No really, I don’t want to talk about it. Just the thought sends the feeling of creepy crawly bugs all over my skin and I want to run screaming tearing cloths off as I go. But, this approach helps no one, least of all my chickens. While this all might sound like I’ve lost my marbles, I promise I have not. Our topic today is chicken mites.
As my 4yr old would say “DUN DUN DAAAAA!!!”
So this is my first experience with parasites personally, which is really a miracle considering how long I have been keeping chickens, AND considering I let my chickens truly free range. Lots of nasty bugs can be picked up from wild birds including the avian bird flu. I do believe that these little nasties were picked up in the wild as my two best foragers were the most infested. But, Trista has had a go with chicken lice, and after my research on mites I would take the lice any day. At least the lice are species specific. That means they can only live on chickens. Mites are less species specific. Meaning they are happy to dine on any blood that comes their way. HOWEVER, did you know bedbugs can infest your chicken house? That sent cold shivers down my spine and I had hysterical thoughts of burning the chicken house down.
SO, I walked into the chicken house ready to fill their water. I have a big waterer that the top screws off of and you pour in the water, so that is what I was about to do. And then something tickled my arm and I looked down and there were a ton of little tiny tiny bugs crawling on me and my shirt! Needless to say, that shirt didn’t last long and I stomped on it just for good measure. Then, I called Trista. In the midst of my rant/hysterics she had the nerve to tell me to calm down. Apparently I had done something similar when she was in the throws of lice madness. I am so sorry Trista, I promise to never give such inappropriate advice ever again.
Ok so after I did calm down I really needed to figure out what the heck I was dealing with. I went in armed with my phone for documentation purposes. IT WAS SO GROSS!!! There were so many of them! I took as many pictures as I could stand and then ran for my DE.
DE is Diatomaceous Earth, according to Wikipedia is:
Diatomaceous earth /ˌdaɪ.ətəˌmeɪʃəs ˈɜrθ/, also known as D.E., diatomite, or kieselgur/kieselguhr, is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. It has a particle size ranging from less than 3 micrometres to more than 1 millimetre, but typically 10 to 200 micrometres. Depending on the granularity, this powder can have an abrasive feel, similar to pumice powder, and has a low density as a result of its high porosity. The typical chemical composition of oven-dried diatomaceous earth is 80 to 90% silica, with 2 to 4% alumina (attributed mostly to clay minerals) and 0.5 to 2% iron oxide.
Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It is used as a filtrationaid, mild abrasive in products including metal polishes and toothpaste, mechanical insecticide, absorbent for liquids, matting agent for coatings, reinforcing filler in plastics and rubber, anti-block in plastic films, porous support for chemical catalysts, cat litter, activator in blood clotting studies, a stabilizing component of dynamite, and a thermal insulator.
Lots of people use DE as a dewormer, because it is essentially tiny shards of sharp silica, it scores the bodies of soft insects, effectively dehydrating them to death. Its very safe and quite effective. It’s my go to insecticide in the garden. Back to the chickens, I coated the inside of the chicken house with DE and then went and tried to figure out what kind of bug I had going. I went to the house and striped off my clothes and washed them with about 5 drops each of thyme, rosemary, sage and lavender to kill the bugs. Then I hit the computer. I had pictures of them but it was only so helpful, they were SO TINY!
After a few terrifying moments of the possibility that they could be bed bugs, I settled on the Northern Fowl Mite. Honestly I breathed a sigh of relief because the bed bug possibility was so much worse, I had visions of burning mattresses, clothes and hopefully the bed bugs with them. I also believe I caught this infestation early. I think there were only nymphs out there. I had already used my DE, after reading about the mite, I decided to go to town for poultry dust. It has an insecticide in it, (…) and it is very effective. The use of the insecticide was because mites are quite happy to live on people or chickens. I just didn’t have time to switch out clothes every single time I needed to visit the chickens and the kids are really less than reliable. Mites also live for about 5 days but can lay thousands of eggs in that time. Go here Mite Info to learn more.
I went to visit the chickens that night (I did it at night so I knew I had everyone and the chickens are much calmer if you do it at night) and dusted everyone, (don’t forget your dust mask) and so far we have had a clean bill of health.