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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mites - Natural Prevention and Treatment for your Chickens


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 are spread by bringing infected birds into your flock, by wild birds, rodents, or by carrying them in on your shoes or clothing. They are more prevalent and active in warm weather and during the summer, although some types do live in cold climates as well. While their life cycle is only 5-7 days, each mite can lay more than 100,000 eggs during that time, so treatment must be repeated and ongoing to completely eradicate them.


There are several different types of mites which live either on the chickens 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. They 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.  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.


Normally, 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 keep them mite-free, 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.

~Excessive preening and biting at their feathers can be a sign of a mite infestation~
If your chickens have mites, you might see them preening more or biting at their feathers under their wings and around their vents.  Upon closer inspection you will see tiny red or black spots near the vent. (Whitish 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 also see red streaks of blood or black specks when you run your hand along the roosts. 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 aren't approved for use on chickens, meaning their use is 'off-label' and chemical treatments should never be your first line of defense.  Instead why not try a few holistic, natural remedies.

~This all natural homemade spray will help rid your coop of mites~
Spraying your coop and roosts for several days in a row with a mixture of 2 cups water, 1 cup cooking oil and 1 tablespoon dish washing liquid will help kill off the mites that leave the hens by suffocating them. Shake well before using because the mixture will separate. The coop should be sprayed at least once or twice a week for several weeks in conjunction with treating your hens directly.

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 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.

~Garlic juice along with herbal essential oils have been proven to kill mites~
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. 

To make Natural Mite Garlic Juice Spray you will need:

10 ounces of water
1 ounce of garlic juice
1 teaspoon (total) any combination of these essential oils - bay, cinnamon, clove, coriander, lavender, spearmint, tea tree 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.  Dusting your chickens with 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.
~A hen with leg mites won't have nice smooth scales, instead they will start lifting up~
Leg mites are another type of external parasites that burrow under the scales on the legs and feet and cause the scales to lift up. If you see evidence of this, spraying the legs with the garlic juice solution and then smearing them with Vaseline will help to repel, smother and suffocate them.

~Iron-rich foods can help while chickens are fighting mites~
While your chickens are suffering from mites, it is recommended you increase their iron intake to prevent anemia. Good sources of iron include eggs, meat, poultry, fish, seafood, spinach, beet greens, dandelion greens, sweet potato, broccoli, collards, kale, strawberries, watermelon, raisins, wheat products, oatmeal, cornmeal, and molasses. Adding these foods to their diet can help them better battle the mites, which in addition to draining the body of iron also affect the immune system.   Adding fresh garlic cloves to their water or garlic powder to their feed is also a 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 while you are treating them.

~Regular check-ups help catch potential problems early~
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.  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.

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.

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

Buying Sources: 
       


BECAUSE LIFE IS JUST BETTER WITH CHICKENS!


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50 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. article is very amazing, everyone can help in the treatment of disease, thank you for your enlightenment is always healthy greetings... Obat Bius

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  2. I'm glad to have found this! Last spring we got our chickens, and we haven't had any mite problems yet, but if we do, now I know what I can try! I'm visiting from the BMB party!

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  3. Great information on treating without harmful chemicals. Thanks!

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  4. Wow. Great info. How big of a problem are mites? I mean.... can most chicken owners EXPECT to get them... or are they fairly uncommon?

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    1. I wouldn't say you should 'expect' to get them, but they are fairly common especially in the warmer climates. Maybe as common as fleas on dogs - prevention goes a long way and is important since they are difficult to get rid of once they move in.

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  5. Thank you for all these natural tips on mites. Love it!

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  6. I had an elderly farmer tell me he treats his birds with a mixture in their drinking water of water, lemon juice and crushed garlic. He claimed he has never had a problem with mites of any kind. I was skeptical till I tried it. I cup of lemon juice, 1 garlic pressed garlic clove and 1 gallon of water. Given once a week does the trick. If your sensitive to garlic you might taste it in their eggs but I never have.
    One note, the mites that attact your birds are not Clover Mites. Clover mites travel through the grass in huge numbers in the spring and fall and you will notice them against white backgrounds like siding and concrete. These mites will not attack your birds because they are plant eaters as their name implies. I do clean the coop once a month to treat the cracks and crevices with DE using a bulb duster.
    The biggest problem with have around our area is tickes but chickens love ticks thanks goodness.

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    1. Interesting.I believe in the garlic for sure. I have never notices a garlicky taste to our eggs either. And besides, I can think of worse things than garlic-tasting eggs! Thanks for the info on the Clover Mites as well.

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Yes mites and lice are different, you are correct and there are different types of mites..some that live on the hens and some that come out at night.Regardless, they can be treated using the methods I am talking about here.Since your average backyard chicken keeper can't be expected to know the difference, it's important to treat both the hens and coop as I also suggest.Not sure where the issue lies that you take issue with.

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    2. Dear Lisa,

      The fundamental problem is that you are mixing them all up which is confusing to read, especially for the newcomer. You are making statements that are incorrect. There is no point in treating the coop if your chickens have lice and they won't suck blood and cause death! They are active all year round not just in warmer weather.

