How to tell if your chickens have Red Mite problems?
Your egg production will start to go down as the chickens need to replace the lost blood taken by the Red Mites (which means less energy to produce eggs)
The chickens will start to peck each other where they see the infestation usually just at the base of the birds tail feathers. At this point the problem is likely to be causing stress and is getting serious. Keep a close eye out for any pecking behavior and also any bald, bloody patches appearing on your birds.
What are Red Mites
Red Mites are blood-feeding parasites so they attacks or feeds on the outside of the bird as opposed to worms (endo-parasite) that feed on the inside.
They usually attack resting birds, mainly during the night for a short (1-2 hours) blood meal. After feeding, the mites hide in cracks and crevices away from daylight. Here they mate and lay their eggs.
Red mites are very small just visible without magnification and may appear like moving specs of dirt the eggs are microscopically small oval and pearly white. Red mites are not species specific and will attack any species or breed of bird. They do not fly nor are they usually transmitted via clothing although if there is a bad infestation, mites have been known to jump onto a persons clothing and therefore could be transported this way to another location/aviary etc.
What is Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth is a natural insecticide that has been used since well before 1900 to fend off all sorts of insects from grain/flour. Diatomaceous Earth makes a very effective natural insecticide. The insecticidal quality of Diatomaceous earth is due to the razor sharp edges of the diatom remains. When diatomaceous earth comes in contact with the insects, the sharp edges lacerate the bugs waxy exoskeleton and then the powdery diatomaceous earth absorbs the body fluids causing death from dehydration. Diatomaceous Earth works in a purely physical/mechanical manner, not ‘chemical’ and thus has no chemical toxicity. Therefore parasites don’t build up a tolerance/immunity to it.
Diatomaceous Earth is highly effective against:
Ants, Aphids, Bollworm, Red Mite, Ticks, Fleas, Cockroaches, Clothes Moth, Corn Worm, Earwig, House Fly, Fruit Fly, Lead Perforator, Greenfly, Leaf Hopper, Lygus Bug, Mite, Black Fly, Salt Marsh Caterpillar, Pink Boll Weevil, Red Spider Mite, Box Elder Bugs, Carpet Beetles, Centipedes, Millipedes, Silverfish, Slugs, Snails, Bed Bugs and virtually all other insects.
It can be expected that virtually all insects will die from contact with Diatomaceous Earth within a few days.
Diatomaceous Earth can also have a very good long term residual effect, i.e. when applied to cracks and crevices & bedding. This long term protection and control of insects is achieved by Diatomaceous Earth controlling parasites by physical means not chemical, and therefore denying them the ability to build up a resistance to it in future generations.
How to use in Poultry:
Diatom Powder can control red mite in poultry houses when thoroughly applied to walls, floors, ceilings, perches, nest boxes and cages at 10-15g per square metre. It can also be applied directly to birds
For use with chickens just once a week, puff some Diatom Powder into the soft nesting material within their nest boxes. So when they sit on the nests to lay their vents will come in contact with the powder. Remove perches from their brackets and puff onto the brackets and perch ends as this is where Red Mites live and they crawl along the perches on to the chickens at night. If the chickens have a favourite dust bath puff some into the dust bath which will enable the chickens to dust themselves with the powder, or you can dust them yourself. You can also add the Diatomaceous Earth to their feed and this will eradicate intestinal worms if you are feeding dry feed like layers pellets you can put a small amount of vegetable oil onto the pellets which will enable the Diatomaceous Earth to stick to them. Because the Diatomaceous Earth Powder is totally organic and natural you can safely continue to eat the eggs or in the case of other animals meat or milk can still be used without harm.
Feeding Diatomaceous Earth:
For effective use, Diatomaceous Earth must be fed long enough to catch any newly hatching eggs or cycling of the worms through the lungs and back through the stomach.
A minimum of 60 days is recommended with approx 2% of the dry weight added to the food ration.
Diatomaceous Earth can also be applied to livestock’s coats as an insect repellent/contact insecticide.
Both internal and external parasite control will result in improved health, appearance and behavior, as well as assimilation of feed, which means improved weight gain and lower feed costs.