Red Mite in Chickens Houses, Keeping Chickens: A Beginners Guide

Red Mite

I would rate red mites as being one of the biggest problems you will face when keeping chickens. Red Mites live in the cracks of chicken houses (typically under perch ends) coming out at night, crawling onto your birds for a feed.

Macro shot of Red Mite in a crack on a perch. These were disturbed after a treatment with Poultry Shield.

They start off as very small greyish-white mites that swell up into red coloured mites after a feed and at their biggest are only 1mm so small numbers of them can be hard to spot unless you know what to look for.

You will often find a grey ash like deposit around perch ends which is where the mites have been and if you lift the perch, you will see clumps of mites.

Red Mite in chickens’ houses are active during the warmer months, usually May to October and will become dormant over the winter. They multiply at an incredible rate: their life cycle is just 7-10 days. In other words from hatching from an egg to being an adult laying hundreds of eggs takes just a week if conditions are right.

Be Proactive.

The best course of action is to check for red mite routinely when you clean your chicken house out and use some preventative treatment to the house before they get a hold. You will get to know the places to look and once you have found small numbers of them, you can treat the house to keep numbers under control. See my ‘preventative measures’ below

Are there Red Mite in your Chicken House?

People normally discover Red Mite when they are over-run by them. When hens are being bitten, they can refuse to go in to roost at night, they will become anaemic and their combs will go pale. They will often stop laying and you may find red blood stains on eggs (squashed Red Mites). Eventually, you will start to see losses in the flock.

Checking for Red Mite in Chickens Houses

Red Mite will hide away in the daytime but can often be seen if you lift perches, examining the ends. They will usually come swarming out if you treat the cracks with Poultry Shield but by far the easiest way to check to see if there are red mite is to take a piece of white kitchen roll and to rub it along the underside of the perch when your hens are roosting (in the dark). Look at the tissue and if there are Red Mite heading back from their feed, they will be squashed on the kitchen roll as streaks of blood.

Getting rid of Red Mite

It is very hard to get rid of them completely so it is often better to get the numbers down and then find a way of keeping them down that doesn’t involve you spending hours on cleaning the house out. There are lots of different treatments that people use, some more effective than others but I will focus on what I do and have found to be the most successful for me.

If you haven’t got red mite and the weather is warm enough for them (May to October in the UK) then skip step 1 and go straight to step 2. Preventative Measures.

1. Getting rid of an infestation.

If you find lots of red mite in the coop, it’s time for a big clean up that will take a couple of hours initially, then an hour every 5 to 7 days for at least 2 more weeks.

Click image to visit the Poultry Shield page

The products I have found to work the best (that are relatively safe) are Poultry Shield and Diatom. These two are not ‘knock down’ products as such, they do take a little while to work but are none the less very effective. I also use Red Mite Powder on the hens themselves to help them through the night when the Mites are active.

Here is what I do with the Poultry Shield.

  • Remove all birds from the house.
  • Strip the house down as much as possible.
  • Clean the house out – be careful where the bedding is going as red mite live for 6 months without a feed and will find a new home If they can. Ideally seal the bedding in bin bags or burn.
  • Mix up as many watering cans of poultry shield mixture as is needed, as per the instructions on the label 1 part to 9 parts water.
  • ‘Water’ all cracks in the chicken house, concentrating where there are perch ends and concentrations of red mite.
  • Leave to soak for 15 minutes
  • Red mites will be coming out. Cover them and the cracks with poultry shield again.
  • Wait 15 minutes
  • Hose out the house, concentrating on getting the pressure jet into the cracks and so on.
  • Leave the house to dry.

Poultry Shield is a mild detergent and ‘washes’ the waxy coat off the red mites. It is also good for removing organic matter from the hen house so is useful for cleaning. I wouldn’t be without this!

Click image to visit my Diatom page

After using the Poultry Shield, when the house is dry, I use Diatom. Diatom is made of micro skeletons of fossilised remains of diatoms. These were once a kind of algae found in water. They are microscopically sharp and pierce the outer waxy coating of the mites which causes them to dry out and die.

The second step also double up as my ‘preventative’ measures if you haven’t yet got a bad infestation

2. Preventative Measures

  • Dust the ends of the perches / nest boxes and where ever else you found concentrations of red mites when cleaning.
  • Rub as much into the perches as you can. Red mite will avoid the diatom and will crawl around it if they can, so make sure they have to crawl through it to get a feed.
  • Repeat every couple of days for as long as you see signs of red mite in the coop.

