Chickens With Mites

One of the biggest problems facing breeders during warm weather months Is how to deal with chickens with mites. During long periods of wet, warm weather, the risk of mite infestation rises as mites relocate into the skin of a bird where they can feed off their blood and be more comfortable in the heat.

When they’re not feeding, they hide in nests, cracks, crevices, and surrounding litter. The parasites attack chickens at night mainly along their underside (vent, breasts, feet, and legs) when they have roosted, and hide in the coop during daylight.

How Mites Survive on Chickens

Mites survive by sucking blood from poultry, causing harm to chickens as a result. For this reason, farmers are encouraged to take actionable steps to prevent mite infestations and ensure the safety of their investment. Mites are typically transmitted when mites-carrying wild birds come into contact with chickens.

Signs of Mites in Chicken

Blood-sucking mites can affect poultry in many ways, leaving noticeable signs that can include:  

  • A decrease in egg production. Continued mite infestation could impact on poultry health, leaving birds in a stressed and weakened state with decreased feeding motivation. As a natural response, undue stress and poor nutrition cause hens to lay fewer eggs.
  • Feather Loss. Chicken molting or mites can cause chickens to lose their feathers. As bugs bite and suck blood, this causes pain and itching, forcing chickens to bite at the affected area. The constant scratching and feather-ruffling from the discomfort can damage plumage and cause injury to chicken skin.
  • Scabby legs and feet. Often, scaly leg mites, which live under the scales of a chicken’s legs or feet, burrow into the skin, causing significant discomfort and distress to birds. This condition ultimately leads to serum discharge and tissue cell multiplication, which, in turn, triggers the lifting of scales and thickened legs.
  • Pale Wattles and Combs. Mites feeding on a chicken can result in blood loss anemia. The excessive blood loss causes chicken combs and wattles to turn pale.
  • Blood spots on eggs. Filled with flesh, the vent area is a favorite hunting ground for mites and other parasites. When mites infest the vent, they cause irritation and discomfort that force chickens to peck at their vent, leaving the area bloodied and swollen. Sometimes, the area can become prolapsed, resulting in specks of blood on eggs as the birds lay.

In addition to the aforementioned, mite infestations make chickens:

  • vulnerable to other poultry diseases
  • possibly kills them
  • lead to an increased incidence of defective eggs
  • negatively impact poultry feed conversion ratio

To protect your birds from the tiny crawling external parasites and their attendant dangers, you have to treat them frequently and take proactive steps to avoid or lessen potential problems.

How to Treat Mites On Chickens

If you suspect that mites have infested your chickens, take some time to examine them individually to see if there are any clumps of parasites on their feathers or skin so that you can be sure you’re dealing with a mite infestation. It’s advisable to check them at night since that’s when mites come out from hiding to feast on poultry blood.

If you notice any signs of mites roaming around your bird’s feathers, you can take the following steps to deal with the problem:

  • A safe and effective approach you can adopt to treat chickens with mites is to use a natural product such as the Diatomaceous Earth Powder or Pestene powder to dust your flock thoroughly. Both products pose no risk of harm to you, your chickens, or their habitat, and will kill pesky pests in about three days of application. While these powders are safe to use, we would advise that you minimize skin contact by wearing protective clothing like gloves and dust masks when applying them to avoid skin or lung irritation.
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  • A safe and effective approach you can adopt to treat chickens with mites is to use a natural product such as the Diatomaceous Earth Powder or Pestene powder to dust your flock thoroughly. Both products pose no risk of harm to you, your chickens, or their habitat, and will kill pesky pests in about three days of application. While these powders are safe to use, we would advise that you minimize skin contact by wearing protective clothing like gloves and dust masks when applying them to avoid skin or lung irritation.
  • If you’re dealing with a scaly leg mite problem, you can utilize the handy Nettex Scaly Leg Remover, Barrier Scaly Leg Spray, or the Barrier Scaly Leg Ointment to get rid of mites from your bird’s legs or feet. Sprays can be applied every 4 to 5 days if you’re dealing with an existing mite infestation. If you’re looking to prevent mites from getting into the scales of your birds, you can apply the oils every one to two weeks. Using petroleum jelly on the legs is another effective solution, as it helps to smother mites by suffocating them.
  • Clean the coop. Move your chickens to a chicken tractor or secondary coop, then clear out the coop, taking out everything – including the bedding. Burn the litter right away to get rid of the mites therein. Securely double-bag all the things fire cannot burn and throw them in the bin, then use a high-pressure hose to spray the cleared coop. Sanitize all cracks and joints by pouring boiling water into them to

Going forward, it becomes necessary to take steps to prevent further occurrences of such mite infestations in the future by acting proactively. 

