These little mites are nothing short of tenacious, they are survivors making them tricky to get rid of. As with most things, prevention is better than cure!
Red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) are blood sucking ectoparasites that infest and feed on chickens and turkeys. They can be brought in by wild birds, new additions to your flock, 2nd hand equipment/coops. The red mite life cycle from egg to adult mite takes just 7 to 10 days, therefore it’s important to keep checking on a weekly basis.
They can even survive 6-8 months without a blood feed.
Despite their name they are a yellow/grey/brown and turn a bright red once they have fed on blood from hens, then turning darker red once digested.
At 0.6mm-1mm in size they are only just visible to the naked eye.
They thrive in the warmer summer months but can strike at any time.
Being Nocturnal, they hide in cracks and crevices of coops/sheds during the day then come out at night to crawl up the birds’ legs, through the feathers and take a feed of blood. After feeding they return to their hiding places to digest the blood meal and breed and they breed prolifically!
If you have chicks please be aware they are very susceptible to a mite infestation. The saliva from red mite is toxic to chicks.
The mites can also crawl up onto human skin and cause irritation, but do not live on humans.
How do you know if you have them??
Firstly, best to regularly check for them, be on alert especially during the warmer months so that you are ahead of the game.
Check the ends of perches, nest boxes and all cracks and crevices/ wood joins.
* Although it is thought plastic coops cannot harbour red mites this is sadly untrue and many people have found infestations in their plastic coops, they are of course easier to clean and can often be taken apart easier than wooden coops.
You may feel itchy when you have been in with the hens.
Mites droppings look like a fine ash so look out for grey ash looking deposits in the corners and under perches etc.
Tips to check for these unwanted guests..
~Check coop after dark with a torch
~Use a sheet of white paper run this along perches you will see red marks on it if mites are present.
~Place a piece of material in the corner of coop or in a nest box or around the end of the perches to entice mites to hide in the folds. If you have an infestation you will likely see evidence mites the next morning, after a night of feeding on the hens. You must destroy or dispose of the infected material (burnt or double bagged in bin)
Signs/Symptoms show by hens
- Birds may be restless and not want to go in the coop at night
- Change of perching habits
- May cause anaemia (pale comb and wattles) and potentially death
- Loss of condition
- Drop in egg production
- Blood spots on eggs
There are a number of treatment options as mentioned earlier prevention is better than cure, so keeping an all year round treatment plan in place is best.
Regularly checking your birds and coop – treating both with DE Diatomaceous Earth powder (Food Grade) (remaining cautious to keep dust levels of DE low)
Great for lice prevention also is filling a bucket with DE and popping each hen in one at a time in a well ventilated area dusting around the vent area and under wings. Or having DE in a pillow case popping the body area of hen in with her head sticking out of the pillow case and dust that way to minimize them and you breathing in the dust. Or you can buy an empty ketchup bottle from Amazon which works well as louse/mite powder puffers.
When cleaning out your hen housing you can also treat nest boxes,nooks and crannies with DE powder also.
A cheap and effective treatment is a homemade recipe that many people use with great success.
You will need a jug, cooking oil, washing up liquid, water and a spray bottle.
250 ml of cooking oil and 250ml of water with 2 table spoons of washing up liquid mixed together in spray bottle then, when chickens are out of the coop spray surfaces, corners, wood joins nooks and crannies. People get best results repeating daily or at least every 2-3 days until they all die and it ends the life cylce. Then keep up weekly as a preventative.
Other products to look up are
Androlis predator mites – These are natural and environmentally friendly. Red mites and their eggs become the androlis mites food source they will kill all stages in the cycle of your mite infestations (they also feed on northern fowl mite) Predator mites are not harmful to you or your hens – Available from www.dragonfli.co.uk and now from www.chickenvet.co.uk
Dergall – is also another non toxic product, its effective against red mite, northern fowl mite and scaly leg mite too. Its concentrated liquid which needs making up fresh for each use and treatment repeated 5-7 days when infestation is present and every 4 weeks during the hotter months as a preventative..The Dergall solution works to immobilise the mites and can reduce the population within 72 hours. – available from www.chickenvet.co.uk
Red stop solution – this is available online and goes into your flocks water, it makes the blood attractive and indigestible to the mites they will die off from starvation. Its a natural product made from plants and herbs, approved for organic farming and no egg withdrawal. Dose rate 1ml per 1 litre of drinking water.
There are lots of products available to buy offline or from feed stores ie Smite red mite products,Nettex and Diatom powder etc
If the infestation is out of hand you can seek advice from your vet for ivermectin drops. They are not licensed for food producing animals with that there is no official information on eggs withdrawal period.
If you have had an infestation you can look at Agrivite Poultry Mite Rescue Remedy. This is a supplement to support your flock and aid recovery from a red mite attack containing a wide selection of vitamins and minerals..
Here is an informative video from Surrey Poultry Vets – https://www.surreypoultryvet.co.uk/post/reducing-red-mites-hens-hints-webinar
This information is not intended to replace veterinary help, but to offer general advice from our experience. Its not possible online to take into account individual circumstances. If you are concerned about the health/welfare of your flock or individual hen please seek further advice and assistance from your vet.