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7 Natural Ways to Treat Chicken Mites and Stop Them Returning

7 Natural Ways to Treat Chicken Mites and Stop Them Returning

I’m betting that some of you are already going ‘eww’ and have started scratching! The good news is that chicken mites live on chickens (in general) – not people.

Although they can and will bite you, possibly causing local skin irritation.

If left untreated, mites can be extremely harmful to your chickens and can even result in a drop in egg production.

Today, our article will tell you how chickens catch mites, how to check for them, how to treat a mite infestation, and finally, prevention.

How do Chickens Get Mites?

Mites will hitch a ride to your beautiful clean coop on just about anything. Wild birds, rodents, and other animals, on your boots and clothing, even on you!

If you exhibit your birds at local or national shows, there is always a chance that your bird can pick up some unwelcome guests.

chicken mites

5 Most Common Types of Chicken Mites

We are going to meet five members of the mite family today:

  • Northern fowl mites
  • Red roost mites
  • Scaly leg mites
  • Depluming mite
  • Tropical fowl mite

Mites can be whitish-grey, dark brown, or red in color – they are tiny, about 1/26 inches, and barely visible with the naked eye.

Northern Fowl Mites

This is probably the most common and serious of the mite family here in the US. The Northern fowl mite spends its’ entire life cycle on the bird.

An infestation in a large poultry house can cause economic downturns by reducing the egg-laying output to around 15% in severe infestations.

The mite causes skin irritation to the birds and bites and sucks blood, leading to anemia.

An anemic hen will look depressed, scruffy, feathers will be ratty, and she will pick at herself, leading to sore or bald patches on the skin. As the infestation worsens, she will also be off her food, egg production will drop, and she may die from anemia.

Birds over 40 weeks of age do not generally support a heavy load of mites.

The eggs of this mite are laid at the base of feathers and can be difficult to spot. Although the female mite only lays a few eggs before she dies, an infestation can develop quickly if left untreated.

The preferred temperature of the mite is around 65-68F, but they can proliferate outside of that range. They can be a problem in the cooler, moister months, especially in the Northern states.

Red Roost Mites

The red roost mite is the primary mite of Europe. This mite causes thousands of Euros worth of damage to the European poultry community every year.

Most of the mites’ life cycle is off the host, hiding in nooks and crannies such as perch sockets. They are night-time feeders, and they hate daylight. The female feeds on blood, and the male will only take blood occasionally.

The life cycle is 7-10 days in length, over which time an infestation can quickly become established. It is difficult to eradicate since the mite can live around 10 months without a host!

Sometimes, in serious infestations, the best solution is to burn the coop and put your birds in new premises once they have been treated.

The red mite only attacks poultry and pigeons, although it will bite other species such as humans.

The bite may cause a localized reaction but should not be any more severe than that.

Scaly Leg Mites

This unsavory little beastie burrows under the chicken’s leg scales, where it feeds on the keratin contained in the scales.

In time, the scales will lift and will have a white, dusty appearance.

These mites are extremely irritating and can cause a lot of pain to the bird. In severe infections, the combs and wattles can also be attacked.

Depluming Mites

This mite is related to the scaly leg mite but attacks the feathers instead. It will burrow into the shaft of the feather, sucking the nutrition out of the released fluid.

Extremely irritating and painful – it will cause the bird to pluck out her own feathers.

Tropical Fowl Mites

This mite is a relative of the Northern Fowl Mite but is much more of a nuisance to humans. It is found in the southern and central states of the US, South America, Australia, and other tropical venues.

Mites can have a serious impact on commercial poultry farms if the infestation is severe.

It can even be passed to humans and can set up the human infestation. The usual infestation sources in human housing are wild birds’ nests in the eaves of the house.

When the birds leave the nests, they leave the mites behind, who then go in search of a meal.

Signs and Symptoms of Mites

The signs of infestation for these pests are approximately the same for each one of them.

In general, the bird(s) will look unhappy, depressed, hunched over; feathers will look tatty, unkempt; the bird may constantly preen and pick at herself, leading to broken or plucked feathers and bald spots.

In severe infestations, appetite will diminish, and egg-laying will drop dramatically.

You might notice a reluctance to go into the coop at night – this is when the mites are really active, especially the red roost mite.

  1. The Northern fowl mite, red roost mite, and tropical fowl mite all suck blood, so your hen will get anemia, and if left untreated, she may die.
  2. The Scaly leg mite will cause extreme irritation and pain to the legs. This one is tough to spot since the mite remains hidden all the time. The first you may notice is the lifting of the scales and increased leg girth, by which time you have a fairly well-set infestation.
  3. The depluming mite attacks the feathers, so you may notice the bird frantically pulling at her feathers and preening incessantly. This can lead to bald spots and sores on the body.

