I think I must smell like a chicken.
These are Red Mites.
They may look huge in the picture, but in real life they are microscopic, as small, if not smaller than a full stop on this page. They are the absolute bane of the chicken keeper’s life.
They like to live in the hen house, coming out from the cracks and joints in walls and perches at night to crawl onto the birds and suck their blood. They may be miniscule, but they breed in their thousands, especially in the warm weather. You can’t normally see them because most of the time they are pale grey, and only become red when they are full of chicken blood.
Although any chicken keeper will expect to have them, you really KNOW you’ve got them in numbers when your birds refuse to go in at night, so are sleepless, itchy and unhappy and stop laying eggs.
It is a constant fight to keep the numbers down and they never really go away. I spent time every week after cleaning out, spraying a ‘guaranteed mite killer’ into every crack and cranny, floor, walls, ceiling you name it, it got soaked.
The Mitey Fight went on and on.
Not only that, but as I said above, I think I must smell like a chicken. (I’m not sure how the mites locate their prey, apart from living in the area where the chicken sleeps, but there must be some mechanism) or I’m just nice and warm, who knows, but the mites loved me as well! I couldn’t go into the chicken house for more than a couple of minutes without ending up with some on me. I wasn’t too worried about their sucking my blood, I don’t think they’d get through human skin, but you would be surprised at how irritating even one tiny microscopic creature can be on your skin, especially in your hair. You can’t see it, but you can feel it ALL THE TIME! I have run screaming up the stairs to the shower, consigning all of my clothes to an immediate hot wash before now!
We had done everything recommended, garlic in the water, spraying, dusting, and although it would work for a while they always came back.
Then OH!BLISS! I sent away for some stuff called Red Stop Solution from http://www.sprcentre.com/ It’s a liquid that you put into the drinking water and it makes the chickens’ blood unpalatable to the mites.
Although I have used it as part of a three pronged attack, spraying, dusting and now Red Stop, I am AMAZED at the results. As the advertising says, “if they can’t feed, they can’t breed” I have been surprised at how quickly the mite population has decreased, and as far as I can see, even going in at night with a torch, has actually disappeared. Another indicator of their retreat is the fact that I haven’t had a single mite on me in weeks!! It’s really good to know that I can go into the chicken house now for as long as I like, and not come away with a horde of unwanted little passengers. I can relax.
And so can the girls.