Red Mites are a common problem associated with hens.
The mites live within cracks and crevices within the hen house and come out at night to feed on the hens. Until they have fed they appear as small specks of grey dust but once they have fed they initially turn bright red which then becomes darker over time. An examination of your birds will not always be sufficient to check for the presence of Red Mites. A good way of determining if mites are present is to swipe a piece of white card between the cracks in the coop – if red mites are present you will see streaks of blood on the card.
Because they hide in cracks and crevices, wooden coops are more susceptible to an infestation than more rounded plastic coops.
They have a lifecycle from egg to adult of seven days so it is important to check your coop on a weekly basis.
Red Mites in low numbers will mainly cause irritation to your hens but large numbers may cause anaemia because of the amount of blood they suck. This may result in a pale comb and wattles, weakness, dullness and reduced egg production.
You may also see some blood spots on eggs
Treating Red Mites
It is important to treat both the birds and the coop.
There are several proprietary over the counter treatments available to treat Red Mites. Treatments that take the form of powder should be applied to the bird at the base of her feathers especially around the vent area. Alternatively it can be mixed with dry earth in a shallow tray for the birds to dust bath in.
For more severe cases your vet will be able to prescribe medication
It is important to always follow instructions from the vet and manufacturer regarding egg withdrawal (not eating the eggs for a period after giving the medication).
Coops should be cleaned once a week with a product such a Poultry Shield, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Once clean and dry put in fresh bedding and scatter red mite powder in the next boxes paying particular attention around the perches and in cracks and crevices.
Stronger products are available to deal with infestations.