Red mite can become the bane of the poultry keeper, especially in Summer months. One day you notice your flock a little more lethargic than usual and soon they are refusing to return to bed at night and perhaps perching on top of the coop instead of inside. You wonder what on earth is wrong?
Identifying a Red Mite Problem
Unexplained lethargy in the flock, unusual sleeping habits, sudden cessation of egg laying, or worst case scenario hens passing away, can all be signs of a red mite infestation.
It is a good idea to regularly check your flock over for signs of lice and mites in any event, but you also need to have a good look over your housing and runs too to find red mite. They live in the nooks and crannies of the coop, as opposed to on the chickens themselves (like ticks and other lice and mite do) and they come out at night – so this is your best time to check.
Take a torch and a clean piece of kitchen roll out to the coop. First take a look along the perches and crevices and see if you can spot any red mite on these. Then rub the kitchen roll around the bars and crevices and if red mites are present you will have red smears on the paper.
Treating Red Mite
As with all things poultry related prevention is better than cure. So it is a good idea to treat the house with preventative treatments. We use diatomaceous earth (DE) as part of the weekly clean, along with Stalosan F. When cleaning out make sure all perches and crevices and fully dusted. Both of these treatments are poultry safe and can be incorporated quickly and easily into the weekly clean out.
If you find you already have an infestation you will need to work hard to get rid of them. In times gone past people were able to treat the houses with creosote, which with a yearly painting would keep away nasties such as red mite. However, laws have changed and you can no longer use this. The new substitutes just don’t work as well. The poultry forums have often had people having to resort to burning the old house and then building new housing for their flock to rid the problem!Your first step now is to completely clean the house. Getting a slurry using DE and something like Stalosan F or Poultry Shield into every crevice of the coop. Then dust with a specific Red Mite powder such as Barrier Red Mite Powder. Dust this again in all crevices and the fresh bedding. You will want to clean out more regularly too – ideally every three days repeating this.
It can take a few weeks to rid the infestation even with this diligent cleaning regime. If after a month you have not cleared the problem your best option is to replace the housing – either that or the flock will become seriously ill the longer they are attacked by the mite at night.
Further Articles on Poultry Illnesses & Ailments
- Bumblefoot in Chickens – A Guide to Bumblefoot
- Crop Problems in Chickens – Chicken Crop Problems
- Impacted or Bound Crop in Chickens – A Guide
- Keeping Chickens Healthy – A Guide
- Poisonous Plants Toxic to Poultry – North America
- Red Mite – Identifying & Treating Red Mite
- Sour Crop in Chickens – A Guide
- Vent Prolapse in Hens – Prolapse of the Cloaca