Much as we chicken keepers enjoy the summer months the warmer weather is not without its problems. Possibly the biggest and most irritating, to hens and their humans, is the invasion of the red mite.
The red mite is an external parasite and scarily can survive up to 8 months between feeds. Hence the reason it can be so difficult to eradicate. The mites feed on the blood of chickens during the night, retreating to cracks and crevasses in the housing at daybreak where they lay eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae in 2 to 3 days and begin feeding on the sleeping birds within just 24 hours!
Mild winters have led to an increase in red mite infestations and they can happen at any time of year, although are at their very worst during a sizzling summer.
Irritating to us chicken owners in that they crawl on us when cleaning out the housing, their impact on the chickens can be fatal. The resulting blood loss causes stress, anaemia, disease and a drop in egg production. Left untreated the suffering birds will eventually die.
So, how do you know when red mite are present?
– Your chickens will become reluctant to go in at night and may start laying their eggs outside rather than in the nest boxes.
– Resulting anaemia will cause your chickens’ faces and wattles to look pale.
– Eggs may have dark spots and speckles on them. These could be blood spots or the mites themselves.
– In the cracks and crevasses of the housing you will see a grey “dust”. This is not dust at all but mite droppings. Lovely.
What to do?
There are many products on the market, which are effective to varying degrees. The ones that I have found to work the best are the Smite Organic range.
Red mite have a waxy hard outer covering without which they dry out and die. The Smite spray and powder act as degreasants, dissolving the outer covering and killing the mite by desiccation. The powder can be dusted directly onto the birds, killing any unwanted passengers and the spray is great for targeting the crooks and crannies of the housing.
For more information on eradicating this most pesky of pests take a look at the Smite-A-Mite Programme. You’ll be doing your chickens a great favour by freeing them of red mite.