Dealing with bird mites; my home, my hens, my itchyness!

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by showbizombie, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. showbizombie

    showbizombie Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 12, 2011
    Sorry for all the tl;dr

    So I've been googling and browsing this forum all day about the multitude of ways of dealing with bird mites, but I think that my best answer would be to ask those who are in/were in the same situation as me!

    First of all though I need to point out that I live in Australia, and when I read a lot of solutions on the forum they're for products I'm not aware of/aren't readily available near me. So if you're going to recommend a product please do it in detail (and a link to somewhere I can buy it online would help too!)

    My situation: I first noticed what seemed to be lice on my hens (this is going off what I'd seen on a rescued stray cat I now own) about 6 months ago. Little white bugs crawling all over them. I bought the ONLY product for mites on poultry that was available called Pestene (, which since its safe for cats is a double bonus for me (I have 4 cats - I don't want to use anything that harms them). Active ingredient is sulfur and rotenone.

    I have 6 hens who live in a large metal shed (at least thats where they sleep/lay) and are otherwise free range in our yard. One can of 500g Pestene lasts for about 2 dustings, and my lord it's harsh on the nose. Anyway, it seemed to have worked for the immediate problem.

    Then a few months later after picking up one of the laying boxes, I noticed my arm was covered in tiny brown bugs. Another dusting ensued. I started getting bites on my body and the feeling of invisible bugs crawling on me... drove me bonkers when trying to sleep. I treated my cats with frontline drops, flea bombed my room, and that seemed to take care of that! (note: my husband doesn't get affected as bad as me... *envy*)
    The mites weren't as obvious on the hens as the first "lice" were. When one of my hens went to the vet, all the crap that fell off the hen on to the consulting bench seemed to be mite free too.

    Now coming up to the last week of summer, for which the weather has been fluctuating between "bloody hot" and "I'm going to rain for a week", the crawling sensation and the bites are back, but this time I'm also finding the small brown bugs crawling on me a few times a day. Also saw one on my cat.

    Cats got another dose of frontline (and revolution - don't know if you have that in the states, nor do I know if it works on bird mites, but I had 2 doses left over from a previous application). My knowledge towards frontline and revolution for cats is that frontline targets biting lice, but not worms, whilst revolution targets worms but not biting lice.

    I'll be the first to admit that I clearly haven't dusted the hens frequently enough. That's going to change. From what I've read, the mites won't survive without a bird host.
    I'd like to believe that I am now completely knowledgable on how to get rid of bird mites inside the home, as much of a pain as it may be, but my main concern is that if it becomes a real problem the only solution is to stop keeping hens. I REALLY don't want to do that, so I'm going to see how I go with my current battle.

    So now comes the questions:

    1. My area seems to have large flocks of sparrows, who have been helping themselves to the chicken feed. Currently the feed is kept near the door of the shed and sometimes outside in a feeder. Assuming that the sparrows aren't helping in the mite population, I want to minimize them coming down (plus my cats occassionally will be able to catch them and bring them in - clearly not helping). The best thing I can think of right now is moving the feed to the back of the shed where the sparrows would be less willing to enter (they dont mind entering the entrance of the shed), but is there any other ways I can minimize the sparrows from going for the food? I think with 4 cats and no easily available food, they'd be less willing to come to my yard.

    2. I've read about a lot of the products people have been using but the only one I'm familiar with is frontline. Ideally I'm after a product that would work the longest with minimal reapplication, and of course, is safe around cats - for which frontline would be ideal because then I can treat all my animals at the same time - however I hear both good and bad things about frontline being used on hens. I guess this leads to some sub questions:
    - Frontline spray is the one I hear most often about. Is it really safe to use on hens/any frontline horror stories? The frontline website states not to use it on anything aside from dogs and cats.
    - For anyone who uses it, what kind of dosage do you use/how do you apply it? How often do you use it?
    - Any egg witholding period?
    - Is it the best option? Is there something better which is safe around cats (note, things like frontline for dogs can kill cats) or has longer lasting results, and is targetted for poultry?

    3. In a perfect world I'd like to be able to treat the mites permanently, as weekly dusting (or more) will become quite costly, but I know that given their environment this is a big ask. Minimising the amount of mites in general would be benefitial though, is there ways I can target this without constant use of chemicals/powders?

    4. For those who have had mites infiltrate their home and bite them - does treating the hens alone fix this problem? Mainly I'm worried about if I treat the birds, they'll still be bothering me/my cats. I know the mites wont survive without a bird host, but if the birds are still there (but treated) will that still stop the problem?

    5. Any tips for existing bites? These bites are super itchy and last forever, and the best thing I could do for them so far is constantly applying antiseptic cream.

    If treating the birds will eventually eliminate the mites inside the home, then I can put up with this torture for a while until they die off. But from what I've been reading (based on simply mite control - not living with poultry and mites) the problem is pretty freaking difficult to treat without removing the cause (in those situations - bird nests) as the mites can live for 9 months without a bird host. If treating the hens wont eliminate the problem and I have to treat the home frequently for the rest of their lives, I might go crazy :(
  2. darin367

    darin367 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 1, 2010
    Shelton, Wa.
    ivermectin pour on for cattle... get it at or ebay.... search on here for amount to put on, i think it's like 5 drops from an eye dropper on an average bird..... kills lice, mites and worms them all at once.... sepererate feathers on back and drop on skin..... way easier than dusting, especially with lots of birds.... lock em in coop at night, bring them out 1 at a time in morning and treat em... very simple!!!!!!!!!!!!
  3. showbizombie

    showbizombie Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 12, 2011
    Any egg witholding period?
  4. Billy-jean