      Likewise, if your chicken coop has red mite, you will need to treat the coop many times but there won't be black specks around the vent and you won't find them on your birds and they won't be 'biting' at their feathers and are a serious problem since they can cause anaemia and if left, death.

      Without separating the different problems, you cannot identify the culprit and take the necessary measures!

      I really liked some of your earlier posts which was what got me reading your blog but if you remove comments when someone disagrees with something... that's a real shame.

      Tim.


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    3. Hello. I do appreciate your comments but you didn't read the post carefully which is why I deleted your first comment because YOUR comment I felt was confusing to readers.

      I am not mixing up the different types of mites because I don't know enough about different types to even being to differentiate - nor do the majority of my readers, I would venture to guess - nor do I care to, nor will I just copy and paste from google. All I, or readers, need to know is how to recognize a problem and treat it. My treatment I am suggesting will take care of not only all types of mites, but also fleas, ticks and lice, which I am not even discussing here.

      I don't know why you keep referring to lice, when the article is about mites! You just keep repeating what I explain in the article. Yes, I mentioned anemia and possible death, I mentioned they are more active in the warm months, but certainly can be a problem year round.

      I don't feel the need to provide a tutorial on identifying what 'type' of mites you might be dealing with since my methods will treat them all. The preventative measures I recommend year round, if you read carefully. So yes, treating your coop if you are dealing with lice can still be beneficial since I treat my coop even without seeing ANY signs of parasites as a preventative.

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  8. Lisa, great information on dealing with all types of mites naturally, really helpful to know!

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    1. Thanks Lesa. Like most things, natural preventatives are the easiest, most inexpensive and hopefully can head off problems before they become problems.

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  9. Great information for people starting to raise a flock. My wife and I have been using the food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) since we started raising chickens and have had great success in keeping the mites away. We dust the coop, the run, and the birds themselves. Just a reminder to anyone starting out, DE can ruin a bird's lungs, so as Lisa said, make sure they aren't breathing high concentrations of it!

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  10. Another mite preventative measure I learned from an old-timer (his words) is to lime wash the inside of the coop every year. You can even make your own: http://www.rusticgirls.com/how-to-lime-wash/

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    1. Ooh I love old-timers tips and am going to do this in the spring ! Thank you! I might just incorporate your tip into the blog post as well so everyone benefits.

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  11. You're welcome-love your natural preventative tips. He also suggested a covered cat litter box for use as a dust bath with DE. He and I are both in Missouri so wet springs (and sometimes summers) can be a problem.

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  12. In all the years of growig up with chickens we only dealt with mites once. Good info! Please come share your post with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday. http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/02/melt-my-heart-eco-kids-tuesday.html

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  13. Hi Lisa,
    Good info for chicken keepers! I would love to have you share this on The HomeAcre Hop tonight!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/the-homeacre-hop-7.html

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  14. Wow! Great information. Just starting with chickens and I have learned a great deal from this post! Thank you for sharing!

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  15. Can people get these mites from the chickens??

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    1. While the mites most certainly could jump off the hens onto you, I don't know that they would live on a person. Considering we take showers, etc. I think that is a remote possibility.

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  16. Adoro los huevos frescos por desgracia no tengo gallinas pero siempre estoy probando si son frescos,hugs,hugs saludos desde Chile.

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  17. Thanks for sharing this on The HomeAcre Hop!!! Can't wait to see what you share this coming Thursday :) Here's the super easy link to the next hop!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/the-homeacre-hop-8.html

    If you haven't checked out Wildcrafing Wednesday yet, please do! :) It's a hop I co-host for herbal remedies, natural living, real food recipes, and self sufficient living. Here's the link for tomorrow's hop:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/wildcrafting-wednesday-10.html

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  18. Thank you for sharing the info. I was wondering if using the water and cooking oil (which I use vegie oil) would make the hens sticky? And also Do you think it would hurt if I also did the garlic juice and water along with the spray?

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    1. You sure can use the garlic juice along with the cooking oil. That's what I love about using natural ingredients! Their feathers get a bit greasy I guess from the cooking oil but it ends up not being bad - and far better than them dealing with mites!

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  19. Thank you for the information! Good to know. I would warn your readers about cinnamon oil though. I make cold process soap, and have used cinnamon oil as a fragrance. It is extremely irritating to the skin and especially to the eyes. I can't even begin to guess what a safe amount is, but if using it, I would use a very small amount. Thanks again for all the great information that you provide! It has been very useful to us this past year as we've raised our first flock of chickens!

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  20. I used DE for quite some time with my flock for mite prevention...it seemed to work for a while and then BAM...mites. I re-treated with DE thinking I had just waited too long between dustings (4 weeks)....the mites just got worse, despite regular coop cleanings and plenty of dust bath areas. I also have many friends in the Southern & DEEP Southern states that have found DE to be ineffective against mites. Its very important to preform regular checks of your birds if you are using DE as a mite prevenitive in the South. I think it probably works just fine in northern and less humid areas of the US, but just don't think it cuts it in the states where heat & humidity (prime breeding conditions for mites) are always a factor.

