Mites or molting?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Amfrolia, May 21, 2016.

  1. Amfrolia

    Amfrolia Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 17, 2015
    I have five hens and yesterday I noticed that two of my girls have lost big patches of feathers - mostly on their bellies. I can't tell if it is a mite problem or molting. The skin where the feathers are missing doesn't look red or irritated.

    I checked under the roost bars last night and didn't see anything crawling.

    The weird thing is that the feather loss is so much on their bellies and not nearly as noticeable if at all on their necks where I've heard the molting usually starts. They are about 17-18 months old - so at the age their first molt could occur.

    I haven't seen any pin feathers yet.

    They seem to be acting normally, and all are taking their usual dust baths.

    I did change their layer feed recently, but it is still an 18% protein feed and they all seem to be eating it.

    Please help with any advice or suggestions! These girl's are my first chickens and I have never had a molting or mites yet - so very confused and worried!
  2. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Most likely they're just molting. A strong indication of molting is finding a lot more than normal feathers laying beneath the roost in the mornings, so check for that. If so, then you should see new pin feathers emerging within the next week or so...

    But also check the bird, just to make sure its not a mite issue. If they're squirrely birds, get them from the roost late this evening - take them into the house/garage - have someone hold the bird while you part the feathers and really inspect the feather shafts and skin around the vent area (a favorite spot for mites). If there a lot of dirty debris looking stuff accumulated around the base of the feathers, that's a strong indicator of mites. Plus, if it's a heavy infestation, you'll probably see a few TEENY TINY specks slowly moving around on your hand - almost looks like moving dirt particles. If your birds are tame/lap chickens, then you can probably football hold them and inspect them by yourself.
    Last edited: May 21, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  3. Amfrolia

    Amfrolia Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 17, 2015
    Thanks for your advice teach1rusl! Two of my girl's I can pick up pretty easily - luckily one of them is the one with lots of missing feathers. I did grab her in the football hold and looked closely at the feather shafts and didn't see anything - but that was during the day - so maybe if it is mites they were not on her at that time?

    I did find a bunch of feathers at the bottom of the coop.

    Thinking I will do a deep spring cleaning also just in case. Spray the cracks with a natural mite spray I got from Tractor Supply.

    I'm guessing mites could also be in the run? I have a mix of wood chips and straw as bedding in the run that I have been gradually taking out (it was deep for the winter but now that the weather is warming up I want just a thin layer of wood chips only for the summer).
  4. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Yeah...I'm not a fan of straw. I've only used it 2x here, both times over rough winters. And both times I ended up with mite issues that following spring. The mites hide inside the hollow shafts, which they can't do in regular bedding or hay. If you're not seeing mites on your girl, and ARE seeing feathers in the bedding, then its probably a molt. I would suggest avoiding the use of straw. Yeah, it makes a good insulator, but the payoff isn't worth it to me - I won't use again for my chickens.

    There is a type of mite that likes to stay hidden in cracks of the roosts/under roosts (can't remember what it's called) and only come out at night to suck blood. But the mites I've dealt with here (fowl mites) pretty much stay on the birds (or any warm body/surface). I would also spray the roosts with the product you use (here I use Frontline spray - but I know many like the more natural products).
    1 person likes this.
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I use straw all the time in the mites here...I do sprinkle some DE on the bottom of the nests as a 'feel good and maybe preventative'.
    I also throw some straw out in the run in winter to ameliorate icy patches and snowmelt.
    If you already have mites on your birds or in the coop structure, they may shelter in the hollows of the straw...but just using straw doesn't automatically mean mites.

    If I don't see bugs, I don't treat for them. Taking bird off the roost well after dark at night and parting the feathers down to the skin around vent, head, neck and under wings should show you weather they have bugs or not. Wiping the bottom of the roosts with a white paper towel should show the mites that only feed at night as res smears on towels. Googling images of mites and lice and their eggs before inspecting birds will help you ID anything you might see.

    IME birds can have bare patches around butt and belly without a pest infestation being present and without a full or partial molt in progress.
    1 person likes this.
  6. Amfrolia

    Amfrolia Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 17, 2015
    I've inspected the one that has the most feathers missing during the day and didn't see anything. Did the paper towel trick last night and nothing. But maybe should inspect her after dark also. The crazy thing is that her belly is almost bare! I do see a bunch of broken ragged feathers and she is looking kinda rough overall. I spent 8 hours today cleaning all bedding I could from the run and spraying with a natural pest and odor spray (healthy pen I think it's called - you attach it to your hose and it smells like lemongrass and herbs after). Tomorrow I'll do inside the coop and spray in there with a natural mite spray - just in case. It was time for a good spring cleaning anyway. I am seeing a larger number of feathers around but wasn't sure if that was molt or them pulling feathers to get to the mites. Really appreciate your input! I'm a nervous momma here! Four eggs from the five hens today - so laying not too affected yet. I think the only one that didn't lay was the one missing the most feathers - but she did lay yesterday.
  7. toomuch

    toomuch Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 9, 2015
    Do you let them free range?
  8. Amfrolia

    Amfrolia Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 17, 2015
    No - too many neighbors dogs roaming. But we do get wild birds sneaking into their run
  9. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    Dec 25, 2012
    Depluming mites is my guess. They are too small to see with the naked eye and they live inside the feather follicles.
    Last edited: May 22, 2016
  10. minpins99

    minpins99 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 16, 2012
    Nashua, NH
    I've been keeping hens for a few years now and never had these symptoms: between the base of the tail and the rump, there is a spot where she is loosing feathers, however pin feathers emerge. The cycle repeats itself. I took her inside (she loved it - NOT!) to the bathroom, aka the treatment room, and put some Neosporin over it. One area is especially raw. I don't think she's being pecked as when she stands tall, the other feathers cover the spot, plus I think it would look much worse. Checked feathers, nothing moving. Checked vent - she tried to shoot poop at me but missed! Nothing moving. I am so below the poverty level, it defies explanation.
    Would adding mint from the baking section of the super market do the trick and how to use it to systemically treat the bird? Would addition to the water work? I'm going out to check them again, maybe with a magnifying glass; maybe not or I may get wing-slapped. Ow!

    Thank you,

    Nashua, NH

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