Are you new to chicken keeping?
Have you figured out that there is a little more to it than what you might have originally thought?
When I first began raising chickens, I thought we’d build a small coop and raise a few hens. Then we’d collect our eggs each morning while feeding our feathered friends and that would be it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Chickens are super simple animals to raise, but there is a little more to it than that.
For instance, you must battle mites in the coop. If you are unfamiliar with mites or are looking for a solid defense against them, then you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to share with you the two types of mites you may have to battle in your coop and a few ways I’ve found effective to do so.
Here is how you declare war upon mites in your coop:
What Are Chicken Mites and What Do They Do to My Birds?
Mites are tiny little parasites that love your chickens. You’ll notice them a lot during warm and wet weather, but they can also thrive in colder temperatures as well. (Though it is less common.)
However, you’ll know you have a mite issue if your hens begin to lose their feathers, or if you begin to see them biting under their wings or around their vents.
Basically, they remind me a lot of the way any animal looks if they have a parasite (such as a flea) living on them. You can tell that they are just uncomfortable.
However, mites actually make me angry. I don’t like them because they are vicious little things that genuinely hurt your chickens. They bite and chew on your birds while also sucking their blood.
Obviously, this causes pain to your chickens. Even worse news is that mites can be brought into your coop through wild birds, rodents, or even on your shoes or clothing.
Also, though mites only live about a week, they are able to lay around 100,000 eggs during that time period.
But don’t get too depressed thinking that your chickens don’t stand a chance because there are ways to combat mites.
However, I will share a little tidbit with you that has made me so angry with mites. Mites do cause pain to your chickens, but they also can make them anemic, cause them to lose their feathers, and even kill them.
So when I was new to keeping chickens I hadn’t learned about parasites yet. I didn’t know to treat for them, but my first summer one of my birds became really ill. She began to lose feathers and was very lethargic. I was worried about her but couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her.
Finally, I came out to our coop one day, and she was almost dead lying on the coop floor. We knew we couldn’t save her so my husband put her down. That is when I saw it. She was literally covered in mites, and they had made her so anemic and weak that it killed her.
Naturally, I learned a very hard lesson that day. I also learned how to stop mites, and believe me when I tell you I went to town in our coop with DE. I haven’t had a mite problem since.
So these parasites are more than just a pain to your chickens. If not treated properly they could actually cost them their lives.
How to Combat Chicken Mites in Your Coop
So now that you know what you are up against, let’s talk about how you can exterminate them.
First of all, chickens can actually combat these pests on their own. When the weather is dry, and they have dust that they can bathe in, it helps them to combat mites. The dusting smothers these bugs out.
So when you see your birds out in the yard rolling in the dust and stretched out in the sun, know that they aren’t just being funny and adorable. They are also taking care of bug issues or preventing them from getting started.
However, if the weather has been wet or you’ve seen obvious signs of mite activity in your flock, you’ll need to help your flock out by taking action yourself. You can do this by spraying a concoction in your coop. It is 2 cups of water with 1 cup of cooking oil.
Then you’ll need to add 1 tablespoon of dish soap. (Recipe from Fresh Eggs Daily) Be sure to shake the mixture up as oil and water like to separate. This will help to smother out any mites that are taking up residence in your coop.
Also, be sure that you spray this mixture in your coop around twice a week while you are treating your chickens simultaneously.
However, another method of ridding your coop of mites is to sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth on everything. You can do this as a preventative measure or as a treatment. When the dust hits these parasites it literally slices them in half.
But you’ll need to do this regularly and possibly multiple times a week while you know your coop is overrun because you’ll need to try to kill the parasites that have hatched recently.
This is actually the method I use. I sprinkle DE on the ground in the coop, on the roosting bars, inside the nesting boxes, and I’ll shake some on my birds as well. Do this until you see that your hens are more comfortable.
Then you’ll need to be sure to keep DE sprinkled throughout the coop regularly. I actually make it part of my weekly cleaning schedule in an effort to avoid infestations.
What Are Scaly Leg Mites?
If you are new to chicken keeping, I hope you pay close attention to this post because this is another parasite that you may not be aware of. I had actually kept chickens for a couple of years before I found out what these mites were.
However, I went outside one day and noticed that my rooster's feet had a thicker skin on top of them. I thought maybe he had developed some type of yeast infection on them or something. We had just come through an unusually warm winter, and I wasn’t sure if something had thrown his body off.
Then I began to search the internet and realized it was scaly leg mites. Remember when I mentioned above that some types can live in the winter?
Well, apparently they did. I hadn’t treated the coop as heavily that winter because I usually don’t have to with the cold winter months. Again, I learned another valuable lesson. It seems you are always learning something when homesteading.
Anyway, scaly leg mites are another type of mite. You’ll realize you have them by looking at your chickens’ feet. These mites will burrow under their skin and cause the scales on their legs and feet to stick up. It is painful for them because these same nasty parasites will bite and suck blood from your chickens.
Obviously, if you see this, you’ll want to treat the situation immediately.
How to Beat Them Too
So your chickens have gross looking feet, and you’ve figured out it’s because a parasite has moved in on their legs.
Well, now what?
Now, you go to town to beat the living daylights out of these bugs so they’ll stop harming your chickens. You can do this in two ways.
First, you can follow this recipe from Fresh Eggs Daily. It is a garlic juice solution that parasites don’t much care for. It kills them off and deters any others from making a home on your chicken. Then you’ll rub down their legs with Vaseline.
The other option is to rinse your chicken’s legs off with warm soapy water. You can use a washcloth, but you want to be gentle. You aren’t trying to exfoliate the scales or anything like that. You don’t want to harm your bird’s legs. Not only would it cause discomfort but then it opens them up to possible infection.
Next, you’ll dip their feet or rub their feet down with oil. Oil smothers mites.
So the same way you put drops of oil in a rabbit’s ear if they have ear mites, the same philosophy applies here. You will repeat this for the next 7 days or longer if their legs still aren’t cleared up by that time.
Also, keep in mind that mites can cause your chicken to be anemic. You’ll want to boost their immune system by feeding them greens, meat, and eggs. This will help boost their iron levels.
How Do I Prevent Mites?
Mites are obviously no fun for anyone. It is terrible for your birds and creates a lot of extra work for you as well.
So the best plan of attack is to prevent mites from infesting your birds. You can do this in a couple of ways.
1. Sprinkle DE Regularly
I mentioned this earlier, but sprinkling DE all over the coop and on your birds on a regular basis is never a bad thing. It is all natural and will just keep pests away.
Also, it is very inexpensive to purchase in most stores. You don’t have to go with the food grade option, though many do.
2. Garlic and ACV
Parasites do not like the taste of garlic or apple cider vinegar. That is why I always include it in their water. It boosts my chickens’ immune systems while also lowering their chances of being infested by mites.
3. Dust Bath Area
Finally, a dust bath area. Every chicken loves to bathe in dust. So if you could give them a specific location in the coop (like inside an old tire) where it is filled with dirt, DE, and some wood ash, then you are giving your birds a great chance at killing off any mites that might be trying to live on them.
Well, I hope you found this article informative and helpful in your battle against mites on your chickens.
But I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you deter mites from living on your chickens? How do you treat mite problems in your coop?
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