Red Mite are very small, like specs of dirt and hide in cracks and crevices in the hen house, coming out at night for a couple of hours to feed from your birds. They cause irritation, anaemia (from sucking blood) and a drop in egg numbers. A large infestation can cause death, especially in younger birds. In warm weather they multiply very quickly, their lifecycle is a mere 7 days from being an egg themselves to reproducing / laying their own eggs.
The best test to see if you have red mite is to run a piece of white tissue along the underside of a perch at night - look for blood stains on the tissue from mites that have had a feed.
Lift perches and look around the ends. Red Mites can be anything from grey to dark brown, (they are bright red after a blood feed)
Simply using a red mite powder or spray is not the only thing you should be thinking of - most of these kill on contact and since they are so well hidden during the day, you will find it very hard to get them all.
Red Mites are nototiously difficult to get rid of and there are lots of ideas around on how to get rid of them. Whilst everyone has their preferred methods of control, here are some of the more popular products:
Poultry Shield - A product that doesn't contain insecticide. It works by washing the waxy coating off the mite so it dehydrates and dies within 24 hours.
Diatom - Diatomacious Earth (a powder) of fossilised microscopic diatoms, mined from under water. These are microscopically sharp, scratch the surface of the wax coating on the mite and again they dehydrate. It is very safe and is even used in food storage but don't be tempted to get the grade designed to use in swimming pool filters.
Red Mite Powder- Used for dusting birds and house down. Containing Tea Tree, the mites hate the smell.
Here is the method I use to get rid of mites.
- Deep clean the chicken house - By pressure washing, steaming (wallpaper steamer), blowtorch (watch you don't set alight to it) cracks & crevices.
- Wash out with Poultry Shield, Duramitex Plus or similar solution- concentrate on cracks & crevices again.
- Use a dusting powder around the cracks, in bedding, nestboxes and (very important) along the perch and ends - rub it into the perch and keep using for a few weeks. Diatom (natural) or a powder containing permethrin (insecticide).
- (For really bad infestations) Treat the birds with Red Mite Powder too (some people also use Frontline / Ivermectin). It is rare to find mites on birds during the day, they will crawl along the perch at night to get a feed.
-The Red Mite Section on the poultrykeeper.com site - Red Mite Section
-My Blog - How to get rid of a serious red mite infestation
-Article about Diatom