Chicken Mites are also known as red, gray, and roost mites. They can live in the human home. They can also lead to anemia, causing pale wattle and combs. Sometimes chickens will refuse to lay in nesting boxes infested with mites. They easily kill young chickens and broody hens. As they are nocturnal, you will not find them on your chickens during the day. Instead, during daylight hours, they hide in the nooks and crannies of your coop. Once laid, they grow to adulthood by day 10. They can live in a vacant chicken coop for up to 5 months. They can survive that long without a host.
So what can you do? First, it is important to assess your flock for mites once a week in the summertime. Hot weather helps mites proliferate. I found this handy mite reference below. This test should be done for each chicken in your flock. While holding your bird, blow on the feathers to reveal the skin and count how many mites you see. This will give you an idea of your infestation level. Here is a detailed post on how to check for mites and what they look like.
5 mites counted = possible infestation per chicken 100 to 300 mites
6 mites counted = possible infestation per chicken 300 to 1,000 mites (considered light infestation)
7 mites counted = possible infestation per chicken 1,000 to 3,000 mites – tiny clumps of mites seen on the skin and feathers (considered moderate infestation)
8 mites counted = possible infestation per chicken 3,000 to 10,000 mites – very visible mite population seen on skin and feathers (considered moderate to heavy infestation)
9 mites counted = possible infestation per chicken 10,000 to 32,000 or greater quantity of mites – many large clumps present on skin and feathers accompanied with scabbing (considered heavy infestation)
Prevention is always key. Here are some tips to prevent mites from harming your flock:
1. Keep a clean coop. Do a deep cleaning of your entire coop.
2. Utilize products such as food grade diatomaceous earth and nesting box blend in the coop and nesting boxes. Plant fresh pest repelling herbs around the coop and run or dry them for your boxes. Learn all about chicken safe and beneficial herbs here and how to dry them.
3. Treat any affected birds.
- Dust your flock, coop, and nesting boxes with food grade diatomaceous earth. Cover your mouth and nose to avoid inhaling the dust products and also avoid the head of your chickens.
- Permethrin Click here for use.( there is an egg/meat with drawl period with its use). One study did show that after application on poultry, Permethrin was still detected in the eggs at 21 days and at 42 days for meat, so do use caution and enforce an egg and meat withdrawal periods for you own safety. UPDATE 10/2014: Hi Yield Garden Pet and Livestock dust’s active ingredient is Permethrin. There is an egg withdrawl period with it’s use.
4. Promote your flock to take dust baths.
5. You can also carefully dust your chickens with food grade diatomaceous earth avoiding both their faces and yours. Take caution to avoid breathing in the dust.
6. Dust your roosting poles with food grade diatomaceous earth.
Some people use the food grade diatomaceous earth or wood ashes to treat mite infestations. Poultry Protector is also another easy natural technique to treat the mites.
Avoid applying Frontline products or similar topical pest repellent products used on dogs and cats. Studies have shown that these chemicals are present in the eggs and dairy products when used on livestock. There are other options. I myself would not want to eat those eggs or feed them to my family.
Please visit this past post for photos, detailed tips on cleaning your coop and using diatomaceous earth with your flock.
Now, go check your flock!
Information for this post as well as more information on mites can be found here.