Red Mite Alert: Protecting Your Chickens from These Tiny Predators

Have you ever noticed tiny red bugs crawling around in your chicken coop or on your pet bird? Chances are, you may be dealing with Red Mites – also known as Roost Mites. These pesky pests are a common parasite found in bird habitats, and they can cause irritation and stress for your feathered friends.

Red Mites, also known as poultry mites or chicken mites, are a common pest affecting chickens. They are particularly troublesome because they can cause a range of health problems for the birds and can be challenging to eradicate once they have established themselves in a coop. Here are some key points about red mites in chickens:

  1. Identification: Red mites are very small, typically less than 1mm in size, and are red or dark brown in colour. They are often difficult to see with the naked eye until they have fed, at which point they become engorged and more visible.
  2. Habitat and Behavior: Unlike some other mites, red mites do not live on the chickens but in their environment. They hide in cracks, crevices, and dark spots in the chicken coop during the day and come out at night to feed on the chickens’ blood.
  3. Symptoms in Chickens: Infested chickens may show signs of restlessness, decreased egg production, anaemia (pale comb and wattles), and feather pecking. In severe infestations, it can lead to weight loss, decreased immunity, and in extreme cases, death.
  4. Treatment: Effective treatment often requires a two-pronged approach – treating the chickens and the environment. Various products can be used to treat the chickens directly, such as dusts, sprays, or systemic treatments prescribed by a veterinarian. The coop and surrounding area must also be thoroughly cleaned and treated with an appropriate mite control product.
  5. Prevention: Regular cleaning and maintenance of the coop, along with periodic checks for mites, can help prevent infestations. Some keepers use natural deterrents like diatomaceous earth or essential oils, although their effectiveness can vary.
  6. Risk to Humans: While red mites primarily affect birds, they can bite humans, causing irritation and discomfort. However, they do not live on humans or spread diseases to them.

Controlling red mites requires diligence and often repeated treatments, as these pests can be quite resilient and their populations can rebound quickly if not thoroughly eradicated.

Red Mite Identification

Red Mites (Roost Mites) are difficult to spot with the naked eye, as they are only about 0.4 inches (1 mm) in size and tend to hide in cracks and crevices during the day. However, if you inspect your bird’s nesting area or roosting spots at night with a flashlight, you may be able to see them scurrying around.

To positively identify red mites, look for tiny red or brown specks on surfaces where your birds frequent. You may also notice red mites on your hands or clothing after handling infected birds.

If you suspect a red mite infestation, it’s important to take action quickly to prevent further spread and discomfort for your birds. Regular cleaning and disinfecting of your bird’s living area, as well as treating them with appropriate pesticides, can help eliminate these unwelcome guests.

The Life Cycle of Red Mites

The life cycle of red mites, specifically the poultry red mite (Dermanyssus gallinae), is important to understand for effective control and management in poultry environments. Here’s an overview of their life cycle stages:

  1. Egg: The life cycle begins with the female mite laying eggs in crevices, cracks, or on materials in the chicken coop. The environmental conditions, particularly temperature and humidity, significantly influence the hatching time of the eggs. Under optimal conditions, the eggs can hatch within just a couple of days.
  2. Larva: The first stage after hatching is the larval stage. At this stage, the mites have six legs and are not yet capable of feeding on blood. This stage is relatively short, typically lasting only a day or two. The larvae then moult and enter the first nymphal stage.
  3. Nymph: There are two nymphal stages – protonymph and deutonymph. In these stages, the mites develop eight legs and begin to feed on the blood of their hosts, which are usually chickens in the case of poultry red mites. Each nymphal stage requires a blood meal to progress to the next stage. The transition from protonymph to deutonymph and then to an adult can take several days to a week, depending on environmental conditions.
  4. Adult: After the final molt, the mites become adults. Adult red mites are capable of reproducing and continuing the cycle. The adult stage is when they are most problematic for chickens, as they feed on the birds’ blood, particularly at night. Female mites can lay up to a few hundred eggs in their lifetime, leading to rapid population growth in suitable conditions.
  5. Reproduction: Adult females require a blood meal to reproduce. After feeding, they mate with males and then lay eggs, continuing the cycle.
  6. Lifespan and Feeding Habits: Red mites can survive for several months without feeding, making them particularly resilient pests. They typically feed at night and hide in cracks and crevices during the day.

