Chicken Mites: Fast & All Natural Solutions

Chicken Mites: Fast & All Natural Solutions

Chicken mites can literally suck the life out of your hens. They’re pests that can cause a lot of health issues. You need to eliminate them from your coop as fast as possible.

In this article, you’ll discover how to spot these tiny insects on your chicken AND in your coop. You’ll also find options to get rid of them, and when it’s time to call the vet. 

chicken mites

What Are Chicken Mites?

Chicken mites is a generic term for:

  • Red Mite (Dermanyssus gallinae) aka Roost Mite or Poultry Mite
  • Northern Fowl Mites (Ornithonyssus sylviarum)
  • Tropical fowl mite (Ornithonyssus bursa)
  • Knemidocoptes mutans (the mites that cause scaly leg mites) 
  • Feather mites (25+ different species)
  • Depluming mite (Neocnemidocoptes gallinae)

(In this article, we’ll discuss these mites together, with a separate section for scaly leg mites. Each breed above can cause the same health issues, and you can deal with them the same way.)

Mites are tiny insects that crawl on your flock’s skin and feathers. They can also inhabit the scales on your chickens’ legs. They bite chickens, and suck their blood (yes, like miniature vampires). They can also cause skin irritation, resulting in red, flaky skin.

In extreme cases, they can actually kill your chicken. How? Well, as the mites feed on your hen, she can lose iron. Over time, anemia can set in, and potentially cause death. 

Given the right conditions, mites can complete a life cycle in as little as 7 days, potentially exploding their population in your coop.

Mites can also transmit:

  • Salmonella Enteritidis(2)
  • Pasteurella multocida
  • Coxiella burnetii
  • Borrelia anserina
  • Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis viruses(1)
  • Fowl poxvirus(1)
  • avian spirochaetosis
  • Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae(3)

between birds. At the very least, chicken mites might cause your hens to slow down their rate of egg laying, or just stop laying altogether – not good stuff. 

A single mite can live up to 10 months in your coop. 

chicken mites lifecycle graphic

How Do Chickens Get Mites?

Mites are all around us. Once you start raising chickens, they’ll eventually try to inhabit your coop – especially if you don’t clean it regularly. Soon, they’ll start looking for a food source – your chickens.

Mites like to hide in corners and crevices. Since nesting boxes tend to have lots of great places for mites to hide, they’ll soon make their way there. When your hens visit their boxes to lay eggs, the mites will jump onto your chickens.

Mites can jump from chicken to chicken as well. Pretty soon, your whole flock could be infected!

Can Chickens Die From Mites? 

A lot of people wonder whether their flock can die from a mite infestation. The short answer is “yes.” If left untreated, mites can cause many health issues. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, chicken mites might cause anemia, leading to death(1). It’s possible mites can eat up to 5% of a chicken’s blood in one night.

How To Know If Your Chicken Has Mites

Signs your chickens might have mites include:

  • Mite poop around the base of feathers (especially the vent)
  • Feather loss 
  • Excessive preening
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Raised scales or loss of scales on your flock’s legs 
  • Pale combs
  • Blood spots on eggshells 

However, the only way to know for sure if your chickens have mites is:

  • When you see the pests themselves on your chickens
  • You identify their eggs
  • Mite feces 

Mite Feces

When checking your chickens, you might notice a greyish black substance at the base of their feathers and/or on their skin. In my experience, you also might notice this greyish black substance around your chickens’ vents (both hens AND roosters). This substance is likely mite poop, and it’s a pretty definite indicator your flock has mites.

chicken mites on rooster

Loss of Feathers

One sign of mites you’re likely to notice is feather loss (just remember that feather loss can indicate a LOT of things, including molting and very active roosters). Some areas to pay attention to are the:

  • Back
  • Vent
  • Tail feathers

You might see patches of open skin, or even raw or red skin. 

Raised Scales (Scaly Leg Mites)

The simplest way to explain what raised scales looks like is to share a picture: 

chicken mites and lice on legs

The scales on their legs lift up as the waste from the mites starts to build up under the scales. Eventually, the chicken will start to lose their scales, which can lead to other secondary issues such as bacterial infections. The legs might even bleed. Once the mites are eliminated, the scales usually grow back. (Don’t confuse this with bumblefoot, which is a bacterial infection that causes lumps on the bottom of your flock’s feet).

