Red mites are yellow / brown in colour becoming red after feeding on blood from hens, and are almost invisible to the naked eye (0.6 to 1mm). Mites live in cracks crevices and perches during the day and feed on hens at night.
- Pale combs and wattles (anaemia).
- Scratching and feather pecking.
- Reluctance to use a coop.
- Changes to perching habits.
- Spread by wild birds.
- Introduced by newly purchased stock.
- Transmitted on secondhand equipment, housing etc.
Identify the presence of mites in one of these ways:
- 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 and / 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 as above.
- 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 had a blood meal will show up as tiny red specks or cluster of red specks.
- Red mites that have not fed overnight are grey, almost dust-like and harder to spot.
Although hard to completely eradicate, it is possible to control the spread of mites using various products on the market.
- Treat any newly purchased secondhand equipment before introducing birds.
- Use a diluted spray product such as Poultry Shield use as a diluted spray to clean the hen house prior to treating your hens.
- A powder-like substance, Diatomaceous Earth can be liberally sprinkled in nest boxes, around dust bath areas, and on the underside of perches. It is easy, cheap, and safe to use for hens and people alike. Dust newly purchased birds direct onto their bodies, working the powder through the feathers before merging into your flock.
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