Red Mite are on the increase, and are causing concern for both the backyard and the commercial poultry kee
What are Red Mites? They are not the same as the garden Red Spider mite, but a blood sucking pest by the name of DERMANYSSUS GALLINAE. They are not always red, young ones or hungry mites are pale, the red comes from the blood they suck from the poor birds.
Red mites are not usually found on the birds, they hide in the housing in daylight emerging at night to jump onto the birds to feed. Normal chicken lice are a orangey colour and feed off feather and skin debris, they itch and look unsightly but are not a huge risk. Red Mite can be a killer, birds become listless, poor feeders and fade away. Warning signs are pale combs and wattles, decreased appetite, no eggs, unwillingness to go into the house at night and apathy. In the chicken house you may notice a 'musty' smell , small bugs that swarm all over you and make you itch, a white dust in crevices and around doors in the house, obvious waxy clumps of red matter and if you go out with a torch at night you may see the mites crawling over the birds and woodwork.
What to do? Thorough cleaning of the house and surroundings is essential. Clean out thoroughly and dismantle if possible to expose hidden surfaces. Remove roofing felt or any insulation as the mites hide under it, consider replacing roof with Onduline if practical. The house can then be washed or sprayed with a Red Mite treatment, Poultry Shield is excellent. The powder treatments containing silica or Diatoms such as Agils Red Mite powder are also effective, the effect is not immediate so dont give up, it acts by abrading the shell and desiccating the little whatsits, and is safe for use on bird.
Ardap is an excellent spot treatment for red mite tratment, and can be used immediately.I use it for hot spots after the poultry shield, Vulcan powder also helps in the house, both are not recommended for on bird treatment.
A lot of products around are only deterrents, so read labels carefully before using. If a proper treatment is not available, even garden disisnfectant will help. Steam cleaners and heat guns will also help, but must be used with care and appropriate electrical safety guidlines followed. The life cycle of the Red Mite is 7-10 days, and they can live without feeding for 36 weeks, so constant vigilence is required. If buying a used house always treat before use.
Some houses are impossible to get free of the pest, solution? Burn them and buy a new one! It is also important to either move the house or treat the surrounding area, as the mites can just move straight back in. I have caught a lot by putting sticky fly papers in empty houses, and also by putting rolled up cardboard in the roof space. The cardboard can be removed and burnt, they seem to love hiding in it.
PREVENTION. Regular cleaning and treatment and use of deterrent. One of my customers has 2 houses, one for summer and one for winter. When he moves the birds he uses the old illegal creosote (not recommended now for animal housing) to treat the empty house. This gives the empty house 6 months to ventilate, he has no red mites problem, thsi may be due to the creosote or just good husbandry but it does seem that red mite has increased since proper creosote was banned.
Bathing your birds also seems beneficial. A tub of warm water with an animal Tea tree oil shampoo in, and then a rinsing tub of clean warm water with a few drops of Tea tree oil works for my Orpingtons. Choose a warm day and have lots of help, they look pathetic afterwards but soon fluff up.
Another treatment that can be used is Ivermectin, do not use if the eggs or meat is to be eaten. This product is not licenced for poultry, it is used at the rate of about 5 drops on the back of the neck of a large bird,but please consult with appropriately qualified person before use. Ivermectin is absorbed into the bird and has a similar action to spot on treatments used on domestic pets so eggs and the bird should not be consumed after use, there is no recommended date for withdrawal period. There are some concerns over effects on fertility being reported this should be considered before use.
I hope this guide is of some help, if you are still concerned about your birds health then consult a veterinary surgeon, some of the symptoms of Red mite can be similar to other diseases.