Understanding this life cycle is crucial for effective mite control. It helps in timing treatments to target specific stages of the mite’s life cycle and in implementing long-term control strategies that disrupt their reproduction and spread.

Symptoms of an Infestation

An infestation of red mites in chickens can lead to several noticeable symptoms and signs. Detecting these early can be crucial for effective treatment and to prevent the infestation from worsening. Here are some common symptoms and signs to look out for:

  1. Restlessness and Irritability: Chickens infested with red mites often appear restless, especially at night when the mites are most active. They may be seen scratching more than usual, shaking their feathers, or appearing generally uncomfortable.
  2. Decreased Egg Production: One of the first signs of a red mite infestation in a laying flock can be a noticeable drop in egg production. This is often due to the stress and discomfort caused by the mites.
  3. Anaemia: Severe infestations can lead to anaemia in chickens, as the mites feed on their blood. Signs of anaemia include pale combs and wattles, weakness, and lethargy.
  4. Feather Damage and Loss: In bad infestations Cchickens may over-preen or peck at their feathers in response to the irritation caused by the mites, leading to feather damage or loss.
  5. Skin Irritation and Redness: The skin may show signs of irritation, such as redness, scabs, or inflammation, especially around the vent, under the wings, and on the legs.
  6. Weight Loss and Reduced Growth: In severe cases, the stress and blood loss caused by mites can lead to weight loss in chickens and reduced growth rates in younger birds.
  7. Behavioural Changes: Infested chickens may be less active, show less interest in their surroundings, or isolate themselves from the rest of the flock.
  8. Visible Mites or Mite Droppings: In heavy infestations, you might be able to see the mites themselves or their droppings. Mites are tiny, but they become more visible when engorged with blood. Their droppings can look like dark red or black specks in the coop or on the chickens.
  9. Increased Mortality Rates: In very severe cases, particularly in young or weak birds, a heavy mite infestation can be fatal.

It’s important to regularly inspect your chickens and their living environment for signs of red mites. Early detection and prompt treatment are key to controlling an infestation and minimizing harm to the birds.

Monitoring Your Flock

For effective monitoring of red mites in your flock, regularly inspect the coop for the presence of mites, especially at night, for live mites and their droppings, focusing on cracks and crevices. Observe the flock for collective signs like decreased egg production and overall restlessness, and maintain consistent cleanliness in the coop to prevent infestations. 

Red Mite Prevention

Regularly cleaning and disinfecting the chicken coop, using effective mite control products, and implementing a regular health monitoring routine can help prevent red mite infestations and keep your chickens happy and healthy.

The most important thing in red mite prevention is maintaining good hygiene and cleanliness in poultry or livestock housing. Red mites thrive in dirty and poorly maintained environments, so regular cleaning and disinfecting of the premises is crucial. It is important to remove any bedding, manure, or debris where the mites can hide and breed.

Additionally, implementing effective biosecurity measures such as controlling the movement of personnel and equipment in and out of the facility can help minimize the risk of introducing red mites. Regular monitoring and early detection of any signs of infestation is also essential for prompt intervention and control measures. 

Treatment Options

When choosing a treatment for red mites, there are several considerations that need to be taken into account. Firstly, it is important to consider the effectiveness of the treatment. Different treatments may have varying levels of success in eradicating red mites, so it is important to choose one that has been proven to be effective.

Secondly, the safety of the treatment should be considered, especially if the treatment will be used on animals or in areas where humans may come into contact with it.

Additionally, the ease of application or administration of the treatment should be considered, as some treatments may require more time or effort to apply than others.

Lastly, the cost of the treatment is an important consideration, as it should be affordable and provide good value for money. Overall, a combination of effectiveness, safety, ease of application, and cost should be taken into account when choosing a treatment for red mites.

