Mites are parasites that commonly infest chickens. The mites pass easily from one animal to another, so even well-tended chickens may pick them up from wild birds or rodents. The mites can cause medical issues for chickens and in severe cases can even lead to death. Detecting and treating them early is important in stopping an infestation. Spotting the signs that a chicken has mites will help catch the problem before it spreads.
Decreased Egg Production
Decrease in egg production is often the first noticeable sign of a mite problem. When chickens are not getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy, they will not lay as many eggs. The eggs the chickens do lay will often be smaller and more susceptible to breakage. Infested roosters will have trouble mating; this will also lead to a decrease in the number of eggs produced.
Decreased Weight Gain
Chickens infested with mites often gain weight at a slower rate than other birds. Full-grown chickens may even show weight loss. The mites feed on the blood of the chicken, which in turn causes the bird to be less active than one that mites have not infested. In many cases, chickens that have mites do not eat as much and therefore do not gain weight as quickly as healthy birds.
Darkening of Feathers on Light-Colored Chickens
Mites survive by sucking the blood of the chicken. The mites then leave droppings behind that will stain the chicken’s feathers. This is not something that is easy to see on darker birds, but on a white chicken, you can clearly see where the feathers appear darker, even from a distance. Feathers will start appearing a dirty reddish-brown, rather than the normal white.
Congregations of Mites
Mites are very small and hard to see with the naked eye. However, when a major infestation is present you may be able to see large congregations of mites. According to the Ohio State University Extension, this will normally be most noticeable near the vent, tail and throat.