Do my chickens have mites and how do I get rid of them?

Feb 14, 2018

What are Red Mites?

Red mites are small bugs that are generally spread by wild birds coming into contact with your chicken coop. They hide in the dark spots of the chicken coop during the day and then come out at night to feed on your feathered friends. They’ll go hide again when the sun comes up. 




How do I know if my chickens have mites?

To identify whether your hens have red mites or not, you’ll have to have a close look at your chickens feathers and skin. If you can see black and red small spots, then these are most likely red mites. The tiny mites vary in appearance, depending on when they last fed – a mite is only red when it has consumed blood recently and changes colour again through black to grey if it has been a while since their last feed. The best time to examine a hen house is at night, when the mites can often be seen with the aid of a torch, both on and off the bird.

How red mites affect your chickens

If left untreated, the mites can cause your chickens to become anaemic and reduce their egg production. In extreme cases if left untreated, they may even cause death, so quick treatment is necessary!

How to prevent red mites

Keep the coop clean, and make sure you have a good look in all the dark corners and joins in timber etc. Red mites hide in the corners of your hen house or nest box bedding during the day. If you find any tiny red crawlies then wash your coop thoroughly with high pressure hose or water blaster. Once dry dust with Smite.If you are introducing new birds to the flock, check them for mites before you put them in your chicken coop to ensure they don’t transfer any mites to your existing feathered friends.Chickens need an area for dust bathing, even if they’re in a coop full time. This is the best prevention for lice and mites.



How to treat red mites

The chickens:

Ensure you are treating your chickens at night, as this is when the mites will come out from the coop and feed on the chickens. You can give them a dust of Smite Powder, which should dehydrate the mites and effectively kill them (this is also harmless to the chickens).  Smite Powder can also be mixed with water at the rate of 4 tablespoons of Smite Powder to 1 gallon (4.5lt) of water and sprayed onto the areas to be treated. As the powder doesn’t dissolve the mixture should be shaken or agitated frequently to ensure the
mixture is consistent. The addition of 1 tablespoon of mild detergent (such as washing-up liquid) to the mixture will help to keep the powder in suspension and distribute it further into cracks and crevices. 




The coop:

Give the chicken coop a very thorough clean – perches, nesting boxes, walls, floors and everything in between! Make sure you thoroughly dispose of the bedding as well, do not save it for the compost. Once the coop has been scrubbed clean, spray it with a high pressure hose, ensuring you hose out every crack and corner. For serious infestations hot water is very effective but obviously difficult unless you have access to a hot water blaster. Let the coop dry in the sun for 10 minutes, and then have a look for any mites crawling out of their hiding places, if you see any then give it a second spray.

Then, give the coop’s dark nooks and crannies a generous sprinkle with some Smite Powder or diatomaceous earth. Make sure that when you apply these, that they do not get wet – they will not be as effective. Wearing a set of gloves and also dust masks is advisable – these powders aren’t toxic, but it is a fine powder, so you don’t want it up your nose.

Put a handful of Smite Organic Mite Powder into your hand and rub it into each perch, taking particular care around the ends and the underside. When you have finished it should be white and smooth, like a gymnasts bar. Red mites have to crawl over this to get to the chickens at night.

Monitor the house for a few days, particularly on perch ends and re-apply diatom to the perches every couple of days or as soon as it starts to wear off.

If you don't want to use Smite painting or staining your hen house can help get rid of red mite infestations. Make sure your paint or oil based wood stain gets right into the joins of the timber where red mites are likely to be hiding.

Important tips to remember:

  • Keep the coop clean, and make sure you get all the dark corners and hidden spots.
  • Quarantine new birds and check them for any mites before introducing them to the flock.
  • Smite/diatomaceous earth/other safe insecticides are your best friends!
  • Chickens need an area for dust bathing, even if they’re in a coop full time. This is the best prevention for lice and mites.

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