Clean the Coop

To get rid of red mites by cleaning the coop, there are a few steps you can take. Firstly, remove all the bedding from the coop and dispose of it properly. Thoroughly clean all surfaces, including the walls, floors, perches, and nesting boxes, using a disinfectant specifically designed for poultry housing.

Make sure to pay extra attention to any cracks or crevices where mites might be hiding. Once the coop is clean, apply a poultry-safe insecticide to all surfaces, following the instructions carefully. It is important to treat both the coop and the chickens themselves to eliminate the mites completely.

Regularly checking and cleaning the coop, maintaining good sanitation practices, and providing regular dust baths for the chickens can help prevent future mite infestations. Consulting with a veterinarian or an experienced poultry keeper may also provide you with additional advice and guidance for effectively dealing with red mites.

‘Spot-On’ Products

To get rid of red mites with spot-on products, you will need to follow a specific process. First, identify the spot-on product that is specifically formulated to target and eliminate red mites. These products usually contain active ingredients that are effective against mites. Next, read and follow the instructions provided with the spot-on product carefully, making sure to apply the product in the recommended dosage and manner.

Take extra care to apply the product directly to the areas where the red mites are most prevalent, such as crevices, cracks, and hiding places. It is important to note that spot-on products may not eliminate all red mites in one application, so regular and repeated use as directed by the product is necessary to effectively eradicate them.

Additionally, ensure that you are taking appropriate measures to clean and treat the affected area, including removing any debris, vacuuming, and maintaining proper hygiene practices. Consulting a pest control professional may also be helpful in effectively dealing with red mites.


There are several disinfectants that can be effective against red mites, but it is important to choose one that is safe for chickens and does not pose a threat to their health. the most suitable options.

Strong disinfectants such as permethrin or carbaryl can be hazardous to chickens if not used properly, so it is advised to use them only in well-ventilated areas and follow the instructions carefully.

Alternatively, there are more chicken-friendly options available, such as diatomaceous earth, which is a natural product that can be applied to coop surfaces and the chickens’ bedding. It works by dehydrating the mites and is considered safe for both humans and animals.

Another option is neem oil, which is derived from the neem tree and has insecticidal properties. It can be mixed with water and sprayed on the coop surfaces, but it is important to avoid direct contact with the chickens. Overall, it is important to choose a disinfectant that effectively kills red mites while also prioritizing the safety and well-being of the chickens. Consulting with a veterinarian or poultry expert can provide further guidance on

Organic Treatments

There are several organic treatments available for red mites in chickens. One common method is the use of diatomaceous earth, which is a natural substance made from the fossilized remains of algae. It can be sprinkled on the coop bedding and nest boxes to kill and repel mites.

Another option is neem oil, which is derived from the neem tree and has insecticidal properties. It can be mixed with water and sprayed onto the coop and chickens. Additionally, essential oils such as tea tree oil and lavender oil can also be effective in repelling mites.

These oils can be diluted with water and sprayed onto the chickens or added to their dust baths. Regular cleaning and sanitizing of the coop is also important to prevent mite infestations.

Other Poultry Mites

Scaly Leg Mite

Scaly Leg Mite is a common and annoying parasite that affects chickens and other poultry. They burrow under the scales on a bird’s legs, causing them to become raised, rough, and swollen. These mites can cause discomfort for the birds and in severe cases, lead to infections and difficulty walking.

I’ve personally dealt with Scaly Leg Mite infestations with my chickens, and it’s not fun. The first sign is usually a change in the appearance of the scales on the legs. They become raised and look like they’re covered in a white, crusty substance.

Treatment involves using a natural or commercial mite killer and gently soaking the legs to help remove the scales. This process can take some time and a lot of patience, but it’s essential for the well-being of the birds.

Northern Fowl Mite

I have personally dealt with Northern Fowl Mites while taking care of my chickens. These tiny parasites can quickly infest a flock and cause serious irritation and discomfort to the birds.

Northern Fowl Mites are small, red-brown in colour, and barely visible to the naked eye. They survive by feeding on the blood of birds, especially chickens, and can rapidly multiply in numbers.

