It’s that time of year again… red mite season! Red mites are yellowy-brown in colour, becoming red after feeding on the blood of your hens. They are almost invisible to the naked eye (0.6 to 1mm) and live in cracks, crevices and on perches during the day and feed on hens at night. You may notice your hens scratching and feather pecking and in extreme cases their combs and wattles will be 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.
Red mite is easily spread by wild birds but can also be introduced through newly purchased stock or second-hand housing. So, how can you tell if your hens have red mites in their coop? Follow these simple steps:
- Carefully run your hand along the underside of perches, being mindful of splinters, if red mites are present, you will find smears of blood on your hand or live mites.
- Place a scrunched-up plastic bag or piece of towelling in the corner of a nest box or around the end of the perches to entice mites to hide in the folds. You will see the presence of mites in the morning, after a night of feeding on the hens. You can destroy or dispose of the infected material and treat your hen house and birds.
- If possible, lift out perches and check any nooks and crannies for evidence of mites.
- A few firm knocks on the inside of the hen house will sometimes reveal what looks like dust floating down from the ceiling; this could be mites waiting to feed.
- Red mites that have recently had a blood meal will show up as tiny red specks or a cluster of red specks.
Although not impossible, these mites are hard to completely eradicate, but you can control the spread of mites using various products on the market. A safe and effective method of treatment for red mite is Diatomaceous Earth Powder. This powder contains silicates which damage the waxy cuticle on the mites’ surface, allowing them to dehydrate and die. It is entirely safe for both owners and their birds, and the mites die within three days of product application.
Use it in the coop and on the birds weekly, especially during the warmer months and ensure you change all bedding in the hen house. Don’t worry, red mites don’t like living on people, but they will crawl on to your skin while cleaning and can cause itching, so take care when cleaning out your coop.
If you need some recommendations for red mite treatments, take a look at our BHWT online shop, we have a wide range of powders and disinfectants to help you fight against those pesky mites that can be used directly on your hens, on your flock’s housing and even within their environment.