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Fowl Mites

Fowl Mites: are not insects; they are more closely related to ticks and spiders. Most mites are visible to the unaided eye and usually measure 1/8″ or less in length. Their life cycle has four basic stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult. The egg hatches into a larval stage, which molts to the nymphal stage. After 1-2 more times, the nymph matures into an adult. Mites, like ticks, have three pairs of legs as larvae and four pairs of legs as nymphs and adults.

Fowl Mites

Fowl Mites

Two species of fowl mites, the Northern fowl mite, Ornithonyssus sylviarum,and the chicken mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, may attack humans when the right circumstances prevail. Both mites are also known pests of poultry and wild birds. Household infestations can result when chicken roosts or wild bird nests, such as swallows under the eaves, are in close proximity to the home.

The northern fowl mite, Ornithonyssus sylviarum, infests a wide variety of domestic fowl and wild birds and is the most important and common external parasite of poultry. Mites feed on blood, and heavy mite infestations can irritate and stress the birds, reducing egg production by 10 to 15 percent.

Life Cycle: Mites congregate first on the vent, then on the tail, back, and legs of female birds; they are more scattered on male birds. As the mite population increases, feathers become soiled from mite eggs, cast skins, dried blood, and excrement. The soiling produces the characteristic blackened feathers in the vent area. Scabs also may form in the vent area. Although death due to actual anemia is rare, birds with heavy infestations (50,000 mites/bird) can lose 6 percent of their blood daily.

Mite populations can rise rapidly after a bird first has been infested, especially during the cooler months and on young birds 20 to 30 weeks of age. Newly infested birds may support mite populations in excess of 20,000 per bird in 9 to 10 weeks. Mites do not become established on birds in large numbers until birds reach sexual maturity. Birds older than 40 weeks usually do not support many mites.

Damage: Fowl Mite is the most common external parasite in poultry, especially in cool weather climates. It sucks blood from all different types of fowl and can live in the temperate regions of the world. As compared to the Chicken Mite, the Northern Fowl Mite primarily remains on the host for its entire life cycle. These mites can live off the host bird for 2 to 3 weeks. These mites are small and black or brown in color, have 8 legs, and are commonly spread through bird-to-bird contact. The Tropical Fowl Mite is comparable to the Northern Fowl Mite but lives in the tropical regions.The Chicken Mite is a nocturnal mite that is primarily a warm weather pest. These mites suck the blood from the birds at night and then hide in the cracks and crevices of the houses during the day. Chicken Mites are dark brown or black, much like the Northern Fowl Mite.

Diagnoses of mite infestations are similar to that of lice; however since mites can live off the bird and some are nocturnal, inspect birds and housing facilities at night especially if you suspect that the Chicken Mite is the cause of the infestation. Observable signs may include darkening of the feathers on white feathered birds due to mite feces; scabbing of the skin near the vent; mite eggs on the fluff feathers and along the feather shaft or congregations of mites around the vent, ventral abdomen, tail, or throat. Since mites congregate around the ventral region, they can also reduce a rooster’s ability of successful matings.

Fowl Mites

Fowl Mites

Controls: The keys to cultural control are moisture management, sanitation, and manure removal. The manure moisture level is the most important factor in fly control. Moist poultry manure is highly attractive to adult flies and provides ideal conditions for fly development. Fresh poultry manure is approximately 75 to 80 percent moisture, and flies can breed in manure with a moisture content of 50 to 85 percent.

Moisture levels are affected by leaking waterers, improper ventilation, and seepage from the exterior. Leaking waterers are the major source of wet manure conditions, so waterers should be inspected daily. If dry conditions are maintained, manure will form a cone-shaped mound as it accumulates and only fresh additions at the manure cone peak will be suitable for fly breeding. Houses with scraper boards usually have drier manure accumulations than those without, but scraper boards are not effective if there are water leaks.

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