Pale Combs

Pale combs can indicate a lot of health issues, including mites. As your chicken loses blood to the mites, she’ll start to lose iron. Eventually, she might become anemic, since iron is important for circulating oxygen. As she becomes sicker, her comb might turn from a bright, healthy red into a pale pink or peach color. In extreme cases, your chicken might die.

Blood spots on eggshells

When mites bite your chickens, they can sometimes leave an open wound. It might be very tiny, or, especially if your chicken picks at it, the wound can be pretty significant. If your chicken has these wounds around her vent, then you might start to notice blood on her eggshells. 

While this doesn’t definitively prove your hen has a mite infestation, you should still double check her for mites. You should also remember that your hens can have mites even if you don’t see any blood on their eggshells.

When To Contact The Vet 

If your chicken:

  • Has dry, itchy skin
  • Feather loss
  • Raised scales
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Seems unwell or depressed
  • Is opening/closing her beak as if gasping for air, and/or
  • You see mites, their feces, and/or their eggs

Then you should seek the advice of your vet, especially if you’ve tried treating it on your own, but have been unsuccessful.

How Do You Get Rid Of Mites on Chickens?

Now that we know what chicken mites are, why they’re a health issue, and when to contact your veterinarian, let’s talk about how to get rid of mites and keep them out.

Your basic options include:

  • Pharmaceutical Options (best to talk to your vet)
  • Natural options like herbs and diatomaceous earth
  • Extreme heat
  • Extreme cold

Pharmaceutical Options

It’s always best to speak to your veterinarian to determine the best pharmaceutical option. The chemical and pharmaceutical options can be toxic, expensive, and/or ineffective in the long term, however.(1)(5)

How To Kill Chicken Mites Naturally (And Prevent Them From Returning)

There’s a few different options to kill mites naturally. Some work great for your chickens, others are better for your coop, and some (like herbs) serve dual purposes. These are just options, and you’ll have to decide for yourself which options are right for your coop.

For your chickens, your options include:

  • Herbs
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Wood ash

For your coop:

  • Herbs
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Heat/cold
  • Vinegar

Herbs & Herbal Blends

Humans have used herbs for generations to deter pests. In modern times, recent studies indicate that herbs show promise to repel pests. One government agency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) even lists certain herbs as safe to repel pests (they call herbs “minimum risk ingredients”, meaning a minimum risk to the environment). 

In our experience, herbal blends are far better than a single herb, which is why we don’t discuss single herbs in this article. Sometimes, readers try to use a single herb, and don’t have the results they desire. Because of this, we now only recommend herbal blends we use ourselves

We used to try using single herbs, but they never worked as well. So, we started mixing herbs together, with a much better outcome. This blend became our product MitesBGone.

We love MitesBGone because it’s an all-natural herbal product for dust baths. To use it, we just sprinkle the herbs in our flock’s nesting boxes and dust bath areas. You can use just the herbs, or mix it with diatomaceous earth. Chickens love exploring MitesBGone.

You can view more about this herbal blend here. The blend is 100% non-GMO and all natural, and makes it so easy to use herbs for mite control.

chicken mites

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized shells of diatoms, which are prehistoric aquatic algae. These fossilized diatoms are then crushed, making a powdery substance. DE is also comprised of silica, clay minerals, and iron oxide.

Diatomaceous earth can help treat mites because the particles have sharp edges, which slice the exoskeletons of mites. The mites then die.

In one study which was run by the University of California Riverside, birds were given a dust bath of sand and diatomaceous earth. These hens showed a huge reduction in the amount of chicken mites and lice after just seven days.

Many people avoid using DE because it can lead to respiratory issues for both chickens and humans (unlike herbs, which is why we use herbs). When inhaled, over time, there’s the potential the DE will damage both human and poultry respiratory systems.

If you decide to use DE, however, it’s important to use masks.

You can find diatomaceous earth in any feed store or on Amazon. You can find it on Amazon at TheFrugalChicken.com/DE

Just remember that when it comes to DE, you always want to use food grade diatomaceous earth. Construction grade isn’t usually pure, and could be mixed with anything. Just check the label to be sure. 

If you want to use herbs AND diatomaceous earth, you can try this product. The diatomaceous earth and herbs come pre-mixed. 

How To Use Diatomaceous Earth

The easiest way to incorporate DE into your coop is by offering a dust box with a diatomaceous earth/sand or dirt mix. There’s really no formula for how much of either to offer. Personally, I use a 1:1 ratio. If you plan to offer your DE bath in a run, you will need to remove it when it rains, otherwise you’ll be left with a gloppy mess.

