CHICKEN MITES – HOW TO CHECK AND TREAT
The mites that infest chickens generally are not usually ones that will be able to live on humans on a long-term basis, but they can bite people which often results in a skin irritation in the area. Chicken mites can, however, be very harmful to your chickens. They can cause ill health and a drop in egg production. The good news is, you can get rid of them.
How do chicken mites infest chickens?
You may have a brand-new coop, clean
bedding and never had mites before but still get mites. Mites can be carried on
your clothing, shoes and even yourself. They can be carried by rodents and wild
birds. You might have a visitor that brings a mite or two along with them. You and
your birds can even pick up mites at shows and exhibitions.
What types of mites infest chickens?
Some of the most common mites to infest chickens include scaly leg mites, northern fowl mite, depluming mite, red roost mite and tropical fowl mite. The mites can be red, brown or pale grey in colour and are very small and generally difficult to spot.
Northern fowl mites
Northern fowl mites are quite common and can cause skin irritation and even anaemia in birds. The chickens may look scruffy and unhappy and develop bald spots. Egg production will fall and your chickens can even die from anaemia if not treated.
Red Roost mites
Red Roost mites are hard to get rid of as they can hide in any little nook or corner in the coop. They tend to feed at night and may be hard to spot in the day. Severe infestations may be impossible to eradicate from a coop and you may have to replace the entire coop and all it’s contents after treating your chickens. These mites cause local irritation. They can also cause a drop in egg production but don’t generally cause fatalities.
Scaly leg mites
Scaly leg mites can be found on many types of birds, not just chickens. These mites burrow under the leg scales and feed on the keratin. Scaly leg mites cause a lot of pain and irritation to the bird. These mites can also infect the wattles and combs.
Depluming mites are similar to the scaly leg mite but instead of burrowing under the leg scales, they burrow in to the shaft of the feathers. These mites also cause the bird pain and can lead to plucking.
Tropical fowl mites
Tropical fowl mites can infest birds
and humans. They are often passed on from wild birds. They can also cause your
chickens to be unhappy, look tatty and reduce egg production. Chickens may look
tatty and may pluck or over preen in an attempt to rid themselves of the
How do you get rid of chicken mites?
There are natural and chemical treatments to get rid of chicken mites. While there is no guarantee that the natural remedies work, many people swear by them.
Recommended insecticide and mite deterrent herbs include wormwood, mint, lavender and lemon balm. They also make the coop smell good. Some people recommend garlic as a deterrent as well.
For scaly leg mites, Vaseline is recommended treatment to suffocate the mite under the scales. This has to be done repetitively though. Neem oil in the crevices, nest boxes and perches is said to kill mites. Make sure your chickens are not allowed back in to the coop until everything is totally dry. Some people use Pestene although there are links to side effects such as Parkinson’s disease in humans.
There are also treatments which contain naturally occurring soil bacteria that are toxic to insects with no known side effects for humans or poultry. Some people use Diatomaceous Earth to control lice and mites.
Chemical treatments include
Ivermectin which should only be used as recommended by a vet. Do not use eggs
from the chickens for 2 weeks after treatment with Ivermectin. Sevin is widely
used but it can have some toxicity for humans and mammals as well. Many other
insecticides containing organophosphates have the same problem (Coumaphos,
Tetrachlovinphos and dichlorvos for example).
How can you prevent mite infestations?
Prevent wild birds and rodents from getting in to your coops and cover runs with a bird mesh to prevent them getting in to the area your chickens are in. Provide your chickens with a dust bath to allow them to naturally get rid of pests. Avoid having excess food lying around which encourages rodents and mammals to come to the coop in search of food. Try planting some of the strong-smelling herbs around your coop as a natural deterrent.
Avoid having plenty visitors to your flock, especially people that have a lot of dealings with birds and animals. If people do visit your flock, use of foot covering and even a protective overcoat is recommended. Have a separate set of clothing you wear only for working with your flock. Don’t visit your flock after being to a show or visiting people with birds until you have changed your clothing. Keep your coop, drinkers and feeders clean. Check your chickens regularly especially in summer.
Isolate any new birds for 2 weeks or longer before being introduced to the flock so that you can check them thoroughly and ensure they are not carrying chicken mites or diseases. This is really “Biosecurity 101” for all poultry related health issues,
Prevention is better than cure because it can be very difficult to get rid of chicken mites once they have infested your coop. Even with the best care, there is still a possibility of contracting mites. Make sure you check your birds regularly and treat a potential infestation immediately.
Isolate infected birds as far as possible. Treat the entire coop, all birds and the general environment if you find an infestation. Destroy all bedding (burn, do not compost it) and clean the coop with a bird safe disinfectant. If you have an infestation that causes other health conditions, get advice from your vet on ways to boost their health while they are being treated.