Mites: when backyard chickens are not so fun

Chicken Coop

This is a post for the strong stomached and dedicated urban homesteaders out there. Casual readers, look out. Creepy crawlies are ahead.

Our chicken drama continues. They had an infestation of northern fowl mites about 6 weeks ago, which we treated with ivermectin (a few drops on each bird), and a thorough coop cleaning, followed up with neem oil sprayed all over the place. The chickens seemed to feel better soon, and follow-up checks of their vent area showed just a few mites scurrying about. A few mites are normal, and a flock can go about their business without a problem. We patted ourselves on the back for being responsible chicken owners and nipping the problem in the bud.

HOWEVER, this afternoon after I picked up one of our light Brahmas to move her to the chicken tractor, my arm felt itchy, and I looked down to see red mites crawling all over me! HORRORS! Oh, it was so icky. I went straight to the farm store to pick up some permethrin dust, without even investigating the chicken further. If they transferred to me that quickly, I knew it must be bad.

Wearing long sleeves and gloves, Joshua wrangled them up and flipped them over, and I liberally dusted them with the poultry dust. But after they were coated with dust, I felt the base of their feathers, which were caked with something. I bent over and looked more closely and saw that there were thousands upon thousands of red mites (smothered in dust) crawling about the feather shafts. Likely the caked gunk on the feather shaft were their eggs.

This is the stuff they don’t tell you about raising chickens. That horrid little crawly things can infest your birds, make them stop laying eggs, and even kill them.

Tomorrow we will clean the coop again and spray it down with neem oil. And maybe something stronger. It’s funny how quickly my organic gardening principles fly out the window when it comes to blood-sucking insects. Give me poison, and give me lots.

I wish I could have taken a picture of the mites to give you a helpful tutorial about how to treat infested poultry, but truly I was too grossed out and wanted to kill the little buggers as quickly as possible and then get myself in the shower. But there are a ton of blogs out there that will walk you through the process if needed, like The Boise Backyard Chickens, and The Chicken Chick.

I’m going to take another shower.

*The saga of the chicken mites is updated in a later post: Poultry Spa.*

You can see a black scab on the comb of the chicken in front. That’s evidence of mites. Her comb is much worse on the other side.

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4 thoughts on “Mites: when backyard chickens are not so fun

  1. Pingback: Mites, part 3, final answer | baD.I.N.K.adink

  2. Pingback: Julie's Notebook | Red mites – a poultry nightmare

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