Although mostly impossible to avoid, as they can be carried by wild birds, the red mite can be the archenemy of any hen-keeper. It can be distressing to find your hens scratching and feather pecking and in very extreme cases, their combs and wattles looking pale due to anaemia.
The most obvious sign of red mite infestation is your hens’ reluctance to enter their coop and/or a change in their perching habits; this is because they know there’s something in there that is causing irritation.
But we’re here to help with some simple suggestions on how to (try) to avoid red mites.
Clean hen houses frequently to avoid a build-up of dander in the cracks and crevices where red mites can hide is a great way to avoid red mites being attracted to your hen house or coop. By cleaning away any mess, you won’t give red mites a chance to congregate, thus allowing your hens the confidence to sleep at night without the chance of a nip or bite while sleeping.
Identifying early signs means you can get on top of any outbreaks quickly. A strip of white towelling at the end of perches shows up red mite that have hidden after a night-time feed.
Quarantine new birds
If you are adopting new hens, it’s a good idea to quarantine them from your existing flock for many reasons. One is to introduce them slowly for a smooth merge, the other to make sure the new hens don’t come with red mites. When bringing in new birds quarantine them and treat them with Diatomaceous Earth powder before introducing them. The microscopically sharp shards that make up Diatomaceous Earth scratch the mite’s waxy shell, causing them to die and your hens to be able to merge with your existing flock with no issues. For more information, read our blog post on what DE is and how to use it.
Routinely use DE in nest boxes
Did you know that not only can you use DE powder on your hens, but you can also use it in their nest boxes and it is perfectly safe. Add Diatomaceous Earth to nesting boxes, cracks and crevasses of roosts and eves in your hen house, under perches and around the perimeter of your entire coop, water drinker, and around the feeder.
Feed wild birds away from your hens
If you like to feed wild bird in your garden, place feeders away from your hens and avoid spilling feed which can attract them. As mentioned before, one of the most common ways for hens to get red mite is through contact with wild birds.
Change your clothes!
If you’re one to visit other people’s hen’s or if you’re hen-sitting for a fellow backyard keeper, make sure to change your clothes after visiting. We’re not suggesting anything untoward about your neighbour’s hens, however, they could unknowingly have red mites. After visiting any hens that are not your own, make sure to change into clean clothes to avoid transferring them to your hens.
As always, we recommend all hen-keepers to keep a high level of biosecurity, especially during the avian influenza season. More for information on red mites and keeping your hen house bio-secure, check out our other health and welfare blog posts or if you’re worried that you may have red mites and don’t know what to do to eradicate them, take a look at our relevant blog posts below, or email the hen helpline at email@example.com