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Lifestyle Collection spring top tip - caring for your chooks

November 2019

Mite free chooks this summer

Here’s Kath Irvine’s advice on caring for your chooks this summer - preventing red mites is simpler than management. This is how she ensures nasty red mites don’t infest her beloved ‘girls’.

When the summer sun and heat strikes so do red mites. Red mites are nocturnal parasites that come out at night to feed on your chickens. So it can be tricky to know if you have an infestation as they can’t be spotted during the day.

Red mites are nasty, affecting your chooks health. Indicators of red mites include anaemia (shows as pale combs) or your chook is going off the lay. Mites are also notoriously tricky to manage as, even when deprived of food for months, they will burst back to life as soon as they make contact with a chicken or other birdlife.

First step to protect your chooks from red mites is to check for them. Kath recommends doing this as late at night as
possible using a head torch to inspect your chook house. You’re looking for tiny black or red critters moving over your chickens or in the house itself. Mites turn red when they are full of blood. Charming! If they’re not
immediately obvious, don’t stop looking. Run your fingers along the perches, ceilings and egg boxes. If they’re there you’ll collect them on your finger. Don’t freak out - you can’t ‘catch’ them, they’re only interested in birds!

Preventing red mites

Kath has two chook houses - one for summer, one for winter, with the purpose of depriving the mites of their food source. As mites can last months without a feed it’s important not to rely on this strategy alone. Along with two houses, Kath:

  • Gives her chicken coops a thorough clean as well as dusting her chooks twice a year
  • Keeps a constant eye on her chook’s health
  • Regularly checks for mites
  • Uses anti parasitic herbs in forage and strewing
  • Gives her ‘girls’ daily dust baths

Kath’s chickens spend six months in each house. Before they move into a clean house, she dusts her chooks with
diatomaceous earth which helps prevent external parasites, such as lice and fleas, by cutting through their outer shells, dehydrating them.

Note: this treatment is for prevention, not management. If you have mites you’ll need to spray the house with mite killer, then dust the birds.

chooks top tip spr19 main

How to dust your chooks

Two people are required – one holds and one dusts. 

For protection use dust masks. Lay your chook on a piece of fabric and dust your chook front and back, getting right in under the feathers.

Remember around the neck and the backside, which as long your chooks are healthy, isn’t gross! Be gentle,
especially when handling their delicate wings.

How to clean your coop

Firstly remove all the old sawdust, then take out all the removable parts of the coop - the ladder and perches. Thoroughly spray the house and the removable parts with mite killer.

Once sprayed, fill the house with fresh bedding and spread with diatomaceous earth.

To read more of the Lifestyle Collection magazine by click here

Kath Irvine is a permaculture designer and has been designing and managing edible gardens since the
late 1990's. Passionate about growing food and good design, Kath runs workshops from her Edible Backyard.
Go to www.ediblebackyard.co.nz for more info.

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