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Hens and mites
Before getting our chooks I read a fair bit and many places said that they needed to be dusted with mite powder almost constantly.  I wasn't keen on this idea as chemical dusting an animal 'just because' doesn't seem right to me.  But how do you know if the chooks DO have mites?  Where do the mites come from?  And is there another solution for preventing or getting rid of mites that is not chemical?

Plus what about worms?  Read about that too but not done anything.  How do I know if they've got them?  Same questions as above really.

How do folk get organic eggs when all these treatments are 'de rigeur' so to speak?
I ahve never dusted my chickens for lice or wormed them. except for a few losers I bought I have had no trouble getting eggs. I have treated for leg mites once. I doused their legs in listerine. since though I have realized that only a few of them have trouble with leg mites. others seem unfazed. I just don't worry about it anymore. I suppsoe if they were in closely confined conditions or I was raising fancy show chickens or keeping particular breeders because of their outstanding traits it would have to be different. as it sits I get a few more laying hens each year.  some people may disagree with me but putting much effort or money or especially pesticides into my chickens would totally negate my purpose in having them so I choose to give them the basics and after that they are on their own. I have some chickens that are going on 5 years old. they are mixed breed, free range and raise chicks every year. descendants of my original banty type chickens.

providing a dusting area with DE is supposed to help with lice. I think you can see the lice or their waste depending on the color of the feathers. 
I'm currently treating some rescued hens that have leg mites by spraying their legs with canola/rapeseed cooking spray... very easy to apply, suffocates the mites and is completely non toxic.

I find the feather lice to be very dependent on humidity...  when it's dry their dust bathing seems to keep the lice away.
I have also heard of tea tree oil being used succesfully. smothering or dehydrating the lice (I'm pretty sure that is what the listerine does)seem to be a non toxic easy way to deal with the problem of leg mites.
Vaseline (or similar, thick creamy waterproof mix, like beeswax & oil cream) is supposed to suffocate leg mites.  Apparently red mites live in the housing, especially theroof & so you need to blast this at the same time as treating.  diatomaceous earth powder is a natural way to treat for mites.  Several brands available, try ebay!  You know if they have mights because they peck/scratch each other orgo broody, then give up after a few days.
Listerine probably poisons the mites with natural essential oils, same as it does vs. bacteria.

Did you know it was invented to sterilize surgical instruments, and was only marketed as mouthwash later on?
polyparadigm wrote:
Listerine probably poisons the mites with natural essential oils, same as it does vs. bacteria.

Did you know it was invented to sterilize surgical instruments, and was only marketed as mouthwash later on?

I think it might be the alcohol content that has the sterilizing action?  Apparently rubbing alcohol immersion kills leg mites too
No, the alcohol content of Listerine is not nearly enough to have any detrimental effect on bacteria.

The alcohol is merely there to dissolve essential oils (which are noticeably more toxic than alcohol...think how tough it is to get stuff growing in eucaliptus waste, vs. wine marc!) in the water.
put some wood ashes in the area where they take their dust baths.
(1 like)
To keep mites from taking up residence in the coop, once a year in the summer we make up a whitewash and paint the insides of the coop top to bottom. This is an old fashion solution and we like doing it.

Chicken mites get are very active in the evening and that's when the ladies are all up on the roosts. They crawl all over their skin making them itch. You can see mites if you pick a hen up and look at her vent. When you roll the feathers back, you'll see the mites running to get out of the light. They're quick!

Chickens also can have scaly leg, another mite-ish bug that crawls up their legs and then lays eggs in between the smooth scales on their legs which pushes the scales out and makes it very uncomfortable. Think wearing knee socks with rocks under the socks.

To get rid of scaly mites it's best to suffocate them by covering the chicken's legs with an thick oil. We've used olive and I know other folks use mineral oil. I tried coconut but it soaked in too quickly. If you can bear using it, vasoline would do it pretty quickly, probably only have to do that once or twice.

Before you whitewash your coop, you'll want to dust your ladies once or twice with diatomaceous earth so they're free of the mites themselves and then you can clean up the coop so it's not housing them either.

Whitewash recipe we use -- cow's milk (get outdated milk from the store for free) with hydrated lime. Put the milk in first, then stir in lime until it gets creamy. Add a small amount of salt -- not much! -- and mix it well. Then paint it on all the wood surfaces in the coop.

The whitewash seals all the nooks and crannies the mites lay eggs in and hide in during the day. Also makes it look gorgeously clean in there!

Jacqueline Freeman

Friendly Haven Rise Farm
Venersborg, WA
my mother used lime and just water.  The lime kills anything, mity and scaly.
Having found a serious infestation of the (quite literally) bloody red mite. I have been SCOURING the internet for hours and hours researching red mite in chicken houses. This is by far the best and most informative information I have come across. Particularly making a white paint from milk and lime to seal the inside of the coop... GENIUS.
I smoked the chicken house by covering it in a big tarp then left a smouldering tinder bundle in there for a few hours, (not before spraying the hell out of it with chemicals stuff as the smoking didn't occur to me initially) then powder bombed it with diatom earth. Gonna mix me some milky limey paint...
None of my hens have feather mites. Because they always have dust baths. It dislodges any mites on them.
They do have scaly leg though. Which is caused by them living in damp or wet places ( im Irish, its inevitable). They are currently being treated with a spray by Total Poultry Solutions. And for my younger hens it works as prevention. Some one recommended covering their feet and vaseline, and this suffocates the mites that cause it. The spray does the same thing but it is a whole lot easier and there is less of a mess.