All mites are tiny – the naked eye can see them if you have great vision.

A telltale cluster of eggs at the base of the feathers can lead you in the right direction, but red mites and scaly leg mites do not lay eggs at the feathers’ base.

chicken mites

How to Get Rid of Chicken Mites

We have divided the treatments into natural and ‘chemical.’ Some folks swear by the natural remedies, and yet others will tell you they don’t work.

Several of each are mentioned here, but this does not mean an endorsement of the product, be it natural or otherwise.

Natural Ways to Treat Mites

Herbs and natural oils have a huge following among ‘natural’ chicken keepers.

The use of strong-smelling herbs in the coop can prevent several types of critter from invading your coop; think mice, ants, etc.

Herbs such as lavender, wormwood, mint, lemon balm are all quite aromatic, and in addition to deterrence, they make the coop smell good.

Several ‘recipes’ on the internet about mixing herb bouquets for putting in the nest boxes and sprinkling around the coop. Many proponents highly recommend the use of garlic for preventative measures for many chicken ailments.

Specifically for scaly leg mites, the use of Vaseline is recommended. You spread it thickly on the legs working against the scales. This ensures that the ointment gets up under the scales and suffocates the mite.

It is not a ‘quick fix’- treatment will need to be repeated several times to be effective.

In the ‘old days, ’ chickens would have their legs doused in kerosene or motor oil to kill the mite. Yes – it worked, but the discomfort must have been awful.

Neem Oil

Many folks use neem oil on perches and in nest boxes. You spray the Neem solution on the perches and around the crevices, spray the nest boxes also. Let it dry before you let the hens back in.

A naturally occurring insecticide is rotenone or derris (pestene in Australia). You can use this for many garden pests such as caterpillars and aphids. Although naturally occurring, it is not without side effects – highly toxic to fish and linked with Parkinson’s disease in farm workers.

A relatively new product to the market is Elector PSP. It has been around since 2008, so it can be considered a relative newcomer to more established treatments.

It contains spinosads – naturally occurring soil bacteria that are toxic to insects. The safety sheet states that it is safe to use on many types of livestock, including poultry. No known side effects for humans either.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth – has become controversial over the last few years. You either love it or hate it. It is said to control mites, lice, etc. Yet other folks say it doesn’t work at all. The biggest downside to DE is that it is mined in open pits, which are not good for our environment.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, “diatomaceous earth is the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. Their skeletons are made of a natural substance called silica.”

Diatomaceous earth acts as a drying agent, and while some believe that if chickens consume it, it will kill internal parasites. Most, however, use it as a topical application to fight external mites on chickens.

You should use diatomaceous earth in moderation to cause confined chickens to have respiratory issues if applied in excess. And since it is a drying agent, it can leave chicken feet open to drying and cracking, thus increasing bumblefoot risk.

With that being said, you can use DE in an area that chickens use for their dust baths. They naturally enjoy the silty texture of DE and will happily bathe in it themselves if it is made available to them.

The DE will then dry the mites and kill them on the chickens. If you need to spread it in the coop, remove chickens before dusting to prevent respiratory issues.

Chemical Ways to Treat Mites

Now we move on to the chemical weapons used in the ‘insect wars.’

Possibly the most abused chemical in use with chickens currently is Ivermectin. I must have read hundreds of posts about folks treating their birds without veterinary approval.

There is no doubt that it is effective against mites and lice, but it is not approved for poultry. It has not been tested on birds that are a meat or egg-laying flock. It can be administered with a veterinarians’ approval, but this is based on clinical judgment.

There is an egg withholding period of 14 days if Ivermectin has been used.

Probably one of the most popular dusting agents used is Sevin. It has been around for years and is common in many yards and garden products in use today.

We all tend to forget that Sevin (carbaryl) is an organophosphate poison. As such, it is indiscriminate in its’ toxicity. Small mammals and children are highly susceptible to it, and adults, too, can be affected.

In fact, most of the other insecticides used with poultry lice and mites are organophosphate:

  • Coumaphos – Co-Ral
  • Tetrachlorvinphos – Rabon 50
  • Tetrachlorvinphos/dichlorvos – Ravap EC

Fortunately, most of these are reserved for use on industrial-sized poultry concerns. This article gives some good information on the various mites and insecticides used for them.

chicken mites

How to Prevent Chicken Mites

Prevention can be summed up in one word – biosecurity. Practicing good biosecurity will help to minimize the chances of an infestation in your flock.

Do your best to eliminate wild birds from the area where your flock is – cover runs with mesh so they can’t get in. Provide a dust bathing area for your ladies, and they will love you for it and keep down the ‘undesirable residents’ themselves.

Clean up any feed spills to deter visiting rodents or larger animals. Maintain a vigorous program of rodent eradication in and around the coop – put the cat to work! We have already mentioned the use of various herbs as a deterrent for pests in the coop.

