Chicken Mites: How to Identify and Get Rid of Them

The chicken mite under the microscope

Chicken mites are tiny parasites that can infest your flock and cause discomfort and health issues to your chickens. 

These pests are not always easy to spot, but their impact on the health and productivity of your chickens is quite significant. For instance, they can induce stress and decrease the egg production of your hens.

If you want to learn how to keep your chickens healthy and your coop free from chicken mites, check out the rest of this guide!

How Do You Know If You Have Chicken Mites?

Domestic chicken with poultry mites

You can tell you have chicken mites if your flock shows visible distress, like excessive scratching or restlessness. You may also notice changes in appearance, such as feather loss or damaged skin, especially around the vent and underwings.

When inspecting your coop, look closely for these critters, especially in cracks and dark corners. 

At night, mites become more active, making this the best time to spot them. Using a flashlight, you might catch them moving or find their tiny, white eggs.

Besides physical signs on your chickens, keep an eye out for a decline in their overall health. Infested birds often have lower egg production and seem lethargic. 

These symptoms are red flags, signaling it’s time to take action against these pests.

Here’s a video showing how to identify chickens for mites and lice:

How To Check Chickens for Mites & Lice

Common Types of Chicken Mites

Chicken mites come in different types, and identifying them correctly is crucial for choosing the right treatment strategy. Here’s a closer look at the most common types of chicken mites:

  • Red Mite (Dermanyssus gallinae): These mites are small, about 0.7mm, and usually have a pale grey color. However, after feeding on blood, they turn a reddish-brown. They live in cracks and crevices in the chicken coop and come out at night to feed on the chickens. They’re known for causing anemia and decreased egg production in heavily infested flocks.
  • Depluming Mite (Neocnemidocoptes gallinae): Burrowing into the skin at the base of feathers, this mite causes intense irritation, leading to feather loss. Chickens affected by this suffer from skin lesions and can even experience digit necrosis.
  • Northern Fowl Mite (Ornithonyssus sylviarum): These are slightly smaller than red mites and are dark grey to black in color. Unlike red mites, they spend their entire life cycle on the chicken, causing severe skin irritation and stress. Infestations are noticeable around the vent area, where they feed and lay eggs. These mites can lead to feather loss and decreased egg production.
  • Scaly Leg Mite (Knemidocoptes mutans): Scaly leg mites are microscopic mites that burrow into the skin under the chicken’s leg scales, causing thickening and deformity of the legs. The legs also appear crusty and swollen. This type of mite causes significant discomfort and can lead to lameness in severe cases.
  • Cyst Mite (Laminosioptes cysticola): This small parasite forms nodules in the bird’s skin, muscles, and internal organs. Visible as white or yellowish lumps, these mites are often found upon close examination of the bird’s skin. 
  • Tropical Fowl Mite (Ornithonyssus bursa): This mite is found in warmer regions and resembles the Northern Fowl Mite in behavior and appearance. It’s known for laying more eggs in the nest and can infest various birds and even humans. Like the poultry red mite, it’s linked to the spread of certain viruses, although there’s no proof it transmits them.
  • Feather Mite (Various species): These mites feed on feather oils and debris. They can cause dermatitis, feather loss, and reduced egg production. Quill mites live inside feather quills and can also be detrimental.

Each of these mites presents unique challenges and requires specific strategies for control and eradication. 

Regular checks, good coop hygiene, and prompt treatment are vital in managing these pests and ensuring the health of your flock. 

How to Get Rid of Chicken Mites

Chicken dust bathing to keep clean and get rid of mites

When eliminating chicken mites, you can opt for natural or chemical methods. Both strategies have their merits and can be effective when applied correctly.

Natural Treatments

Natural treatments are often preferred for their safety and minimal environmental impact. They can be highly effective, especially in mild to moderate infestations.

1. Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth, which is a powder made from fossilized algae, is effective in drying out and killing mites. Sprinkle it around the coop, particularly in cracks and crevices, and dust it on the birds. 

It’s important to use food-grade diatomaceous earth and avoid inhalation, which can cause respiratory issues.

Pro Tip: You can also dust your chickens for more effective mite treatment. Avoid the face and respiratory areas to prevent inhalation, which can irritate their lungs. 

Additionally, reapply diatomaceous earth after cleaning the coop or after rain, as it loses effectiveness when wet. 

2. Garlic Juice

Garlic juice, known for its natural insect-repelling properties, can be an effective and organic way to combat chicken mites. 

When mixed with water and sprayed around the coop, the strong scent of garlic helps to deter mites. This method is especially useful in hard-to-reach areas and dark corners where mites are likely to hide.

A few years back, I also started adding a few teaspoons of garlic juice to my chickens’ drinking water, and it has shown noticeable benefits. 

