Mites on Chickens: 13 Natural Ways of Getting Rid of Chicken Mites
You don’t have to travel to Volterra or have Uley pack (both Twilight references, by the way) to get rid of real-life bloodsucking vampires known as mites.
If you want to eradicate these parasites fast, have them fight with each other!
Stick around, and you’ll find out that there are actually “good” mites that, ironically, get rid of mites on chickens.
1. Use Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Love it or hate it. One thing is for sure – using Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is one the most effective ways to get rid of mites on chickens for pest control in the coop. Never heard of DE?
Let’s explain what it is.
Diatomaceous earth is made from fossilized diatoms. These remains are processed and used in many products, including pesticides. The National Pesticide Information Center explains very well how this works (1).
“Diatomaceous earth causes insects to dry out and die by absorbing the oils and fats from the cuticle of the insect’s exoskeleton. Its sharp edges are abrasive, speeding up the process.”
If you have a mite infestation, you can douse your coop in DE. It’s safe to apply it directly to your chickens as well. The dust kills any mites in the area without adding any dangerous chemicals. Just be careful about breathing in the dust – DE can cause respiratory problems.
2. Give Your Chickens A Bath…A Dust Bath
You bathe regularly, and so do your chickens. They just don’t use hot showers as we do – they prefer to bathe in the dust. That’s because dust helps prevent them from getting parasites like the Northern Fowl Mite (2).
Northern Fowl Mites irritate your birds with their itchy bites. They will also sink their teeth into your skin – ouch! Don’t worry. They prefer your feathered friends. This type of mite lives its whole life on your chicken.
Worse than the skin irritation is what those mites do when they are biting. They are actually sucking blood – Ewww, gross. These bloodsuckers can cause anemia from blood loss, reduce your hens’ egg production and ultimately kill your chickens if you don’t treat them.
By providing your flock a dust bath area, you can help eliminate these parasites. The birds roll around and clean their feathers. This behavior helps get rid of mites.
To kill even more mites, you can add DE to your mix. Consider putting wood ash and certain herbs to make it a more effective concoction to eradicate mites on chickens. We will talk more about these later.
3. Use Elector PSP
If you are looking for a quick commercial solution to chicken mite infestation, you can buy Elector PSP. It’s an insecticide derived from the fermentation of the Saccharopolyspora bacteria. It is effective against several types of chicken mites, including the Northern Fowl Mite and those persistent red mites.
They sell the product in a concentrated form, so you will need to dilute it with water. Once diluted, you can douse your chicken coop with it. Unlike chemical treatments, there is no need to clear your flock out of the coop and no egg removal. Period. You can even safely apply diluted Elector PSP directly to your birds.
This treatment doesn’t kill mite eggs, so you will want to reapply every two weeks until you get rid of all the mites.
4. Burn It All
Some mites, like Poultry red mites, are nearly impossible to get rid of. They hide in your coop’s nooks and crannies. And just like vampires, these bloodsuckers come out after sundown to feast on your birds as they sleep. Unlike Northern Fowl Mites, Poultry red mites can live up to several months without a host (3).
Poultry red mites are notoriously challenging to eradicate from your coop. Poultry keepers like yourself have no choice but to burn it all. (Except your chickens, of course!)
Start by burning the bedding and roosting bars. Some people suggest you can go through your coop with a propane torch and carefully burn off the mites. They make a satisfying popping sound as they burn. But because they can survive so long without feeding, they may come back if you aren’t careful. If that happens, you may have to take drastic measures.
5. Repel Mites With Garlic
Just like vampires, chicken mites don’t like garlic. But, you’re not going to give your flock a garlic necklace. You’re going to feed your birds garlic.
The idea is if your chickens eat enough garlic, the scent is excreted in their skin and their blood (but oddly enough, not in their eggs). Then that stinky smell will drive away the mites.
You can introduce garlic to your flock in different ways. If you don’t want to fuss prepping garlic yourself, you can buy apple cider vinegar that has garlic in it. Add the garlic ACV to your chicken water – the exact amount will depend on the size of your waterer. Ideally, you can put one tablespoon per gallon of water.
If you are uneasy feeding garlic to your chickens, don’t be (4).