Keep one or two sets of clothing for dealing with your flock separate from anything else. If you visit shows or a friend who keeps birds, change those clothes before dealing with your birds.

If folks want to visit your flock, try to say no politely, but if not, they should wear protective foot covers at least.

Maintain clean feeders and drinkers. In this case, ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ for your birds’ safety and well-being.

Check your flock, especially broodies, regularly – more frequently in the summer months. If you buy new birds, they need to be isolated for a minimum of 15 days – longer is better.


Mites are nasty and difficult to get rid of once they move in. Practicing good biosecurity will help to prevent them from inviting themselves into your coop.

However, even with the best practices and intentions, you can still get an infestation, so be vigilant.

If you suspect your birds have mites, try to confirm with a visual sighting, but if that is not possible, proceed as if they do have them.

If feasible, isolate infected birds, treat all birds, treat the coop and environs, and destroy litter/bedding (moving it to the compost will only relocate them). Clean down the coop with an approved disinfectant such as Virkon S.

If you have to use some of the more potent insecticides on your flock, be aware of the side effects of the treatment – for the safety of your birds and you.

We hope you never have to deal with these tenacious beasties, but you are now well-armed with choices if you do.

Let us know in the comments section below how you deal with mites…

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7 Natural Ways to Treat Chicken Mites and Stop Them Returning

32 thoughts on “7 Natural Ways to Treat Chicken Mites and Stop Them Returning

  1. I had my first infestation recently so I tackled it head on. The coop was virtually dismantled and every section washed with hot soapy water, then sprayed with mite/lice killer and then fresh bedding placed inside with a good shake of DE. Of course I let the coop air for a long time before letting the girls back in. I put fresh wood chips in the run and dusted each bird with DE too. Within 2 days my hen who had stopping laying and refused to go in the coop at night, was laying again and started using the coop. It was hard work but worth every step to know I’d got rid of the parasites.

  2. Good advice, have had trouble with mites over the last few years during the hotter months of summer, in addition the to the already mentioned measures I have found a plumbers gas torch very handy for clearing surfaces etc of eggs and mites-they pop as the fleme hits them–obviously be very careful not set anything ablaze and be vigilant for anything left smouldering!

  3. I have used one cup of Sevin with 40 pounds of DE semiannually for years. I have a large plastic tote with a 8 inch hole in the end of it. They climb in and dust themselves regularly.

    1. Tony tell us more about this. You set up a DE dirt bath and they use it willingly. Please tell us more. I would love to go this route rather than to torture them since mine are also very much pets and my rooster in particular who is so friendly and gentle holds a grudge he won’t “talk ” to me for MONTHS after I try to dust him.

    2. Do we put a lid on the plastic tote? And do you leave it in the coop for how long? E.g. a couple of weeks, month? Thank you for your help.

  4. I am battling either lice or mites. I live in Montana and have a ton of snow on the ground. I cleaned my coop as best as I could and got some poultry dust from our local feed store. I dumped a lot of my straw from the coop away from it in the snow and covered it with snow. Will this kill the mice/lice?

  5. I brought my tablet to the coop and found a youtube video on baby chicks hatching. I also brought her some treats and set up the tablet next to her and let it roll she at first wasnt thrilled with me being there. But as soon as she saw and heard the eggs and the baby chicks she was all interested and i gave her treats and chatted with her after about 10 hatched eggs and noisey chickies she got up and bounced out.. with a few teats to go…i laughed i get it …she left me with the chicks now to care for. Really chickens dont know what a tablet or youtube is, she saw the eggs and the chicks she did her job. It worked though. I love thinking outside the box. And shes out the coop except laying eggs and sleeping now.

  6. I just discovered the itchy problem i have been having comes from my coop…noticed tiny tiny mites when i was building new perches..my coop was alive with them and i had not noticed. I thought I had fleas in my house and dosed cats/dog but I now think it is said miteys. I scrubbed the coop with water with copper sulfate and borax in it and that seems to have killed them on coop, and i have spread sulfur and D.E on the dirt floor which has slowed them down but they are still there. Chookies got sulfur, cooking oil, neem oil mixture on them which will stick to them awhile and should deter mites if any still on perch. I can see any now and washed ends touching coop with sulfur cook oil neem mix hich should stop them going on new perches. Didnt see any on hens..but they dont live on them as a rule apparently..come out at night to feed. I am going to add more sulfur and De to floor area today. Also carried in buckets of clay from my land in to coop for dust baths..they love clay dust.

