After battling with red mite on many occasions, I have had lots of discussions with other poultry keepers about the products they are using. Some are safer than others (and I won’t tell you about Sam who set fire to his coop trying to get rid of them with a blow torch!) so I decided to list my top 4 ‘safe’ red mite eliminators.
I have tried a number of different ways to get rid of Red Mite from chicken houses and have used a selection of different products in the battle against them. In my experience, there is unfortunately no one product which totally eradicates them after a few applications and there is very little you can do to stop them appearing other than keeping up regular preventative treatments to keep them in check.
Above is a clump of red mite that I found behind the door of my chicken houses, but if you want to see them even closer, there is a good macro photo on this Red Mite page on the Keeping Chickens website.
If you don’t have a red mite problem at the moment then as a minimum, learn to recognise the signs of Red Mite: wipe the underside of the perches at night with a tissue to look for tell-tale blood smears from Red Mites so you can nip them in the bud if they do appear. These are my top 4 Red Mite control products that I wouldn’t be without at this time of year. I have included some links to Amazon to the products which should show you the best current price in their market place. There are of course many products available but these are the ones that I have tried and tested myself and have had good results using them on a number of occasions. The life cycle of a red mite is 7-8 days. Make sure repeat treatments are done before this, ideally every 2 to 3 days or less at first to control numbers. If you only treat every couple of weeks, the numbers will have multiplied several times in warm weather.
1. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth or DE consists of the micro skeletons of fossilised remains of deceased diatoms, which are a type of algae found in both sea water and fresh water. I use this throughout the Red Mite season.
It is organic, safe to use and can also be used at a rate of 5% in feed to help eliminate worms in poultry too.
Don’t expect to sprinkle a little down and have instant results, you need to dust down the cracks where the mites hang out and rub it into the perches (so it’s dusty like a gymnasts bar). Keep applying every couple of days at first until the numbers of mites are reduced, then apply twice a week. It takes 48 hours or so for the mite to dry up but it does work if you are consistent.
You can apply this to the birds too and in their dust baths although I tend to use Barrier Red Mite Powder for this as it has tea tree in it which works well as a repellent to insects such as lice and mites.
2. Poultry Shield
Another ‘safe’ product, suitable for organic use that I wouldn’t be without.
Poultry shield is a detergent that has the effect of washing the waxy coating off the red mites causing them to dry up and die. I have heard many people say Poultry Shield does not work – but there is no miracle cure for Red Mite – just like DE above, it takes persistent regular use. It only works if it comes into contact with the mites (you can see it turns a yellow-green colour after washing over the mites) and there will always be some mites hidden away out of reach.
Re-wash the house every 2 to 3 days to prevent the mites from multiplying and keep a hand spray near the chicken house of a stronger solution that can be used to spray into cracks / perch ends daily where signs of red mite are spotted.
Poultry Shield should be diluted in water at a rate of 20 parts water to one part Poultry shield for general use but this dilution can be increased to 10 to 1 for treating an infestation. Poultry Shield gets my number 2 spot because it has been very successful, chicken houses are safe for children to go into after treatment and has been well-tested by a number of poultry keepers over the years.
The manufacturer’s leaflet even says that Poultry Shield can be used in the house with the chickens in there… I wouldn’t recommend that myself but it does give me more confidence about the safety of it.
3. Barrier Red Mite Powder
This Powder is especially designed for use on the birds. The main ingredient is Tea Tree and it is suitable for use in Organic production. The tub suggests it keeps working for up to 6 weeks but personally I dust the birds down every week when there is an infestation to give them some respite at night. I find this helps to fend off lice as well so is a really useful addition to the poultry supply cupboard!
It doesn’t contain pesticides, it is a good natural alternative and definitely worthy of 3rd position in my top 4. I wouldn’t be without a tub in my poultry supply cupboard!
Whilst diatom can be used to dust down the birds, I find Red Mite Powder better thanks to the tea tree which is a natural insect repellent as well as antibacterial disinfectant.
This is a spray which I find very effective. I tend to keep a can handy and then if I find any mites during the week when I get home from work and don’t have time to do a full clean, I use this spray.
It is a completely safe and natural treatment for the eradication of red mites, completely pesticide free. The 200ml can is easy to use, with minimal mess. The spray dries almost immediately and (they say…) will completely extradite red mites and eggs in one treatment.
I agree with this statement if the mites come in contact with the area sprayed but there are usually a few that manage to hide away somewhere! Durimitex Spray is available again on Amazon at a reasonable price.
Red Mite is a serious problem and I seem to be writing frequently about them over the summer months. This is because it is so difficult to keep on top of them, but it can be done if you are persistent. Remember when treating, to break the breeding cycle of the mite, you must retreat no more than 7 days later. A female red mites in ideal (warm) conditions can lay 120’000 eggs. So it doesn’t take long to figure out how big the problem can become in just a few weeks!
I managed to get rid of a particularly bad infestation last year in a few weeks with just a pressure washer and diatom. You can read about this in this blog post: How to Get Rid of a serious Red Mite Infestation.
Please leave me a comment and share your experiences, I’d love to hear how you combat this dreaded mite.