Chicken mites can be the worst fear of someone who raises chickens. There are different kinds of mites that can affect poultry, and all of them are undesirable from the point of view of both the chicken and the owner! We are going to talk about ways that you can identify a chicken mite infestation and how you can get rid of them.
There are two major types of mites that plague chickens: the northern fowl mite and the red mite. Mites get their nourishment by feeding off of the blood of chickens. You could imagine how uncomfortable this is for the chicken! Unfortunately, mites are not big on manners and have no problem imposing on their host not for just one meal, but a lifetime! A mite infestation can progress for nearly a year without a host, which means that an infestation can spread from one flock to another by crates or even feathers that haven’t been used in months.
The life cycle of chicken mites can be as small as ten days or as long as several months. While that doesn’t sound so bad in itself, one has to consider the amount of eggs that each female will lay. One female can lay around 32 eggs in her lifetime—now multiply that over the number of females in one small colony and you have a veritable swarm! After only two or three days, the eggs hatch and new mites emerge. Chicken mites are nocturnal in nature. This means that they are most active during the night time, when they feed upon the chickens. During the day time the mites craw into cracks or bedding, which can make detection of an infestation a little trickier.
The best way to identify a mite infestation is to inspect your chickens and their bedding during the night time. Use a flashlight to do this. The insects can be grey, white, or red in color depending on the stage of life the mites are in. The chickens’ feathers will also begin to take on a grayish hue towards the base of the feathers, which is caused by a buildup of feces from the mites. The first place you should look on your chicken is on the rump where the hens lay their eggs and a similar spot on the rump of the roosters. The ears and thigh areas are also very common places for mites to frequent.
Aside from giving the chickens’ environment a thorough inspection, there are also signs that may crop up in your chickens’ behavior. In most poultry, an infestation of mites can make a chicken appear depressed or sulky. If you don’t know your chickens’ personalities well enough to determine what is out of the ordinary, then try concentrating on the overall pallor of the birds’ feathers. Do they seem a little on the pale side? This is another indication that the birds could be dealing with a mite infestation.
A serious concern with chicken mites isn’t just the discomfort that it can cause the birds, but the health risk that mites can impose. A chicken can die in as little as three days from a severe mite infestation. This is largely due to anemia. Anemia is basically another term for low red blood cell count. This makes the chickens lethargic or unable to function normally and will eventually damage the brain and heart until the chickens can no longer go on living.
To get rid of chicken mites, you’ll need to treat the bird’s feathers with a flea and tick mist/dust. You may have to repeat this step several more times or as recommended on the instructions of the dust. This will kill off any survivors and keep the mites from repopulating. You will also need to take special care treating the area with a pesticide like Seven Dust. Make sure to get into the cracks and crevices of the environment and thoroughly clean any bedding.
Whether your chicken is a pet or a farm animal, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the animal remains in good health. Be sure to take any ill chickens to the veterinarian if they appear to be suffering despite your attempts to treat the mite infestation. While it does take a certain amount of perseverance to clear out a mite infestation, it can be done!