Red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae), are incredibly frustrating blood sucking parasites that affect chickens, pigeons, turkeys and wild birds. They cause anaemia, irritation, reduced egg production, weight loss and in severe cases, death. The mites live in the cracks and crevices of your chook house, perches, in straw and bedding of nest boxes and coming out at night to feed when hens are roosting. The mites which appear as tiny red or blackish dots clustered together produce a greyish dust that can be seen around doors, windows and perches. Red mites can be seen on eggs and even on humans in heavy infestations.
They can survive off the bird without feeding for up to 34 weeks and in warm weather conditions the life cycle can be completed in a week, so huge populations can develop very rapidly.
Previously, treatment was centred around the housing, however the development of Exzolt, (fluralaner) has been a game changer. Exzolt is an oral product which kills the red mites after they feed on the birds. It can either be mixed into the drinking water or given directly to the bird at the prescribed rate and given twice, 7 days apart in order to break the life cycle. Once the birds have been treated with Exzolt, they should return to their chook house so any remaining mites can feed in order to die. An additional benefit is that there is no egg withholding period, so you can continue to eat the eggs after treatment.
It is still a good idea to clean the chook house, but it’s not essential. Wild and domesticated birds are also natural hosts so to prevent reinfestation, try to reduce contact by using covered chook feeders and removing bird nests from around your coop.