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.
Here are some tips to help you check to see whether there are red mite in your chicken house.
1. Day Time: The signs and symptoms in chickens
2. Examining the Chicken Coop:
Suggested period: Weekly between May and October (in Europe)
3. Night Time: Examining the Chicken Coop
If your daytime inspection doesn’t reveal red mite then inspection at night will either reveal that you haven’t found their hiding place, or, that your coop or loft could be clear. Most of the time, if you have had an infestation then there will be eggs so repeat this regularly for a few weeks after infestation.
To see how long these mites would last, I placed 10 red mite that had had a feed into a jar. After 6 months, two mites were still alive and it took 7 months before all of the mites were dead. This shows the resilience these insects can have!
Getting rid of red mite is no easy task and it can be very frustrating. Our page on How to Kill Red Mites offers some ideas and some of our favourite red mite products for tackling this problem can be found on our Red Mites: Top 8 Products page.