There are a few treatments that you can keep in your arsenal that can help if your flock gets mites but I can tell you that we kept chickens for over 30 yrs before seeing a mite and only then because we got chickens from a place of poor husbandry. When I got them I had to find something that could help them that was in the realm of natural, so here are a few things you can try:

Castor oil and NuStock for leg/scale mites, wounds, worms, fungal infections: Both are effective with just one treatment, in most cases. Both are comprised of all natural ingredients that are not harmful and only beneficial. Of the two, I am impressed with both...but the castor oil also can be used for deworming, if you so desire, as well as an antibacterial and antifungal treatment for wounds. I've never had to deworm a flock in all my many years, so that's just an option if you need it. The Nustock is good for wounds, fungal skin infections, hot spots on dogs, rain rot on horses, mange, etc. and is comprised of sulfur, pine tar and mineral oil only.

Dusting for lice and mites: Wood ashes help, sulfur dust can be found in any garden department and can be used to treat roosts, bedding and nesting material, as well as the birds and is effective as well. Some use lime for dusting the birds and bedding, as well as walls and roosts. If none of these work and you have a persistent case, Pyrethrin is a natural substance derived from the chrysanthemum flower that is very good for this. Do not confuse it with Permethrin, which is a chemical preparation that is more harmful to the environment, the insects and the animals in your care...not a good one to try, in other words. I don't use DE because of it's ability to harm beneficial insects as well, though I know many throw DE around like it's money, I never recommend it.

Worms: Castor oil is safe for humans and animals alike and has been used for centuries for this. Raw pumpkin seeds contain cucurbitin, a chemical that can paralyze the worms until they detach and are flushed out of the bowel along with the feces. Ginger root is another natural antihelmintic, as is garlic. Simple soap in the water acts as a surfactant and helps to dissolve the oils that protect the skin of worms, allowing them to be killed by the digestive acids and enzymes in the bowels. Black walnut hulls, while still green, are used for deworming. Charred wood has been used for this as well and one can flake off the char and add it to the feed mix....for other livestock, just place it in their pens and they will gnaw the charred bits off the wood.

The best treatment of all is to use preventative measures such as providing good dusting opportunities all year round, clean soils underfoot by providing free range, well managed deep litter in the coop to encourage beneficial microbes underfoot and predator bugs that prey on mite larvae, feeding and watering indoors where vectors such as wild birds, rodents, etc. cannot access feed and water. Treat roosts and nesting boxes if your area is prone to this problem, but not the bedding and the bird unless you actually HAVE a problem. Feeding fermented feeds or adding mother vinegar to the water can create a hostile environment in the bowel of chickens that can help prevent worm infestations but will not deworm a bird already infested.

One very important tool that no one ever mentions and that is yearly culling for health, performance, conditioning and appearance and feed thrift. Culling for these traits can naturally eliminate the birds that carry parasite loads due to poor immune system function and old age, while also preventing problems like egg bound, internal laying, prolapse, etc.

Avian biologists claim that 90% of the flock's parasites are being carried by 5% of the flock, so by eliminating those 5% of birds in a yearly cull by targeting the traits of a bird carrying heavy loads of parasites, one can keep problems like this down to animals who thrive well with an acceptable load of parasites and also breed for more of the same.

There are other all natural treatments for these things if one wants to dig, but these are the most commonly found and some of which I've actually used and can attest to their efficacy.
Hi Jay! I've been reading many of your posts about chickens and wanted to thank you for sharing your knowledge You are awesome. I've been using the deep litter method in my coops for about two years with good results. Although, I have never used lime. I was wondering if due to its ability to absorb, would it have an impact on my fly/cockroach population? I understand your reluctance to use DE because of the damage to beneficials, but it's my go to (with limited success) for flies and roaches. I live in an area that has LOTS of roaches at night. They can be found everywhere feasting on delicious, moist, chicken poop and food. Also, flies are a big problem during the day around here as everyone has horses (as I do) in a small area. I have a group of chickens in a horse stall run and another that free ranges, but does spend some time in a coop. Any thoughts would be much welcome! So glad I found this site/forum.
One more thing! What is your method for administering castor oil to your flock? Is there a rough equation for how much to give? How often do you do this?
I have had chikens for maybe 1 years and I have treated for mites 2 times.

For scaly leg mites I dipped each chickens legs in mineral oil. It worked pretty well.

Nor I think it is Northern mites the symptom is streaks of blood on the eggs, not just once but consistantly. For that DID dust the birds with Sevin dust. I held each bird upside down so that the dust did not fall off of their backs, powdered them, and released them. I also dusted the bedding some.This worked well, and one dusting was enough. .
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