Mites on the chickens!

Laura was not too happy when I started cleaning out the shavings. She wanted some peace and quiet to lay her egg.

It’s true what they say – if it’s not one thing, it’s another. This week it’s mites on the chickens. Mites! I knew because little  things were crawling on the eggs when I collected them Thursday. This was my first real “situation” regarding the chickens and I was very upset about it. These ten hens have become good companions and I don’t like to think of anything bad happening to them.

What to do about the mites? My first question with any chicken situation is, “What would Grandpa Fred do?” Grandpa Fred knew everything about chickens and I am sad that he’s not here with me now. He’s even referenced in several chicken books that I read. He’s not listed as Grandpa Fred. He’s listed as Fred P. Jeffrey. Grandpa Fred would tell me to dust the chickens with Sevin. Would have. His advice was from another era. I wonder if he would give the same advice today. Sevin kills the mites, for sure, and it also kills honeybees. I don’t want to kill the bees.

The small dark spots on the egg are mites

My challenge is clear: get rid of the mite infestation without harming the chickens or killing the honeybees. I identified the mites as Northern Fowl mites. They can be killed with diatomaceous earth – a powdery substance that is made up of fossil parts. The sharp edges of the little fossil parts cut the mites and they dry out, then die. Sounds good. DE, as it is called, was one of my primary weapons for killing the mites. The second was an enzyme spray called Poultry Protector (made by MannaPro). I also used several other means for cleaning the coop and deterring the mites from returning.

I had identified the mite problem just as it exploded. I’ve been treating for two days now, and I’m not done yet. I still don’t know how this story will end, but I’m hoping it will be positive.

Washed nest boxes - you can see the thyme leaves stuck to the wood. And the jar of garlic powder.

The first step was to clean out the coop. I scooped out the inches of pine shavings, then swept it clean. Even with the coop completely swept I could still see mites crawling on the walls and floor. I boiled a pot of water and threw in some dried thyme. Thyme is a powerful disinfectant. When the water cooled I sponged down the entire coop. I brought out an old toothbrush and scrubbed the corners clean.

After the coop was swept and washed I sprinkled fresh garlic powder all over it. I figured if garlic is a cure-all and it also keeps vampires away, it might work to keep the mites away. I took the entire package of Kilpatrick Family Farm garlic powder and coated the coop. Then I mixed in a spray bottle some water, tea tree oil, and lemongrass oil. I sprayed every surface in the coop with this mixture. Now the chicken coop smelled like garlic and lemon. Oh my, the chickens are lucky I don’t eat meat! Otherwise I might have gotten hungry for lemon chicken.

DE was dusted over all surfaces of the coop

The coop was swept, washed, sprinkled with garlic powder and sprayed with essential oils. A fresh start! I put down a layer of DE. Knowing I would have to clean the coop a few more times in the next few days, I decided to make things easy and before I put down shavings, I laid down a layer of newsprint. On top of the newsprint went more DE, then a fine layer of shavings. I dusted the roosts with DE and poured some into the soil below, where the chickens regularly take dust baths.

Clean coop with newsprint and a scant layer of pine shavings

Now the coop was clean. It was time to clean the chickens. Mites live in their feathers and they suck their blood. Yuck. If they are given enough time, the mites will make the chickens sick and they can die. A good place to spot the mites is near the vent. Feathers will become dirty and brown because the mites leave their feces everywhere they go.

I have no photos of the mites on the chickens. Sorry!

One of my chickens stood out as having the most mites – Fuzzybottom. Oh, her bottom is so fuzzy, and it was such a shame to see it so brown.

To treat the chickens I took a dress sock and stuffed it with DE (sadly I didn’t have any pantyhose on hand. They would have worked great). I went out and patted each chicken down with the sock. The DE puffed out of the sock evenly and easily. I dusted their bottoms and put them to bed.

After dark, when the chickens were on their roost, fast asleep, I went in and inspected with a flashlight. Poor Fuzzybottom was crawling with mites. They were all over her skin and feathers. I spritzed her liberally with Poultry Protector. When I say liberally, I mean I used quite a bit of the bottle. She was soaking wet and not happy about it, even in her sleep. I spritzed a few others as well.

Today is the following day. I cleaned out the coop again, removing the shavings and the newsprint. Another round of essential oil spray, DE, newsprint, more DE, then shavings. I found some mites in the coop today. Not as many as yesterday, and these were much smaller (newly hatched, probably). The chickens spent a glorious warm day roaming the yard and dust bathing in the sun. I checked the chickens in the afternoon and did not find any mites on them. Night came and I once again went out with a flashlight to inspect. I was so happy to see that Fuzzybottom had no lives mites on her at all. I checked the others and found that they were all clean. Whew – what a big relief. I have so much emotion invested in these chickens. I really cannot stand it when they are ill.

Tomorrow I’ll clean the coop again and see where we stand with the mites. I bought a container of chemical powder just in case. I hope I don’t have to use it. Updates to come.


2 Responses to Mites on the chickens!

  1. Staci@LifeAtCobbleHillFarm August 7, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Have you ever tried Diatamaceous Earth for mites? We had a huge infestation a few years back and this works as a preventative measure as well as to rid them if you forget to dust as a preventative, I always use the food grade – found at Tractor Supply or Agway.

    • Jillian August 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

      Yes, I did try DE. Between that and the Poultry Protector spray the mites are gone. I have had 3 broody hens this summer and because they don’t get out to dust bathe during their time on the nest, I added some DE to the nest boxes and it seems to have kept the mites away.
      It is also good for fly control!

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