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Poultry Mites | Natural Prevention and Treatment for your Chickens

Poultry mites can be devastating to chicken health, but they can be successfully treated naturally in your backyard flock with a little persistence.

Year after year, this article I wrote about poultry mites back in 2013 is one of my top ten most popular among readers. Over the years I've updated it as I've read or learned new information to keep it relevant and as helpful as possible.

I have been raising chickens for more than a decade and (knock on wood) never had a problem with mites on my chickens or in my chicken coop. So they absolutely can be prevented.

While mites can be a huge threat to backyard chicken flocks,  they certainly aren't a given. Not only that, poultry mites can be prevented ....naturally. Without resorting to harmful chemical applications that are not only bad for the mites, but also for your chickens and your family's health.


Poultry Mites | Natural Prevention and Treatment for your Chickens

What are Poultry Mites?

Poultry mites are tiny crawling external parasites that can become a problem for your chickens if they are given the opportunity move in to your coop and take up residence on your flock.

They can be spread by bringing infected chickens into your flock, by wild birds, rodents, in infected bedding, or by you carrying them in on your shoes or clothing.

Poultry mites are more prevalent and active in warm weather and during the summer, although some types do live in cold climates as well.

Fortunately, their life cycle is only 5-7 days, but each mite can lay more than 100,000 eggs during that time, so treatment must be repeated and ongoing to completely eradicate them.

The mites will hang out on your chickens  (especially around the vent area or under their wings) or in the coop hiding under roosts, in cracks in the walls and even in the bedding material by day and coming out at night to feed.

One note: if you raise silkies or polish chickens, you need to also check their heads and crests. These breeds are especially susceptible to getting mites.

Why are Mites a Problem? 

Poultry mites bite and chew, extracting blood from the host, and can cause your chickens not only discomfort but also feather loss,  anemia or even death in extreme cases.

It's very important to check your chickens for mites on a regular basis, so you can treat and eradicate them quickly if they show up. 

How Do I Know if my Chickens Have Mites?

If your hens all of a sudden seem reluctant to go into their coop at night, or stop using the nesting boxes, there's a good chance they might be mite-infested.

It's not a bad idea to do mite checks frequently in your chicken coop. If you run your hand along the roosting bars and find traces of blood in your hand, red streaks on the roosts or black specks, that might be a sign that you have mites living there. 

After dark, head out to your chicken coop with a flashlight and use it to shine light on your chickens' vents and under their wings. Mites are small, but easier to see in the dark and once they've settled in for the night.  Upon closer inspection you will see tiny red or black spots near the vent. 

Other signs of a chicken mite infestation include:

  • excessive preening
  • biting or pulling of feathers, especially around the vent or under the wings
  • dull or broken feathers
  • dirty vent feathers
  • pale comb and wattles
  • lethargy or listlessness
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite

(Note: Whitish crusty deposits at the base of the feather shafts indicate lice, these are the egg deposits. Read how to combat lice and other other pests naturally HERE).  

You might have been told that if you raise chickens, then mites are a given at some point. I don't agree with that. But I do agree that there are things that can be done to lessen your chance of having an issue with them.

Keeping Mites at Bay

Normally, healthy chickens can keep themselves clean and mite-free just with their normal preening. 

Also important: the dust baths that chickens take in a dry patch of dirt or sand, preferably enhanced with some wood ash and food-grade diatomaceous earth, will suffocate and kill any mites that happen to find your chickens.

But often in extremely hot and humid areas where mite populations flourish or during long periods of wet weather when the chickens might not have the opportunity to bathe, the mites will get the upper hand.

If a chicken is struggling with other health issues, then the mites might be too much for her to stay on top of. 

If your chickens have mites, you might see them preening more or biting at their feathers under their wings and around their vents.

Once you have detected the presence of mites, then treating them as quickly as possible is of utmost importance.



How NOT to Treat Chickens for Mites

There are several commercially sold chemical solutions and insecticides that are often used to battle mites but I don't recommend using any of them.

Most are NOT approved for use on chickens, meaning their use is 'off-label'.

Chemical treatments should never be your first line of defense. And things like Frontline or Sevin Dust should never be used on chickens (Frontline is formulated for dogs and cats and we won't even use it on them because we don't feel its safe to apply chemicals to our pets - and Sevin dust is a known carcinogen!)

Natural Treatment for Mites

Instead of using chemicals that aren't safe for you or your flock, why not try a few natural remedies? Safe for your chickens, not so good for mites!

Treating the coop and your chickens has to be done in tandem to completely break the mite life cycle. Here are some natural methods for treating both the coop and chickens. 

Natural Coop Mite Spray for the Chicken Coop Walls and Roosting Bars

Natural Mite Spray

Spray your chicken coop walls and roosts for several days in a row with a mixture of:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup cooking oil 
  • 1 tablespoon dish washing liquid 

This will help kill off the mites that leave the hens by suffocating them. Shake well before using because the mixture will separate.



