Parasites and your chickens

Poultry Red Mite

Red Mite (not to be confused with Red Spider Mite, a harmless garden bug) is a parasite that lives in your chicken house and feeds on birds whilst they sleep at night. These small but deadly mites feed on all parts of the chicken including blood, feathers, skin and scales. Red Mite infestations can result in poor health, disease transmisson, low egg production, weight loss and, in bad infestations, even death of the bird. 


As our climate has changed, and our method of keeping poultry, so the instances of Red Mite have rocketed over the last few years. However, with vigilance, proper husbandry and the right products this need not be the nightmare it at first appears. Red mites feed on the bird between one and two hours each night. They tend to live in cracks and crevices in the hen houses as this is where they deposit the eggs.

When the nest conditions are correct the mite larvae hatch 2-3 days after being laid. The time it takes for a mite to go from egg to adult is 7-14 days with ideal conditions being temperatures of 10-35 degrees C and > 70% humidity. This short cycle can cause Red Mite infestations to grow very rapidly between September and March particulary in northern parts of the country. Even without a food source Red Mite can survive for as long as 8 months making them a very hardy pest.


Signs of mite infestation include:

  • - Reluctance of the hens to roost in the hen house
  • - Pale combs
  • - Drops in egg production and bird body condition
  • - Skin irritation
  • - Red and grey smears on the eggs when collected
  • - Increased numbers/occurence of health issues


If suspicious of mites check your coop at night with a torch or early in the morning and you will likely spot something the size of a pin head slowly moving around. They are only red if they have recently fed. Pay particular attention to the underside and attachment points of perches and nesting boxes. If the parasite is present any bedding ideally needs to be burnt as any larvae etc in the bedding will simply relocate back in the coop before composting has a chance to kill them.


Previously control of this parasite has used products that treat/clean the house eg poultry shield or insecticides like Permethin. Regular cleaning of the coop with products like poultry shield should still be done regularly as this helps with not just red mite but bacterial, fungal and viral causes of disease. However we now have an additional weapon in our arsenal and it is proving a huge success in controlling this parasite. Exzolt is a product recently developed by MSD and is administered to birds in their drinking water with mites killed after feeding on a treated bird. I have over 80 birds myself at home and after trialling it with my birds I only had one group of three that were a bit reluctant to drink the treated water out of the whole lot. It has had extensive safety studies done and is safe to give to young birds as well as adults and has NIL EGG WITH HOLDING.


A treatment regime involves adding it to the birds drinking water, two treatments, 7 days apart. It is added at the rate of 0.05ml per KG liveweight. So for a flock of 10 birds that weigh approx 2kg each you would need as little as 2ml to do a complete treatment. Treatments should be repeated at most once every 3 months.


We are offering this product over the counter to help people control this parasite. In order for us to dispense it you do need to know the total weight of the birds needing treatment. Count your flock and weigh a sample of birds to get an average weight. If you have birds of varying sizes then you'll need to weigh some of each size and extrapolate. In general most bantams are 600-1000g, light breeds like shavers and leghorns 2-3kg and heavy breeds 3-5kg each.


Once we have your flock weight we can measure out what you need for a treatment and dispense with an info sheet. If not a current client we will need to add you and create a record each time we dispense. This is a legal requirement and is for safety and tracking in case of a product recall.


For further in depth information about Exzolt please follow this link where you can read the safety studies etc:


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