  7. At night I put my chicken in our room in a box to a corner we usually use a air conditioner and the next morning it was so weird and didn’t drink anything nor was eating anything it’s a mother hen actually it has three chicks I isolated the mother hen from the chicks the chicks are shouting a lot and the hen is still like sick I’m so worried what should I do

    1. Chicken – Hens-Roosters can catch a Cold Just like People can.
      So give her some onion juice, because she’s caught a cold..
      My uncle was a Rare and Heritage Poultry Breeder he “dosed” his Chickens Twice a year, in Early Autumn and Early Spring as Onion Juice Kills the Cold and Flu Virus. Works well for People too.

  8. I live in the u.k. we have red mite. At dusk, lifting the egg laying cover, the sawdust was heaving all along the seam and corners with red mite! The chickens were still out. After removing the bedding, a kettle of boiling water soon put things to right, including mite eggs. I will do this once a week. Job done.

  9. Has anyone tried eucalyptus leaves ?would they be toxic to the birds or the end product?
    Just wondering because vicks vaporub is good for so many things on humans and its main ingredient is eucalyptus

  10. I live in South Africa. I’ve never heard of DE and Neem oil. Do you maybe know what the equivalent of the two products is in S A.
    My chickens have a serious problem scaly legs

    1. DE is diatomaceous earth. It comes in two grades, get the edible grade.
      Neem oil is neem oil. It is very strong and can burn skin on contact, must dilute with other oil. These items are for sale at US Amazon.

    2. Also for scaly leg to rub vaseline on their legs and feet. Rub backwards so the vaseline goes a bit under the scales of their legs to suffocate the mites.

      1. I find a spray can of vegetable oil (the ones you use to precoat your skillet or frypan) works wonders. Cleans them up usually with one application. Very easy to use, wait till they are in the roost at night and spray all their legs at the same time.

  11. In my chicken coop the mites are a problem thou you cannot see them with the eyes . what can be done?

  12. More than 2 years ago a fox killed 6 of my chickens & left 1. I moved the plastic coop into a large shed & the chicken appeared to live happily there. One day she disappeared & I assumed the fox had finished the job.
    I recently decided to start again & bought 5 chickens. I removed the old plastic coop from the top shelf & to my surprise found a chicken carcass on the roof…….worse still, there was evidence that red chicken mites had survived.

  13. My bantam chicken is moulting feathers from under her wings and has stopped taking dust baths. Is this a sign of parasites?

  14. How do I get rid of mites, I scrubbed the coop made a paste with the special dirt painted the inside of the coop with it sprinkled it into all of the cracks, nesting boxes and on the floor ,treated all the birds, but I still get mites on me and in the dirty bedding that I clean out every morning , help what am I doing wrong

  15. Hi there!
    I have an urgent problem with scaly leg mites and this article was really helpful.
    One of my roosters has this so bad that he now his legs won’t work. (can’t walk)
    I would appreciate any more information on this matter as it has spread and all my chickens are affected.
    If you have any fixes for this please tell me so I can fix it.
    Thank you!!

  16. Wood ash!!! LOTS of wood ash mixed w/lime powder… I heavily dust the coop floor, laying boxes, perches… Make an old fashioned white wash w/lime that I paint on the walls, into the floor corners, perches, even the window frame & coop doorjam. My Ladies have a fenced yard outside & every morning wild sparrows show up to “help themselves” to tidbits of their scratch grain, greens, diced apples… I’ve even busted they raiding the feed hopper in the coop!!! The sparrows are the problem, but the Ladies regularly enjoy wood ash dust baths, so any “would-be” mite issues are constantly smothered out. As a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, I constantly have wild birds coming & going; the wild ones get dusted w/poultry-livestock dust the instant they show up(mites aren’t the only nasty parasite wild birds carry!!!) but the constant use of wood ash never lets the parasite “rule the roost.” We used it consistently on the farm growing up & I never remember a problem then… Nor do I have one now.

  17. My problem is not mites. It’s fleas. I’ve tried and tried to get rid of the fleas on my flock, but nothing seems to be working. I’ve tried the diatomaceous earth, I’ve tried the Gardstar, I don’t know what else to do. I put stuff in their cages and around their cages. It’s so bad that when I go out to feed them, I get fleas on me. I hate it. I’m at the point of giving up my chickens entirely and I don’t want to do that, because I love my chickens.

  18. When keeping chickens, the main way that your chooks will collect mites and lice will be from wild birds such as pigeons, mynas and sparrows etc. Wild birds are great carriers of both external and internal parasites. Wild birds are normally attracted to an easy meal provided by your chicken’s feed and it’s a simple hop for them to transfer onto your birds or your coop.

  19. Can all of this with DE baths etc be done “with” and “on” to baby chicks and baby ducks? Recently ordered some and I believe they have mites but I can’t see them however they are scratching and digging really bad and have bald spots. They were scratching excessively from the time we picked them up. Is DE safe to use on baby chicks and baby ducks too? Would like to treat while they are little and separated from the rest of the coop. Thank you

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