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External Parasites

Mites, such as Red Mite (Dermanyssus gallinae) and Northern Fowl Mite (Ornithonyssus sylviarum), are a cause of increasing problems in free-range and caged laying hens. It is particularly severe in the summer months when the weather is warm and mites are able to multiply quickly. Even light infestations can irritate the birds, leading to poor performance and reduced feed intake. In more severe cases, infestations can lead to some or all of the following:

  • Mites irritate the birds and can make the flock unsettled and nervous.
  • The incidence of peritonitis may increase and there may be increased vent pecking. Feed intake may be depressed.
  • Heavy mite infestations can depress egg production up to 5%.
  • Heavy infestations of Red Mites will make birds anemic due to loss of blood. Birds will be evident in the flock with pale combs and, if severely affected, mortality may increase. Brown eggs may appear pale.
  • There may be loss of yolk color and—with heavy infestations of Red Mites—there will be evidence of mites and mite feces on eggs and egg belts, which may lead to downgrading of speckled eggs.
  • There may be an increase in floor eggs as birds will be reluctant to use heavily infested nests.
  • Where there are heavy mite infestations, egg collectors may experience skin irritation.

Breaking the cycle of re-infection when the house is empty is the most effective approach. Treat the houses effectively at site depletion with an approved product, properly applied, to reach into all crevices on equipment, slats, and nest boxes. Use a fan nozzle to produce a flat spray. Do not mix pesticides with disinfectants unless recommended by the manufacturer.

Monitor the house and birds during the life of the flock to allow prompt treatment even if only light infestations are identified. Programs for treatment to break the Northern Fowl Mite life cycle (5 to 7 days) should be done 3 times per day on days 0, 5, and 10. To control Red Mites, complete fumigation of the house between flocks with an appropriate pesticide is crucial for breaking the mite life cycle. 

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