Wood Ash

Another option is wood ash. There’s fewer studies regarding wood ash, so personally, I would use it with herbs and/or diatomaceous earth. Otherwise, you might not have the results you want. 

What is wood ash? It’s the residue from burning wood. Yes, you can use ash from your wood-burning stove. Just make sure you use wood that’s not treated with chemicals in any way. 

Steer clear of ash that’s made from any other substance besides wood. It’s not the same thing, and it won’t be as effective and it might harm your chicken. Wood ash is between 25 and 45 percent calcium carbonate. Wood ash can work against chicken mites because it potentially smothers them.

How Often Should You Treat Chickens For Mites?

Mites can live up to 10 months in your coop, and it only takes 7 days for a mite to complete its life cycle. If you want, you can consistently use natural options (such as herbs or diatomaceous earth). It certainly won’t hurt. To consistently use herbs or diatomaceous earth, adding them to your flock’s dust bath is easiest.

If you and your vet determine a pharmaceutical course of treatment, then it’s best to discuss those details with your vet.

How To Apply Natural Options To Your Chickens

Applying products to your chickens can be a bit daunting at first. They’re live animals that tend to flap their wings and startle easily. Here’s some ideas to make it a bit easier.

Apply treatments at night

It’s easiest to apply any treatments at night. Your chickens are naturally quieter, less likely to startle, and less likely to run (and if they do, lock your coop to keep them contained). Simply pick them up from their roost and use your herbs, diatomaceous earth, etc.

Hold them firmly, but gently

To dust your chicken, hold him or her firmly. First, pick your chicken up. Next, hold her so her wings lay flat against her body. She might squawk and sound unhappy, but she’s fine. Finally, apply your treatment to the area of concern.

Applying treatments to legs

If you need to apply treatments for scaly leg mites, then make sure the legs are exposed. You can do this a few ways. You can wrap your chicken in a towel (like a burrito), making sure to leave the legs exposed. If your chicken is being very difficult, you can hold your chicken by the legs. She will be upside down, which will calm her. You can then apply the treatment as needed. I use this option only as a last resort.

Cleaning Your Coop

If your flock has mites, you’ll want to treat their coop as well. I have a full step-by-step breakdown of how to clean a coop here

The idea is you want to eliminate mites from all the nooks and crannies possible. It can be difficult to ensure the whole coop is clean, but it can be done. I would personally use more than one option from this list, such as power washing, then adding herbs to the coop bedding.

Some options include:

  • Heat/cold
  • Power Washing
  • Diatomaceous Earth
  • Herbs

Heat/Cold

If possible, you can heat treat your coop and/or nesting boxes. In studies, temperatures of 113 degrees or higher (45 degrees C) have been shown to kill mites. If possible, you can remove the nesting boxes and place them under a heat source to raise temperatures to 113+ degrees. Very hot water might also work. In some areas of the United States, summer temperatures can provide all the heat necessary. 

Similarly, temperatures below -4 °F (-20 degrees C), have been shown to kill mites. If you live in a Northern climate, and your temperatures get far below -4 degrees F, then it’s unlikely any mites will last the winter (at least mites in the coop. Mites on your chickens might last longer because your chickens provide heat.)

Power Washing

Similar to using heat to rid your coop of mites, if you can get very hot water (over 113 degrees), you can try power washing the mites away. Just make sure to get into all the crevices. 

Diatomaceous Earth

You can apply DE to your coop floors, including any crevices where mites can hide out. Adding it to the nesting boxes will also help those areas. It’s best to follow the directions on the packaging for the proper amount of DE. Just make sure your flock isn’t in the coop so they don’t inhale it. You should wear a mask as well. 

Herbs

As I said above, I’ve had good results with power washing and using herbs. Both ideas are less caustic than diatomaceous earth, and easy to execute. The herbs we use come pre-mixed in MitesBGone Coop Herbs. First, we powerwash the coop. Then add new bedding and MitesBGone Coop Herbs. I have a 10 foot by 12 foot coop, and use 1 cup in each corner, and then 2 cups sprinkled around the rest of the coop. I also add ½ cup to each nesting box, after they’ve been cleaned.

