The Question of the Week – Mites
I’ve answered questions about mites several times this week. I think the spring weather brings them out more.
Most of what I’ve seen and what people have described has been red mites. (There is another kind of mite – the Northern Fowl Mite – but I suspect they are true to their name and stay up north.)
Mites feed on blood, and a heavy infestation can cause a serious amount of blood loss. A rooster infested with mites will lose weight and energy, both of which affect his ability to service the hens.
An infected hen will lose weight and become depressed, leading to reduced egg production. So a mite-free flock is a worthy goal. In Texas, chiggers are a problem, too, and our pastures are full of them from early May until August. Many of the mite issues and treatments apply to chiggers as well.
I never had a problem with mites until I bought a Speckled Sussex trio. The rooster was blind in one eye and heavily infested. The mites quickly spread to adjacent pens. Fortunately, the sulfur treatment that I describe below worked on the adjacent pens. Culling worked on him. Now, before I buy any birds, I check them over. I suggest you do too.
How bad is a mite problem? I read in Countryside Magazine that if you blow the feathers and count how many mites you immediately see, if you see 6 or more then you have an infestation that needs to be dealt with. If you count 5 or less, then you might consider some of the less drastic treatments.
WHEN APPLYING TREATMENTS READ AND FOLLOW ALL TREATMENT INSTRUCTIONS, INCLUDING MASKS AND GLOVES.
Read that again – I mean it 🙂
I treat mites in stages. Just about every time I handle a bird, I look for mites. For example, I’ve scheduled to send birds for processing this Friday. Thursday night I’ll be going through the flocks collecting the non-layers for Friday’s trip. As I look at the birds, I’ll be looking for mites as well.
Stage 1. A sulfur dusting. I purchase wettable sulfur and Diatomaceous Earth (DE) from our general store. I hold the bird in a stable position – that is, with her legs between my fingers and her head facing my elbow. This gives me excellent control over her. Then I apply a liberal amount of sulfur to the vent area. The vent area seems to be a favorite spot for mites. I also check the area around the neck and under the wings and treat if needed. If one bird has a mite issue, I treat the entire pen. If the entire pen is bad – then I treat the wood also – see below.
Stage 2. After the initial sulfur dusting, I mix 1 part sulfur with 4 parts DE and give them a dusting bath. I try to position this bath so it is out of the rain.
Stage 3. After a week I check the birds again and repeat the sulfur treatment as needed. Most of the time, one treatment is enough.
If I still have an issue after 2 sulfur treatments, then we bring out the heavy weapon – Permethrin spray.
If the whole pen is heavily infested then I spray the wood with Permethrin at full strength. Then I very lightly spray the vent area with Permethrin and – with a gloved hand – rub it into the feathers.
I’ve never had Permethrin fail, but I’ve only had to use it on one pen of birds.
Whenever I empty a wooden pen, I treat the wood with Permethrin before I bring in a new flock.
For further reading, see the article: