Red Mite season

What is Red Mite

Red Mite is undoubtedly the chicken pest which is absolutely the scourge of all 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.

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 generally 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.

Good Solutions

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 C40WP. 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 also recommend Pest Expert Formula C+ which is residual up to 12 weeks. All the residual treatments with the exception of Creosote you can soak the coop EVERYWHERE (very important) and leave it to do its job. Don’t wash your coop or dust your coop after treatment otherwise you are just wasting your money and precious time.

Spray solutions in aerosol cans are a reasonable solution. Indorex, Columbine spray, Ardap spray, or even ant killer are all residual. These can work out more costly in the long run, but are quick and easy to use.

We have never used C40WP 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 Harmonix which claims to do the same thing as Dergall.  I will let you know how that goes. UPDATE: Harmonix is pleasant to use (surprise surprise) is residual and it does the job easily and quickly.

Good New Alternatives

Another wonder product is called Exzolt. However it is expensive, but weighing it against the cost of loads of chemicals and the time aspect, it is a good solution. You need to weigh your biggest bird and multiply the weight by the number of birds. Calculate this by 0.05 and it gives you the dosage in mls. Then you need to work out how much water your birds get through in half a day and add your dose to this amount of water. Repeat 7 days later. A vet will need to prescribe the amount of Exzolt for you. My birds for example need a dose of 5.5ml in 10 litres of water. Don’t expect it to be cheap, but it does work. There is no egg withdrawal period either so win-win. It is based on Fluralaner.

Natural controls for Red Mite

You can now get predator mites which you set free in your coop and they hunt and consume the red mite. They are called Androlis predator mites. Don’t use any other residual treatment on your coop if you are intending to use these. You don’t want to kill your little helpers.

Questionable Solutions for Red Mite

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, vegetable oil with fairy liquid etc have been used. Red Stop, Ivermectin, or heaven forbid Fipronil are all poor solutions. (Fipronil is banned for use in poultry due to egg contamination). Short of soaking your grandfathers beard clippings in vodka and dancing naked at full moon will not cure it either.

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. Instead of messing about with questionable treatments, do something with a treatment that actually does what it says on the tin. SPEED IS OF THE ESSENCE here otherwise you will not have a dogs chance of getting on top of it. Basically, if it is not residual, then don’t waste your time or your money.

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/never 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.

Preventatives

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 about this chicken pest 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. ONLY if you have no evidence of red mites.

If you are using a residual treatment like Harmonix, Dergall, Perbio Choc etc then don’t wash it away. Leave it to do its job. Diatom will ruin the effect of a residual treatment so don’t use that either on the structure of the coop. You can use it in the bedding or the dust bath but avoid spoiling all your hard work. Diatom will clog the web that most residual treatments produce making the treatment ineffective. Think of it like using sellotape on a dusty surface – pointless.

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. As always – residual is best.

Monitoring

Red mite monitoring aid

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.

WARNING WARNING WARNING

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. Believe me I know this.