Poultry red mite is a blood sucking ectoparasite of chickens. The mite lives in the cracks and crevices of the chicken house during the day and feeds on the birds during the night. It is uncommon to identify the mite on the affected bird/s, the mite may be detected by shining a torch in the chicken house at night or seen when the coop is cleaned. Red mites are most active during the warm summer months (May to October) so now is the season to be on the alert. The mite can also survive overwinter for 8 months without feeding. Hens affected by red mite can be quiet, listless, pale due to anaemia, increased grooming and feather pecking may be recognised and egg production will be reduced. Heavy infestations with red mite can be fatal.
Red mite is transmitted chicken to chicken but other hosts including wild birds and rodents can introduce the parasite into the flock. Until now management of red mite infestation has primarily focused on treatment of the house with strong disinfectants and antiparasitic sprays and powders. Antiparasitic powders and spot on therapies, many used off license, have been used to help treat affected birds with variable, often suboptimal, effect. The pharmaceutical company MSD have developed a new product against poultry red mite called Exolt an oral solution given in drinking water twice 7 days apart. Exolt has no egg withdrawal. We now stock Exolt at our practice. If you are concerned that your chickens are suffering from red mite or have any other poultry concerns please do not hesitate to call.