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Mitey Hen

 
master steward
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Location: Left Coast Canada
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My hens have mites something terrible this year.  We usually use diatomaceous earth (DE) but it's not doing a thing to help.  Actually, the chickens hate it.  I put it in their dust bowls, and they won't bathe.  I put it on the chickens, and they scream like it's painful.

Every other farm I've talked to is having problems with mites this year.

My hens are looking pretty sad.  They are looking mitey not mighty!  

Do you know any organic or better solutions for this infestation?  
 
garden master
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A local farmer whom I've had the enjoyment of getting to know over the last year or so told me he puts one clove of garlic through a garlic press and adds that to his chickens water, every time they get fresh water. According to him, he got rid of the mites on his chickens and hasn't had a problem with them since doing this. He swears by it and it's now a part of his routine chicken care.
 
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What I do is bad I guess, because I have read bad things so be aware. I have always used cedar and pine shavings in my coop.  I didn't know unit recently this can cause respiratory problems in chickens.  I guess I never had any problems because my coop is large and mostly medal posts and chicken wire, so  the fumes from the cedar aren't contained?  I have very healthy chickens, and ( I hate to say this out loud, and jinx myself) have never had mites.  I only put new shavings in my coop maybe 3 o 4 times a year.  I was thinking if you have an open space maybe put some cedar with the sand to help get rid of the mites.  It's what  I have always done but be careful because I would never want to cause harm your or anyone's chickens.
 
pollinator
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We had them pretty bad earlier in the year, and were very liberally dusting the house every week for about four weeks.  I believe the mites don't necessarily live on the chickens, but crawl or drop onto them during the night, bite them and then crawl/drop off again.  We don't bother dusting the chickens;  as you say, they don't like it.  But getting the walls, sills, perches, nest boxes, and any crevices well covered in DE got it back under control.  As I say though, it took about a month of regular usage.  Good luck.
 
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All mites are not created equal - do you know what type?
My local "Chicken Whisperer" was complaining she found blood mites in the bedding of some of her banties just the other day and "removed them", but I didn't ask what she meant by "removed". I'm not aware of what they look like or how they differ from the more common mites I've dealt with in the past. I can get more info from her if you think you might have them.

For the common mites, I agree with the earlier comment that the usual mites seem to hide in cracks and come out at night. For that reason, I like to be able to clean my coop easily and thoroughly when needed. The area we now use only as a brooder, I painted the walls white and sealed every crack with silicon sealer. The mites tend to leave a sticky residue which turns black from dust dirt, so having light coloured walls makes it easier to find the nests. Those mites can go into suspended animation, so just moving the chickens to temporary new digs won't solve the problem. By clean thoroughly, I'm talking mostly hot water and something like dish detergent, and a scrub brush and what I call a "green scrubby".

Similarly, I make all my nest boxes removable so I can *really* thoroughly clean them when needed, then I dust them thoroughly with diatomaceaous earth. I don't paint them white, as the birds like them dark, but I do paint them thoroughly so the paint seals the cracks as best possible. I generally use left-over paints for this from the Bottle Depot (which upset Hubby as one lot was purple, which he seemed to take offense to, so the next lot were "dark puke green", which got him thinking that dark purple wasn't so bad!)

I also oil the perches. This is the one thing I'm willing to use canola oil for. Two 10 ft perches uses ~225 milliliters to which I've added 2-3 drops of teatree oil. Chicken lungs are fragile, so I've heard some people say not to use teatree oil, but when I read between the lines, I think quantity is the issue. A few drops on that much perch shouldn't be a lung issue - on the other hand, I can't prove that it discourages the mites any more than just straight veggie oil. It just seems that I've had less of a mite issue since I started doing it. Coincidence doesn't prove causation.

If your birds have lice instead of mites - they live on the birds and move away from light so you can actually spot them - my friend recommended watered down hand soap sprayed and rubbed into the chickens on a sunny day. Don't rinse. Pluck feathers around their vent. Detergent is too strong. The chickens *don't* like this and need to be able to sit in warm sunlight to dry quickly, but I've been amazed at how quickly it works. If there are signs of egg sacks at the base of feathers, repeat every 10 days until you see no signs on inspection. Normally the eggs will be on the chicken's breast area near the vent, but one year in the hot weather the nests were out on the wing tips and I missed them the first time around - sneaky! If you do decide you have lice affecting a lot of birds, I recommend you get one of the pump sprayers that you pump pressure into and then just touch a trigger to get it to spray. The squeeze bottles like window cleaner comes in is really hard if you have wimpy hands like I do and you need to treat more than 6-8 birds. This process also goes much easier with two people. This is not something to do prophylactically - if you can't see lice, please don't put your chickens through this, but if you do see lice, it is the least poisonous treatment I know of.

For their dust bath, I have tried adding some ash from the wood stove, but if the problem is the mites that jump on the birds at night, I can't see that it would help and I worry that ash isn't that good for lungs either.

I realize these suggestions don't qualify as "organic", but you may be able to find organic equivalents.
 
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