Bird Mites are a serious problem that is growing worldwide. Most troubling is that the medical profession still believes they don’t prey on humans. Well unfortunately they do and in fact, mites have been a plague to humans going back to days of the ancient Greek writings. Mites do turn on humans and they will ruin your life as well as your flock.
Here is a quote from a respected international scientific journal…
“The poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae De Geer 1778 is the most important ectoparasite of layers in Europe (Chauve 1998). The chicken mite is a blood-sucking parasite that can lead to high economic losses. Control and production losses in Europe have been estimated at €130 million per annum (van Emous 2006; Mul et al. 2009). Heavy infestations can lead to severe stress among the laying hens resulting in a decrease of egg production, egg quality, weight gain in young birds, and it can even cause death (Chauve 1998; Kirkwood 1967; Pospischil 2001). Furthermore, D. gallinae can act as a potential vector and reservoir for several bacterial and viral patho- gens such as Salmonella spp., Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, Pasteurella multocida, Borrelia anserina, Coxiella burnetii, chicken pox virus, Newcastle disease virus, and St. Louis encephalitis virus (Chirico et al. 2003; Lundh et al. 2005; Moro et al. 2007; Smith et al. 1945).
Control of the poultry red mite is still difficult today, especially for food producing poultry, because there is currently no registered compound available on the German market. Chicken mites are usually controlled by treating poultry houses with synthetic acaricides. Because of the repeated use of these acaricides, some have become less effective (Beugnet et al. 1997; Chauve 1998; Nordenfors et al. 2001; Mul et al. 2009).
Due to the life habits of D. gallinae, less intensive farming systems like barns, free range, and organic farming show much higher prevalence rates than cage systems. The ban of traditional cage systems for poultry in Europe by 2012, as well as the removal of acaricides from national markets due to the increase in acaricide resistance and welfare concerns, will probably increase the problems caused by the poultry red mite (Sparangano et al. 2009). “
You can also go to www.birdmite.org to learn from others whose lives have been affected by this menace.
While this is depressing as a life in hell, there is hope. We have successfully regained our lives and pushed the mites back out of home in 30 days and are close to removing them from our flock entirely. I hope that our experience can help others on this site. Raising chickens is no longer a 4H project… it is serious business that can affect your family’s lives forever unless you are prepared. I wish someone had shared his or her story with me and I might have been better prepared for the nightmare that ensued.
Steps to Rid Bird Mites (Dermanyssus Gallinea)
1) 1) Purchase some citrus enzyme at https://www.naturalginesis.com or just buy Dawn liquid soap. Mix it in a spray bottle at around a 7:1 ratio. Use it as a topical spray when you are suffering a swarm of mites. This will knock them down and allow you some temporary relief.
2) 2) Use Epson Salt in your shower and bath. Epson Salt contains sulfur, which will kill the little buggers. I had bad sores on both my legs and was suffering dearly from scratching them to the point of bleeding. My wife said take an Epson Salt bath and voilà; my sores began healing overnight… really overnight. We now keep Epson Salt in containers in the shower and routinely rub down with the salt and let it set for 30 seconds before rinsing. It will clean you right up and get them off your body, until your next exposure. Now you need them out of your environment.
3) 3) Heat Treat your coop. Bird mites die at either -4 F or 113 F / 45 C. Either way you get there, you need to kill off the hive, otherwise you will keep getting infected along with your chickens continuing to suffer. I used heat to cook the coop and had good results. I used a diesel bullet heater, an infrared thermometer and some welding blankets to blast the coop, with the chickens removed, I drove the temperature up to 140 F. I held it there for about an hour. You should go longer for really bad infestations, up to 24hrs. Keep in mind that although the coop may be 140 F deep in the crevices and bedding may be a mild 85 F. Time and temperature are the variables that will dictate how deep your temp gets. WARNING YOU COULD START A FIRE, SO PLEASE USE CAUTION AND COMMON SENSE. Keep an extinguisher around at all times and remove flammable items from area. Use steam as an alternative if possible.
4) 4) Next you need you focus on your home. Steam clean everything you own. I purchased a commercial steamer for this purpose, but an iron will due in a pinch. The key here is to use steam on everything fluffy that you own in your house. This means, cloths, pillows, carpets, couch, chair, car, shoes and anything with padding like stuffed animals, etc. must be brought to 113 F else you will just get re-infested and they will drive you nuts. They are wired to find the nest of their host and to bed close so they can feed and then leave their host. Our fluffy world is a haven for mites, hence why dust mites (which don’t bite) are also such a problem.
5) Bag up everything that cant be thoroughly steamed such as mattresses and pillows. I purchased dust mite mattress bags for all beds and even modified one for our couch until I could heat it. This is daunting since most of us have tons of stuff, but is a must to get control of the situation.
OPTIONAL – Freezing. I also purchased a commercial ice cream freezer that goes down to -50 F so we could freeze our stuff instead of steaming everything. We also use the freezer for flash freezing our vegies and meat now that the infestation is over, so it was a good investment.
6) 5) ADVANCED INFESTATIONS – Heat Treat your Home. In the pest business there is a method called Thermal Remediation, which means they cook your entire home at 120-140 F to clean it out. Forewarning, it is expensive but may be worth it depending on how bad your situation is. We did it ourselves and it was a big task. In a separate email I can privately share with you our experiences with doing it ourselves. IT is VERY dangerous and I recommend hiring a professional to do it. They are around and ask your pest control companies about it. They will know…
7) 6) Change your management of the birds. Reduce any contact. Wear protective suits/clothing when entering coop. Spray coop and birds with enzyme regularly (weekly for us via a commercial fogger which is about $300). Keep wild birds out. They are the source if the bird mite and will re-expose your flock if they are eating their food and comingling. Provide dusting areas with dirt and also wood ash. This is a great way for the birds to treat themselves. Provide roosts made of plastic vs. wood, since mites love wood.
I hope that the following suggestions help all of you rid yourself of this incredibly tenacious critter that has devastated so many. If I had known more about this growing problem, I could have been better prepared to take on chickens on our farm. This whole experience has impacted us forever and we will not be the same, but as the saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger”.
There is a solution.