I checked my chickens over for mites this past weekend. Mites are nasty little things, almost microscopic to the eye, that can take both mental and physical tolls on your chickens. As the weather warms, these tiny little invaders will take every chance they can to steal a meal from your chickens. When I first learned of them, I realized that I did indeed have a few little mite families living in the corners of my coop! How dare they! I never saw them on my chickens but I sprang to action and have continued on a prevention schedule. I have not seen mites since!
Check your flock first. Mites like to hang out on the fluffy bottoms of chickens. You will most likely notice them at the base of the feathers closest to the skin. My chickens do not have mites, but I did find these two pictures on the internet. This is what to look for:
Chickens take dust baths to ward off pests and mites. However, sometimes they need a little help. I have chosen an organic method of prevention and treatment. I use organic food grade diatomaceous earth (DE). Carefully avoiding their eyes, I dust my birds under their wings and on their fluffy bottoms on a biweekly basis. I also dust the nooks and crannies of their coop with DE, and dust their perches and roosts inside too. Sometimes I even add it directly into their dust bath pot holes in the run.
If you find that your flock is already afflicted with mites, I would suggest treating each chicken with the DE and then thoroughly cleaning out the inside of your coop. The mites like to hide in corners and crevices. Mites wait until the chickens are sleeping and then climb up their legs and feed on their blood at night! Yuck! Lock your flock out of the coop after you treated each chicken. In a one gallon bucket create a soapy bleach solution by adding warm water, a couple of capfuls of bleach and a bit of Dawn dish detergent. Scour the inside of the coop and all of the roosts. If you can, remove the roosts and give them a good scrub. Allow the coop to air dry and then apply DE to every nook and crannies that you see. The Pest Pistol works great for this. Be sure to sprinkle some in the nesting boxes too.
Within a few days your chickens should be feeling better. Be sure to continue to inspect your flock on a weekly basis if possible. A little prevention goes a long way.