“Recent research works on ginger and garlic formulations as feed additives have shown encouraging results in regards to weight gain, feed efficiency, lowered mortality and increased livability in poultry birds.”
You can also use garlic juice topically to help with a mite infestation. You can spray it around your coop and directly on your chickens.
Check out this video for a recipe to repel mites naturally using garlic and essential oils.
6. Add Herbs to Your Coop
When planting your spring garden, you may want to grow chamomile and other herbs for chickens. They are healthy for your flock and are natural insect repellent!
You can add these herbs to your dust baths, put them in your nesting boxes, and mix them in with your bedding. Your chickens might eat them, but that’s fine. Just add more.
A recent study has shown that adding herbs like chamomile and garlic to your chicken feed can help fight red mites. Chamomile mainly helps stimulate the immune system and cuts down on the healing time for mite bites (5).
You can also use herbal essentials oils like in the video above. Essential oils are concentrated, so the scent is much stronger than using either fresh or dry herbs.
7. Keep the Coop Clean
Keeping your coop clean makes it easier to prevent and deal with an infestation. If you even think you have chicken mites on your birds, step one is to clean out your coop. And that means clean everything. External parasites like to hide during the day and come out at night, so just cause you can’t see them doesn’t mean they are not there.
Make sure you use a cleaning product that will penetrate the wood to get those sneaky roost mites. Concrete and painted floors are easy to clean, while dirt floors can be more problematic. If you have dirt floors, dust with DE to help keep the chicken mites away.
A regular cleaning routine can help prevent future infestations. But keep in mind chicken mites can come from anywhere. Wild animals, like rodents, often are the source of mites in your coop. Make sure you predator-proof your coop to keep those animals out of your nice clean space.
8. Mix Up (Or Buy) a Natural Coop Mite Spray
We introduced the idea of a natural spray when we were talking about garlic and herbs. But, you can use essential oils as a substitute. Natural coop mite sprays are also made from a mix of dish soap, oil, and water. Just combine the ingredients, and then liberally spray them on your surfaces and your birds.
The oil smothers the mites while the soap strips away the outer protective layer of the insect (6).
“Soaps and detergents may also remove the protective waxes that cover the insect, causing death through excess loss of water.”
Some soaps are better than others, and Dawn dish soap is one of the top choices. Dawn’s secret formula is super effective at cutting grease while being gentle on our hands. It’s the same reason why Dawn is a popular choice for cleaning birds after oil spills (7).
Cooking oil is perfectly fine, but there are other oils, like Neem, that work better. We’ll talk more about Neem and its uses next.
Several commercial natural coop mite sprays are available if you don’t want to DIY your mite spray.
9. Slather On The Neem Oil
Using neem oil is one of the best ways to get rid of mites on poulty. Being 100% natural, you can apply neem oil to chickens without harmful side effects. Plus, it is particularly effective against Scaly Leg Mite. These mites live between the scales on your chickens’ legs and feet. They feast in there and leave their waste behind. Super gross, right?
Neem oil is not only good at repelling insects in your coop. It’s also safe enough to use in your garden against pests.
If your chickens’ legs are looking pretty funky, they probably have Scaly Leg Mites. Gently clean them and then slather on the Neem Oil. The oil will help suffocate those mites.
10. Disinfect With Poultry Shield
Poultry Shield is a disinfecting product that is highly effective against Poultry Red Mites. The product is sold in a highly concentrated form and then diluted with water. You can then use a spray to soak it into all those hard-to-reach places in your chicken coop where the red mites like to hide, like roosts.
Poultry Shield is not available in the US, but if you are a backyard chicken keeper in the UK or Australia, you should be able to find it without any problems.
11. Fight Mites With Mites
In nature, we have balance—the circle of life. So while Northern fowl mites or red mites feed on your chickens, there is something out there that feeds on the Northern fowl mites and red mites. And it turns out that something is another breed of mite.
The mites are called predatory mites, and you can order them online. Once they arrive, you introduce the predatory mites into your coop and wait. They have no interest in your chickens, just those nasty mites you don’t want.
Predator mites are more delicate than their prey so make sure you follow the instructions carefully.
Soon the predatory mites will have taken care of your problem for you. Once their food source is gone, the predator mites die off in about a week. And you didn’t have to do anything at all. It’s the circle of life.