Bleach

So, will bleach kill chicken mites? In short, yes, bleach will kill mites. It’s used to treat clothing and other fabrics to rid them of mites such as scabies. However, I don’t personally use it in my coop. Bleach is a harsh chemical, and it’s hard to know how much to dilute it so your chickens stay safe. If you do want to use bleach, make sure it’s heavily diluted. Keep your chickens out of the coop for a few hours as well. Since peer-reviewed studies show that high/low temperatures and herbs are effective against mites, those are the methods I personally use.

Does Vinegar Kill Chicken Mites?

There are no studies that show whether vinegar made from grapes will kill chicken mites specifically. However, vinegar is a commonly used all-natural household cleaner, and it’s certainly effective to get rid of poop and other grease. It certainly won’t hurt your flock.

In one study, researchers used wood vinegar(6) to rid a coop of mites. It was successful. There aren’t very many studies, however. If you can find wood vinegar in your area, it’s certainly worth a shot.

Does Lime Kill Chicken Mites?

Lime is essentially calcium carbonate (the same thing that comprises oyster shells). It might kill mites, and according to the USDA, it’s an old timey method to kill scabies on sheep. It certainly won’t hurt your chickens. 

Can Chicken Mites Live On Humans?

While chicken mites won’t necessarily infest your body as long as you bathe and wash your clothes regularly, you can still carry them around(4), so if you handle your hens to treat them, make sure to wash yourself and your clothes in hot water. Also be sure to practice good biosecurity, and scrub your shoes in a bleach or citrus vinegar solution so you don’t re-infect your flock.

Sources

  1. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/poultry/ectoparasites/mites-of-poultry
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281568697_The_poultry_red_mite_Dermanyssus_gallinae_A_potential_vector_of_pathogenic_agents
  3. Chirico, J.; Eriksson, H.; Fossum, O.; Jansson, D. (2003). “The poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, a potential vector of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae causing erysipelas in hens”. Medical and Veterinary Entomology. 17 (2): 232–234. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2915.2003.00428.x. PMID 12823843.
  4. Rosen, S.; Yeruham, I.; Braverman, Y. (2002). “Dermatitis in humans associated with the mites Pyemotes tritici, Dermanyssus gallinae, Ornithonyssus bacoti and Androlaelaps casalis in Israel”. Medical and Veterinary Entomology. 16 (4): 442–444. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2915.2002.00386.x. PMID 12510897
  5. Sparagano OAE, George DR, Harrington DWJ, Giangasparo A. Significance and control of the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae. Annu Rev Entomol 2014; 59:447-466 
  6. Kohsyo Yamauchi, Noboru Manabe, Yoshiki Matsumoto and Koh-en Yamauchi. (2014). “Exterminating Effect of Wood Vinegar to Red Mites and its Safety to Chickens.” Japan Poultry Science Association. doi:10.2141/ jpsa.0130170
  7. Photo of red mite: by Gilles San Martin from Namur, Belgium – Dermanyssus cfr gallinaeUploaded by Jacopo Werther, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24610992

Final Thoughts

Treating your flock for chicken mites is necessary in order for them to have healthy, happy lives. And luckily, there’s a lot of options for all natural treatments – for your flock AND their coop. Hopefully, one or two ideas in this article will help you out! If you’ve successfully used any of the ideas above, let us know!

chicken mites
Why Won’t My Hens Use Their Nesting Boxes?

Why Won’t My Hens Use Their Nesting Boxes?

Is your flock refusing to lay eggs in their nesting boxes? Want to spoil your hens by creating a nesting area that’s beautiful and inviting? In this article, I’ll show you 7 most common reasons why chickens refuse to use their nesting boxes, what to do about it, and how to provide the best nesting area possible.

It can be heartbreaking and confusing when your flock lays their eggs on the ground instead of the carefully designed nesting boxes you provide. Nobody wants dirty, poop-crusted eggs! It’s also disappointing when they start hiding their eggs or stop laying completely. You spend so much time and money setting up their nesting area, after all! It can be really, really frustrating. 

Getting your flock to consistently use their boxes can take some trial and error, but it CAN be done. It all starts with providing an attractive and inviting nesting area. With the easy ideas below, you can discover if you’re making some very common mistakes in your own coop. If your hens aren’t laying eggs, be sure to print this article out. You can use it as a checklist.

Let’s cover the common reasons why your chickens might avoid laying eggs in a nesting box.

