Objective. Ornithonyssus sylviarum (northern fowl mite) and Menacanthus stramineus (chicken body louse) are key poultry pests currently controlled by exclusion or pesticide application. We studied how host beak condition affected their populations over time and how the lice and mites might interact on a host. Methods. Beak-trimmed or beak-intact white leghorn hens were infested initially with either mites or lice and subsequently challenged using the alternate ectoparasite species (reciprocal transfer), while other hens harboured only the initial ectoparasite species. Results. Beak-trimmed hens had far higher ectoparasite numbers relative to beak-intact hens, and the 2 ectoparasites showed evidence of grooming-mediated competitive asymmetry. On beak-trimmed hens, larger numbers of lice quickly nearly completely excluded mites in competition for enemy-free space (lower abdomen), while in the reciprocal transfer mites did not affect louse numbers on beak-trimmed hosts. The 2 ectoparasites co-existed on beak-intact hens, which were better able to defend the lower abdomen habitat by grooming. Conclusion. Lice are somewhat less damaging and much easier to control relative to mites, and might be used to eliminate mites in commercial, beak-trimmed flocks. Beak trimming impairs host grooming and contributes greatly to the high ectoparasite populations seen in commercial flocks. The study adds incentives for poultry breeders to develop more docile hen strains that can be held without beak trimming. This has advantages both to welfare advocates and producers who may no longer need to use insecticides for pest control or be concerned about worker exposure to pesticides.