Reported as the most common health problem a chicken keeper will face, red mite could be seriously impacting the health and welfare of your pets.

“Over the years red mite has been a continuous challenge for owners of backyard poultry, as it is extremely hard to spot and treat, with many people experiencing reoccurring infestations in chicken coops,” says Steve Smith, EBVS® European Veterinary Specialist in Avian Medicine and Surgery.

“However, these parasites which live in the cracks and crevices of hen houses cause extreme discomfort for chickens by feeding off the bird’s blood often causing severe anaemia.

“As well as anaemia, these mites can cause weight loss, a reduction in eggs produced and can cause death in extreme cases. To make matters worse, the parasites are known to carry diseases which can be transmitted to chickens, including Salmonella and E.coli,” explains Steve.

One of the biggest problems for owners is that it is difficult to identify whether red mite is present in chickens, as they are commonly only active, and therefore visible, at night. Working with poultry owners and vets, Steve has found some effective ways to check for the presence of red mite.

“At the end of the day, place a white sheet on the floor of the coop, near the birds and wait for at least an hour, or ideally five hours, after dark when the mites will be most active,” explains Steve.

“After this time, when you shine a torch on the white sheet you should be able to see grey or red spots if red mite are present.

“Another way in which you can check for red mite is by running your hand under the perches, again at night, to see if red mite are present there. This is because the mites will travel to the chickens to feed, so can be visible around nesting areas,” adds Steve.

Despite red mite being a significant issue in backyard chickens, there has been limited treatment options, which are effective in removing high infestations, available to backyard chicken owners.

“Many over-the-counter remedies will help reduce the number of red mite present in your chicken coop, but will not completely clear the infestation as they focus on treating the environment rather than the animal. Thankfully, there is now a new presentation of an existing effective treatment which can help you to clear red mite from your chickens. Owners should speak to their vet to find out more about this effective solution,” concludes Steve.

This information was provided by MSD Animal Health, manufacturer of EXZOLT®.