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.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Your Poultry - WORDS SUE CLARKE

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.

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