This slight change was intended to boost their immune systems, as garlic is also known for its health-promoting properties. 

Over time, I observed that my chickens seemed more vigorous and showed fewer signs of irritation or discomfort, which are common indicators of mite infestation.

3. Essential Oils

Essential oils such as eucalyptus, lavender, and peppermint have natural mite-repelling properties. When diluted with water and sprayed in the coop, these oils can help keep mites at bay. 

Note that it’s crucial to dilute these oils properly to prevent irritation to the chickens.

4. Herbal Nesting Box Blends

Herbs like mint, lavender, and rosemary in nesting boxes can naturally repel mites with their aromatic oils. 

These herbs not only keep mites away but also promote a calming environment for the chickens, which can reduce stress and improve laying.

Chemical Treatments

For more severe infestations, chemical treatments may be necessary. They are typically more potent than natural remedies but require careful handling and attention to safety.

1. Permethrin

Permethrin is a widely used synthetic insecticide that’s effective against a variety of pests, including chicken mites. It can be applied to both the coop and directly on the birds, following the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Proper ventilation is crucial during application to avoid inhalation by the chickens or the handler.

2. Ivermectin

Ivermectin is a powerful anti-parasitic medication that can be administered either topically or orally to control mite infestations. 

Due to its potency, it should be used under veterinary supervision to ensure the correct dosage and to avoid any adverse effects.

3. Lime Sulfur Dip

A lime sulfur dip can be effective, particularly for treating scaly leg mites. Soaking the chicken’s legs in a lime sulfur solution helps to kill the mites. 

It’s important to handle the chickens gently during this process to minimize stress.

4. Acaricides

Acaricides are chemicals specifically formulated to target mites. They are available in various forms, including sprays and powders. Regular application as per the instructions is crucial for effective control.

It’s also important to regularly clean the coop to prevent the buildup of these chemicals, which can be harmful over time.

How to Prevent Chicken Mites

Chicken mites in hens with feather loss

Preventing chicken mites is easier and more effective than treating an infestation. Here are some proactive approaches you can take to prevent chicken mites:

  • Regular coop cleaning: Clean and disinfect the coop regularly. Remove old bedding, scrub the surfaces, and use a safe disinfectant. This eliminates mite hiding places and eggs.
  • Dust baths: Ensure your chickens have access to dust baths. Dust bathing is a natural behavior that helps chickens keep mites and other parasites at bay.
  • Monitor chicken health: Regularly check your chickens for signs of mites, such as feather loss or skin irritation. Early detection is crucial for prompt treatment.
  • Isolate new birds: Quarantine new birds before introducing them to your flock. This helps prevent the introduction of mites from other flocks.

Maintaining these practices helps create an environment that is less inviting to mites. Good coop management, coupled with vigilant observation, can significantly reduce the risk of mite infestations.

When to Seek Veterinary Help

If you notice severe symptoms such as extreme feather loss, skin lesions, or signs of anemia in your chickens, it’s time to consult a veterinarian regarding chicken mites. 

These symptoms could indicate a heavy infestation or a more serious health issue.

Chronic infestations that don’t respond to your treatment efforts also warrant professional advice. A veterinarian can offer more potent treatments and guide you on safe and effective applications.

Additionally, if you’re unsure about the type of mites affecting your chickens or the best course of action, a vet’s expertise can be invaluable.

Vets can get your flock back to health and help you fine-tune your prevention strategies for the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Domestic chicken having a dust bath to get rid of mites

Will Chicken Mites Go Away on Their Own?

No, chicken mites will not go away on their own. Without intervention, these pests can rapidly multiply and severely impact the health of your chickens. 

You need to take active steps in treating and preventing mites to protect your flock and their environment.

Does Bathing a Chicken Get Rid of Mites?

Bathing a chicken can help reduce mite infestations, but it’s not a standalone solution. While a bath can remove some mites, it won’t eliminate them entirely. 

Additional treatments, such as applying appropriate insecticides or natural remedies, are necessary for complete eradication.

Can Humans Get Mites From Chickens?

Yes, humans can get mites from chickens, especially the Red Mite (Dermanyssus gallinae), which can bite humans and cause irritation. The good thing is they do not live on humans as they do on chickens.

Scientific References

Birrenkott, G. P. et al. Topical application of garlic reduces northern fowl mite infestation in laying hens PubMed (2000)

Eladl, A. H. et al. Prevalence of mites and their impact on laying hen (Gallus gallus domesticus) farm facilities in Egypt, with an analysis of deltamethrin residues in eggs and tissue Taylor & Francis Online (2018)

Murillo A.C. et al. Parasitic mites alter chicken behaviour and negatively impact animal welfare Scientific Reports (2020)

Sparagano, O. A. E. & Ho, J. Parasitic Mite Fauna in Asian Poultry Farming Systems Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2020)

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