Mites - Chicken Pests - How To Protect Your Chickens From Mites
Where do they come from?
They can be brought in via wild birds, such as starlings, sparrows, crows, swallows, etc. They can be picked up at poultry shows, sales, auctions, anywhere there is contact with other avian life. They can be carried in with rodents who enter the coops in search of food. Early intervention is necessary to prevent illness and debilitation in your flock.
How do you know what to look for?
Chicken mites are the most common. They live on the skin of the birds, in the nest boxes, and in the bedding. They tend to be nocturnal, and will suck blood from the chicken while it sleeps. They are very small, and initially yellow/gray in color, but will darken as they feed. Removing the chicken mite is most effectively directed at the coop than the birds themselves.
Northern fowl mites are more aggressive. They live on the bird itself, and will feed around the clock. You'll see very small red/brown insects, and discoloration of the feathers due to the eggs and waste of the mite. Controlling this mite requires that the treatment be directed at the bird.
Both of these forms of mites suck blood. If left untreated, this results in weakening, loss of appetite, emaciation, lowered egg production, lethargy, and eventually death.
The Scaly Leg Mite is a concern as well. This creature will manifest on the scales of the legs and feet. What you'll see is the lifting of the scales, and separation from the skin of the leg underneath. The legs and feet may become swollen, tender and have a discharge or exudate forming under the scales.
There are many different forms of lice that will infest poultry. Each region will have variations in which strain is the most predominate. What you will see that is common to all of them is that they are small wingless insects. They have chewing mouth parts, which differs from the sucking mouth parts of a mite. You can see a louse as it moves on the skin by parting the feathers, especially at the head, under the wings, and around the vent. Lice do not suck blood. They feed on dry skin scales and feathers. They cause irritation by the act of movement on the skin of the bird, and the action of the mouth. This, while not as direct a loss to the bird, will cause appetite loss and the resulting weakness, lowered egg production, and susceptibility to illness.
Treatment for all of the above pests must be undertaken to prevent loss to the flock. There are many products on the market that have been effective for this. Products such as Sevin dust have been used effectively on both coops and directly on the birds. This is a Carbaryl based insecticide that will directly kill the existing mites. Re-treatment is usually necessary due to the eggs that will hatch and reinfest the birds and coop. Orange Guard is effective organic non-toxic treatment for the coop itself, but cannot be used directly on the birds. All will respond to pour-on medications, such as Eprinex.
In addition to the above, Scaly leg mites can be treated with a direct contact treatment. Petrolatum jelly, vegetable, mineral, linseed oil are effective when directly applied to the legs and repeated every two days till scales are smooth again. Adding 1 part kerosene to two parts oil has been noted to be effective as well.
Prevention of mite and louse infestation is difficult. Early detection remains the best way to control these pests. Keeping the coops and bedding clean and fresh, periodic scrubbing of the coop and nesting boxes with soap and water, and regular inspecting of your flock to catch the problem before harm is done to the chickens.
Reference credit and thanks to :
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Kansas State University
Graphic at top: North Carolina Pest Management Information
Learn how to protect your flock from Chicken Pests