12. Apply Vaseline
When your chickens have Scaly Leg and other chicken diseases, you suffer along with them. But you can help soothe their skin and kill mites by applying vaseline. First, you will want to clean their legs gently. The mites won’t be visible to the naked eye, but their effect on the leg scales will.
Once their legs are clean and dry, you can apply the vaseline. If you are looking for a more natural option, coconut oil will work as well. The idea is to smother the mites.
13. Sprinkle Some Wood Ash
Wood ash is another easy way to help get rid of chicken mites. Save ash from your fires and sprinkle it on your chickens and around your chicken coop. You can also add wood ash to the dust bath area. That way, your chicken will spread it around on their feathers where the mites like to congregate.
But remember, don’t let wood ash get wet and turn to lye. It is caustic and a skin irritant that can burn your birds.
Yes, mites can kill chickens. Young chickens are especially vulnerable to the effects of mites. External parasites like mites suck the blood from your flock, and that can cause your birds to become anemic. If the mites are left untreated, severe anemia can lead to death.
No, mites do not die in winter. Or at least not all of them. Adult red mites will die if exposed to freezing temperatures for a long time, but the eggs and young are not affected the same way. In fact, winter can be a worse time for mites than other times of the year.
Heated coops are more prone to winter infestations than non-heated coops. But the truth is mites can come from anywhere. You can bring them into your coop on straw or by rodents and other wild animals. So regardless of the season, keep vigilant about checking your birds for external parasites.
No poultry mites and poultry lice are not the same. Mites are arachnids, like spiders, while lice are small wingless insects. Though they are different, you can use many of the same treatment and prevention methods for mites and lice infestation.
Birds with lice and mites can appear to exhibit similar symptoms. So you want to examine the feathers, especially around the vent area, to be sure which external parasite you are dealing with. In some cases, like a leg mites infestation, it is harder to detect since they burrow in the feet and shanks.
No, humans can’t get mites from chickens. But leg mites, roost mites, and even red mites can attack and bite. They can also latch on to your clothing and shoes and unknowingly bring them into your home. If this happens, immediate attention is necessary to prevent these itchy parasites from permanently invading your abode. Most of the time, natural or commercial anti-mite sprays will kill them. However, in most extreme cases, calling professional pest control may be necessary and the only solution.
Yes, chicken mites are more active in summer. However, there are some types, like red mite, that can survive during cold weather. They can survive 32 weeks without a host (9). Once the temperature rises, they will start laying eggs and wreak havoc on the coop at night.
Mites like the Northern Fowl Mite are a more common chicken keeping problem. Although these parasites attack day and night, they prefer to invade in broad daylight. They can bite you, causing intense itching and skin irritation.
When a bird is heavily infested, you’ll notice that the feathers are blackened not because of the presence of the chicken mites but due to dried blood.
- Diatomaceous Earth. Retrieved from: http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/degen.html
- Dust Baths and Longer Beaks Can Make Cage-free Chickens into Mite-free Chickens. Retrieved from: https://entomologytoday.org/2016/09/14/can-a-cage-free-chicken-also-be-a-mite-free-chicken/
- Poultry red mite. Retrieved from: http://www.veterinaryirelandjournal.com/focus/160-poultry-red-mite-prevalence-problems-prevention
- Effect of dietary supplementation of garlic, ginger and their combination on feed intake, growth performance and economics in commercial broilers. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4823283/
- Phytogenics against red mite in poultry. Retrieved from: https://www.allaboutfeed.net/animal-feed/feed-additives/phytogenics-against-red-mite-in-poultry/
- Insect Control: Soaps and Detergents.Retrieved from: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/insect-control-soaps-and-detergents-5-547/
- Why Dawn Is the Bird Cleaner Of Choice In Oil Spills. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127999735
- Use and Status of Rotenone in Organic Growing. Retrieved from: https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/rotenone-organic-zb0z1405zsto
- Common Lice And Mites Of Poultry. Retrieved from: https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8162.pdf
Tana grew up around island farms and pine forests. Her love for nature lead to her degree in Biology and mission to lessen her environmental impact. Now she grows food in her backyard and shares what she learns from Eco Peanut with others.