Mites and chickens go hand in hand, but left unregulated, red mites will literally suck the lifeblood out of your flock.
Dealing with red mites is not a one-off job; vigilance and a proactive regime are essential to keep them under control.
There are many treatment options for red mites, ranging from eco-friendly to chemical products and old-fashioned, traditional methods like bleach and vinegar that some chicken keepers swear by.
Learn how to identify a red mite problem and the best products to treat the flock and housing.
How to Know if Your Chickens Have Mites
Chickens with red mite infestation lose the glossy sheen of their feathers and develop a flaky, dusty appearance around their vents and necks. The birds look unkempt.
Sometimes, this is easy to miss, especially if the birds have regular access to a dust bath, but combine this with other factors, and you may have a red mite infestation.
Poultry with red mite infestation can have pale combs; the usual vibrant red fades to a pale pink or peach. There may be areas without feathers where the skin is angry and red.
If red mites are about, the birds will be restless and agitated.
The mites cause itchiness and discomfort, so chickens preen more, which is a telltale sign. If their skin is sore, then the birds will scratch away at it.
Excessive preening and scratching lead to feather loss, evident from looking at the birds or what's on the floor of the chicken shed. However, many other things potentially cause feather loss, so look closely at the back, tail feathers, and vent.
Physical Clues in the Coop
Red mites are very hard to spot due to their size. However, a night of feasting on your chickens leaves a clue with tiny red dots on the underside of perches and in tight crevices if you look hard enough.
Sometimes the eggs also have tiny red specks from bites or wounds around the vent.
Mite faeces is a grey/black material. When you check the birds, look closely at the base of their feathers, on their skin and around the vents.
How Often Should You Treat Chickens for Mites?
If the infestation has gained a real foothold, you may need to follow up an initial treatment two or three more times to kill off any nits that hatch afterwards. The product you use will guide you on the re-treatment interval.
Remember to treat the entire flock, not just visibly infested birds.
Performing a weekly check of both the coop and the birds alerts poultry keepers to the early signs of red mite invasion, which can then be dealt with quickly. The rapid reproductive cycle of this pesky insect means matters can quickly get out of control.
Eliminating red mites is hard work, so keeping them at bay with regular checks is more straightforward than running into a full-scale infestation – prevention is always better (and cheaper) than a cure!
Is Bleach Effective at Killing Red Mites?
Eliminating red mites in the hen house and treating the birds is essential, as the problem isn't going to go away on its own and will only worsen if left untreated. Products need to work quickly and be safe for the flock.
Bleach, like vinegar, is one of the many go-to resources some chicken keepers favour. In the case of vinegar, this is an ineffective way to treat an infestation and can actually do more harm than good.
But what about bleach?
Bleach can kill red mites in the coop, but it must be diluted heavily with water. The flock cannot be exposed to the dilute solution on the coop structure or interior.
Your flock also can’t be treated with this directly onto their skin. As a result, the use of bleach is pretty limited.
So what should you use instead?
Bleach Alternatives for Killing Red Mites
Power Washing With Hot Water
Power washing with very hot water can effectively access crevices and hard-to-reach areas. However, the coop structure will take time to dry out to avoid rot and mould on wooden structures, and the birds will need to be re-housed elsewhere during this period.
Unlike other topical treatments, hot water has no chemical impact or residual action.
Mite-specific insecticides are sprays used throughout the hen house and are optimised to penetrate the dusty layers, cracks, and crevices typical in these structures.
The great advantage of products like Harmonix is that it works faster than some chemical alternatives, and the flock can remain in residence during the spraying process.
However, you'll need to remove any eggs, and you can't spray the birds directly, so it isn't easy to achieve full coverage without vacating the hen house.
Diatomaceous Earth is a natural mineral product made up of the remains of hard-shelled algae. It isn't harmful to the flock and creates a dry environment in which insects like red mites find it incredibly hard to thrive.
Diatomaceous Earth is eco-friendly and contains no chemicals. It is safe to use when the birds are around. It is stain-free and odour-free, and there aren't any crossover problems with food areas.
However, for a red mite infestation that’s really got a grip, using Diatomaceous Earth won't be nearly enough to cleanse the chicken coop; it's just a great adjunct to an existing treatment regime, but it won't rid the birds or chicken shed of red mites.
Shop Dalton Engineering's Red Mite Control Solutions!
Eliminating and managing red mites in the hen house can be a real challenge. Chicken keepers rely on a range of products to treat the birds during an infestation, cleanse the housing and internal structures, and promote a healthy, dry environment that discourages mites.
Shop Dalton Engineering and find all the insect control products you need to manage red mites. Whether you have an active infestation, are disinfecting empty housing ready for new birds, or want to ensure your poultry environment is as healthy as possible, you’ll be sure to find what you’re looking for!