Infestations of Northern Fowl Mites can lead to feather loss, skin irritation, and decreased egg production in affected chickens. It’s important to regularly check your flock for signs of mites and take action to prevent and treat infestations.

I have found that using dust baths, regular coop cleaning, and applying mite treatments can help control and prevent infestations. It’s also important to quarantine any new birds before integrating them into the flock to prevent the spread of mites.

Keeping a close eye on the health and well-being of your chickens can help you catch and address mite problems early on, ensuring a happy and healthy flock.

Feather Mite

Feather mites are tiny insects that live in the feathers of birds. They can be found in both wild and domesticated birds, and they can cause irritation and discomfort for the birds.

Feather mites feed on the oils and debris on the feathers, and they can multiply quickly if not treated. They can also cause damage to the feathers, affecting the bird’s ability to fly and stay warm.

I first encountered feather mites when I noticed my pet parrot was scratching and preening excessively. Upon closer inspection, I found tiny bugs in his feathers. I immediately took him to the vet, who confirmed that he had feather mites.

Treatment for feather mites typically involves using special bird-safe sprays and powders to kill the mites. Regular cleaning and disinfecting of the bird’s environment can also help prevent re-infestation.

It’s important to regularly check your pet birds for signs of feather mites and seek treatment if necessary to keep them healthy and comfortable. In the wild, feather mites can also affect the health of wild bird populations, so it’s important to be mindful of their presence in the environment.

Predator Mites.

Predator mites are tiny but mighty helpers in the garden. These little dudes are natural enemies of pest mites, like spider mites and russet mites. They work by feeding on the pest mites and keeping their population in check.

I first learned about predator mites when I was struggling with a pesky spider mite infestation on my indoor plants. After trying various pesticides with no luck, I came across predator mites as a natural solution. I was a bit sceptical at first, but after releasing them into my plants, I saw a noticeable decrease in the pest mite population.

The cool thing about predator mites is that they’re harmless to humans, plants, and other beneficial insects. They’re a sustainable, chemical-free way to control pest mites and maintain a healthy ecosystem in the garden.

I now keep predator mites on hand as a preventative measure and have recommended them to fellow gardeners dealing with mite issues. It’s like having your own little mite-fighting army!


Why Do Red Mite Multiply So Quickly?

Red mites multiply quickly because they have a short life cycle and when offered optimal living conditions they reproduce rapidly. They can go from mite egg to adult in just 7-10 days, and they can lay up to 8 eggs per day, so it’s easy for their population to explode in a short amount of time. Red mites multiply quickly in chicken coops due to warm, humid conditions, availability of hosts for feeding, dark hiding spaces, and lack of regular cleaning. Wooden coops especially provide ideal environments for mite infestation due to their porous nature.

To make matters worse, red mites are also incredibly resilient and can survive for long periods without a blood meal. 

To control their population, it’s essential to maintain a clean, well-ventilated coop and regularly inspect and treat for mites. You can also consider a plastic coop.

Is Poultry Mites and Red Mites the same?

“Poultry mites” and “red mites” are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they can refer to different species of mites that infest chickens and other birds. The confusion arises because both terms are somewhat general and can encompass multiple species. Here’s a clarification:

  1. Red Mites (Dermanyssus gallinae): Often specifically referred to as the poultry red mite or chicken mite, this species is a common pest in poultry environments. Red mites are nocturnal and typically feed on the blood of birds at night. They are known for their ability to survive for long periods without a blood meal and can be particularly difficult to eradicate once they infest a chicken coop.
  2. Poultry Mites: This is a broader term that can include various species of mites infesting poultry, such as:
    • Red Mites (Dermanyssus gallinae): As mentioned above.
    • Northern Fowl Mites (Ornithonyssus sylviarum): Unlike red mites, they primarily live and feed on the birds themselves and are more commonly seen in cooler climates.
    • Scaly Leg Mites (Knemidocoptes mutans): These mites burrow under the scales on a chicken’s legs, causing irritation, swelling, and deformities.