Common Reasons Chickens Won’t Use Nesting Boxes

  1. Too much noise & commotion
  2. There’s mites in the nesting area
  3. The boxes smell or are dirty
  4. The bedding is wrong
  5. Nesting boxes are too high or too low
  6. Your hens don’t like the material your nesting boxes are made out of
  7. They don’t have enough nesting boxes 

Chickens Like Their Privacy

It’s true. Even though they’re incredibly social animals, chickens like privacy when doing their most intimate business – laying eggs. Why is this? When a hen lays an egg, it can take up to 1 hour for the egg to actually emerge from her vent. She must stay still and quiet the entire time. In the last few moments, before the egg is laid, she might even have to strain a little. As you can imagine, it’s not a time when she wants roosters, humans, or other hens bothering her!

If you locate your flock’s nesting boxes in a busy area, your hens might avoid it. Similarly, if they’re easily accessible to roosters or bossy alpha hens, it’s likely too stressful for a quieter hen. In these cases, she will find her own, more suitable, area. 

Make sure your flock’s nesting boxes are inside the coop. Choose a corner where there’s no feeders, waterers, dust bathing areas, swings, or anything else that can attract another chicken to the area. Dedicate that nesting area just for laying eggs. Your hens will appreciate it!

Are Mites A Problem?

We all know what mites are. But did you know they can hide in nesting boxes? Not only that, they can turn a cozy, daydreamy nesting box into a nightmare. Eventually, mites can even cause death. If your flock’s nesting boxes are infested, your hens might avoid them altogether.

So, how do you know if there’s mites? Personally, I automatically assume mites will creep in, especially if I don’t do preventative maintenance. Regularly cleaning nesting areas helps. Spraying the area down with a cleaning solution and scrubbing it regularly is a simple but effective strategy. An all natural cleaner made from citrus is a cost-effective option. 

But don’t stop there. Cleaning prevents existing mites from making the boxes a home, but it doesn’t stop the invasion completely. Do double duty by adding herbs traditionally used to prevent external parasites to your nesting area. Herbs are a cost effective and all natural solution that can discourage mites from returning. Mites can cause anemia, which usually requires a visit to the vet to diagnose and cure. So preventing them is cheaper than a big vet bill. Always make sure to source your blends from a reliable source. We use this herb blend because it’s created specifically for chickens.

chicken mites and lice
A chicken with mites isn’t a comfortable chicken! Mites can make their nesting boxes an unhappy place to lay eggs. Get rid of them ASAP!

Does It Smell Bad? 

Finding eggs on your coop floor? Not always cleaning your nesting boxes when they need it? Then your hens are likely avoiding the smelly, confined areas. 

Who wants to lay in a dirty, stinky bed? Nobody. And your hens aren’t any different. Lots of things happen in nesting areas that humans can’t see. As the box gets dirtier and dirtier, problems compound. Eggs break. A hen drops manure or urine. Ammonia builds up. Their eyes start stinging. Feathers get stuck everywhere. It’s unpleasant.

The simplest way to avoid this is to clean the nesting boxes weekly. Remove all bedding, and do a wipe down. Then, add clean bedding and herbs. For a more detailed explanation, you can read this article to learn how to clean a coop.

It’s also important to clean any unusual messes as quickly as possible. For example, if an egg breaks, don’t allow the smell to fester and the egg to dry. It’ll be hard to get the stench out of your flock’s feathers. You’ll spend even more time cleaning. You’ll end up with stinky chickens in addition to no eggs. You want to avoid wetness, stickiness, and bad smells. Clean the box immediately, and replace any bedding and herbs. 

Which brings us to an important point: great smelling herbs are an easy way to keep your flock using their nesting boxes. Chickens are animals, and smells are very important. It’s how they understand their surroundings. They use scent to determine if an area is safe or not. We’ve found that adding herbs and dried flowers creates a more inviting area that smells better. Instead of repelling our chickens, the herbs invite our flock to use their nesting boxes. 

We like this product, which is full of fragrant, healthy herbs and flowers like calendula, lavender, chamomile, rose petals, and more. The herbs are all healthy for chickens, and other buyers report the herbs attract their chickens to nesting boxes better than just bedding alone.

Herbs can make any nesting box more attractive. This blend smells great, and chickens love it!

Is The Bedding Wrong?

