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Any kind of poultry parasite is annoying, but I have found that northern fowl mites are terribly persistent little buggers that require patience and time to treat. Knowing how to correctly identify these pests, control, and prevent them is key to helping your flock stay mite free! Here is my experience with treating northern fowl mites!
My battle with Northern Fowl mites started last winter and lasted through out this spring, summer, and fall. It was an off and on battle, meaning I would find the little pests, treat them, they would be gone for a few weeks, then reappear. Part of the cause of this long battle was my fault. I did not correctly identify the mites until the end of the summer. There are four different types of external parasites that are common for northern poultry keepers to encounter:
- Northern Fowl Mites- like cooler weather, live on and off the bird
- Red Mites- like warmer weather, live on and off the bird
- Scaly Leg Mites- live under the scales on a chicken’s feet and legs
- Lice- six legged pests that spend their entire life on the chicken
Diagnosing Northern Fowl Mites
The most effective way to treat external parasites is to first correctly diagnose that your chickens do have parasites, then figure out which parasite they have. A few symptoms of northern fowl mites include:
- dirty feathers around the vent- northern fowl mites leave debris and lay eggs on the feather shafts around the vent. Poop will often get hung up on this debris, making the feathers look even dirtier.
- tiny, pin-prick size holes on the flight feathers- hold the chicken’s wing up to a light and look for tiny holes throughout the primary and secondary feathers
- decreased egg production- annoying external parasites will cause a drop in egg production
Once you suspect external parasites, the next step is finding and identifying them. Northern fowl mites are almost always found around the vent (they can also be found in the beards, crests, and muffs of those kinds of breeds). I have had a lot of practice parting feathers and looking for tiny bugs. One of the easiest ways to find a patch of skin under all those feathers is to part the feathers above the vent. In all the birds that I have examined, there has almost always been a fairly large patch of skin there.
Identifying Northern Fowl Mites
Once you find a patch of skin, look very carefully for ANY movement. Northern fowl mites are often dark in color, but they can also be very pale in color if they are young or have not fed recently. In my experience, I have seen white mites on my birds that are hardly visible to the human eye. The next step is kind of tricky but is also the most effective way at diagnosing northern fowl mites. Take a piece of tape, part the feathers, and quickly stick the piece of tape onto the patch of skin. Pull back the tape and look for any bugs stuck to the tape. Once you have a bug specimen, use a magnifying glass or microscope to look at the bug. Northern fowl mites are round in appearance and have eight legs.
Treating Northern Fowl Mites
Treating northern fowl mites takes time and patience, along with the right treatment. Throughout my 10 months of battling these mites I have tried 6 different treatments. Here is my review of each:
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)-
Diatomaceous earth is a common treatment recommended for the prevention and treatment of external parasites. It is composed of the hard exoskeletons of diatoms. When DE is sprinkled on chickens, the hard exoskeletons slice open the parasites and kill them. I have found that DE works as a good preventive, but not as a treatment. I use DE as monthly parasite prevention and sprinkle it in my flock’s dust bath spots. Be careful not to get the DE in your chicken’s eyes or face because chicken’s have very sensitive respiratory systems that can be damaged by the fine dust.
Poultry Protector by MannaPro-
Poultry Protector is an all natural spray method for preventing parasites. Once again, I found this spray to be helpful for preventing parasites, but not for treating infestations. I use Poultry Protector in rotation with DE and garlic juice during my monthly parasite prevention checks. I also spray it on the roosts and in the nesting boxes.
Diluted Garlic Juice-
Garlic juice that has been diluted can be a very effective prevention method and can also be a treatment for mild parasite infestations if given enough time to work. Dilute 1 ounce of 100% garlic juice per 10 ounces of water and put it in a spray bottle. Spray the diluted solution on the birds every other day. The garlic juice may take up to three weeks of consistent application for it to work. I mostly use garlic juice as a prevention method.
Enforcer Flea and Tick Spray-
As I got more desperate for a treatment, I resorted to using a dog and cat treatment. I try to stay away from chemical treatments, so I look for the plant-based ingredient called Pyrethrins. I applied the Enforcer spray to my chickens and the mites disappeared over night! At last, victory!! So I thought. The mites did reappear though, so I had to move onto my next treatment of choice.
Zodiac Flea and Tick Dip-
Zodiac flea and tick dip was used as an emergency treatment two days before I took two of my birds to a poultry show. I highly do not recommend planning any poultry shows when your birds have mites. You never know how fast or effectively you will be able to treat the pests. The Zodiac dip worked right away for treating the mites and the birds stayed mite free for at least a week. After a week though, the tiny mites reappeared! Failure again!
After much research and thought, I finally bit the bullet and bought the expensive Elector Psp that is said to cure northern fowl mites quickly and effectively. I figured I had probably spent as much money on buying all the other treatments as I would spend on buying this Elector. Elector PSP’s main ingredient is Spinosad. It does not have an egg or meat withdrawal period, which means you can still eat your hen’s eggs even while treating them. This little bottle may be expensive, but is effective and lasts a long time. The dilution ratio for Elector PSP is 9ml of Elector per 1 gallon of water. Do not save any leftover diluted solution, as it loses it’s effectiveness over time.
Using a spray bottle, spray the diluted Elector onto each chicken. See how and where to treat in the next section called Applying Northern Fowl Mite Treatments. One tip that I found was essential to the Elector PSP working was that you have to shake it very frequently. I shook my bottle after every bird to make sure the solution was well mixed. After you treat all your birds, spray down the entire coop and enclosures with the solution. What is nice about the Elector PSP is that you don’t have to remove all the bedding from the coop when you treat it. Just make sure to remove the food and water (or cover them).
Applying Northern Fowl Mite Treatments
Applying the treatment for northern fowl mites is usually a two person project. Have one person hold the bird upside down (or at least at an angle) so that the other person can easily access the bird’s vent area. The person who is not holding the bird should then part the feathers and apply the treatment. Certain areas that you want to make sure you cover are:
- skin above the vent
- at least 3 areas below the vent
- under the wings
- beard, muffs, and crest of breeds that have them (be careful not to get the treatment in the bird’s eyes, nostrils, or ears)
If you are using a spray treatment, part the feathers in each area so that you see the chicken’s skin, and give each area 1-2 good sprays. For dusting chicken’s with DE, part the feathers and sprinkle a good dusting all over the skin. If you are using the Zodiac dip treatment, dilute the dip according to the label. Make sure you use warm water (90 degrees F). Dip the bird’s entire hind end into the solution and massage the feathers to make sure the solution gets to the skin. Remove the bird from the dip and gently dry off it’s hind end.
Northern Fowl Mite Prevention
To prevent further infections, you will want to put in place a regular prevention routine. I check my whole flock every two weeks for signs of mites or other external parasites. At the same time, I also treat them with a preventive treatment. Make sure you rotate your preventative treatments so that the external parasites can not become immune to a certain preventive. I like to rotate DE, diluted garlic juice, and Poultry Protector as my preventatives.
Now you know how to diagnose, identify, treat, and prevent northern fowl mites! Hopefully you should be well prepared to keep a healthy, parasite -free flock!
To learn more about natural remedies for common poultry problems check out my post on Treating Chicken Diseases Naturally.