Northern Fowl Mites are similar in size to Red Mite (about 1mm long) and are almost the same colour but slightly darker, almost brown.
Red Mites live in the cracks in the house and come out at night to feed on the bird, but Northern Fowl Mites live on the birds permanently and can therefore be found on the birds during the day. When inspecting birds, examine the vent and head area as well as the ear canals. Check the crests on crested breeds like Polands. Often found in ‘clumps’.
Species Affected: Mainly chickens, but other poultry, including ducks, can sometimes be affected, especially if housed with chickens.
Other Names: Ornithonyssus sylvarum, Crest Mite (in crested breeds).
Symptoms: Anaemia, chickens stopping laying, damaged plumage / missing feathers or bald patched from scratching, dirty-looking plumage patches.
The area affected: Whole body, particularly around the vent and ear canals. Crested breeds are more prone.
Transmission: Passed from bird to bird. Under the right conditions, the life cycle is less than 7 days and increases in cooler conditions, so more of a problem at the beginning and end of the year.
Diagnosis: Physical identification of brown mites on birds during the daytime (to rule out Red mites that climb onto the bird at night), pale comb, wattles, reduced egg production, birds scratching their heads.
Prevention: Regular inspection.
Treatment: Treat using a louse dusting powder; following the instructions, a small amount should be dusted inside the ear canal with a cotton bud, especially in crested breeds. Repeat treatment of louse powder before 7 days as re-infestation is common. Some vets will prescribe products containing Ivermectin, usually ‘drop on’ products. Ivermectin has a residual effect and can last up to 4 weeks. Please speak to your vet as many products are not licensed for use in poultry and should only be used with their advice.
Risk to Human Health: Irritation from mites on your skin. They often crawl up your arms when handling birds. Change clothes and shower after treating birds.
Remember: Always wear protective plastic gloves and a face mask if using dusting powders and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.