Red Mite

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I would rate Red Mites as being one of the biggest problems you will face when keeping chickens. Red Mites live in the cracks of chicken houses (typically under perch ends) coming out at night, crawling onto your birds for a feed.

red mite in a crack on a chickens perch

Macro shot of Red Mite in a crack on a perch. These were disturbed after a treatment with Poultry Shield.

They start off as very small greyish-white mites that swell up into red coloured mites after a feed and at their biggest are only 1mm so small numbers of them can be hard to spot unless you know what to look for.

You will often find a grey ash like deposit around perch ends which is where the mites have been and if you lift the perch, you will see clumps of mites.

Red Mite in chickens’ houses are active during the warmer months, usually May to October and will become dormant over the winter. They multiply at an incredible rate: their life cycle is just 7-10 days. In other words from hatching from an egg to being an adult laying hundreds of eggs takes just a week if conditions are right.

Be Proactive.

red mite powder for chickensThe best course of action is to check for red mite routinely when you clean your chicken house out and use some preventative treatment to the house before they get a hold. You will get to know the places to look and once you have found small numbers of them, you can treat the house to keep numbers under control. See my ‘preventative measures’ below

Are there Red Mite in your Chicken House?

People normally discover Red Mite when they are over-run by them. When hens are being bitten, they can refuse to go in to roost at night, they will become anaemic and their combs will go pale. They will often stop laying and you may find red blood stains on eggs (squashed Red Mites). Eventually, you will start to see losses in the flock.

Checking for Red Mite in Chickens Houses

red mite in a crack

Red Mite will hide away in the daytime but can often be seen if you lift perches, examining the ends. They will usually come swarming out if you treat the cracks with Poultry Shield but by far the easiest way to check to see if there are red mite is to take a piece of white kitchen roll and to rub it along the underside of the perch when your hens are roosting (in the dark). Look at the tissue and if there are Red Mite heading back from their feed, they will be squashed on the kitchen roll as streaks of blood.

Getting rid of Red Mite

It is very hard to get rid of them completely so it is often better to get the numbers down and then find a way of keeping them down that doesn’t involve you spending hours on cleaning the house out. There are lots of different treatments that people use, some more effective than others but I will focus on what I do and have found to be the most successful for me.

If you haven’t got red mite and the weather is warm enough for them (May to October in the UK) then skip step 1 and go straight to step 2. Preventative Measures.

1. Getting rid of an infestation.

If you find lots of red mite in the coop, it’s time for a big clean up that will take a couple of hours initially, then an hour every 5 to 7 days for at least 2 more weeks.

poultry shield 5 litre container

Click image to visit the Poultry Shield page

The products I have found to work the best (that are relatively safe) are Poultry Shield and Diatom. These two are not ‘knock down’ products as such, they do take a little while to work but are none the less very effective. I also use Red Mite Powder on the hens themselves to help them through the night when the Mites are active.

You can BUY Poultry Shield from Amazon Here.

Here is what I do with the Poultry Shield.

  • Remove all birds from the house.
  • Strip the house down as much as possible.
  • Clean the house out – be careful where the bedding is going as red mite live for 6 months without a feed and will find a new home If they can. Ideally seal the bedding in bin bags or burn.
  • Mix up as many watering cans of poultry shield mixture as is needed, as per the instructions on the label 1 part to 9 parts water.
  • ‘Water’ all cracks in the chicken house, concentrating where there are perch ends and concentrations of red mite.
  • Leave to soak for 15 minutes
  • Red mites will be coming out. Cover them and the cracks with poultry shield again.
  • Wait 15 minutes
  • Hose out the house, concentrating on getting the pressure jet into the cracks and so on.
  • Leave the house to dry.

Poultry Shield is a mild detergent and ‘washes’ the waxy coat off the red mites. It is also good for removing organic matter from the hen house so is useful for cleaning. I wouldn’t be without this!

Diatom for Chickens 2KG Tub

Click image to visit my Diatom page

After using the Poultry Shield, when the house is dry, I use Diatom. Diatom is made of micro skeletons of fossilised remains of diatoms. These were once a kind of algae found in water. They are microscopically sharp and pierce the outer waxy coating of the mites which causes them to dry out and die.

The second step also double up as my ‘preventative’ measures if you haven’t yet got a bad infestation

You can BUY Diatom from Amazon HERE

2. Preventative Measures

  • Dust the ends of the perches / nest boxes and where ever else you found concentrations of red mites when cleaning.
  • Rub as much into the perches as you can. Red mite will avoid the diatom and will crawl around it if they can, so make sure they have to crawl through it to get a feed.
  • Repeat every couple of days for as long as you see signs of red mite in the coop.

Repeat the whole cleaning process if there are still lots of mites in 5 to 7 days. You will find you might not need to spend as long on the washing as there won’t be as many mites.