Have you always used a certain type of bedding? Or, are you not using bedding at all? Chickens are sensitive, like a lot of prey animals. Bedding that doesn’t suit them – for whatever reason – can stop them from using their nesting boxes. If your flock won’t use your nesting boxes, try out different bedding options. Straw and pine shavings are two popular options. Adding herbs to bedding can also help attract your hens. In our coop, we use pine shavings from Tractor Supply and Best Eggs Ever! Nesting Box Herbs. Our flock enjoys them, and our hens always give us about a dozen eggs a day. 

Adding ENOUGH bedding is important, also. What would you rather sit on: a thin cushion or a nice, fluffy pillow? Personally, I’d opt for the fluffy pillow. I’m sure your chickens feel the same. 

When they lay eggs, the hens tuck their legs under them and bed down. Sitting on hard, cold metal hurts the shank of their legs and their toes. If their coop floor offers nice, fluffy shavings, they’ll likely opt to lay their eggs on the softer area. Add at least 1 inch of shavings per nesting box, and top it with ½ cup of herbs and flowers. Adding extra bedding and herbs can cost a bit extra, but it’s better than spending money on feed with no eggs to show for it! Your hens will show their appreciation by giving you lovely butt nuggets!

Whatever bedding you choose, just make sure to stay away from cedar shavings. While they smell good, some studies have shown that the aroma can have a long-term negative impact on your flock’s health. 

Are The Boxes Too High Or Too Low?

It’s true, sometimes chickens can sometimes be picky. While we have a lot of nesting options in our coop, for whatever reason, our flock refuses to use any that are placed too high. There’s a Goldilocks zone. If a new nesting box isn’t within those parameters, they ignore it. 

For example, a company sent us some nesting boxes to test out. The product looked perfect. But we committed a cardinal sin (at least a sin in the eyes of our chickens): We placed the boxes higher than our other nesting boxes. The hens promptly ignored them. As soon as we lowered the boxes, our chickens used them. 

It can go the opposite way, too. Sometimes nesting boxes are TOO close to the ground, and hens avoid them. This happens especially if the nesting boxes are directly on the ground. There’s a lot less privacy, and potential for opportunistic predators to infest the area to steal eggs. Bossy hens, roosters, rats, snakes, skunks, or other predators can easily enter the box. Because it’s not safe, chickens then lay their eggs in undesirable areas. 

If everything else in your coop seems okay, then perhaps the height of your boxes is the problem. Try lowering them or raising them to see how your flock reacts. It can be a chore, but so is an Easter egg hunt every day. In the long run, you’ll be happier with the results by finding your flock’s “ Goldilocks Zone.”

Choose Materials Your Hens Prefer

When we purchased our new coop, I had visions of easily removable plastic nesting boxes. I wanted to power wash them weekly to keep them dirt free. My flock had other plans. To this day, they refuse to use plastic nesting boxes. Instead, they’re fans of stainless steel. I’m still scratching my head, but that’s just the way it is.

Nesting boxes come in all shapes and sizes. They can be made of wood, stainless steel, plastic, wicker, and any other material you can imagine. Like people, chickens have their own preferences. This is especially true if you have an opinionated alpha hen. She can influence an entire flock. And sometimes, chickens just prefer one type of nesting box over another. 

For example, if your nesting boxes are made of cedar, it’s possible your hens want to avoid inhaling harmful fumes. If the boxes are plastic, maybe they’re just too slippery. If it’s winter, maybe the stainless steel gets too cold. In the summer, maybe it’s too warm. Maybe it’s too sharp or too hard, and it hurts them. 

Examine your own flock’s habits. Observe them as they interact with the nesting boxes. From there, you can figure out if they’re avoiding their boxes because they don’t like what the boxes are made from. You’d be surprised what you can learn by spending a few hours watching your chickens. You might end up investing in new nesting boxes,  but it’s cheaper than getting a big feed bill with no eggs to show for it.

When they love their boxes, hens will double up to use them!

Make Sure You Have Enough Nesting Boxes

It’s best to have approximately 1 nesting box for every 3 hens. Yes, sometimes your hens will all use the same nesting box. But please give them plenty of options. For example, if you have 5 chickens, 2-3 nesting boxes is best. For 10 hens, then 3 nesting boxes is a good number. If you have 15 hens, 5 boxes is best.

Why is this ratio important? It comes down to promoting good behavior and cleanliness. Let’s pretend two or more hens need to lay eggs at the same time. Where will all these lovely ladies lay? Sometimes, two chickens can pile into a nesting box. 

