About Red Mite
What are Poultry Red Mites?
All bird keepers should fear Poultry Red Mite (PRM). PRM live in the hut and emerge in darkness to feed on your birds blood.
Red Mite can infest any bird hut and are resistant to many chemicals used in traditional treatments, so they no longer destroy mites or mite eggs.
Unsurprisingly, poor birds wake up tired, stressed and irritable – wouldn’t you? PRM infestations cause anaemia, feather pecking, aggression, even death of birds due to blood loss. Anaemia creates weakened immune systems, leaving birds susceptible to other dangerous illnesses. PRM are proven disease vectors for salmonella, pasteurella and Ecoli. PRM are a huge hidden problem, costing the EU poultry industry alone €130 million each year, with similar costly production losses on other continents throughout the globe. These clever critters have developed pesticide resistance so can survive traditional red mite treatments, live in huge numbers, reproduce rapidly and survive for months without blood feeding, so are very difficult to eradicate. We’ve had no choice but to repeatedly apply expensive products – until now….
Poultry Red Mite (dermanyssus gallinae) are a tiny ectoparasite, 0.7-2mm in length, they live in huge numbers and are a much bigger problem than you may realise. Poultry Red Mite (PRM) pose a significant threat to poultry production, egg production and poultry health and welfare throughout much of the world (3,4) for both hobby keepers and commercial producers alike. In the EU, PRM are estimated to cost the egg laying industry alone €130 million each year, with similar costs in other continents. (1). Add to this other birds suffering attack, such as broilers (meat birds), pigeons, turkey, quail etc and the costs become far greater. PRM appear to prefer feeding on birds and are essentially considered an avian pest. However attacks on alternative hosts, including humans, horses, rabbits and pets are not unheard of.
PRM are proven vectors of diseases such as salmonella, pasteurella, Newcastle Disease and Ecoli (2) as they feed on blood, therefore carrying diseases from host to host bloodstreams.
Red Mite Reproduction
PRM reproduce at an alarming rate, just seven days in favourable conditions. If they are blood feeding on your birds, they can quickly reproduce and debilitate your flock. Birds suffering a significant red mite infestation can become anaemic, egg lay will reduce or stop completely, the birds will be bad tempered and may aggressively peck each other, they may even cannibalise each other or die from exsanguination (3,4) (blood loss), weakness or disease. Constant day or night blood loss will result in anaemia and weakened immune systems, leaving birds susceptible to a range of illnesses and potentially deadly diseases, some of which may be transmitted by red mites.
PRM can survive for many months without feeding on blood, so removing the birds will not solve the problem. I even burned the hut and nest boxes to try to get rid of these awful pests, but within two weeks the Red Mite simply followed the birds to their new home and continued making the birds life a complete misery.
If PRM have not fed or are nymphs (youngsters), you may find it difficult to see them with the naked eye as they are tiny and grey in colour but you will feel them on your skin, making you itch and scratch. When they have fed on a blood meal, adult red mite are easier to see – they are bigger and red in colour as they are engorged with blood.
Winter months used to offer some respite due to cold weather, but recent mild UK winter temperatures allow many more to survive, resulting in hen keepers reporting significant Red Mite infestations in February.
Locating Red Mite
PRM are an ecto-parasite, they only temporarily visit the bird to feed on blood – they do not live on the bird. PRM live in the birds hut or animal housing, and they retreat here to rest, breed and lay their eggs. They cannot fly or jump, they are crawling insects. They feed on blood as your birds are resting at night usually as the birds remain still and trying to sleep. In moderate numbers they occupy dark, dry areas – favourite areas are nest boxes, cracks, crevices and joints in the hut where they can remain out of sight. You may also find them on perches and in bedding materials. When an infestation is severe, you will find PRM virtually everywhere in the hut, including on eggs, hut walls, feeders and drinkers etc. They will also hide under the smallest pieces of dried on pieces of dirt on perches etc. If the area is dark, dry and there is something the mites can hide under you will find them.
Red Mite Symptoms
The hens began to lay their few eggs on the shed floor rather than use the nest box, probably due to the Red Mites waiting for them inside. I was also regularly bitten by mites when I went in the hut, and it felt like I was being attacked by a swarm of Red Mite defending their territory.
If red mite are feeding, then they’re breeding – every adult Red Mite will blood feed, retreat to a hiding place in the hut and lay their eggs. The eggs will hatch and these hatched mites will also blood feed after approximately seven days, giving your birds no chance at all of avoiding this relentless misery.