Our experience with, and recommended solution for a persistent mite infestation is summarized in the post Mites part 3: Final Answer, if you want to jump straight to it.
Josh and I returned from a fantastic 3-day backpacking trip (to be reviewed soon) to our little urban homestead crying out for our attention. We had been away a short time, but it was hot and sunny while we were gone, and everything doubled and tripled itself in that short window. We got home around 10:30 at night, and by 6 the next morning, I was up and ticking tasks off my “emergency to-do list”: pick the strawberries and raspberries, water all of the hanging baskets, water all of the vegetables, pick the zucchini, mow the grass, prune the kiwi, pull the weeds, trellis the tomatoes, bathe the chickens.
Yes, bathe the chickens.
I’m happy to report that our chickens are on the upswing after the mite reinfestation we discovered last week. We treated them all twice with permethrin (“poultry dust”), once last weekend, and again 7 days later, and I cleaned the coop thoroughly last weekend, sprayed it down with neem oil, and then again this weekend.
There was no trace of mites on 5 of the 7 hens. The two that were very badly infested still had evidence of nits around the feather shafts on their rumps. Out of ideas at this point, I turned to the interwebs, where I found some helpful forum threads that suggested we bathe them in Dawn dish detergent.
Now, having used the harsh chemical dust twice, and the nontoxic poultry bath once, I can say that the latter is the way to go, and we’ll start with this method next time we discover mites (which is bound to happen). The biggest upside is that you can eat the eggs after the Dawn bath, whereas a two-week moratorium is suggested after treatment with poultry dust.
The method: we filled a 5-gallon bucket with warm water and 1/4 c. Dawn dish washing detergent, and a second 5-gallon bucket with warm water and a 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar. Josh held their rumps in the soapy water while I gently scrubbed away the nits and mud and poo around their vents. We then dunked them in up to their necks, just in case any mites were hiding out. Then we rinsed them off in the apple cider vinegar water.
Some people blow dry at this stage to keep the hens from getting sick, but it was a very hot day here and I really don’t want to be a person that blow dries my chickens, so we just set them out in the sun to dry. We’ll check them for mites regularly from now on, but my fingers are crossed that the problem is over.
And as a bonus, you get some pictures of a chicken taking a bath.