But most boxes can’t accommodate more than two hens. More importantly, they shouldn’t. When hens pile into a box, chaos happens. Eggs break, and fights start. If it’s hot, your hens can overheat. Somebody can get smushed or suffocate. Your hens might avoid the boxes altogether because it’s too stressful.

Having plenty of nesting boxes also prevents bullying. If you have a dominant hen, she might stop other hens from laying in “her” box. Then, the other hens start laying in undesirable areas. They have to lay somewhere! To avoid all these disasters, just follow this simple strategy. Build 1 nesting box for every 3 hens. You’ll get better eggs and have happier hens!

Final Thoughts

Yes, some chickens can be picker than others. But if your flock has suddenly stopped using their boxes altogether OR if they never used them to begin with, it’s pretty safe to say your flock’s tastes aren’t the only issue. Likely, the problem is environmental. Hopefully, I’ve given you a few ideas you can test in your own coop. You don’t need to implement every single strategy we discussed. But if you notice your flock is laying eggs in undesirable areas, it’s worth printing out this article and using it as a checklist. From there, you can determine whether you’re making any of the mistakes we covered. Good luck and let me know how it works out by leaving a comment below!

What To Do In Your Coop In August

What To Do In Your Coop In August

It’s August – and there’s plenty you can do in your coop to keep your hens healthy!

 

It’s almost Back To School season and the holidays are fast approaching – now is the time to prepare for fall, and at a minimum, make decisions you can implement later that’ll keep your backyard chickens healthy and happy throughout the cooler months.

 

August is also a time to be extra vigilant about the heat!

 

Here’s what to do in your coop in August!

 

What to do in your backyard chicken coop in August

Keep making sure your hens are cool with these tips here. 

You can also add a window if things are still blistering hot.

 

Start preparing for molting

Chickens don’t always start in August but some do, and its best to be prepared. Chickens start molting in the fall as the days get shorter.

 

Add extra protein to their feed such as mealworms, black soldier fly larvae, or Fluffiest Feathers Ever!

 

Think about whether your coop needs any adjustments before cold weather arrives, school begins, and the holiday season approaches.

Does it need any changes or additions to keep your hens warm and out of bad weather during winter? Are there leaks that can become a problem during a freezing rain, or even rain in cooler temps?

 

Any areas for predators to get into? As cool weather arrives and food is scarce, your flock becomes an even bigger target.

 

Make sure your chickens have access to a good dust bath.

Consider adding diatomaceous earth or an herbal blend like MitesBGone to it so they’re mite-free.

 

Add fall decor & boredom busters to your coop

An herbal wreath to the coop door will look cute, or if you have access to pumpkins, try making a fall planter.

Looking for a cute fall decoration for your chicken coop? Make a vase out of pumpkins! (Hint: It's also super nutritious for your hens!)

You can also hang apple slices (without the seeds – they’re poisonous), herbs from your garden, or other goodies in their run to reduce boredom.

 

If it’s still hot, treat your flock to some frozen suet cakes!

 

Recycle waste from your vegetable garden in your coop

Your hens will love the additional treats! Keep dried beans, potato skins, apple seeds, and stones from fruit out of the coop.

 

Some people add a compost pile to their run for the hens to help turn over – it’s up to you whether this works for your flock.

 

But be sure to clean your coop weekly!

You’ll want to reduce manure and ammonia load (from their waste) as the days continue to be hot.

Bugs Bugging Your Pets? Here’s 3 All Natural Essential Oils You Can Use To Keep Bugs At Bay!

Bugs Bugging Your Pets? Here’s 3 All Natural Essential Oils You Can Use To Keep Bugs At Bay!

Today, I’m going to show you how you can use essential oils to prevent and deter insects that can bother your pets.

 

With some notable exceptions (which we’ll talk about below), essential oils are safe to use on and around your pets when diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil (on large animals, I’ve been able to put them directly on depending on the situation.)

 

Naturally, when using oils, you want to remember safety first – when in doubt, dilute. Oils are powerful stuff!

 

In this article, we’re going to talk about keeping pet-annoying insects at bay, including:

 

  • Fleas
  • Mites
  • Ticks

 

We’ll cover using oils with dogs, chickens, and large animals.

 

A word about cats: Certain oils, when used in large quantities, can harm our feline friends, so we won’t be including cats in our discussion today. Citrus oils, in particular, are known to cause problems with feline livers, preventing them from functioning correctly.

