The itchy, scratchy The hen house & how to manage it
Warning: you may get itchy reading this story. These are some practical things you can do to prevent mites that don’t involve spraying, and new research into some natural options.
Note to readers: there are a variety of chemical and natural products you can choose from in NZ, from a range of NZ companies. Whatever product you choose to use, the key to controlling red mite is to interrupt the 7-10 day life cycle and this will take an ongoing effort. Red mite is impossible to eliminate from coops, but keeping up control efforts in a regimented manner will greatly reduce their numbers.
You know how bad a mite problem can be in your coop when you have only a handful of birds. It’s a much bigger problem when you have enormous numbers of birds. Controlling mites is essential in maintaining the health, well-being and production efficiency of birds in commercial poultry units where there are hundreds of thousands of chickens.
Up until recently, the poultry world’s most commonly-used control methods were synthetic pesticide sprays. But the legislated withdrawal in Europe of pesticides due to toxicity and environmental concerns, and evidence that mites have developed resistance to some of the remaining products, has meant commercial farmers have had to find alternatives.
The resulting research into how to control red mites on a large scale has some good lessons for those of us who have backyard flocks.
A team of 18 Danish researchers and advisors in egg production identified four main risk factors for mite prevalence:
Their work found that the most effective form of control is through good management practices that focus on hygiene, vigilance and the provision of housing that does not encourage the proliferation of mites.