What is Red Mite
Red Mite is undoubtedly the chicken pest which is absolutely the scourge of chicken keepers. This evil chicken pest has earned its fearsome reputation. Why? It will hide in the tiniest of teeny tiny crevices, cracks or grooves in your coop by day. By night it will come hunting for a blood meal and your chickens are top choice of menu items.
Cluster of red mite in perch support
Close up of red mite under microscope
Red Mite are the size of a full stop so how can they cause harm?
Well, it’s all to do with a numbers game. Red Mite will go from egg to egg laying adult in 7 days especially once the weather starts to warm up. A population explosion of these virtually invisible little ninjas will cause blood loss and death due to anaemia. Not to mention the diseases they carry. They can go dormant without food for months on end, only to reappear with a vengeance once food is available and the temperature increases. This is why you can never be complacent with these horrible little creatures.
So What are the Signs of Red Mite infestation?
The first indication you may notice could be that the chickens themselves tell you.
- They will stop wanting to go into their coop at night and eggs may be randomly deposited outside.
- Any eggs that are laid in the nest boxes may have small specs on them.
- A visit to the coop at night-time will mean that you feel a rather uncomfortable creepy crawling sensation which seems to be caused by an invisible assailant.
- Your chickens combs may become pale and they may look under the weather. Egg production will suffer – doesn’t it always – due to the stress it causes the ladies.
- Little white flecks will be seen in and around obstacles. Red Mite discarded skeletons that they have grown out of.
- Anaemia is a very real threat to their well-being and they can easily die.
- You may spot piles of grey dust which will move in places like ledges and where perches attach.
- Check round screws and nuts and bolts for small red dots as red mite cluster in these area most visibly. Open wood grain can also harbour sleeping red mite.
What can you do about Red Mite?
The Red Mite don’t live on the hens so treating the coop during day is not the best option as they are hiding inside crevices. Treating the hens themselves is also likely to be ineffective as an Ivermectin type treatment will require that the hens get bitten in order for the treatment to kill. Putting stuff in the water is also of very limited use as again the birds need to be bitten to treat.
Red Mite treatments need to be very proactive and aggressive to win this very serious war. Prevention is most definitely the best course.
The best treatments for Red Mite are nasty. There is also an inconvenience factor that you can’t treat and put the chickens anywhere near it for about a week after.
The top product for wooden coops is undoubtedly Creosote. The nasty cancer causing, banned for household use kind. You can get this online. Tame Creocote or Creoseal will not cut the mustard so don’t waste your time or money on this. Creosote is usually applied yearly but the downside is that it will need to de-stink before you can let your hens have access to the coop again.
Next on the war list is Perbio-Choc or Ficam W. Both are residual and will give you protection for approximately 3 months. They are also nasty chemicals in their own right that do require hazmat style protection. Definitely eye, breathing, skin protection for these nasties. Also a de-stink period is needed of about a week. We use Perbio-Choc combined with a smoke bomb beforehand.
We have never used Ficam W but it is usually widely recommended by professional breeders. Dergall is the new wonder treatment which claims to put a sort of sticky web that traps the mites and kills them. I am trialling a product which is cheaper than Dergall. It is called Mite Max which claims to do the same thing as Dergall. I will let you know how that goes.
Anecdotal evidence on Facebook forums say that Dettol pure and power, Jeyes fluid, Smite, blow torch, steam cleaning, jet washing, lime washing, diesel mixed with engine oil, siliconing, glossing etc have been used. One thing is for sure, desperate people clutch at all these straws with varying degrees of success or repeated dismal failures. Many “treatments” result in spectacular coop bonfires as a kill all or cure all solution.
When to treat
The best time to treat is night when this chicken pest is most active. Hens cannot obviously be in attendance. This will give your neighbours much amusement I am sure.
What most people don’t realise is that one treatment is rarely enough. You need to catch the hatching eggs also before they turn into adults themselves. Treatment has to be done at least every other day so watching the soaps or the football is not an option. Postponing the job is going to give you a bigger headache if you delay it. If you let the eggs hatch then you will be wasting your time and money. The Red Mite will win and your hens will be the losers. I cannot over-emphasise this.
At every clean you can give the wooden coop a good spraying with Poultry Shield followed by a dusting with diatom (mite killing diatomaceous earth). It has to say that it kills red mite otherwise it won’t. The laws have changed on how you can describe cheap ebay diatom (DE). The cheap stuff is not the good stuff. This should keep the coop fairly or completely free of mites. If you get complacent or lazy they will quite literally bite you on the bum. Smite is also supposed to be a good preventative. It’s is not a disinfectant though like Poultry Shield is.
Plastic coops are not immune
A lot of plastic coops have double skins which are a perfect unseen haven for the red mite. They do not have as many crevices as a wooden coop though and are easier to remove red mite from if you find them. Pressure washing is NOT a good way to deal with Red Mite. This will just blow them away but they will return. It wont kill them. The Poultry Shield and Diatom regime is great for plastic coops also unless you have an active infestation.
In time honoured Blue Peter style. If you take a used cardboard tube from the toilet roll and use this as a holder for a rolled up sheet of corrugated cardboard. Think of it as a serviette/napkin holder jobby. Place this somewhere in your coop such as attached to the underside of a perch. Periodically, unroll the cardboard and inspect it for this chicken pest. If you see a grey dust which will move when placed on your hand or red specks which are Red Mites which have recently fed within your “trap” you will need to treat your coop as a matter of urgency.
This chicken pest can hitch a ride into your house so observe care you don’t introduce it to your sofa or bed as that would be a whole new world of pain.