The depluming mite (knemidocoptes gallinae) can infect most backyard fowl including chickens, ducks and geese. The mite burrows into the feather shafts and the skin surrounding the feathers. This burrowing causes damage to the skin and feathers, causing fluid to ooze out; it is this fluid on which the mites feed. As the mites burrow into the feathers, the pain can be enough to cause the bird to pull out its own feathers hence the name ‘Depluming Mite’.
The mite spends its entire life on the bird and as such cannot survive in the environment without birds.
The mite is transmitted between birds by direct contact.
The mite can reach adulthood in as little as 17 days and prefer to reproduce in the spring / summer months. Many birds often carry low numbers of mites without symptoms, but when they are stressed mite numbers grow rapidly.
Interestingly this mite gives birth to live young rather than laying eggs.