Chicken mites are one of the most common chicken pests in backyard flocks. Most chicken keepers have to deal with them at some time or another. They’re an unwelcome guest in the chicken coop, and let’s face it, straight up disgusting.
If you do find your flock infested with chicken mites, don’t fret, there are plenty of ways to treat your flock and get rid of those pesky pests stat!
How to Prevent Chicken Mites in the Coop
Keep a Clean Coop
Keeping your coop clean and tidy is the first step in mite prevention. Changing the bedding frequently, even if you use deep litter, will ensure your flock is healthy and happy. Don’t forget under the roosts and nesting boxes!
Keep a Dust Bath in the Coop or Run
Making sure your chickens always have a place to take a nice dust bath is one of the best ways to prevent mites in the chicken coop. Chickens take dust baths to naturally shed parasites like mites and lice. Your chickens have no natural defense against these insects without the availability of a dust bath!
We like to keep a shallow bin full of potting soil, wood ash, and DE in the chicken run for our chickens to enjoy. We keep it under the covered roof so it doesn’t get wet. The chickens use it daily!
Avoid Flock Contact with Other Birds
Mites are brought to your flock from the outside, usually from other chickens or wild birds in the area. Keeping your flock protected from other birds is a really simple way to keep mites at bay.
When you visit fellow chicken keepers, be sure you aren’t bringing any “friends” home with you on your clothes or boots. Wash all clothing immediately after returning home, and definitely don’t head out to your own chicken coop without changing first!
If you’re purchasing new birds be sure to quarantine them until you’re sure they’re free of disease and pests like mites. All it takes is one mite-infested chicken joining your flock to spread them to everyone!
Treat the Coop with Diatomaceous Earth
Keeping a clean coop is only half the battle to avoid a mite infestation. Treating the coop with diatomaceous earth, also known as DE, will help cut down on mite populations.
We’ve also had luck using wood ash in place of DE, it’s free and readily available to us year round.
To treat the coop with Diatomaceous Earth or wood ash, simply sprinkle it everywhere after you do a thorough clean out. We coat the floor of the coop before putting down fresh straw. We also coat all the roosts, the lower part of the walls, and the nesting boxes.
Mites are tricky and love to hide, so make sure you’re getting every crack and crevice!
All of these tactics will help if you haven’t yet found mites in your coop, however, if you find your flock to be infested with mites, preventative measures aren’t going to solve your problem.
Signs of Poultry Mites on Chickens
So, how do you even tell if your chickens are suffering from mites? There are a lot of signs that your chickens have mites. Start by observing the chickens themselves, then we’ll move on to checking the coop for signs of mites.
If your chickens have mites, they’ll be scratching and itching a lot more than usual. Pay attention to your backyard chickens behavior, if your chickens are picking at their feathers, especially under the wings and around the vent, they probably have some sort of insects living on them.
Another sign your chickens have mites is feather loss, particularly around the vent area, as that’s where mites like to congregate. Chickens that are suffering from mite or lice infestation may also have a pale comb and wattles.
Raised Leg Scales
Your chickens may become infested with scaly leg mites, which affect the chickens’ legs. This type of mite are invisible to the naked eye, but you can see signs of them by looking for raised or swollen scales and skin irritation on the legs.
Decrease in Egg Production
An unusual sign that your chickens have mites is a decrease in egg production. When chickens are sick with any common external parasites, their body puts more energy into keeping the chicken alive than it does into producing eggs. If your chickens aren’t laying like they used to, it would be a good idea to check for mites.
How to Check your Chicken for Mites
You may need to get up close and personal with your hens to thoroughly examine them for mites. Hold your hen under your arm and keep her wings securely by her side, tip her gently down and examine the feathers around her vent.
If your bird has mites, you may see some of the teeny insects, but you’re more likely to see signs of them, particularly skin irritation, blood spots, and feather loss.
Examining your chickens may reveal chicken lice instead of mites. Lice are bigger than mites, straw colored, and tend to live on and reproduce on the bird. You may see white nits, or egg clusters around the base of the feathers. If you find chicken lice or poultry lice you can still follow the steps below to get rid of them.
To see what mites look like check out this link with lots of pictures.