Very Important: Make sure you repeat it before 7 days so that the mites don’t have a chance to lay more eggs. A few mites become a lot in a very short space of time!

If you have a felt roof on your chicken house and they get underneath, it is usually impossible to get rid of them without removing the felt, cleaning and re-felting. My page on Chicken Houses gives more information.

Finally, I will dust the hens down between their feathers with Red Mite Powder to give them some respite during the night when the mites are active.

325 Comments

    • Ivermectin is unlicensed – so it is untested so there are therefore no guidelines for its use.

      If I use it, I withdraw eggs for a week as a precaution.

      Technically, you should only be using it under the guidance of your vet and then the vet will advise how long to withdraw eggs. In reality I’ve heard of lots of different withdrawal times from different vets but 7 days seems to be a good balance.

  1. How do I encourage my hens to roost in their coop after a red mite infestation ? They have slept in their run for the last 3 days even though I have sorted out the infestation. I want my girls to be comfortable again. Thanks

    • You might have to re-train them by lifting them in there manually each night until they get used to roosting in the coop again…

  2. I did not realize how bad it has got down in the coop . . . I actually got my t-shirt covered in them and I only leaned in the coop to collect the eggs !!?? Help … what is a good solution short of burning the coop ???
    Thanks

  3. I live on Maui, so the weather is warm year round. One of my girls went “false broody”, and because she wasn’t taking her dust baths and was just nesting all day and night, she attracted in red mites. Apparently I’m severely allergic to their bites. I get welts and then itch like crazy for days. I’ve put food grade DE everywhere and treated their coop. I’m still seeing those mites! Do you think, since it’s warm here year round and we have tons of wild birds around, I will ever be able to beat them? I’m at my wits end with these mites and I think they’re biting my dog too.

  4. Hi have found reading this very interesting and very helpfull but if the hens have gone off lay how long would you expect them to come back on
    I have uesed Jays fluid is that ok
    Kind regards
    Trevor

    • Yes, I’ve used Jayes Fluid before as well. It’s safe (as long as you don’t have hens in the house until it’s rinsed and dry afterwards).

      Laying is different for every hen. I’ve had hens on a good diet and ‘should be’ laying but they have stopped because of red mite. Afterwards, some came back into lay, others didn’t lay but started again after they moulted in the autumn when the others stopped.

      Hens have laying cycles and when they stop, it can take a while for things to get back into sync.

      • Thanks for your reply the only thing difference with me is that I just left the hut all open and aloud the jays fluid to dry naturally with out rinsing
        Regards
        Trevor

  5. Hi we have just discovered we have red mites. I was on holiday last week and 3 of our bantams died my hubby was looking after them we thought it was the heat and 2 of them were broody he said nothing obvious on them. I came back yesterday went to check the 4 remaining for eggs no eggs, but id put my arm in their bedding didn’t think anything of it and they all looked happy feeding and eating. I later laid on my bed and felt something tickling my arm and found what I know to be a mite then continued to find about 3 more on me they I immediately asked my daughter if she was itchy as she given the chickens a cuddle! she was and had found a mite. So we both showered i was still bitten all over my legs in the afternoon and found more mites. I went no where near chickens again only that time in the morning. I went to farm and pet and got red mite powder last night today we have cleaned out the coup and now we know what we are looking for could easily see them (hubby had his glasses on today!) so have put he powered all of chickens and our two dogs and the coup and the run everywhere!! we had covered up in waterproofs and tied string round wrists and ankles! still got some on us though. im really worried about why I keep finding them on me? it says they cant live on humans or dogs what can I do to make sure they are not in the bed or carpets are there smoke bombs I can use I have brought some spray that is suppose to kill all creepy crawlies including bed bugs and the like and have sprayed that on bed and bed room carpet.
    Would it be better to buy a new coup as this one has felt roof and was given to us! but obviously we heed to get rid of the mites first?
    How long does the red mite dust take to work? Any ideas on how to kill them if in house?
    its sooo horrid!! Poor chickens.
    thanks in advance!

    • Hi Jo,

      Felt roof is a problem – there will be millions of them underneath. You could take that off and replace with something like Onduline (Wickes sell that) or another corrugated type of sheet.

      Normally you’ll need more than just the powder to remove them. That is handy for dusting hens and the perches after the coop is cleaned but you’ll need a much deeper clean to remove them from the coop.
      In fact it’s often impossible to remove them completely but once they are under control, you can keep a look out and treat a little and often. In a week, their population can explode during warm weather because their life cycle is so short and they lay so many eggs after a blood feed.

      I would use something like poultry shield (you can make a stronger dilution if needed). This article may also help: https://poultrykeeper.com/blog/how-to-get-rid-of-red-mite/

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