Chicken mites. 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, don’t fret, there are plenty of ways to treat your flock and get rid of those pesky pests stat!
How to Prevent Mites in the Chicken Coop
Keep a clean coop
Keeping your coop clean and tidy is the first step in mite prevention. Changing the bedding frequently, especially under the roosts and nesting boxes, will ensure your flock is healthy and happy.
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.
Do your chickens have mites?
So, how do you even tell if your chickens are suffering from mites? There are a lot of signs that your chickens have mites.
First, they’ll be scratching and itching a lot more than usual. 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.
The only way to know for sure though, is to check. 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, nits (eggs). Mites lay eggs around the base of the feather.
How to Treat Mites in Chickens
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 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. 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.
After the coop has dried, sprinkle either Diatomaceous Earth or wood ash (completely cooled of course) all over the floor, nesting boxes, and roost.
Treat the chickens
We like to treat our chickens as naturally as possible for insect parasites. Many chicken keepers use insecticides on their chickens, but the thought of putting poison all over my birds gives me the willies.
Instead, we dust each bird carefully using wood ash mixed with DE. This mixture smothers and dries out the pests living on your birds. We dust them gently, concentrating under the feathers and around the vent, where mites tend to congregate. We do it 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 wood ash/DE 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. Be sure to keep checking your chickens for mites or nits every time you dust the birds.
For a more detailed look at how to naturally treat chickens for pests, don’t miss our post on natural lice treatment!
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!