Signs of Mites in the Coop
Another way to check for mites is to look for the mites in the coop. Northern fowl mites and red mites tend to spend the day time hiding in the coop, and come out at night like tiny vampires to feast on your chicken’s blood.
You may be able to see the mites by shining a flashlight into cracks in the coop during the day, though this is usually only effective if you have a large red mite infestation.
Look for mites in areas where chickens congregate, on roosts and in nesting boxes. You’re more likely to see them after dark, as they become active and come out from hiding. If you can’t see any, you can try wiping the roosts with a paper towel and see if you get any red streaks on the towel.
Mites look like little red or gray dots, you might mistake them for discolorations or debris in your coop at first. Mites are teeny, only 1mm in length, so you may even want to get out a magnifying glass to help identify the mites.
How to Treat Chicken Mites
Clean the Coop
To get the coop extra clean, let the chickens out to free range for the day, or lock them in the run and don’t give them access to the coop while you’re cleaning.
Give your chicken coop a thorough cleaning, and I do mean thorough!
Mites are teeny tiny, and during the day when they’re not biting your chickens, they’re hiding in every crack and crevice in your chicken coop. After you clean out all the bedding, scrub the floor, walls, roosts, and nesting boxes using hot soapy water.
When the coop has been scrubbed with soapy water, rinse the whole place down with a high powered hose nozzle. You want a powerful jet of water to spray in every crack and crevice to drive the mites out.
Treat the Coop
You’ll want to treat the coop for mites after you clean it. The most natural and easiest way to treat the coop is to spray every surface and crack with apple cider vinegar to kill any insects living there.
If you have severe infestations you may want to try chemical treatments in the coop.
There are a number of powders and sprays on the market to help kill mites. Just be sure to use these treatments while your chickens are out of the coop so you don’t risk harming them. Pay particular attention to the areas that the chickens spend the most time, the roosts and nest boxes, as this is where the majority of the mites will live.
After the coop has dried, sprinkle either Diatomaceous Earth or wood ash (completely cooled) all over the floor, nesting boxes, and roost. This will help to kill any mites that are left over, and will prevent future infestations.
Make a Dust Bath
Create a new dust bath area for the chickens so they can take frequent dust baths and prevent mite problems in the future. There are many ways to make a dust bath, chickens aren’t very picky. Any mixture of dry soil, sand, DE, and wood ash will work for a dust bath. We like to create a 50/50 mixture of wood ash and sand for our dust bathing area.
We fill a small kiddie pool with this mixture and keep it covered when it rains so it lasts a long time. The chickens love taking baths in the mixture and it helps keep them healthy and bug free.
Treat the Chickens
We like to treat our chickens as naturally as possible for insect parasites. Many chicken keepers use insecticides on their chickens, which is an effective treatment if you have severe cases of insect infestations on your birds, but it makes sense to try a natural approach first and move on to chemical solutions if you need to.
To naturally treat our chickens, we dust each bird carefully using wood ash or Diatomaceous Earth. This smothers and dries out the pests living on your birds and makes the chicken less appealing for mites. We dust them gently, concentrating under the feathers and around the vent, where mites tend to congregate.
We do the dusting outside in the fresh air, so the air inside of the coop stays clean and dust free. Make sure to ruffle the feathers gently so the dust gets right down to the bird’s skin, where the mites live.
You’ll have to repeat this treatment every week for at least four weeks to kill all new mites that have hatched. The trick is to keep it up long enough to kill every mite that’s old enough to lay eggs, and every mite that hatches from those eggs.
The cycle of dusting the chickens can take a month or more due to the life cycle of the insects. Be sure to keep checking your chickens for mites or nits every time you dust the birds, and keep up the process until you’re not seeing signs of the pests anymore.
NOTE: If you choose not to use natural methods to get rid of mites, you will need to avoid eating the chickens eggs for the entire time you are treating the chickens and/or the coop with chemicals, and for two weeks after you finish treatment. Anything the chickens come into contact with can end up in their eggs, you don’t want to risk your own health by eating those eggs!
I hope this post has helped you to detect, treat, and prevent the chicken mites that are hounding your flock!
Do you have any great tips for getting rid of mites in the chicken coop? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!