The coop walls and roosts should be sprayed at least once or twice a week for several weeks in conjunction with treating your hens directly.


Natural Mite Treatment for the Chicken Coop Coop Floor and Nesting Boxes

Sprinkling food-grade Diatomaceous Earth onto the floor of the coop and nesting boxes and rubbing it into the roosts is another option that can be used in conjunction with the oil spray and reapplied as needed.

Wormwood (artemesia) can also help repel mites. Tie bouquets of wormwood to the roosts, make sachets for your nesting boxes or hang cuttings in your coop as an ongoing mite repellent.


Natural Treatment for the Chickens


To treat the chickens themselves, spray them with a garlic juice mixture.  This treatment has been found by poultry scientists in the UK to have a 100% kill rate over 24 hours.

This can be used as a treatment and also as an ongoing preventative.


Natural Mite Garlic Juice Spray


10 ounces of water
1 ounce of garlic juice (you can find it here)
1 teaspoon (total) any combination of these essential oils - bay, clove, coriander, lavender, spearmint and/or thyme

Mix in a spray bottle and spray hens bi-weekly as a preventative or every other day for two to three weeks in the case of an infestation.  Concentrate around the vent and under the wings. 

If you can't find garlic juice, you can make your own:

Homemade Garlic Juice

6 cloves fresh garlic, thinly sliced 
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil 
2 cup waters

  • Heat water in a saucepan until bubbles just start to form around the edges. Add the garlic and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and cool completely. 
  • Strain out the garlic and whisk the vegetable oil into the strained liquid.
  • Pour into a covered container to store.

More Treatment for your Chickens

Dusting your chickens with food-grade DE after spraying them is also recommended, taking care not to get the dust in their (or your)  eyes or lungs. 

Treating your coop and chickens simultaneously is necessary to completely get rid of the mites.

There are several herbs that have been tested and proven to help repel mites, including chamomile, garlic and thyme. I give my chickens access to a little herb garden next to the coop so they can rub against - and eat - a variety of herbs.

I also believe that adding garlic powder to your flock's daily diet can help repel mites, lice and other external parasites who don't like the taste of blood with a garlic taste. I use Brewers Yeast with Garlic with my flock. (and no, their eggs won't  start to taste like garlic!)

I believe that doing this one thing, along with providing my chickens an area to take dust baths year round is what has kept my flock mite-free for more than a decade.

Added Iron for Chickens with Mites

While your chickens are suffering from mites, it is recommended you increase their iron intake to prevent anemia. Good sources of iron include:

  • scrambled or hard boiled eggs
  • meat scraps
  • cooked poultry
  • cooked fish and/or fish skin
  • seafood
  • spinach
  • beet greens
  • dandelion greens
  • sweet potato
  • broccoli
  • collards
  • kale
  • strawberries
  • watermelon
  • raisins
  • wheat products
  • oatmeal
  • cornmeal
  • molasses

Adding these foods to their diet can help them better battle the mites, which in addition to draining the body of iron also affects the immune system.

Poultry Mite Preventives

Adding fresh garlic cloves to the water or as I mentioned earlier, adding garlic powder to their feed is an effective preventative since parasites don't seem to like the taste of the blood of chickens that have garlic added to their diet.

The garlic will also help boost your hens' immune systems.

I've been racking my brain all these years trying to figure out why I have NEVER had problems with mites in my coop, and I'm convinced it's because I add this product to my chickens' daily feed. I recommend you do too.

Providing your chickens with a dust bath area filled with dry loose dirt or sand, food-grade Diatomaceous Earth and wood ash will help your flock stay parasite-free.


Routine Checks for Poultry Mites

As with most issues, being vigilant and knowing what looks "normal" and what doesn't is the best preventative. Carefully examining your chickens regularly enables you to spot and deal with potential problems before they get out of control.

Checking vents and under wings will help you catch external parasites before they are able to multiply.

At the first sign of mites, fast treatment can eradicate them before the infestation gets a good foothold.


Testimonial about Natural Methods 

 And lastly, for those who don't think that natural remedies can work, here's a note I received from a reader which is just one of many similar email I've received over the years: 

"I would just like to say thank you for sharing your recipe for mites. I have been trying to get rid of mine all summer, I have bought countless pesticides and sprays, which I hate to use. 

I used your recipe on Tuesday and now there is no sign of them on the perches, before using I ran my hand on the perch and it came away bloody, yesterday nothing and this morning nothing!!!! So once again thank you!!!!

I did do the whole coop! I dragged everything out, sprayed it and the shed all over, literally!!! There were no dry patches in there, I gave it a good soaking!!! I will now be using your spray every week so thank you again." 

Regards
Karen H.
UK

To read more about how dust baths can help prevent parasites, read HERE.
To read more about the benefits of DE and garlic, read HERE.
To read more about preventing mites, read HERE.
To read more about scaly leg mites, read HERE.

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References/Further Reading:
Lifestyle Block How to Care for your Poultry Volume 2, 2012
Veterinary Herbal Medicine, Elsevier Health Sciences, 2006

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