Most of us welcomed the slight increase in temperatures these days. Granted, these murky conditions are not ideal, but they are an improvement on the rain, hail and frost we suffered at the start of May. For poultry keepers, though, these first signs of an upswing in temperature bring with them the risk of red mite infestation. May is traditionally the month that sees the most significant surge in red mite numbers, which usually remain high until the cold weather takes effect in the Autumn.
What’s the big deal?
Those with little experience of dealing with poultry may not appreciate the extent to which this pest is a menace to the livelihoods of full-time poultry farmers, and a general irritant to all hen-lovers. Having grown up on a farm where poultry was a constant presence, I never really understood my mother’s complaints about this tiny parasite. After all, the mite looks so small that you could easily believe it harmless. This, however, is not the case. Below are three important reasons why all poultry keepers should be concerned to keep red mite infestation under control during the summer months.
A chicken with a severe infestation of red mites can suffer from potentially fatal anaemia. Studies suggest that a bird that has not been treated for red mites, and does not have access to sand and soil, can lose up to 3% of its total blood volume in a single night. It need hardly be stated that this will create additional health problems for your chicken, even if death is not immediate.
- Economic loss
The amount of revenue lost on European poultry farms as a result of red mite infestation may surprise you. Studies based on poultry census data reveal that red mite attacks led to production losses of around 200 million euro to the European poultry industry. The estimated overall cost to the industry was 360 million euro.
- Human illness
Not all poultry keepers are aware of it, but red mites are also capable of spreading diseases to poultry and humans. Red mites have been shown to transmit a number of viral diseases to birds and to people. They can also spread bacterial diseases such as salmonella gallinarum and escherichia coli.
Prevention and treatment
With all of this in mind, the wise poultry keeper will be keen to do what he or she can to keep the red mite as far from the poultry house door as possible.
Now, chickens with access to loose soil or sand will treat themselves for red mites. Birds lying in loose material and running it through their feathers is a common sight for the poultry keeper. However, it is also advisable to use additional treatments to keep this pest at bay. Below, we list three of our favourite products for the management of red mites.
Poultry Insect Killer
If you don’t think you have a severe infestation of red mites, or you haven’t yet noticed any in your flock (which is relatively unlikely), you should still treat your hen houses with a product such as the Poultry Insect Killer. This spray is effective at dealing with infestations in poultry houses. A ready-to-use solution, Poultry Insect Killer Spray comes in a 500ml container and is sure to eradicate infestations of harmful mites and lice. Because it contains an oily base, the spray penetrates deep into fissures and cracks, to root out and kill pests.
Please note that the Poultry Insect Killer Spray is a chemical solution, so you should always exercise caution when using it. Follow the instructions on the packaging carefully.
Red Mite Powder
A similar product is the Red Mite Powder from the Battles range. This powerful insecticide is specially designed to rapidly kill red mites. Poultry Red Mite Powder is for use on hard porous and non-porous surfaces, especially bedding and skirting areas and around the doorway to poultry housing. To prevent the onset of lice, scatter Poultry Red Mite Powder as directed. When using Poultry Red Mite Powder, always follow the instructions on the packaging. Do not apply directly on to the animal. For best results, use in conjunction with Poultry Louse Powder.
Red Mite Concentrate
For those who are more reticent about using chemical solutions, the Red Mite Concentrate from Barrier is an excellent alternative. A proactive “on bird” deterrent, Red Mite Concentrate can prevent potential infestation or solve a current problem. This product is formulated from only 100% natural, non-toxic ingredients – ingredients renowned for strong anti-insecticide properties. The active ingredient in the concentrate is a synergised tropical plant extract, blended with herbal and essential oils. This product should be diluted at a rate of 1 part to 50 parts of water, and then sprayed evenly over your birds.