Red mites in Chicken - Signs and treatment

Red mites in Chicken – Signs and treatment

The red mite Dermanyssus gallinae are blood sucking ectoparasites that can infest and feed on chickens and turkeys. They can invade at any time but especially during the warmer summer months. Warmth gives the red mite the ideal conditions in which to breed so numbers can proliferate extremely quickly. Red mite can be challenging to spot unless you have a population explosion whereby they are difficult to ignore.

How do you know you have them?

Being nocturnal, they hide in crevices and joints of the poultry house during the day then emerge at night to crawl up the bird’s legs, through the feathers and take a feed of blood from your birds.

We suggest a regular check of any areas they can potentially hide so you can take action as soon as possible to prevent them impacting on your bird’s health. Alternatively have a look in the coop with a torch after dark. If you get a sheet of white paper and press any red mites you find onto it, red streaks will appear. You may also see even smaller greyish cream coloured mites, these are ones which have not yet fed. Once they have sucked a feed of blood, they turn bright red and then as they digest it the colour changes again to a reddish-brown.

Health issues

Low numbers of mites mainly cause irritation and annoyance to the chicken and their keeper, making birds restless and the keeper to have itchy skin. However, large numbers of mites can suck enough blood causing anaemia, shown by pale comb and wattles, weakness, dullness and reduced egg production. Death can occur when red mites get out of hand as so much blood is lost by the bird, they can’t survive.

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Chicks are very susceptible to a mite infestation as the saliva the mite leaves in and on the chicks skin is toxic.

The red mite lifecycle from egg to adult mite is only between seven and 10 days depending on the environmental temperature, so it is important to keep checking on a weekly basis.

The mites can also crawl up onto human skin and cause irritation, but do not live on humans.

Signs
  • Presence of grey/red mites up to 0.7mm, around vent of birds and in housing, particularly crevices.
  • Birds are often restless due to the irritation.
  • May cause anaemia (pale comb and wattles) and potentially death.
  • Loss of condition.
  • Drop in egg production.
  • Blood spots on eggs.
  • Staff/owner complaints of itching.

Treatment options

There are a number of products available for the birds and also importantly, their environment. Begin using the products early in the spring to try and prevent an infestation outbreak, or use as soon as possible after you discover you have red mites. You may need to use a three-pronged approach to eliminate them:

  • Applying to the Coop – for prevention clean your coop once a month with Chicken Vet Poultry Shield (we have this product in our stock), not only is this a good disinfectant it has also shown to be extremely effective against red mite. Once dry replace bedding and apply a liberal dusting of Chicken Vet mite powder. Alternatively use Dergall, which is a concentrated liquid, you make up fresh by diluting with water and spray onto the coop as you require it. Dergall is a nontoxic product which destroys red mites by immobilising and suffocating them. Using a Dergall spray once every two weeks throughout the summer will keep red mites under control. Dergall has the great advantage of destructing scaly leg mite and northern fowl mite and has bactericidal properties too.
  • Applying to the Bird – we recommend Chicken Vet Mite Powder(Diatomataceous earth) this can be applied to the bird, particularly paying attention to under the wings and the vent, also apply in nest boxes, rub onto the perches and even place in a cat litter tray, so birds can dust bath in it (mix with some dry earth). Ivermectin 1% spot on drops, these can only be used with one week egg withdrawal from the day of application, a repeat application 2 weeks later is recommended.
  • In the water – Chicken Vet Poultry Multivitamins are advised to be used to support the bird during a severe red mite infestation, as this a stressful time and will aid recovery; we recommend you use these for 5 days in the drinking water.
    Continue with this routine throughout the summer to reduce red mites in your hens.
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If you find your chickens and house are infested with very high numbers of red mites then you may need to carry out some additional measures and further cleaning. For example using Interkokask disinfectant, which is a multi-purpose product, after cleaning out the poultry house will also kill red mites and red mite eggs.

NOTE: If you want all or any of the following medications written in italics and in bold, we are happy to inform you that we have them in stock. you can start buying them now.

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Yours chickenly,

So Fresh Chickens
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