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Dealing with Chicken Mites

21-Jan-2014 | Contributed by: Guest Author

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Chicken on lawn

Red mites are commonly found in the coops of birds that are allowed to free-range, while the northern fowl mite is more commonly found amongst caged layers. All birds should be regularly inspected for both varieties.

New Zealand chickens are commonly affected by two different types of mites: the northern fowl mite, and the red mite. They can be difficult to spot until an infestation is well underway, so it is important to check your flock regularly.

The Northern Fowl Mite

Common among hens in a cage system, or hens that are permanently housed, the northern fowl mite lives on the birds, feeding on their blood. Check for them at the base of feathers, particularly near the vent, which is where mite eggs are laid. They are grey or brown in colouring, and can be found on your birds at any time of day.

The northern fowl mite can cause skin irritation and anaemia. Look for signs of being lethargic, not eating, and pale combs. Mites are transmitted easily from bird to bird, so your entire flock will need to be treated if you have an infestation. Use a dusting powder specifically for mites to treat your flock.

The Red Mite

While the northern fowl mite lives on the chickens, the red mite lives in the coop, coming out at night to feed on the birds while they are sleeping. They live in small dark spaces, so check your hen house’s cracks and crevices for any sign of the mites. Under perches, in timber joints, and corners of the coop are where these mites hide.

Your birds may become reluctant to go into their coop at night, and you may notice a build-up of grey dust in the coop. If untreated, your birds may become anaemic, so look out for signs of lethargy and pale combs. Their skin will probably become irritated too.

The best time to look for red mites is early in the morning, as they will have just fed and will have a distinctive red colour.

There are a number of red mite products that can be used for both prevention and treatment, but red mites are notoriously hard to get rid of once an infestation occurs. Give the entire coop a thorough clean, using a product like Poultry Shield, and focussing on any places that mites may be hiding. Once clean, use a mite powder in the same areas, and in nesting boxes and floor litter.

To prevent both northern fowl mites and red mites, provide your hens with the ability to regularly dust bath, regularly clean out the coop, and do monthly bird and chicken coop inspections.

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