Repeat the whole cleaning process if there are still lots of mites in 5 to 7 days. You will find you might not need to spend as long on the washing as there won’t be as many mites.

Very Important: Make sure you repeat it before 7 days so that the mites don’t have a chance to lay more eggs. A few mites become a lot in a very short space of time!

If you have a felt roof on your chicken house and they get underneath, it is usually impossible to get rid of them without removing the felt, cleaning and re-felting. My page on Chicken Houses gives more information.

Finally, I will dust the hens down between their feathers with Red Mite Powder to give them some respite during the night when the mites are active.

Beware of what you read!

There is a lot of information written about these troublesome ectoparasites on the internet these days, much of it re-written and re-spun. When I started writing about them, there was little available online. Strangely, some small errors that I had introduced on my page that I corrected in an update pop up frequently on other websites. Running a Google image search often uncovers companies that have used my copyrighted images! I make regular checks to try to stop this from happening.

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If you wish to learn more about red mite then I would encourage you to read the guide to red mite on poultrykeeper.com. This is a reliable source of information and is regularly updated.

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334 Comments

Do you have to withdraw eggs after ivermectin . And what would the dosage be ??

Ivermectin is unlicensed – so it is untested so there are therefore no guidelines for its use.

If I use it, I withdraw eggs for a week as a precaution.

Technically, you should only be using it under the guidance of your vet and then the vet will advise how long to withdraw eggs. In reality I’ve heard of lots of different withdrawal times from different vets but 7 days seems to be a good balance.

How do I encourage my hens to roost in their coop after a red mite infestation ? They have slept in their run for the last 3 days even though I have sorted out the infestation. I want my girls to be comfortable again. Thanks

You might have to re-train them by lifting them in there manually each night until they get used to roosting in the coop again…

I did not realize how bad it has got down in the coop . . . I actually got my t-shirt covered in them and I only leaned in the coop to collect the eggs . Help … what is a good solution short of burning the coop .
Thanks

I live on Maui, so the weather is warm year round. One of my girls went “false broody”, and because she wasn’t taking her dust baths and was just nesting all day and night, she attracted in red mites. Apparently I’m severely allergic to their bites. I get welts and then itch like crazy for days. I’ve put food grade DE everywhere and treated their coop. I’m still seeing those mites! Do you think, since it’s warm here year round and we have tons of wild birds around, I will ever be able to beat them? I’m at my wits end with these mites and I think they’re biting my dog too.

Hi have found reading this very interesting and very helpfull but if the hens have gone off lay how long would you expect them to come back on
I have uesed Jays fluid is that ok
Kind regards
Trevor

Yes, I’ve used Jayes Fluid before as well. It’s safe (as long as you don’t have hens in the house until it’s rinsed and dry afterwards).

Laying is different for every hen. I’ve had hens on a good diet and ‘should be’ laying but they have stopped because of red mite. Afterwards, some came back into lay, others didn’t lay but started again after they moulted in the autumn when the others stopped.

Hens have laying cycles and when they stop, it can take a while for things to get back into sync.

Thanks for your reply the only thing difference with me is that I just left the hut all open and aloud the jays fluid to dry naturally with out rinsing
Regards
Trevor

Sounds fine. It’s fairly safe to be honest.

Hi we have just discovered we have red mites. I was on holiday last week and 3 of our bantams died my hubby was looking after them we thought it was the heat and 2 of them were broody he said nothing obvious on them. I came back yesterday went to check the 4 remaining for eggs no eggs, but id put my arm in their bedding didn’t think anything of it and they all looked happy feeding and eating. I later laid on my bed and felt something tickling my arm and found what I know to be a mite then continued to find about 3 more on me they I immediately asked my daughter if she was itchy as she given the chickens a cuddle! she was and had found a mite. So we both showered i was still bitten all over my legs in the afternoon and found more mites. I went no where near chickens again only that time in the morning. I went to farm and pet and got red mite powder last night today we have cleaned out the coup and now we know what we are looking for could easily see them (hubby had his glasses on today!) so have put he powered all of chickens and our two dogs and the coup and the run everywhere!! we had covered up in waterproofs and tied string round wrists and ankles! still got some on us though. im really worried about why I keep finding them on me? it says they cant live on humans or dogs what can I do to make sure they are not in the bed or carpets are there smoke bombs I can use I have brought some spray that is suppose to kill all creepy crawlies including bed bugs and the like and have sprayed that on bed and bed room carpet.
Would it be better to buy a new coup as this one has felt roof and was given to us! but obviously we heed to get rid of the mites first?
How long does the red mite dust take to work? Any ideas on how to kill them if in house?
its sooo horrid!! Poor chickens.
thanks in advance!

