I promise that you will get itchy while reading this post! Along with backyard chicken keeping comes the possibility of a mite infestation. Ew. In all of the years I have kept chickens, I have never had to deal with lice or mites. Knock on wood. But, they are out there and it still could happen to us! How can your sweet chickens get mites? Well, they can be introduced by wild birds, new hens introduced to your flock, rodents, even guests who come to visit your cool backyard hens could have them on their shoes. Ew.
There are several kinds of mites and lice out there, but how do you know if your chickens have them?
Warning signs include:
- Bald spots
- Itching and scratching
- Lifted scales (instead of smooth) on their cute chicken legs
- Egg production slows
- Appear uncomfortable
- Weight loss
- YOU SEE THEM!!!!!
Okay, so you NEVER EVER want your chickens to get mites, I get it. They can be bad news. Since they feed on the blood of the chickens, mites can cause anemia and even death! So, what do you do?
It is pretty simple folks, keep those coops CLEAN and DRY. If your coop is dirty and you are noticing that your hens are avoiding the nest boxes – they may be infested. Clean that coop! There are a bunch of herbs that naturally repel insects. Placing herbs like Bay leaves, Calendula petals, Catnip, Chamomile (Egyptian), Cinnamon chips, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Orange peel granules, Oregano, Peppermint, Rose petals, Spearmint, and Wormwood around the coop may help as a natural deterrent. Also, make sure that your hens have access to dust baths. This is their way of keeping themselves clean. They love to do it, so make sure they have a spot, or two, or three! And finally, check your hens! Give them a monthly once over looking for signs of mites. Mites like to hang out around the vent. Check there first. Peeking in the feathers looking at their skin, you may see them, or clumps of white deposits on the base of the feather shaft – those are eggs, folks. And not chicken eggs. Lice eggs.
Okay, so you have done your monthly hen check and you found mites. What do you do???
Clean your coop! Get rid of ALL of the bedding. Burn it if you have to. Sweep out their run if they are enclosed. Get rid of it all! Wash the coop floor and nest boxes with soap and water. Really scrub and get the deep down dirt. It might not hurt to spray some oils in there diluted in water to help repel pests. Try eucalyptus oil or tea tree oil. Then place clean bedding for your hens. Here is the bummer part, do this all over again every couple of days. Until all signs of the mites are gone.
But what about the hens? What can you do for them?
Well, you have a couple of options. You can dust them with mite control powders that you can find at your local feed store. Some people have great success dusting with diatomaceous earth (DE) and some people think DE can be harmful to the hen's respiratory systems.
If I ever have to deal with mites, I am going to try a more natural approach. This study mentions that the use of garlic juice can significantly help in the treatment of lice and mites. Fill a spray bottle with 10% garlic juice and 90% water. Feel free to throw in some essential oils of the herbs mentioned above for good measure and spray the hens all over! Really get it in there. To make it easy, while holding the hen by her feet, lay her on her back on a table. This will make her calm and you can really work the spray in there.
When treating for mites, simultaneously cleaning the coop and treating the birds will get rid of your infestation in no time.
Keeping a clean coop and ample dust bathing opportunities should keep mites and lice at bay. Just remember to check your birds every so often to keep them happy and healthy!
(Seriously, how many of you were scratching and itching while reading this?)
And if you STILL want backyard chickens after reading this post
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