Mites and Chickens

There are 9 species of mites that can affect various species of poultry. Some are more common than others.

Mites, for the most part are species specific, so while they may hop a ride on you or another animal (some do bite), they will not take up long term residence.


The only approved products for poultry are Elector PSP and permethrin dusts/sprays that are specifically labeled for poultry. Both products must be applied as directed on the label – any deviation from the label nullifies the ZERO egg withdrawal.

Ivermectin (injectable form only) is another option, but is used off-labeled and has an 8 week egg withdrawal.

  • Applied topically, 3-4 drops for standard size breeds, 1-2 drops for bantam breeds
  • Orally 0.2mg/kg
  • Injected sub cutaneous 0.2mg/kg

For Scaly leg mites, coat the legs heavily with Vaseline daily. Treatment can take a week to months depending on how bad the infestation is.

Coops must be cleaned thoroughly – strip out all bedding, get all wood surfaces as clean as possible. Spray coop with permethrin or Elector, making sure to get all nooks and crannies.

Treatment may need to be repeated in 7-14 depending on the infestation and the life cycle of the specific mite being treated.


Keep coop clean and dry and provide proper dust bath areas for your flock. Dust baths need to remain dry. Construction sand, peat moss, garden sulfur and wood ash are all things that can be added to a dust bath. Monitor birds to ensure they are dust bathing on a regular basis – larger birds may not dust bathe as they should. Check birds over more often if you have a high wild bird population as they can be a source for mites.

Chicken Mite aka Red Mite, Roost Mite, Poultry Mite

Dermanyssus gallinae infests chickens, turkeys, pigeons, canaries, and various wild birds worldwide. Chicken mites are nocturnal feeders that hide during the day under manure, on roosts, and in cracks and crevices of the chicken house, where they deposit eggs. Populations develop rapidly during the warmer months and more slowly in cold weather; the life cycle may be completed in only 1 week. A house may remain infested for 6 months after birds are removed.

Transmission of the chicken mite, as well as the northern fowl mite and the tropical fowl mite , is by mite dispersion or by contact with infested birds, animals, or inanimate objects. In the integrated poultry industry, mites are dispersed most frequently on inanimate objects such as egg flats, crates, or coops or by personnel going from house to house or farm to farm.

Heavy infestations of either chicken mites or northern fowl mites decrease reproductive potential in males, egg production in females, and weight gain in young birds; they can also cause anemia and death. Chicken mites may be found in the chicken houses during the day, particularly in cracks or where roost poles touch supports, or on birds at night. Their role as vectors of other pathogens in nature needs study, but experimental transmission of Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis viruses, fowl poxvirus, and the bacteria Salmonella Enteritidis, Pasteurella multocidaCoxiella burnetii, and Borrelia anserina has been demonstrated.

Common Chigger

Trombicula alfreddugesi, and other chigger species (harvest mites, red bugs) infest birds as well as people and other mammals, feeding on partially digested skin cells and lymph. Heavily parasitized birds become droopy, refuse to eat, and may die from starvation and exhaustion. Larvae may be found either singly or in clusters on the ventral portion of the birds. Control on the range is aided by keeping the grass cut short .

Depluming Mite

Neocnemidocoptes gallinae, is found worldwide and burrows into the epidermis at the base of feather shafts, causing intense irritation and feather pulling and loss in chickens, pheasants, pigeons, and geese in spring and summer. Hyperkeratosis, skin lesions, and digit necrosis can result from the burrowing. Affected birds should be isolated and treated with ivermectin, permethrin or Elector PSP.

Feather Mites

Most feather mites belong to the families Analgidae, Pterolichidae, and Proctophyllodidae. Surface feather mites feed mainly on feather oils, debris, fungi, and skin scales. More than 25 species, including Megninia cubitalisM ginglymura, and Pterolichus obtusus, are found on domestic poultry, but they are rare on modern poultry ranches. Quill mites (Syringophilidae and Gaudoglyphidae) live in quills and feed on quill tissue or fluids obtained by piercing the calamus wall. Syringophilus bipectinatus is found in chicken and turkey feather quills worldwide, and Columbiphilus polonicaDermoglyphus elongatus, and Gaudoglyphus minor live in chicken quills in Europe. Feather mites do little economic damage but may reduce egg production via malnutrition, feather loss, and dermatitis. Affected birds should be treated with permethrin or Elector PSP, or oral or topical ivermectin can be applied.

Northern Fowl Mite

Ornithonyssus sylviarum, is the most important parasite of caged layers and breeding chickens in the USA and is a serious pest of chickens throughout the temperate zone of other countries. On turkeys, it is second in importance only to the turkey chigger in areas where the turkey chigger is found. It has been reported from many species of birds and from rats, mice, and people; however, fertile populations are reported only on birds. Northern fowl mites are obligate bloodsucking parasites that normally spend their entire life cycle (~1 week) on the host. Off the host, mites may live as long as 2 months, depending on temperature and relative humidity. Northern fowl mites are found on eggs or by parting feathers in the vent area, which may have thick, crusty skin, severe scabbing, and soiled feathers.

Western equine encephalomyelitis, St. Louis encephalitis, and Newcastle disease viruses, as well as fowlpox virus, have been isolated from these mites. However, the mites are not significant vectors of these viruses.

Scaly Leg Mite

Knemidocoptes mutans, is a small, spherical, sarcoptic mite that usually tunnels into the tissue under the scales of the legs. When found, it is usually on older birds on which the irritation and exudation cause the legs to become thickened, encrusted, and unsightly. Feet and leg scales become raised, resulting in lameness. Birds stop feeding, and death can result after several months. This mite may occasionally attack the comb and wattles. The entire life cycle is in the skin; transmission is by contact. Infections can be latent for long periods until stress triggers a mite population increase.

For control, affected birds should be culled or isolated, and houses cleaned and sprayed frequently as recommended for the chicken mite . Individual birds should be treated with oral or topical ivermectin and legs coated in Vaseline.

Cyst Mite

Laminosioptes cysticola, the fowl cyst mite, is a small cosmopolitan parasite of chickens, turkeys, and pigeons that is most often diagnosed by observing white to yellowish caseocalcareous nodules ~1–3 mm in diameter in the subcutis, muscle, lungs, and abdominal viscera. Careful examination of the skin and subcutis of birds under a dissecting microscope frequently reveals the mites. Destroying the bird has been the best control for this parasite, but ivermectin may be effective.

Tropical Fowl Mite

Ornithonyssus bursa, is distributed throughout the warmer regions of the world and has been reported in Hawaii, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, and New York. It closely resembles the northern fowl mite in its biology and habits but lays a greater proportion of its eggs in the nest. Hosts include chickens, turkeys, ducks, pigeons, sparrows, starlings, mynah birds, and people. Western equine encephalomyelitis virus has been recovered from this mite, but there is no evidence it transmits the virus.

Turkey Chigger

The larvae of Neoschongastia americana, the turkey chigger, are parasitic on numerous birds. Across the southern USA, they are the major pest of turkeys ranged on heavy clay soils in the summer. The chiggers feed in groups of as many as 100 mites per lesion for 8–15 days. Turkeys may have 25–30 lesions each. One lesion, 3 mm in diameter, may cause significant downgrading at market time. To prevent downgrading, turkeys must be protected for at least 4 weeks before marketing.

Sprays or dusts of permethrin or Elector PSP on turkey ranges may control chiggers. A preventive measure now used in many turkey-growing areas includes a shift from range to confinement rearing, or use of sheds to provide shade.



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