First I got online to diagnose the problem. Bad news, is that I'm pretty sure they are the Northern Fowl Mite. Here is what I know:
- They are blood suckers
- Found primarily near vent, under wings, back of head
- They can bite humans, cause dermatitis, and possibly pester dogs etc.
- Pigeons and other wild birds may be infected, but most likely transfer is from other chickens.
- Once you have them, it is difficult to get rid of them completely.
- Most sources call for heavy regime of alternate pesticide use on all birds and in coop.
- Sick, old and injured birds are most suceptable
- They reside in nesting boxes and can live off host for a while, they like wood
- They are more prevalent in winter, probably because the birds are cooped up, not getting out as much to dust bathe.
- They can affect egg production, meat bird growth and overall health if allowed to thrive
My first action was to take one of my wormer formulas that I feed the goats and mix it into the chicken feed. The herbs are garlic, wormwood, black walnut and something I'm forgetting. I have another wormer powder with different herbs that I am going to alternate with. My next step is to put some diatamacious earth in their dirt bath area. For my couple birds that are most affected I might sprinkle the powder near their vent area or make an herbal paste to smear around the area. I just started reading one of my more thorough herbal pet books, "Herbs for Pets", and I haven't gotten very far but I think I'll get some more ideas from her. This weekend I am going to clean the coop out completely, let it dry and spray it with some sort of herbal solution. Ingredients that initially come to mind are vinegar, tea tree oil, grapefruit seed extract, garlic and dr Bronners soap, maybe some neem oil. We are going to big up some bags of cedar chips use those instead of hay in their nesting boxes and on the ground.
I have this dreadful feeling that I'll be battling these pests forever. On the other hand I'm guessing I'll need to change my perspective on parasites so that I am not emotionally tormented by them. I broke my number one rule, brought in adult birds into my flock without any sort of inspection or quarantine. I trusted my source but should not have. Lesson learned. I'll keep you posted on the progress. If you have experience with chicken mites and have had success with alternative remedies, please share. As much as I am disgusted by these parasites, they are a fact of life. Chickens self treat with dust baths. So far, the most infected birds still look great, a far as bright combs and healthy plumage. I can't help but wonder if this was really inevitable...