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  21. I used DE for quite some time with my flock for mite prevention...it seemed to work for a while and then BAM...mites. I re-treated with DE thinking I had just waited too long between dustings (4 weeks)....the mites just got worse, despite regular coop cleanings and plenty of dust bath areas. I also have many friends in the Southern & DEEP Southern states that have found DE to be ineffective against mites. Its very important to preform regular checks of your birds if you are using DE as a mite prevenitive in the South. I think it probably works just fine in northern and less humid areas of the US, but just don't think it cuts it in the states where heat & humidity (prime breeding conditions for mites) are always a factor.

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  22. You could be right Kelley, and in the South I would definitely suggest more frequent dustings and also treating your coop with the garlic juice/essential oils. Things like bleach or vinegar might kill the mites currently in the coop but for long-term prevention, I would go with garlic juice. The only other options that seem to be available - Sevin Dust or Frontline (I mean really ? You're going to use either of these toxins on your birds?) are just not options for me at least.

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  23. We're in the Seattle, WA area and have had an amazing summer---first one like it in at least 20 years. We also had higher humidity than we ever had (I think that's why I moved from NYC/NJ! This is the first year we've ever found fleas on our dogs and cats...ick! But added Brewer's Yeast and Garlic to their diet (along with their other supplements and haven't seen a flea or fly near them since. Now the peepers and quackers are getting BY & Garlic, too...along with DE. One of our roos seemed to be biting under his wings tonight (but he's also a "pretty boy," so he may have been preening ;-) Inspections for all in the morning, and cleaning out the coop a little more heavily than the every few days or every day, depending on what things are looking like. You have me running around like the proverbial chicken, mixing up so many wonderful things for our peepers and quackers. Thanks, Lisa. I really appreciate taking the extra time in the
    barnyard as my DH calls it :-) I love the way the "farm kids" come running when I walk out into their play yards lol

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    1. Awesome! Yes they do preen and also pick bugs off themselves to some degree, but I agree the brewer's yeast and garlic powder, in addition to being very nutritious, help so much with insect control.

      I just love doing nice things for our animals, and glad you enjoy it too!

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  24. does the recipe need to be garlic juice? can I use garlic powder and dissolve it? I just was given some free chickens and was checking them and saw mites. I know you don't recommend dusting powder but thats what I had, so i dusted them, but then was on your site and saw this recipe. I'd like to treat naturally instead but I don't know where to find garlic juice. I did put these chickens in with my regular flock. now I'm scared that the mites will transfer to the original flock and I'm regretting putting them together.

    I have a dust bath in the coop. A rubber tub filled with wood ash. Should I just put some DE in that?

    thx so much.

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  25. Great info, thanks.

    Instead of spraying coop with 2 cups water, 1 cup cooking oil and 1 tablespoon dish washing liquid mixture can't I just spray coop with the garli juice mixture? Surely if it kills the mites/lice on the chickens it will kill in the coop also? OR does it dry out too quickly on wood coop? The garlic mixture would not be bad in a deep litter method in coop will it (just like DE is bad fordeep litter)?

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    1. You sure could spray your coop with garlic juice if you won't mind the smell. The garlic juice doesn't kill the mites tho it just drives them off the chickens. But either way, you're repelling them.

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  26. I'm a bit confused. I thought the garlic juice would kill them? It says in this blog post "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."

    Could you clarify please. Thanks.

    If it does just drive the lice off is it because of the smell? Will the whole bird need to be sprayed or will spraying around vent and under wings provide enough smell to drive the lice/mites off the whole bird?

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    1. Yes sorry, the garlic juice has been studied and proven to kill the mites on contact on hens. What I meant to say what that spraying your coop won't help kill them if they are on your chickens.

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    2. Ok, thanks for clarification.

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  27. I'd be trampled if all sites gave articles like these awesome articles.raspberry ketone side effects

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  28. Hi Lisa - Where do you get the garlic juice? And could you make your own with garlic infused water?

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    1. The link is at the bottom of the post to buy it on amazon..but for sure you could make your own. You just want it stinky!

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  30. hi, im so thankful for this post as I have 4 chickens (just got them a few months ago!) and just discovered all these red mites around the coop yesterday - PANIC!!! I really want to avoid chemicals, so am very glad to find these home made solutions! So do you think if I do the oil/detergent solution around the coop, garlic spray on the chooks and clear out the bedding (and apply as often as directed here) that will be enough to get rid of them? Everyone is telling me I *must* use the chemical products but I really prefer not to so will try this method. thanks!

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    1. Hi yes, do it all and keep repeating and you can beat them. You can do it without chemicals, just be vigilant. I have had a few readers who battled mites successfully using the garlic spray and DE on them. No chemicals required. Just keep repeating and repeating. Its not going to hurt the hens. Good luck and keep me posted.

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Thank you for your kind comments and joining along with Fresh Eggs Daily as we live our wonderful, natural country farm life.

Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily
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