Felt roof is a problem – there will be millions of them underneath. You could take that off and replace with something like Onduline (Wickes sell that) or another corrugated type of sheet.

Normally you’ll need more than just the powder to remove them. That is handy for dusting hens and the perches after the coop is cleaned but you’ll need a much deeper clean to remove them from the coop.
In fact it’s often impossible to remove them completely but once they are under control, you can keep a look out and treat a little and often. In a week, their population can explode during warm weather because their life cycle is so short and they lay so many eggs after a blood feed.

I would use something like poultry shield (you can make a stronger dilution if needed). This article may also help: https://poultrykeeper.com/blog/how-to-get-rid-of-red-mite/

Well we are in our 70s and have kept chicken years ago without mite/lice issue. With a lovely antique hen house empty and a unused large wire dog pen (for the time when we went out and no fox could get in) l persuaded my husband that we have 3 hens again. The hen house was thouroghly cleaned before we collected them. All went well and last year time for5 months was taken up with my elderly mum who sadly passed away. Hence hens were looked after but not lovingly watched. A few months ago a fox grabbed one of the chickens, in the afternoon, whilst they were free range in our paddock. My husband rescued her when he heard the commotion but she passed away. Then one of the other hens went down poorly and we thought shock.

So one hen and decided to get another three. But. We noticed Amilia was scratching and we identified lice! And heavily infested – so we had neglected her and felt terrible. Plus brought in new hens. So we gave Amelia a bath with baby shampoo and had to get the eggs off! Then when dry they all got dusted with DE and house treated. They even have a dust bath with DE in it.

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We have done this on 3 weekly intervals. Now l have read that a mixture of lemon juice, garlic and water (ratios were given) and also here l read the benefits of cider apple juice.

Whilst all this is going on my husband is saying why are we doing this again?
1. I love seeing them and collecting the eggs.
2. I do not want to buy insecticide that you put on their skin.
3. Can we control this organically?
4. Why do l feel so depressed about this?
5. Have looked at price of plastic houses which are so called easier to keep clean. That does not make economic sense for us and l don’t like the cheaper ones that sit on the ground. ( Surely they are cold in winter. ) Our old hens house is on wheels and has the best box protuding on the side.

Just writing this up has helped to share my problem. By the way they are all busy if you saw them now free range chasing insects and scratching away. They love their automatic feeder that they step on and the lid opens up.

Thank you for listening.

Lovely for you to share your thought with us.

So, first let’s be clear about the problem – Lice are found moving between the feathers on the skin. They are long and move quickly. Their eggs are clumped at the base of feathers like granulated sugar.
Generally speaking, you treat them and they are gone. They are not a big worry.

Red mites on the other hand live in the chicken house, you may find the odd stray on the bird during the daytime but they hop on at night to feed for a couple of hours and then go and hide in the cracks of the chicken house.
These are much harder work but you can get quite aggressive with treatments to the house and wash it out afterwards so nothing harms your chickens.

I find a big clean is necessary but then a hand spray (I like Jeyes fluid but you can use lots of other things) sprayed in the hot spots – under perch ends, certain cracks daily will keep their numbers down.
That ‘manages’ the problem. Getting rid of them completely is very difficult. They are only a problem during the warmer summer months.

The life cycle can be 7 days in the summer (from egg to egg laying adult) so to stay on top of them, you need to treat (the house) more often than this. Treating the chickens can help them but treating the house is essential and far better.

Hi I use liquid paraffin which I apply to all the cracks with a smallish paint brush. In a short time you will see them crawling out and will eventually die as the paraffin takes off their wax coating and they dry out. I do it 2 to 3 in a week to hopefully get the newly hatched eggs. This seems to clear them for a while but they always seem to return.

Sadly, our ancient hen coup has itchy old Red Mites too. We have decided to give up the struggle and buy the gang a new house. When I transfer the chickens from the old infested coup to the new one, could the mites be carried on the chickens to the new house and start a new infestation? What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen?
I thought maybe treating the chickens and then getting them to spend a bit of quarantine time in the broody coup might work? The new coup is going to be a long way from the site of the old one and the old one could be either burned or taken off site. What do you think? Is it silly to be trying to do this in Red Mite high season?

All the best
Alison

Strangely red mite will normally get re-established in the new coop fairly quickly… I guess they are also elsewhere in the wild bird population and in bark of the trees where birds roost or maybe they just carry across on the birds in small numbers.

