Red Mite

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.

Beware of what you read!

There is a lot of information written about these troublesome ectoparasites on the internet these days, much of it re-written and re-spun. When I started writing about them, there was little available online. Strangely, some small errors that I had introduced on my page that I corrected in an update pop up frequently on other websites. Running a Google image search often uncovers companies that have used my copyrighted images! I make regular checks to try to stop this from happening.

If you wish to learn more about red mite then I would encourage you to read the guide to red mite on This is a reliable source of information and is regularly updated.


    • I don’t tend to do it regularly, only when I notice lice on the birds. I do dust the house down regularly for red mites though.

  1. I’ve been battling the mite situation in my hen house for over 2 years. It is causing me and I know the hens absolute misery. I’ve totally scrubbed and washed out the hen house time and time again. I’ve sprayed with coopex and dusted with pestine over and over again. I’ve used a bleach when cleaning I clean regularly and I put garlic in their water. Still my hens look awful. The mite attacks them around the neck under the chin and causes scratching, so as a result they look pretty terrible. I’ve treated them on the perch at night sprinkling pestine over them as they sleep, still the mite persists. Does anyone have a good solution. Glenda

    • If you can get some creosote then that will see them off, but you will need to know a friendly farmer to get some, otherwise the diatom powder works well. Creocote is the strongest stuff us ordinary folk can get, it helps but isn’t as good as the real thing.
      I power washed red mite out of my dismantled hen house to find that the little blighters were hiding in the soil and coming up as soon as I had finished so put something like plastic under the parts of the hen house when you are cleaning them.

    • Hi I found my poor hens wouldn’t go in their coop only to find millions of red mite I power washed the coop and removed all the bedding and burnt it I then got some smoke bombs put them in the coop and smoked the mites out as they came out I sprayed with jayes fluid and squashed the mites this took ages! I left them bedding free for a week dusted every day with mite powder and repeated the smoke bomb fluid and squashing for three days finally I got rid of them. I clean out the coop and burn the bedding every week I haven’t seen any mites I hope this helps

  2. I have a brand new clean coop and seperate nesting box for any broody hens, should that happen and I will be rehoming some ex battery hens and a cockerel. Please could you tell me what brand of mite powder is safest to use in the chicken coop and seperate nesting box and which is safest to apply on the chicken? How often should I dust the coop/nesting box/ chickens! when using it as a preventative measure?
    Cheers 🙂

    • Check the label and it will tell you if they are safe to use on chickens. Diatom and red mite powder are both natural products for example and can be used on the birds as well as for red mite in the coop.

  3. Hi, Help appreciated.
    I really need to know which mites I’ve got! Sadly, they are on our back porch where an Old English decided to hatch her eggs, and we let her. I think a few wild birds are using the same porch, nesting, eating her food.
    The mites are tiny, and fast. We first saw them as red on our hands, after touching a water dish, and then they never appeared red again. The were crawling all over the wood chip bag that her nest is in, they were all over her eggs. I couldn’t tell if she had an accumulation on her vent. too dark to see anything by then.

    So, they were active during the day, but, they were not just on her.
    From looking at info. online, I dusted her and the eggs with Sevin 5, and then put her in a new cage and new nest–not sure if she’s going to sit, now. The Seven did not kill the mites in the time that we were working on them. I don’t know how long it takes.

    Then, we burned the entire bag of wood chips, and dusted a few feet around the place where the bag had been. There is a lot of gardening equipment and furniture on porch since I just had to empty a damaged shed’s contents onto the porch. It’s going to be difficult if I have to treat everything, —but, I don’t want them to come inside!
    The real coop and the other chickens don’t appear to have any–but they could soon since she probably has infested their favorite dusting holes.

    I’ve read a lot and I still can’t figure out whether these are Northern Fowl mites or Red Mites. If NFM, I’m told I don’t need to worry that they will come in the house.
    There also seems to be a little recognized mite that is said to be invisible that is torturing people here, but, I can see these–if I look hard enough. So, I do hope it is not that one!
    I’m in U.S.A.

    • There are actually a range of different mites that they could be – I am only familiar with a few here in the UK. I would say that if they were red on your hand then they are almost certainly red mite. Northern Fowl Mite can be identified around the vent so you should soon be able to check for this. Red mites are only red after a feed – until then, they will vary in size and appear grey in colour.

  4. I have a empty chicken coop and have done for around 9 months now and yet I still have some sort of mites that keep appearing. I thought without a host they would have all died off by now? Is it possible that it is something else other than mites as they do not appear red and are fairly scattered around the coop. Thanks.

    • The mites only turn red after a meal, so yes they will be in the coop and can live for about 8 months without a feed. They will be fairly small and greyish colour. Watch they don’t get onto you or another pet as they will change hosts when hungry.

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