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Red Poultry Mite Infestation

Other Names: 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.

What do red poultry mites look like?


As an adult, the red poultry mite is about 0.6 to 1 mm 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 fed 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.

Northern Fowl Mite versus Red Poultry Mite


Northern fowl miteRed poultry mite
Adult Appearance  
Size0.6-1 mm (0.02-0.04 in)0.6-1 mm (0.02-0.04 in)
ColorGray to black; red after feedingGray to black; red after feeding
Visible to the naked eyeAs tiny dark specsAs tiny dark specs, must look at night.
Feeds onBloodBlood
Where they liveOn the chicken full time, in the vent areaHide in crevices and cracks during the day, feeds 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.In their hiding spot in the coop
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 diseasesYesYes

Clinical Signs

Chickens changing where they perch
Chickens become restless in the evening and don't want to go into the coop
Pale comb/wattles (anemia)
Increased feather pecking
Scabs or mites present around the vent, breast, or under wings

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Inspection of premises

Treatment

NameSummary
Spinosad (Trade name Elector PSP)Applied as a spray on all coop housing components.B Mullens et al., 2017; A Murillo et al., 2017; Dow AgroSciences 2001
Fluralaner (trade name Exzolt)Added to the flock's drinking water. The product is administered twice, 7 days apart so it treats two mite life cycles. There is no egg withdrawal period and trials show it to be 99% effective at killing mites.N Hinkle, et al 2018; A Prohaczik et al., 2017; B Mullens et al., 2017
Ivermectin0.2 mg/kg PO, SC, IM, topical once and repeated in 10-14 days.B Speer; W Campbell et al., 1984; S Lee et al., 2006
Garlic spray10% garlic solution diluted with water, sprayed on the chicken's vent and abdomen, once every 7 days for 3 weeks.Birrenkott, G. P., et al., 2000
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) (food grade)Apply by dusting onto the chicken's feathers or added to their dust bathing area. Also dust all housing components. Replace bedding and nesting material.A Murillo et al., 2016; C Martin et al., 2012; D Bennett et al., 2011, G Damerow
SulfurApplied as a dust directly on the chickens or added to their dust bathing area. Dust all housing components in coopA Murillo et al., 2016, G Damerow
MalathionUsed as a spray or powder applied to all housing components in coop.G Damerow
Carbaryl syntheticApplied as a powder (5% carbaryl) or spray (4 ounces of 80% carbaryl mixed in a 5 gallon bucket of water) directly on the chickens as well as all housing components. Replace bedding and nesting material.G Damerow
PyrethrumApplied as a powder or a spray on both the chickens as well as all housing components. Bedding and nesting materials should be replaced. When treating the bird, apply directly on the chicken's feathers, concentrating on the vent area. Note that it only kills the adult insects, not the larvae and eggs. Therefore, treatment will need to be repeated.G Damerow
PermethrinApplied as a powder (0.24% permethrin) or spray (3 ounces of 10% permethrin is mixed in a 5 gallon bucket of water), directly on the chickens as well as all housing components. Replace bedding and nesting material.G Damerow

Support

Prevention

  • Discourage wild birds by removing bird feeders and bird baths.
  • Seal off any cracks or crevices in coops, to eliminate possible hiding places for mites.
  • Avoid coops built from rough sawn, unfinished timbers, especially tongue and groove styled.
  • Control rodent populations, as they can sometimes be carriers of mites and ticks.
  • Thoroughly clean any branches, wood stumps, or other tree-sourced items containing bark.

Scientific References

Good Overviews

Risk Factors

  • History of red mite infestations on the property
  • Exposure to wild birds
  • Rodents.
  • Not cleaning branches or tree stumps before adding them to your run.

Seasonality

WinterSpringSummerAutumn