The advice hub Red mites

How do you know you have them?

Red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) are blood sucking ectoparasites that infest and feed on chickens and turkeys. They invade at any time but especially during the warmer summer months. Warmth gives the red mite the ideal conditions in which to breed so numbers therefore proliferate extremely quickly in warmer weather.

Red mites are visible to the naked eye but are challenging to spot in low numbers. If you have a population explosion of red mites they are difficult to ignore. Being nocturnal, they hide in cracks and crevices of the poultry house during the day then emerge at night to crawl up the birds’ legs, through the feathers and take a feed of blood. After feeding they return to their hiding places to digest the blood meal and breed.

Red Mite

We suggest you regularly check your housing paying particular attention to perch ends, in the nest boxes and any cracks and crevices. If you find any mites act as soon as you can to avoid them getting out of control to prevent them impacting on your bird’s health. A tip is to quietly look in the coop with a torch after dark. If you get a sheet of white paper and press any red mites you find onto it, red streaks will appear. You may also see even smaller greyish cream coloured mites, these are the newly hatched nymphs which have not yet fed. Once they have sucked a feed of blood, they turn bright red and then as they digest it the colour changes to a reddish-brown.


Health issues

Low numbers of mites can cause irritation and annoyance to the chicken and their keeper, making birds restless and the keeper to have itchy skin. However, large numbers of mites can suck enough blood causing anaemia, shown by a pale comb and wattles, weakness, dullness and reduced egg production. Death can occur when red mites get out of hand as so much blood is lost by the bird, they become anaemic and eventually die.

Chicks are very susceptible to a mite infestation as the saliva from the mite is toxic to chicks.

The red mite lifecycle from egg to adult mite takes only seven to ten days, depending on the environmental temperature, so it is important to keep checking on a weekly basis.

The mites can also crawl up onto human skin and cause irritation, but do not live on humans.


Signs

  • Presence of grey/red mites up to 0.7mm, found in the housing, particularly in crevices or on the eggs
  • Birds are often restless due to the irritation and may not want to go in the house
  • May cause anaemia (pale comb and wattles) and potentially death
  • Loss of condition
  • Drop in egg production
  • Blood spots on eggs
  • Complaints of itching

Treatment options

It is important to firstly identify whether the creepy crawly you are dealing with is Red Mite or whether it is another type of bug. This will help you to target the treatment appropriately.


Clean the coop

Remove any litter and use a detergent to wash down, then allow to dry. Poultry Shield Concentrate and Poultry Disinfectant RTU are effective at cutting through the organic matter where Red Mite reside. Remember however to remove as much of the bedding and dirt as possible prior to product application so the chemical can directly contact the mite. See our Best Practice Guide for Cleaning for further recommendations on how to keep your coop spotless!

For gold standard cleaning against a heavy Red Mite infestation, Interkokask RTU is highly recommended. It will help to remove the Red Mite eggs, as well as the Red Mite.


Apply treatment

For successful eradication, it requires more than just cleaning the coop. Mite bites are painful and will cause skin irritation and stress to the chickens. In high numbers, they can leave them susceptible to disease. If left without treating, Red Mites can induce a drop in egg production, stress and eventually anaemia through excessive blood loss. Mites can also bite people, causing irritation. It is important that you have identified the type of mite you are seeing. With an infestation of both lice and mites, you must consider treating the environment and the birds directly. Red Mites live in dark cracks and corners of the coop and only predate on the chickens at night, while the lice will stay on the birds and cause severe irritation to the extent that they can stop laying and start feather pecking.


There are a range of different treatment options, though here are our top recommendations. Our Product Overview provides some guidance as to why and when to use each option.

• Dergall
• Exzolt (Please contact your veterinary surgeon as you will need a prescription from your vet in order to purchase Exzolt. Please note, The Chicken Vet are unable to sell this product directly to owners unless you have a prescription)
• Ivermectin
• Predator Mites

Prevention

We recommend regularly cleaning your coop and using DE Powder to prevent any infestations from occurring. DE Powder works by physically desiccating the mites that come into direct contact with the powder. As it damages the exoskeleton, the mites cannot develop resistance to the powder. Scratch areas and dust baths should be scattered with DE Powder so the birds cover themselves in this product. You can also apply it directly to the bird, paying particular attention to under the wings and the vent area. However, if there is a large infestation the number of mites will mean that won’t be in direct contact with the powder, so they will be unaffected. These mites will continue to feed from the birds and multiply in numbers.

Note: You cannot use DE Powder and Androlis Mites simultaneously, as the DE powder will destroy Androlis.

Red Mite levels can also be monitored using stick Red Mite traps.

The Chicken Vet Poultry Multivitamins are advised to be used to support the bird during a severe red mite infestation. To aid recovery, we recommend you use these for five days in the drinking water.