Northern Fowl Mite

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 Mite live in the cracks in the house and come out at night to feed from 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 patches of plumage.
Area affected: Whole body. Particularly around the vent and ear canals. Crested breeds are more prone.
Transmission: Passed from bird to bird. Life cycle is less than 7 days under the right conditions and increases in numbers 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 Mite that climb on to 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. 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 also a face mask if using dusting powders and follow the manufacturers instructions.

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Tim Daniels

Tim is the founder of the poultrykeeper website and lives in Herefordshire, UK. He keeps Cream Legbar chickens, Silver Sebright bantams and hybrid layers for eggs, Abacot Ranger ducks, Brecon Buff geese and some quail.

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