Whilst they live off the bird during the day, sometimes you can find a couple on the birds.

I’ve found diatom based powders to be good (and safe) to dust between their feathers but do not breathe the dust of course.
Red Mite powder seems to be a diatom powder with added tea tree.

I keep a little plant sprayer with Jeyes fluid mixed up near the coop and every few days I look in the ‘hot spots’ / under perches / in cracks for mites and give a spray on these when I find any. Keeping the number down seems to stop big infestations from occurring and saves you a much bigger job.

Many thanks for getting back to me…I shall invest in a spray for Jeyes fluid and some Red Mite powder and get on the case before we rehouse the gang.
All the best
Alison

I have 2 peking Bantams (Beatrice and Alice) i did have 3 but unfortunately whilst on a 2 week holiday, my poor girl Mabel died due to a red mite infestation and i assume becoming anaemic. My neighbour was very kindly caring for my chickens, but with no poultry keeping experience, Red mites came and were un noticed, i feel awful about the whole situation- i never thought to pre warn my neighbour of the signs for red mite as i have never had them before.. How could i have let this happen.. ?

I desperately trawled the internet for every bit of approved tried and tested info i could… in doing so

i have thoroughly treated the whole coop inc legs, ramp and removing any loose felt off the roof, every crevice and crack i can find. i used an insecticide spray especially for red mite… once treated i repeated the process again a few days later. The second time i treated the coop i found thousands more.. i have also dusted the chickens with powder concentrating the base of the wings, back of neck and carefully near there vents as advised.. I also crushed 2 garlic cloves and added these to there water.. My 2 remaining girls combs have become brighter, nice and red, they are happy enough in themselves and eating, drinking well. when i checked the coop tonight with a torch, i can see no moving mites, im hoping ive zapped them all..(wishful thinking?)
once i put in fresh sawdust i powdered this also, concentrating on the edges, perches have also been thoroughly rubbed with powder..

However my poor chooks are still reluctant to go in the coop at night- each night i have to pick them up and place them in the coop- i dont like to think there distressed but can not leave them out for obvious reasons.. Will my chickens likely start to roost on there own again or do i buy a new hen house? I had planned too..

Sorry for the essay- its my first time keeping chickens and i want the best life for them.. Any advice or reassurance would be great? Also they have not laid any eggs since the infestation..

They should get used to the coop again if you keep popping them back in there. It can sometimes take a while, especially if it’s nice weather and they have found somewhere else appealing to roost.
You could try making the outside perching place less appealing? Maybe block it off somehow? That might speed things up.

Good luck and welcome to a wonderful hobby (even with red mite!)

See also:  How to Stop Bugs from Eating Hostas (Naturally), BugWiz

I have just found red mites in my coop and on my six Pekin bantams today. This was such a useful site. Well written article. Thank you.

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Pest Species Control Agent
Twospotted spider mite – Tetranychus urticae Use our products Mite-E ™ to combat these pests. Orius may also provide spider mite control.

Description

The adult female twospotted spider mite is approximately 0.65 mm long, has 4 pairs of legs and is globular in shape with long spines or hairs on the body and legs. Colour ranges from pale yellow to green with two distinct darker spots on each side of the body. On older mites these spots may give an overall dark colour to the body.

Adult males are smaller, narrower and more pear-shaped. Both males and females have bright red eye spots. Overwintering female mites turn bright orange in autumn and winter.

Eggs are spherical, translucent and about 0.1 mm diameter, and are commonly laid on webbing produced by female mites.

The first stage nymph (often called a larva) has 3 pair legs, and is not much bigger than an egg. The second and third stage nymphs have 4 pairs of legs and are pale yellow or green with two green spots on the abdomen.

Between each nymphal stage there is a moulting phase during which the nymph settles on the leaf and casts the old exoskeleton or skin.

The use of a 10x hand lens is recommended for identifying twospotted spider mites.

Distribution and host range

Twospotted spider mite is found throughout New Zealand on a wide range of fruit, vegetable, ornamental plants, weeds and shelter species.

This mite is an important pest of greenhouse crops including tomato, capsicum, cucumber, melon, pepper, bean, rose, carnation, orchid and chrysanthemum.

Outbreaks of twospotted spider mites commonly occur during hot dry conditions, when plant foliage is covered by dust, or when chemicals are used which disrupt biological control agents.

Signs and symptoms

Spider mites have fine piercing mouthparts that puncture plant cells from which they suck up the cell contents. Both nymphs and adults cause feeding damage to plant leaves.

