanks to Mrs. Till’s 1893 advertisement, chicken flea treatment is on my growing list of backyard chicken flock supplies.