Updated: Nov 20, 2017
Northern Fowl Mites are common external parasites that live on the body of chickens and feed on their blood. They are the most aggressive of all the mite species, feeding both day and night, never leaving the host, and therefore are the most detrimental to the chicken’s health. These mites can cause anemia and, if untreated, sometimes death. Northern Fowl Mites are most common in caged layer facilities; however all chickens are at risk in winter months when mites are most prevalent.
Sanitation and cleanliness are the best ways to keep mite infestations under control. Mites can be dropped in by wild birds, or brought in by rodents who enter the coop in search of food. Humans can also act as carriers picking up mites on clothing from poultry shows, or transferring them from coop to coop.
Diatomaceous Earth is good to use as preventative maintenance. It can be used in a dust baths with sand, or as 12% weight in water as a spray. Other insecticides can also be added to dusting areas, nesting boxes, and bedding including Permethrin.
Quarantining new birds is a good idea if they're acquired from poultry shows or from non-reputable dealers. Always be sure to purchase from dealers who guarantee the health of their birds.
Most importantly, it is good to inspect your birds regularly for little black/red bugs crawling on their skin, and clusters of eggs on their feathers.
Image Credit: http://www.merckvetmanual.com
Life Cycle and Reproductive Cycle
The life cycle and reproductive cycle of the Northern Fowl Mite is very quick! Eggs hatch within 24 hours from the time they are laid, and full maturity is reached within four days of hatching; meaning that infestations can begin quickly and grow rapidly. They live on their host for 2-3 weeks. After 3 weeks with no host, Northern Fowl Mites cannot survive.
Symptoms and Signs
Northern Fowl Mites are tiny red/brown insects that can be found on the body near the vent, tail, and throat during the day but are so small and microscopic that you may need a magnifying glass or microscope to see them. Other signs are scabby skin and discoloration on the feathers where they lay their eggs and leave their waste. Because they gather near the vent, roosters tend to experience a drop in fertility.
The blood sucking Northern Fowl Mite can exist in large enough numbers on chickens to cause anemia. Signs of anemia in your chickens can include the following:
Drop in egg production
Reduced immunity to other diseases
If mites are detected, an insecticide must be used to eliminate the population. Mites are more resistant to insecticides than lice are, so the insecticide used may need to be changed or rotated depending on the results. Not only the birds need to be treated to eliminate the population of mites, but also the coop including the roosts, nesting boxes, and all the walls. To kill all the life stages of mites, repeat treatment once weekly for three weeks. The following are appropriate insecticides:
Prozap Insectrin Dust
Diatomaceous earth significantly reduces the population of mites as a treatment, but does not entirely eliminate them. Other organic treatments can include products such as PyTGanic Pro which uses the active ingredient Pyrethrum: a botanical insecticide made from chrysanthemums. Orange Guard can be used to clean the coop and roosts, but not directly on the birds. IC3, an organic insecticide concentrate composed of essential oils (primarily rosemary and peppermint), is also a great natural solution for parasite control on chickens.