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Duck Mites — How to Spot, Treat and Prevent Mite Infestation

Duck mites

Have you ever spotted some duck mites lurking on your waterfowl’s skin under their feathers?

It can be horrifying to witness these itchy parasites feasting on your bird’s blood while your pet suffers from itchiness and lethargy.

But what are the different kinds of mites that affect ducks, and how can you get rid of them?

In this article, we’ll dig deep into the duck mites’ world and give you insight into:

  • How do duck mites look like
  • How can ducks get mites, and where to find them
  • What are the symptoms of mite infestation in waterfowl
  • And how to get rid of duck mites

If your ducks have been struggling with mite infestation for a long time, this article is for you.

So, What Are Duck Mites?

Duck mites are tiny parasites that live on the skin of different birds, including chickens. 

They don’t need human blood to survive, so humans aren’t their main target. That’s why the so-called swimmer’s itch caused by duck mites goes away naturally, even without medication.

Their main prey is birds with feathers where they can lurk in and hide while sucking their blood off.

What Do Duck Mites Look Like?

Mites are spiders’ relatives. These parasites have eight legs and have a similar shape to ticks. 

Ducks mites usually nestle on ducks’ and geese’s heads and neck regions and only come to the surface when birds warm-up or travel for shows. 

You won’t easily notice them due to their diminutive size unless the infestation is massive enough or you check their feathers carefully and examine the head, neck, and other parts of the bird’s body.

4 Types of Mites That Affect Ducks

Different types of mites infest poultry birds and ducks. However, if ducks are separated away from poultry birds, only northern fowl mites may affect them. 

But to give an insight into the nature and characteristics of these parasites, let’s dig deep into the types of mites that affect ducks.

1. Northern Fowl Mites

They earned the name “Northern” since they are common in northern and temperate regions and were first seen and observed in most domestic fowls. Hence, the name Northern Fowl mites.

Northern fowls, or the Ornithonyssus sylviarum, are tiny parasites that measure only 0.016 to 0.031 inches long.

When they suck blood, they turn semitransparent bright red, and after digesting the blood, they turn black or gray.

Though these mites were also reported to be found in mice, rats, and even humans, they only multiply more in birds.

These parasites are the most common in egg-laying and breeding birds like chickens and ducks. 

They have four stages of the life cycle which keep them alive in just a few days, from being an egg to larva to nymph and adult stage. And they complete the cycle within just five to twelve days.

However, their short life cycle can lead to serious infestations when they aren’t removed from your duck’s body.

The more blood they suck, the more eggs they lay. Because of that, ducks will have slow egg-laying capabilities. 

They can live up to four weeks out of their hosts’ bodies, but this may vary depending on the temperature and the environment’s humidity. 

You may find them on chicken and duck’s vent areas with thick and crusty skin, severe scabbing, and soiled feathers.

Moderate infestations with an average of more than 100 mites per bird may decrease duck egg production and feed conversion efficiency. And in heavy infestations, they can spread and be found on eggs.

Getting rid of this kind of duck mite can be extremely difficult, so prevention is the key in this case. 

2. Red Poultry Mite

These poultry mites, a.k.a Dermanyssus gallinae, are bloodsucking mites that may bite people but won’t survive in the human body. 

Red poultry mites are nocturnal feeders that spend the day hiding in places like manure, roosts, and cracks and crevices of the chicken coop, where they store their eggs. 

Populations grow more slowly in the winter and more quickly in the hot months; the life cycle may last only one week. And the worst part is that even if you’d remove the birds from the coop, infestation continues. 

The chicken red mite and the northern and tropical fowl mites are spread through contact with infected birds, animals, inanimate objects, or mite dissemination. 

Mites in the integrated poultry sector are spread most frequently by workers traveling from house to house or on inanimate things like egg flats, crates, or coops.

Heavy infestations of either poultry red mites or northern fowl mites reduce males’ ability to reproduce, females’ ability to lay eggs, young birds’ capacity to gain weight, and the efficiency with which feed is converted. They can also result in anemia and death. 

Poultry red mites may be discovered on birds at night or during the day in the chicken coops, especially in nest boxes, gaps, or areas where roost poles touch supports.

3. Depluming Mite

Also referred to as Neocnemidocoptes gallinae, this duck mite lurks in the epidermis at the base of feather shafts. 

Depluming mites can cause intense irritation, leading to feather pulling and loss, hyperkeratosis, painful skin lesions, and digit necrosis.

They’re related to scaly leg mites, but the difference lies in the spot where they burrow and hide.

Depluming mites complete their life cycle in over 17 days. Unlike other parasites on this list that lay eggs, these poultry and duck mites give birth to live young.

4. Scaly Leg Mite

Scaly leg mites called Knemidocoptes mutans are tiny, spherical sarcoptic mites that burrow into the bird’s skin tissue under the leg’s scale. 

Mite infestation of this kind is rare in poultry facilities but still occurs in flocks of chickens and waterfowl. 

It typically affects elderly birds whose legs become swollen, coated, and ugly due to irritation and exudation—lameness results from increased foot and leg scales.

After stopping to eat for several months, birds eventually die. The comb and wattles may occasionally be attacked by this mite.

They live their whole lives in the skin and are spread by direct contact with infected birds.

