Mites are evil little creatures that can drain your poor flock of the will to even be active. Mites can drink chicken blood, eat feathers, and sap energy from your birds, which is why they are so harmful to your flock. Here are some methods for finding and eradicating an infestation of mites.
The first thing to know is that mites from chickens usually are specific to birds. Although disgusting, they won’t harm you. You can’t become infested with feather mites, for instance, they just die eventually on skin. Mites are extremely tiny, so detecting them on feathers is difficult. It is easier to look for movement, and it helps distinguish between mites and harmless dirt. An unmoving dark speck is either dirt or a dead mite. Either way, there is nothing to worry about. With that lovely mental picture, here are some tips for detecting mites on your chickens:
Once you know that you have mites, there are a few ways to eradicate them. I have never tried natural methods or diatomaceous earth, so I can’t advise for or against them. I can tell you than most poultry dust products are very efficient (which is extremely satisfying and gives the chicken quick relief). I have used several different brands of mite/tick dust. Always buy dust that is specifically for chickens/poultry; your chickens will probably eat and drink this dust (especially as they clean themselves), so it needs to be safe for them. Always check the instructions on the container; this needs to be safe for you, too. Once you have enough dust for your flock, be sure that you have enough time to properly dust them.
- The best place to look is the vent. That is where a mite infestation tends to start.
- To quickly check for mites without flipping a squawking chicken upside-down, look at the bases of the feathers on the back or near the base of the tail.
- Behavior is also a pretty good indicator. My girls tend to either be lethargic or more vocal when they have mites. It’s not comfortable for them, so they may act irritated and make alarm noises more often.
If you have a huge infestation, which does happen, you may have to follow this process two or more times. Keep a very close eye on your flock after a dusting to see if all the mites are really gone. Usually one dusting takes care of the problem.
- First, you’ll need to dust every chicken individually. This can be a two-person job, since it is definitely easier to get dust on a chicken if you don’t also have to hold it still. Dust the whole bird very thoroughly. The vent is the most important spot. Be sure to get in between the feathers on the tail and underneath the chicken, too. These are easy areas to miss. Any undusted areas (including the face) will be a safe haven for the mites to collect and re-infest the chicken. More is better with poultry dust, as long as you are careful around the eyes, nostrils, and the vent itself. Be aware, though, that this will take some energy out of your chickens. It can be a good idea to put electrolytes and vitamins in their water just to give them an extra boost afterward.
- Next, you will need to dust the coop. Mites can survive for short periods of time on surfaces other than feathers. Usually this is just long enough for them to climb back onto the chickens after you have dusted them, unless you spread poultry dust around the coop, too. You do not need to completely coat the coop. If you think that the infestation is that bad, then you should clean all the bedding out, replace it with new bedding, and dust the new bedding and all the perches/laying boxes/etc . . . Make sure they have fresh food with no dust in it and fresh water afterward. In my experience, the chickens will get dust in their water. I used to panic about it, but I learned after a few dustings that I couldn’t prevent it. I’ve never had any effects from my girls drinking a little bit of poultry dust in their water.