Twospotted spider mites are normally found on the underside of leaves within the crop. The mites constantly spin fine webbing which is laid over the leaf surface.

Signs and symptoms of twospotted spider mites include:

  • Speckling and yellowing of leaves within a crop
  • Small mites on the underside of the leaves
  • Severely damage leaves become bleached in appearance and fall from the plant
  • Loss of plant vigour and production, and death of plants
  • Webbing on the tips of leaves in severe infestations, especially on young leaves, and mites ‘roping’ down

Life history and habits

Twospotted spider mite overwinters as bright orange adult females on old crop debris, greenhouse structures and other plants. In spring they become active and begin laying eggs on newly planted crops.

Eggs hatch in 2-15 days depending on temperature, but development below 12 °C is reduced. Developing mites pass through larva, protonymph and deutonymph stages with quiescent or moulting phases between each.

A life cycle may be completed in 2-3 weeks depending on temperature, and many generations per year are possible, especially in greenhouses. Females can lay 2-3 eggs per day or 50-60 eggs in their life time. Therefore, under ideal conditions, huge populations of twospotted spider mites can build up rapidly if left unchecked.

Mites form colonies on the lower leaf surface at first and can expand to the upper leaf surface, and on to flowers and fruit, as populations build up.

When the infestation of mites is high, webbing will be visible on the tips of the leaves and may hang down like a silken thread. This is a dispersal mechanism and helps them move from one plant to the next, and to become airborne on wind currents.

Reproduction and dispersal of twospotted spider mite is greatest under hot, dry conditions. High humidity reduces survival and development.

Twospotted spider mites may be readily moved around crops by the activities of crop workers.

Economic impact

High populations of twospotted spider mite can cause extensive leaf damage and result in reduced crop yield and quality. Because of the speed at which populations can build up under ideal conditions, the application of control measures will normally be warranted.

The susceptibility of crops varies widely, and even cultivars within species will show differing levels of tolerance of this pest.

Twospotted spider mite may be a quarantine pest on some export crops, e.g., cut flowers.

Pest management

Monitoring

On outdoor crops, such as apples, monitoring the presence of mites on leaves has been a common practice. When 40 leaves out of 50 have 2 or more active mite stages, then application of a control was recommended.

Crop workers should identify and mark ‘hot spots’ of infestation.

On greenhouse crops, inspection of leaves can also be used to monitor mites. When predatory mites are to be released, it is generally recommended to release one predator mite for every 15-25 twospotted spider mites.

Non-chemical methods

A number of practices are recommended to prevent or minimise the establishment of twospotted spider mites on greenhouse crops. These include:

  • Thorough cleaning of greenhouse structures to remove overwintering twospotted spider mites
  • Removal and destruction of crop debris at the end of a crop cycle
  • Removal of weeds that harbour pest mites
  • Remove and destroy heavily infested plants from mite ‘hot spots’
  • Consider cultivars that are more tolerant of twospotted spider mite

Biological control

A variety of natural predators has been researched to assist with the management of twospotted spider mite. The predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis is the most commonly used biological control agent for this pest in greenhouse crops.

Phytoseiulus persimilis is available from BioForce Ltd, who sells the product Mite-E™.

Orius vicinus is available from BioForce Ltd, who sells the product Orius.

Phytoseiulus persimilis and Orius vicinus are most effective when they are used in an Integrated Pest Management programme, when the use of harmful pesticides is avoided and effective crop management practices are adopted.

Chemical control

A range of miticides (=acaricides) is claimed to be effective against twospotted spider mites, although few have specific registration claims for use on greenhouse crops.

The nymphs of twospotted spider mite are more susceptible to insecticides than eggs or adults therefore miiticide applications should therefore be targeted at nymphs. Some miticides have activity against eggs and larvae (= ovicidal action) of twospotted spider mite, therefore application of these products should be made when eggs are abundant.

Resistance to miticides by twospotted spider mite is known to occur in New Zealand and elsewhere, and cross-resistance between some miticide groups occurs. Care must be taken to not apply more than the recommended number of applications of miticides from any one chemical in a year.

Apply sprays to crops in a manner to ensure good coverage of the undersides of leaves. Crops recently de-leafed allow better spray penetration. Spot spray ‘hot spot’ areas to minimise the spread and build of twospotted spider mite in a crop.

Care should be taken to consider the effect of miticides on beneficial insects or mites that may be being used in integrated pest management programmes. Generally, miticides are safer than insecticides to beneficial insects and mites. Consult with BioForce Ltd before applying any miticide when beneficial insects or mites are being used.

www.bioforce.co.nz

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