Red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) are blood-feeding ecto-parasites that lives in cracks and crevices in your chicken house, coming out at night to get a meal from your chickens.
Red mites are called a 'temporary ecto-parasite' because they are normally only found on the bird when feeding at night and are a serious problem for poultry keepers. They cannot fly but they crawl along perches to get to your chickens and are a very serious problem for poultry keepers during the summer months when they are active. A large infestation of red mites is serious as they make your chickens anaemic. If you don't act quickly, birds can die. Fortunately there are warning signs so people usually find out there is an infestation before it is too late.
Red mites (also called chicken mites or poultry mites) cause severe skin irritation and stress to your birds and will cause a reduction in egg numbers. They can be carried into your flock from wild birds and can transfer from bird to bird although they mainly live in housing. Mites are not species specific and will feed from any type of bird.
Red mites are small (up to 1mm long and 0.7mm wide), slow moving mites. They range in colour from a very light grey, almost translucent to a light brown to blood red. They turn into the rich red colour after they have had a feed. Their eggs are harder to spot but are around 0.4mm and a translucent white colour.
Red mite bury their eggs deep in cracks and crevices so they are often not spotted unless they are washed out during cleaning.
This macro photograph to the right shows the different stages of mite from tiny eggs to grey mite without a feed and adult mites after a feed. This photo was taken of a crack of wood inside a poultry house.
Red mites are nocturnal and only come out to feed at night. During the daytime they hide in the cracks and crevices of your chicken house or pigeon loft and can be difficult to find. One of their favourite places to hide is perch ends as they are close to their hosts at night to get a blood feed. Nest boxes are another favourite for red mite. Broody hens are particularly vulnerable to being bitten by red mite. They usually sit in a darkened nest box very still for long periods of time, which is the perfect host for red mite to hop on and off to feed as they please. It is not uncommon for a broody hen to be found dead on the nest if there is a particularly bad infestation. Red mite are not usually found on birds themselves during the day although sometimes one or two can be found under birds wings in dark places.
As a hobby poultry keeper, I have battled with red mite on many an occasion. The 'Top 8 Products' started off as a blog post I wrote about My Top 4 'Safe' Red Mite Products. After this, I got into a number of discussions with other local fanciers on 'the things we keep in stock' and we came up with a top 5, then a top 8 'red mite products' that we use in the battle to control red mite in our coops.
The last few years has seen an increasing number of ‘safe’ or ‘natural’ products emerge on the market in a bid to fight against the poultry red mite. Commercially, there is more awareness in the use of chemicals in farming. Red mites have developed a resistance to a number of common chemicals that have been used in commercial premises and the UK Government has also recently banned some chemicals that were used to treat poultry houses with mites.
Getting rid of red mite is no easy task and it can be very frustrating knowing they are feeding on your birds at night.
Many fanciers have spent a long time treating their chicken house to find the number of red mite multiplying rapidly again within a couple of weeks. So how can we rid the chicken coop of red mite? Well first we have to understand the life cycle of the mite before we can launch our attack on these little red devils.
The list below details the life cycle of a female red mite.
Red mites are the bane of many poultry keeper’s lives and I have tried many different ‘lotions and potions’ over the years to rid my own coops of the dreaded red mite.
This summer (2011), I was intrigued to hear about a ‘predator mite’ that can be introduced into the coop and will eat red mite for breakfast... lunch... and dinner too! In fact, they sounded like the perfect solution to my red mite problems so I thought it was well worth checking these hungry little fellas out!
The predator mites in my trial were supplied by St David's Poultry (AKA Chickenvet) and I am grateful to them for supplying the mites and providing the necessary information to me.