Red mite is one of the most problematic sides to keeping poultry and is something that should be prepared against to help maintain your hens in tip top condition.
Red mites live in the poultry house and then feed off of the chickens at night, they feed off of every part of the chicken including blood which after having fed their body changes colour to the distinctive red which is where they get there name from.
Red mite infestations are mainly a summer problem and once the temperature is high enough then the numbers of mite can increase rapidly in a very short period. The red mite larvae hatch 2 to 3 days after being laid and have become adults within a week. Once established removing the hens from the house without treating it is not enough as they can remain dormant for up to eight months. This also means your red mite prevention programme should continue throughout the winter months.
Often once a hen house has an infestation of red mite the hens will be reluctant to enter the house at bedtime and could show signs of being under the weather, this is mainly signs of anaemia where the normally red comb changes to a pale pink from the loss of blood. Before feeding or during periods that the house is empty the mites are a dull yellow/brown colour but early mornings after a nights feeding the mites are easily spotted. They congregate in any cracks or crevices and particuly like perches and nest boxes.
Prevention is always better than cure so a regular anti red mite regigm is important to fight this hardy parasite. Your hen house should be checked daily for any signs of infestation, particular vigilance during the warm summer months and monitoring your hens health is important as any signs of lethargy, anaemia or a reduction in egg production could be a sign of a red mite infestation.
When you clean your hen house out it should be sprayed with a liquid cleaner such as Poultry Shield which works by breaking down the organic matter and destroying the mites habitat. This dries quickly and is then safe for the chickens. Then the house can be sprinkled with Diatom powder paying particular attention to getting into all the nooks and crannies. Diatom contains Diatomaceous earth which is extremely abrasive to the red mites waxy shell. It is an organic product and is perfectly safe and can also be applied directly to the hens.
Red mite can not live on humans but can travel on them. If you are treating a red mite infested house all bedding removed from the house should be burnt and all your cloths washed thoroughly.