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Red Poultry Mites

Chicken Mites, Roost Mites, Poultry Red Mites

The red poultry mite, also known as the chicken mite (Dermanyssus gallinae), is a significant ectoparasite of commercial egg laying and backyard chicken flocks worldwide. Infestations can often go unrecognized for long periods of time, as signs presented by the birds are often initially subtle. Since these mites are nocturnal, the can often go undetected for they will hide during the cracks and crevices of chicken coops during the daylight hours, only coming out at night to feed on the chickens. Chicken flocks infested with red poultry mites often develop anemia, increased stress and feather pecking, restlessness, and show changes in sleep patterns and associated roost positions. Anemia appears as a pale comb and wattles, dullness, reduced egg production, and weakness.

As an adult, the red poultry mite is about 1-1.5 mm (0.04-0.06 in) in length, has 8 legs and can range in color from white to gray, to black to deep red (depending on whether it has recently feed on blood).
Red poultry mites have a rapid life cycle and can grow from egg to larva, followed by nymph and the last adult stage, in less than 2 weeks. Red poultry mites are known to flourish in environmental climates with high relative humidity (>70%), like during the warmer summer months. Red poultry mites are able to survive for up to 9 months in the environment without feeding on a host.

How flocks become infested with red poultry mites


The red poultry mite has a large range of hosts, and is not limited to just poultry as it's name suggests. This mite has been isolated from at least 30 different species of wild birds (including starlings, pigeons, sparrows, rock doves), turkeys, rodents (mice, rats), horses, and humans. Red poultry mites are transmitted to flocks through infected hosts.

Pathogens transmitted
Red poultry mites can transmit a wide range of different disease-causing bacteria (Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Mycoplasma gallisepticum, Mycoplasma synoviae, and Erysipelthrix rhusiopathiae) and several viruses (Fowlpox virus, Avian influzena A virus, Newcastle disease virus, St. Louis encephalitis virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, western equine encephalitis, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis) to chickens as they feed on their blood.

Northern Fowl Mite Vs Red Poultry Mite


Northern fowl miteRed poultry mite
Adult Appearance  
Size0.5-1 mm (0.02-0.04 in)1-1.5 mm (0.04-0.06 in)
ColorGray to blackGray to black
Turns redYesYes
WingsNoNo
Body typeOvalOval
SpeedSlow movingSlow moving
Visible to the naked eyeAs tiny dark specsYes
Feeds onBloodBlood
Where they are foundVent, breast, and legs. Less commonly on the head and neck.Hide in crevices and cracks during the day, feed on chickens at night
TransmissionWild birds, rodents, contaminated equipment (fomites) and personnelWild birds, rodents, wildlife, dogs, cats, humans, contaminated equipment
Where eggs are laidWhite to off-white bundles of eggs found along the feather shaft of the vent.Lays eggs in cracks and crevices
Average Life cycle5-7 days2 weeks
How you can tellEarly infestations may be difficult to notice, but once numbers increase they can be clearly seen in the feathers and running along the skin surface. May also be seen on recently laid eggs. Brown, dirty looking debris within feathers. Feathers appear 'dirty'. Surface of the skin is cracked and may bleed. Thickened, inflammation of skin. Eggs and dark excrement near cloaca.Look for them at night on the birds
TemperatureCool weatherWarm weather
Clinical signsDermatitis, poor condition (feathers appear 'dirty'), anemia, pale pink comb, soiled feathers near ventRestlessness at night, dermatitis, anemia, may cause chickens to alter where they roost at night.
ZoonoticYesYes
Carry diseasesNoYes

Clinical Signs

Restlessness
Change in roost position
Skin irritation
Decrease in egg production
Increased feather pecking
Scabs or mites present around the vent, breast, or under wings
Pale comb and wattle
Anemia
Darkened or dirty feathers

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Inspection of premises
  • PCR

Treatment

NameSummary
Predator mites (Androlaelaps casalis)Release in coop, following instructions for number required for size of flockLesna I et al., 2012; Lesna I et al., 2009
Diatomaceous earthSpread in the corners and cracks of coop, in dust baths, new laying hen nests, and externally on chickens
AshesSpread a layer of wood ashes on the floor of the coop
Silica dusting powdersDust birds, nest boxes, coop, and nesting materials with 5% carbaryl, 5-10% malathion or 5% pyrethrin powders.
Note - Care should be taken to avoid heavy exposure of hens to the dust, as it can possibly be harmful to them.
Provide dustbathing areaBird dustbathing in naturally and widely available dust materials such as sand or kaolin
Garlic essential oilApplied to coop environment where mites are foundD George et el
Big-leaf Maple LeavesDistributed in coop where mites might be hidingC Lans et al., 2011
LavenderUsed as a repellentNechita et el, D George et el
ThymeUsed as a repellentNechita et el
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) bark essential oil0.21 mg/cm2 applied to coop environment where mites are foundD George et el
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) essential oil0.21 mg/cm2 applied to coop environment where mites are foundD George et el
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)As a repellentNechita et el

Prevention

  • Prevent access from wild birds
  • Seal off any cracks or crevices in coops, to eliminate possible hiding places for mites
  • Diatomaceous earth - spread in the corners and cracks of coop, in dust baths, new laying hen nests, and externally on chickens
  • Spread a layer of wood ashes on the floor of the coop
  • Between flock cycles, the poultry house should be thoroughly washed and disinfected.

Scientific References

Good Overviews

Blogs

Risk Factors

  • Poor biosecurity
  • History of red mite infestations on the property
  • Exposure to wild birds
  • Quarantine new chickens before introduction to other flock members.

Seasonality

WinterSpringSummerAutumn