Long durations of latent infection can occur before stress leads to a rise in the mite population.

Symptoms of Duck Mites

Duck feather mites are hard to spot due to their diminutive size, especially on waterfowl with dark feathering or plumage. They’re much visible on white, plain duck plumage.

So, how do I know if my duck has mites? Here are other symptoms you need to look out for that may indicate duck mite infestation.

  • Scratching
  • Blackened, ruffled, or dull-looking feathers
  • Scabby skin around the vent
  • Overpreening
  • Loss of feathers
  • Weight loss
  • Broken feathers
  • Decrease in egg production

How to Treat Duck Mites

In this section, we’ll discuss how to eradicate duck feather mites and save your waterfowl from misery brought about by mite infestation.

So, How Do I Get Rid of Duck Mites?

Here are some tips on how to treat duck mite infestation and provide relief to your bird.

Northern Fowl MitesTypes of duck mites -Northern Fowl Mites

To effectively penetrate the feathers in the vent area, apply acaricidal spray treatments with sufficient force.

However, it’s worth noting that pyrethrin and pyrethroid resistance is common, and there aren’t many other chemical treatments that can be used on birds. 

You can also provide your duck’s dust boxes with sand, and acaricidal substances like inert dust (like diatomaceous earth) or sulfur dust are highly efficient in self-treating duck mites.

Scaly Leg Mite

As advised for the poultry red mite, infected birds should be slaughtered or isolated, and housing should be cleaned and sprayed often. 

Then, ivermectin or moxidectin (0.2 mg/kg) should be administered orally or topically to individual birds, along with 10% sulfur solution or 0.5% sodium fluoride.

Depluming Mite

To control depluming mite infestation on ducks, you must isolate the affected waterfowl. Then treat them with ivermectin or acaricidal materials.

If you want a safer and more natural option, the sulfur bath is the way to go. You can buy it at pet stores, and it can kill depluming mites without harming your bird.

Red Poultry Mite

You can control red poultry mite infestation by spraying and dusting the birds and their droppings or using a high-pressure sprayer, targeting every nook and cranny of the coop where these duck mites may be hiding.

Diatomaceous earth and pure synthetic amorphous silicas can also be helpful, but you need to increase the application rate when the humidity is unusually high. 

You can also systematically get rid of these ducks mites using ivermectin (1.8–5.4 mg/kg) or moxidectin (8 mg/kg), but they’re only effective for short periods.

Giving them high dosages can be costly and potentially toxic as they require repeated use.

Prevention Tips to Control Duck Mite Infestation

As the famous quote says, prevention is always better than cure. Those mites mentioned above are hard to get rid of.

So, it’s better to prevent your ducks from being infested by following the tips below:

Maintain cleanliness

A clean surrounding is equal to a healthy life. It’s an important way to deal with mites on your ducks.

Regularly clean and disinfect the shelter of your ducks to keep mites away. It can be time-consuming, but it’s one of the responsibilities you must be ready for before deciding to raise ducks.

This way, you can keep your ducks healthy and happy.

Keep them away from wild birds

Because mites are easily transmitted from birds in the wild, please don’t keep your ducks get contact with them.

Minimizing the interactions between them would reduce the risk of being infected.

Consult your vet

If it’s too late to apply the prevention tips above and duck mites have already affected your waterfowl, it would be best to consult your veterinarian.

They might recommend chemicals like Carbaryl to treat your ducks and their babies.

You need to be careful that it won’t get to their eyes and mouth since it can be risky.

Aside from that, they might suggest doing the treatment every two weeks to eliminate mites.

Frequently Asked Questions About Duck Mites

If these questions regarding duck mites also bother you, these answers may help you gain insight into how these parasites in ducks affect the birds and their humans.

How can I tell if my duck has mites?

Though mites are so tiny that you can’t easily see them, they might have a big impact on your ducks.

If your ducks were infested, they might lose weight, eat less, lay fewer eggs, have dull eyes, and scratch, especially where the mites are.

Losing lots of blood due to duck mites’ infestation can also cause lethargy. So, always check and observe your ducks.

Can duck mites live on humans?

Duck mites can live on humans. However, they can’t survive. Only on birds can they survive and live longer.

The signs of a duck mites bite are comparable to those of other mites and insects. Small red lumps or a stinging feeling on your skin could appear.

Bites from ducks’ mites can occasionally result in extremely uncomfortable itching.

How long do duck mites live?

Mites spend different amounts of time on the duck. The northern fowl mite lives all its time on the bird and can survive there for three weeks.

However, it’s more typical for them to have a shorter life cycle of just seven days.

Will bird mites go away on their own?

You typically won’t need medical attention for most mite bites in humans because they heal on their own. Most of the time, at least.

The blood from their primary host is essential for the survival of duck mites.

However, in the latest studies, poultry mites developed tolerance without a host. So, you might need to control or get rid of them.

Duck Mites: Final Thoughts

Duck mites are annoying pests. But the good news is they don’t survive in human bodies, so they won’t stay for long.

However, they can infest your ducks and cause scratching, feather loss and weight loss, intense scabbing, and decreased egg production.

But you can treat your ducks and eliminate mites using chemical treatments like ivermectin. However, ivermectin isn’t licensed for poultry use.

So you must consult your vet about the right amount and usage. 

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