  • Always keep an eye on your chickens and try as much as possible to keep them from mixing up with wild birds that may be carrying mites. Another way to achieve this is to keep your chicken feed in a safe and secure place where it won’t get contaminated and destroy any active wild birds nest from your environment.
  • Use herbs like mint and lavender in chicken bedding to repel mites.
  • Thoroughly dust your chickens dust bath spot in your chicken run or in the coop bedding (if you use the deep litter technique) with diatomaceous earth or Pestene powder.
  • Deep-clean chicken coop every six months.
  • Add garlic or garlic juice to chickens’ feed to put mites off, as they usually don’t like the taste of garlic in birds’ blood. Besides ensuring controlled exposure to parasites, garlic also helps strengthen immunity to diseases.
  • Examine chickens regularly to identify and deal with potential mite problems before they become an infestation. Carefully check chicken vents and underwings, as they can be an early hunting ground for mites.
  • Quarantine new chickens and check them for any mites before you introduce them to the flock.

Even if just one chicken has mites, we encourage that you treat the entire flock to kill latent mite eggs that may not be visible at the time of treatment.

Chemical Treatments for Chickens with Mites

The treatment methods outlined above are natural ones. However, as with all pests, survival is a skillset that chicken mites have mastered too well. So if all else fails, chemicals can be a fallback option for dealing with poultry mites.

We strongly recommend using protective gloves and face masks whenever you plan to use chemicals to treat pesky pests like chicken mites. Also, it’s advised that you put all chemicals away from children and pets after use. Avoid sprinkling chemicals on the head area of the chicken; otherwise, you might cause unintended harm.

That said, some chemical treatments you can use include:

  1. Sevin Dust. Sevin dust is a beneficial chemical for treating chicken mites and lice, but it can be very toxic to insects, particularly bees. So if you’re using this dusting agent, you will do well to keep it from beehives, small mammals, and children.
  2. Ivermectin. Ivermectin is a highly potent chemical specially designed for the treatment of diseases like scabies, head lice, and bed bugs in humans. However, it’s also useful in getting rid of mites from chickens. After administration, the chemical is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it works by poisoning pests that bite into the treated blood. It works in the same way in poultry. Ivermectin can be toxic to kittens, waterfowl, and some dog species. So it’s essential to keep it as far away from pets and waterfowl as possible. Since the chemical is not exclusively for poultry use, it’s advisable to administer Ivermectin under the supervision of a veterinarian. Also, egg withhold from Ivermectin can occur for up to 14 days.
  3. Permethrin. Permethrin is one of the most effective drugs you’ll find anywhere when for the treatment of chickens with mites. The drug paralyzes and kills mites and their eggs, leaving your chicken completely parasites free. Permethrin is toxic to fish and cats, so you might want to keep it in a safe place.

Can Mites Kill Chickens?

If you suddenly lost many chickens under mysterious circumstances, chances are that you’re working out whether mites or an outbreak of avian diseases could be responsible for the deaths. Well, depending on circumstances, severe mite infestation can cause anemia in chickens due to blood loss from the skin where the mites attach themselves. And this can have severe consequences for chickens.

The blood loss causes affected chickens to become deficient in healthy red blood cells, which contain hemoglobin that helps to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide within the body. Usually, when old red blood cells reach the end of their average life span or become damaged, they’re replaced by fresh ones. Anemia slows the ability of chickens to carry out this vital function as quickly as necessary.  

As more and more blood is lost, chickens become weakened and lose appetite, and begin to lose weight. If this continues for longer, it could kill the chicken. Besides, anemia makes chickens susceptible to other diseases, which could affect a bird’s health and end its life prematurely. So, in case you were wondering whether mites kill chickens, yes, they do, if left untreated.

Can Humans Get Mites from Chickens?

Although mites only parasitize chickens, they can bite humans and cause a skin irritation known as pruritic dermatitis. However, it doesn’t get worse than that. It’s also possible for chicken mites (also called red roost mite) to transfer to the house by sticking to your shoes or clothing while tending chickens, but they won’t do any more damage since they feed primarily on chickens.

How are Mites Different from Lice?

Mites and lice are both external parasites that depend on their host for some or all of their nourishment. If you want to deal with these parasites effectively, it’s crucial to be able to understand their make up and tell them apart.

What are Mites in Chickens

Mites are small, wingless, sometimes microscopic organisms that belong to the class Arachnida. Newly hatched mites originally come with six legs but eventually grow two more to make eight in total. Mites are general predators that survive by feeding mainly on prey but also on other foods, such as pollen when prey is absent.

Mites are dependent on temperature and need high levels of relative humidity to survive, which explains why they’re prevalent during warm, wet weather and disappear when the weather gets cold. The three types of mites that commonly affect poultry include chicken mite, northern fowl mite, and scaly leg mites.

The chicken mite is nocturnal in that it feeds on chickens mainly during the night and hides during the day. The northern fowl mite is more destructive, as it sucks blood from chickens both in the daytime and nighttime. On their part, scaly leg mites attack chicken scales and feet.

What are Poultry Lice

Lice are wingless, six-leg insect ectoparasites that spend their entire life cycle on a prey. Unlike mites, which are velvety red in appearance, lice are straw-colored. While there are different kinds of poultry lice, the body louse infests chickens the most, attacking them in their vents, breasts, and thighs.

Final Words

Mites can be challenging to deal with once they’ve infested your birds. So you must take preventive measures to keep them away or limit their impact.

Always keep an eye on your flock and examine them from time to time to be sure they’re safe. This way, you can nip any potential infestation in the bud and avoid a wide-scale problem.