Scaly Leg and Mites

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What Mite be lurking in Your Flock to Cause Birds Discomfort this Summer?

As the UK summer continues to surprise most of us this year with the continued heat and sun we should remember that some birds will be feeling the effects of the higher temperatures in more ways than one.

Mites can cause a great deal of discomfort to infested birds leading to reduced output in time so we asked Clare Taylor (aka The Chicken Whisperer) about how to detect, treat and discourage two of the most common mites we see – red mites and scaly leg mites.

What are red mites and why should I worry about them?

Red mites live in the chicken housing, hiding in nooks and crannies and appearing after dark, attracted by the warmth of the birds, to feed on their blood before returning to their hiding places. While you can have a few in the housing and perhaps not notice them, it is very easy for them to multiply quickly in warm weather, resulting in a serious problem which will endanger the health of your flock.

Red mites are grey before they have had a blood feed only turning red afterwards. They are about double the size of the full stop on this page and enter the flock via wild birds and are usually found in wooden structures as they don’t live on the birds and can actually survive for long periods without blood feeds.

 

 

How do I detect and get rid of red mites?

Red mites can usually be found in crevices or cracks in the wood, on the ends of roosting bars and in the nesting box.  A regular weekly cleaning regime, in which you take apart the housing, will help you to be vigilant and notice any mites quickly.  Wiping along the roosting bars in the morning with a piece of white kitchen towel can show blood spots and you may even notice tiny blood spots on the eggs as you collect them.  Birds can also be nervy, fractious and refusing to go in to roost at night (because they get bitten!) and you may also notice mite droppings, which look like fine grey ash, in the bottom of the coop.

 

Don’t be tempted to skip a clean if you can’t see any mites – remember they can survive for long periods without a blood feed and may still be there hidden away!  Remain vigilant and maintain a thorough cleaning programme using the correct products.  Having housing which is quick and easy to take apart and clean is always a benefit – many people are now using plastic housing for this reason.

When you clean, clear out any litter from the inside of the coop (if you have an infestation, this should be bagged and binned or burned, not used on the compost), take it apart fully, scrub it down with hot soapy water and leave the sections to dry in the sun as UV light helps sterilise the surfaces and kill off bugs.

Before you re-assemble the coop, spray it all with Nettex Total Mite ready to use spray (making sure you shake it first to mix the coating agent!). Total Mite Kill spray contains anti-bacterial ingredients to kill off bacteria plus an insecticide which will knock down any red mites. It contains a coating ingredient, which is why you need to shake it, and this coats the surfaces of the coop so that its effectiveness continues even after it has dried.

Once Total Mite spray has dried apply Nettex Buz Busters Louse Powder, which contains the same active ingredient, into all corners, roosting bar ends and brackets and the nesting box, then re-assemble the housing. You should repeat this every 3 days until the infestation has been and controlled, then revert to a weekly routine using these products.

Your birds may well have been left anaemic by the mites, so I would recommend that you add Nettex Vit Boost Powder to their feed for the next week.

What are scaly leg mites and how can I tell if my birds are infested?

Scaly leg mites are a slightly different type of mite to red mites.  Picked up from wild birds, scaly leg mites burrow under the scales on the chicken’s legs and are more common in older birds which have slightly raised leg scales.

If your birds are infested then you may notice that your birds are pecking at their own legs, or a white crust forming under the scales.  Serious cases can cause the bird great pain, and they will eventually go lame if it is left untreated.

 

 

How do I deal with scaly leg mites?

Fortunately, scaly leg mites are easy to deal with using Nettex Scaly Leg Remover spray to overcome the problem.  Simply spray product onto a soft toothbrush and gently brush it upwards under the scales on both legs and repeat this every 4-5 days to break the mite breeding cycle.

As the Scaly Leg Remover spray takes effect then you will notice that the crusting under the scales goes as the mites die – the scales will remain raised but will improve in appearance after the next moult. Don’t be tempted to pick off any damaged scales as this could cause bleeding and infection.

Using Nettex Total Hygiene Powder (formerly known as Total Mite Powder), along with fine wood ash in their dust bath will also help to provide a natural anti-mite action to their social behaviour as they dust bathe together.