    Billy-jean Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 13, 2011
    Have you heard of Diatomaceous earth? I use it as a preventative, powder the hens every month,and keep it inside the coop where they lay,and roost. I was good last summer,,hoping and praying I get through this coming summer . I had a mite infestation once and it DID turn me off of keeping hens for a couple years. Now,I keep it under control, as much as possible,,and I try my best to keep the wild birds away from them. I wouldn't feed your hens outside anymore,those wild birds are full of mites,and could be the root to your problem. I recomend Diatomaceous earth, I order mine online and was sent through the mail. But I feel your pain with this,,good luck!!
    1 person likes this.
  5. showbizombie

    showbizombie Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 12, 2011
    Thanks! I've heard a few people mention it before, I'll look more deeply into it.
    When you say you had the infestation, did you get them in the home too? Right now my main concern is if treating the birds for the mites will stop me from getting bitten in the home. I dusted them two days ago (so I'm not expecting results right away) but I'm going a little crazy over the **** things biting me every night. This weekend is going to be flooded with chemical warfare as I try to get rid of the ones inside the house - but from what I've been reading it may not be that successful and the only answer is to fumigate, which I can neither afford right now or see the point if the mites just come back again with the hens still being around.

    Right now my only savior is the incoming cooler weather it seems!
  6. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    If you use a treadle feeder that will stop the sparrows (Gallo del Cielo has plans on his BYC page, also Grandpa's Feeders has them, ebay has them, and there was another BYC'er selling them..."Al ______" I think?

    I too have had mites in my home on separate occasions and now my solution is....(and if I don't do it they come back with a vengeance):

    DUST HENS EVERY FOUR MONTHS, repeat in 7 days after each time. Throw out all shavings, nest box material, bedding. Spray coop or dust coop.

    Throw out EVERYTHING again in 7 days (so go easy on everything). Sometimes you have to keep treating every 7 days until gone.

    If you don't throw out all the shavings they come back. Also, I have gone to just using sweet PDZ on the floor- no bedding at all. I scrape the coop every day and treat the whole wooden floor like a poop board, which will eventually ruin the floor. But I have many fewer mites when I do this.
  7. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    I am answering in several posts since sometimes I type out something long and it gets deleted.

    There are different kinds of mites. One kind really doesn't like humans too much and only lives three weeks without a host. The chicken mite (red mite) can live 34 weeks without a meal and will readily take over a human dwelling.

    What I would do is make a dust bath for them with Diatomaceous Earth (food grade), woodstove ashes, sand/dirt. Put it in the coop. Hopefully the ashes and DE will help to prevent infestations (doesn't work for active infestation).

    Keep up with those treatments...don't treat more than once a month from what I have read:

    You can put poultry dust (insecticidal) in the dust bath once a month or so, and they will hopefully dust themselves. The dust bath should be kept out of the rain. The only thing with this is, it is entirely dependent on how often they use the bath, so theoretically they could be getting a constant dose, which leads to resistance in the mites to the chemicals (very very bad).
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  8. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    In terms of your home, I would definitely stay on the ball and keep trying to rid your home of the mites. I have read that vacuuming can work wonders if you keep at it, wash bedding, and here is my most helpful hint of all:

    I do my chicken chores once per day.
    I run in the house with my two plastic garbage bags that I keep in the garage.,
    I run into the shower and put clothes in the two bags.
    I take shower, and then remove bags to garage (having kept them twisted shut).
    I make sure to wash those garage clothes more frequently than every 4 days (which is what I have read is the shortest life cycle of a mite).

    I used to take two showers a day, doing chicken chores twice a day.
    When you reach into the nest to gather eggs, that warrants a shower as above!!!!!

    This regimen, along with dusting/spraying every 4 months with repeat in 7 days, has worked for me!!!
    I never sprayed poison in my home...I threw borax powder everywhere and vacuumed. Changed sheets, kept at the vacuuming!

    What I was dealing with was the Northern Fowl Mite...I have never had to deal with the chicken mite. I would definitely take it seriously.
    The red/chicken mite only comes out at night. It hides during the day.
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  9. showbizombie

    showbizombie Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 12, 2011
    Ohh the self-dusting is a good idea, so far they've been dusting themselves in the two tanbark areas of my yard, but maybe if I buy a kiddies sandpit/plastic kiddy pool to put inside their shed they might like that better *fingers crossed*. I can't add the mite dust to the tanbark areas because it keeps raining lately.

    I haven't spotted any of the brown bugs crawling on me as of yesterday, but I'm still getting bitten, so probably just coincidence. I plan on flea-bombing the bedrooms (since those are the only rooms we can lock the cats out of) but I've heard they dont actually kill the mites. It seemed to work last time though, so I figure no harm in trying again. Going to vacuum everything, carpet shampoo where I can with teatree oil which I hear works to kill them, and is safe around cats. Same with spraying orange oil. Everything washable is being washed in super hot with more teatree oil, and for myself I have spray on eucalyptus oil, teatree shampoo, and stingose for the bites. Didn't seem to help at all last night, spraying my bed/myself before bed, woke up at 4am and couldnt shake the feeling of things crawling all over me. I just wish the weather was nicer so I could do copious amounts of laundry without having to hang things inside, which seems counter productive.
  10. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    You have to wash the sheets from my experience. I tried not washing them and was still itchy until I changed them out. I hope you can be free from them soon!

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