Chicken Mites: Annoying Pests
Have your hens ever had bare patches and missing feathers, especially on their back ends and tail area? Maybe you thought they were molting at first, but realized that they shouldn’t have been because of their age or recent molts.
Combined with loss of appetite, weight loss or slower weight gain in your chickens, it’s likely that what you are seeing when this happens is actually the result of an infestation of mites and/or lice in your flock. You can read all about poultry lice and mites in this article from the Ohio State University Extension Service Division of Veterinary Medicine and see photos of infested feathers. It’s worth the quick read to get an overview of what these parasites are and what they do, but I don’t recommend the chemical medications they suggest using. Instead, you can use natural means to prevent, remove and discourage harmful insect infestations in your flock.
Diatomaceous Earth Kills Chicken Lice
There are commercially available chemical treatments for chicken flocks with parasites. I don’t recommend these for the sake of your own health and that of the poultry. Instead, there are many natural means to get the job done safely. First and most effective is Diatomaceous Earth.
Diatomaceous Earth, a fine, powdery substance made from finely ground fossilized algae, is completely natural, safe, non-toxic and extremely useful for preventing any number of ailments in a chicken flock, from intestinal worms to fowl mites. Food-grade DE is safe for animals and humans alike to ingest. Eggs and meat from chickens fed DE are 100% safe to eat.
As you’ll see, this stuff really comes in handy. It’s so awesome. I once used it to cure a certain child in my life of pinworms. But that’s another story.
Getting Rid of Chicken Lice
The steps to getting rid of chicken mites and lice are the same as those undertaken to prevent them in the first place. You can follow these once a week to remove an infestation, and then once every few weeks to prevent recurrence.
- Clean out that coop! Remove old litter and droppings from the whole coop and all nesting boxes.
- Spray the interior of the coop and the clean nesting boxes with neem oil in water — about two tables spoons per gallon, shaking the bottle to make sure the oil doesn’t just rise to the top and stay in the bottle.
- Replace bedding with fresh, clean wood shavings.
- Dust the top of the litter with Diatomaceous Earth.
- On the first dry day, add DE to the chickens’ dust-bath area.
- Sprinkle DE directly on the chickens where they show feather loss or signs of mites and lice.
Dust-baths for Chickens
The dust-bath is one of the best ways to make sure chickens get the DE under their feathers and all over their skin. Be sure to add the DE to their dusting areas on dry days as DE does not work when it gets wet, and rain washes it off the birds. Have your chickens gotten mites or lice? How do you treat your flock when this happens, and what was the most successful thing you did?