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 hard to spot unless they are washed out during cleaning. The red mites shown above were sandwiched between the chicken house and door to the house so were exposed when the door was opened.
The macro photograph below (about x 5 magnification) 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 before I attacked them with a blow torch!
Where to find red mite
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.
Looking for red mite
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
- Reduced numbers of eggs, sometimes eggs laid on the floor or outside if birds won’t go into the nest boxes.
- Blood spots on eggs (squashed mites)
- Anemia – pale comb and wattles.
- Some or all chickens not wanting to go in their house to roost.
- Pale egg yolks
2. Examining the Chicken Coop:
Suggested period: Weekly between May and October (in Europe)
- Examine perch ends and cracks close to where birds roost in your coop or loft. Look for grey ash-like stains on the wood. This is the colour of cigarette ash and is the excretion from active mites.
- Remove perches and inspect perch ends carefully for mites.
- Inspect other cracks and crevices. Mites are usually found in clumps within easy reach of where your birds roost and can prefer one area over another so be sure to inspect a few different areas.
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.
- When it is dark, take a piece of white kitchen roll or loo paper and a torch outside to the coop (or pigeon loft).
- Where your birds are roosting, wipe the underside of the perch.
- Examine the white tissue with the torch. If there are streaks of blood on the tissue, you have red mite (these are squashed mites that have had a feed). If it is clear… well done, no red mite, but don’t get complacent!
How long can red mites survive?
To see how long these mites would last, I placed 10 red mite that were blood red (they had had a feed recently) 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. Hopefully you now know how to spot red mite.
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