Red mites hide away in the dark corners of the chicken coop, emerging at night to feed on the blood of your poor unsuspecting chickens.
The level of irritation from a red mite infestation can cause broody hens to abandon their nests and pluck out their own feathers. Other symptoms include weight loss and a general loss of condition and lower egg yield.
Since they feed at night, they are notoriously difficult to spot during the daytime. Birds will be restless at night and will have a severe skin irritation from the biting mites. Red Mites are almost white before they feed, blood red after a feed and a greyish black colour with partially digested blood so you will see various colours of mites.
How to test for red mites: Simply wipe a white piece of kitchen towel or a white tissue along the underside of a perch in the dark. Any blood stains will indicate the presence of Red Mite!
Prevention is the easiest way to deal with mite. When you get started with keeping chickens more than likely you will have a new mite-free coop. Make sure to give this a real good dusting of red mite powder before you put your chickens in. Aim to leave a noticeable layer of the powder in the corners and cracks of the coop.
As soon as you can handle your hens comfortably, dust them too with mite powder, making sure to work the powder in under their feathers.
By doing this every 4 to 6 weeks, you greatly reduce the chances of red mite taking hold. To date we have never experienced a red mite problem because we follow this method.
If at a later stage you introduce a new bird to the flock make sure that they are very well dusted down with mite powder.
There is a whole host of products available to you. The main ingredient in these powders is D.E (Diatomaceous Earth) which is a 100% natural and non toxic powder that typically provides protection for up to 6 weeks with just one application.
The same applies to biting lice, which lay their eggs at the base of chicken’s feathers. Again, dust all your chickens with powder, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms or not, and give the hen house a really good layer too.