Mites are small, eight-legged insects that live on the skin and feathers of chickens. They can be hard to see with the naked eye, but you can spot them if you look closely at your chicken’s skin.
Mite infestations usually occur in large flocks where chickens are kept in close contact. Mites feed on the skin and feathers of chickens, causing irritation and discomfort for your birds. If left untreated, mites can cause serious health issues for your flock.
How Do Chickens Get Mites?
The answer to that question is a little complicated. There are several different types of mites that can attack chickens, and there are several different ways they enter the chicken’s body. The most common way is through the hen’s egg.
When a hen lays an egg, she deposits some of her blood into the contents of the egg. This helps nourish the developing embryo. If a mite is present in the hen’s blood, it will be deposited into the egg along with the blood.
Once inside the egg, it will remain dormant until it hatches out. This can happen within two weeks or up to six months later, depending on how long it takes for one of these eggs to hatch.
In most cases, chickens get mites from other birds. Mites can live in the coop and on the chickens, but they don’t spread from one chicken to another very easily. They tend to spread from bird to bird by direct contact.
You can also get mites on your hands if you touch an infected chicken or its bedding or nesting material. The mites will then move to your body and lay eggs that hatch into larvae, which then feed on your skin cells and grow into adult mites in about three weeks.
5 Most Common Types of Chicken Mites
Northern fowl mites
Northern fowl mites are parasites that feed on the blood of birds. The mites can be found throughout North America.
The northern fowl mite is a parasite that feeds on the blood of chickens, turkeys, and other birds. It can be found throughout North America.
Northern fowl mites are less than 1/10 inch long and have eight legs. They are reddish-brown with two pairs of eyes and a body that has three distinct regions: an abdomen, cephalothorax (head), and thorax (body region between head and abdomen).
The northern fowl mite lives in cracks in coops and nests. They also may live under feathers on the body of chickens and turkeys. Adult females lay eggs that hatch into larvae in about two days. Larvae then develop into nymphs (immature stages) within about three days before becoming adults themselves after about seven days.
Red roost mites
Red roost mites are tiny spider-like insects that live on the bodies of chickens, pigeons, and other birds. These pests are smaller than a pinhead and have six legs, two antennae, and no wings.
Red roost mites are reddish-brown in color and may appear as spots on a chicken’s skin. These insects cause irritation to the bird’s skin, making it susceptible to infection by other microorganisms. Red roost mites can also irritate a chicken’s eyes and ears, causing these areas to become inflamed.
These pests are usually found around the vent area of birds that roost together in large numbers such as chickens or pigeons. They also tend to be more active during colder months when they seek warmth by attaching themselves to warm bodies such as those found under feathers or beneath the skin.
The best way to prevent this pest is through sanitation practices that help eliminate debris where eggs might otherwise be found. A clean coop will help reduce the number of red roost mites in your flock.
Scaly leg mites
Scaly leg mites (Knemidocoptes mutans) are a common skin infection in poultry. These tiny mites infest the legs of chickens, causing scaly and crusty sores that are uncomfortable for the bird. Scaly leg mites can be treated with an anti-parasitic medication from your vet, but prevention is key to keeping your flock healthy.
A depluming mite is a serious pest that attacks and destroys poultry, particularly chickens. It attacks the skin, beak, comb, wattles, and feet of birds, causing irritation and injury. The mites can also infect humans who come into contact with them.
Tropical fowl mite
The tropical fowl mite is a species of mite that infests poultry. It is small, yellowish in color, and has four pairs of legs. The tropical fowl mite feeds on the blood of its host.
There are several types of tropical fowl mites that affect chickens, but the red tropical fowl mite (Ornithonyssus bursa) is the most common. The red tropical fowl mite is about 0.25 inches long when fully grown and has a dark reddish-brown coloration with an oval-shaped body covered with fine hairs or scales. The female lays her eggs on the bird’s feathers; when they hatch, they move onto the bird’s skin where they feed on its blood for around two weeks before returning to the feathers to lay more eggs.
Tropical fowl mites are generally found on chickens kept indoors or under cover during cold weather because they do not survive well outside in cold temperatures. In addition to living in coops and hen houses, these parasites may also be found on other animals such as rabbits, cats, and dogs if they come into contact with birds infected with them
Signs and Symptoms of Mites
The most common sign of mites is a darkening of your chicken’s skin as it tries to remove the parasites by scratching or pecking at itself. This behavior often leads to raw spots on the back and breast of your bird’s neck or under its wings. You may also see red bumps around these areas that contain black specks — these are mite eggs.
Other signs and symptoms include:
- Scabs around the eyes or nostrils
- Scaly patches on their legs
- Head shaking
- Unusually small comb (if they’re hens)
How to Get Rid of Chicken Mites
Chicken mites are a common pest in chickens and should be treated with care. You can get rid of mites the natural way or use chemicals. Both ways are effective and will get rid of chicken mites.
Natural Ways to Treat Mites
Getting rid of chicken mites is not easy. The mites are microscopic and difficult to detect. They can hide on the surface of your birds, in their feathers, and even in their eggs.
Neem oil is a natural pesticide that can help you get rid of these tiny pests. Neem oil contains properties that kill mites, insects, fungi and other pests on contact. It also has a repellent effect on egg-laying females so they won’t lay eggs near treated areas.
Here’s how to use neem oil for chickens:
Mix 1 part neem oil to 10 parts water in a spray bottle or bucket. You’ll need to add more water if you plan on using it as a dip for your chickens’ legs or wings.
Put on rubber gloves before handling the mixture because it can irritate your skin and eyes if it gets on them.
Spray the mixture directly onto your chickens’ legs and wings once every week for two weeks to kill any existing mites and prevent new ones from emerging from their eggs during this time period.
The best way to get rid of chicken mites is with diatomaceous earth. This powdery substance is made up of the fossilized remains of diatoms, which are tiny aquatic organisms. The powder is sharp and can kill insects by cutting through their outer shells and dehydrating them.
How to Use Diatomaceous Earth for Chicken Mites
Diatomaceous earth is safe for use around pets and humans, but you should still take precautions when handling it. Wear a dust mask to avoid inhaling the powder. You should also wash your hands thoroughly after handling the substance so that you don’t accidentally ingest any of it.
To apply diatomaceous earth to your chicken coop, add the product to a small bucket of warm water and stir until it dissolves completely. Wearing rubber gloves, spray this mixture onto wood surfaces in your coop. Leave the mixture on overnight before rinsing it off with water in the morning.
Chemical Ways to Treat Mites
If you suspect you have chicken mites, a chemical is the best way to get rid of them. The chemicals will kill the mites and their eggs and larvae.
You can buy chemicals such as permethrin or pyrethrins at most pet stores, but they may be harmful to humans. They may also be ineffective against certain species of chicken mite.
How to Prevent Chicken Mites
The best way to prevent infestation is through good management practices:
- Keep your coop clean and disinfected regularly (at least once a week)
- Keep chickens’ feet trimmed (about once every two weeks), so they don’t get infected with mites while scratching in their bedding
- Clean up droppings daily with a dustpan or shovel; dispose of them at least 100 feet away from the coop
The main thing to understand is that while chicken mites are challenging to get rid of, they can be eliminated. While commercial products might be efficient at killing the mites and their eggs, that doesn’t mean you should reach for a pest spray each time you have a case of chicken mites. Because if natural, safer methods can take care of the problem and leave your chickens healthier, it’s certainly an option worth considering.