 

We’ve diffused citrus oils (bergamot, orange) around our two cats a couple times a week, and always give the kitties a chance to leave the room. Our cats have been fine, but I would hesitate to diffuse oils consistently in a closed room with our cats, and I would not personally use citrus oils directly on them either.

 

I recommend you speak to a knowledgeable vet before using any essential oils on your cats.

 

Now, on to the bugs we’ll eliminate today!

 

Get Rid Of Bugs That Bother Your Pets

 

When it comes to fighting bugs and getting rid of bug itchies, lavender essential oil is your best bet. It counters all the insects we’ll discuss, and it’s soothing enough to use. Lavender also promotes healthy skin, so you can use it topically on your pets (diluted with coconut oil).

 

To prevent insects like fleas in your home, you can diffuse lavender as well – and as a bonus, it’ll make your house smell nice (and help you destress….or help your kids stop climbing the walls).

 

Fleas

When someone asks me about preventing insects on their pets with oils, they’re usually thinking of fleas.

 

One summer, we had a TERRIBLE flea infestation in our home. I cannot say how it started….but it started.

 

Lavender was my go to – and after I constantly started diffusing it, lo and behold our infestation stopped. Immediately. What a relief!

 

Preventative Spray

If you want to an all-natural preventative spray you can use regularly on your pets (particularly dogs), then go grab your favorite spray bottle, and fill it with water.

 

Add 2-3 drops of your favorite lavender essential oil (keeping purity in mind  – DON’T buy these on Amazon. Go with an established brand so you know you’re putting only lavender oil on your pet).

 

Shake before using and carefully spray your pet. Avoid eyes, nose, and ears.

 

You can also use this spray on pet beds and blankets. Allow bedding to air dry so your pet doesn’t get the oils in their eyes or noses.

 

Homemade Flea Collar

Commercial flea collars are full of chemicals….so you might not be so crazy about using them on your pets. You CAN make your own all-natural flea collars with oils, though!

 

To make an all-natural flea collar, grab a clean bandana and add 5 drops of oil evenly spread throughout the cloth. Tie the bandana around your dog to prevent fleas. Re-apply the lavender oil every couple of days as needed.

 

Flea Dip

If things have gotten bad enough, you’ll probably want to give your pet a good old fashioned flea dip.  To make a homemade flea dip, you’ll need:

  • Water
  • 1 teaspoon castile soap
  • 2 drops lavender oil

 

Fill your tub with water (I go for “just barely warm” water so I don’t accidentally scald my pets). Add in 2 drops of oil, making sure to keep your pet’s face out of the water. If you don’t think this is possible, then leave the oil out, and use the all-natural preventative bandana after your pet is dry.

 

Rub in the castile soap, making sure to thoroughly coat your pet. Let sit for a couple minutes, if your pet will allow it. You will probably start to see fleas emerging. It’s a slightly-disgusting-but-satisfying feeling.

 

Hose off the castile soap/lavender water mixture. Dry your pet, and use the all-natural flea collar bandana above to prevent fleas from returning.

 

You can also use cedarwood essential oil in addition to or instead of lavender.

 

Mites

Mites are no good for any animal. We once were given a rabbit with such a bad mite infestation in his ears, he could not walk properly (the infection was giving him vertigo). Since then, I try to stay up-to-date on preventing mites. On our farm, we’ve used oils to prevent fleas on dogs, rabbits, and chickens.

 

Dogs

For dogs, lavender oil is a good option (see fleas above).

 

Backyard chickens

To prevent mites in your chicken coop, a peppermint oil coop spray is ideal. To make the peppermint oil coop spray, grab your favorite spray bottle and fill it with 8 oz WHITE vinegar.

 

Add 5-10 drops of peppermint essential oil, and spray liberally around the coop (making sure to get all nooks and crannies). Make sure your flock is out of the area (the oils are safe, but better safe than sorry). You can read more about using peppermint oil in your coop here.

 

For mites ON your chickens, diatomaceous earth is my go-to. You can read about it here. If you want to use oils instead of DE, 1 drop of peppermint diluted in 4 tablespoons coconut oil is my go-to to promote healthy skin. Apply to the area of concern 2-3 times a day, or as needed.

 

Rabbits

For our rabbits that have mite infestations in their ears, we carefully clean the ears so they’re free of build up. We then follow up with 1 drop of lavender diluted in 4 tablespoons of coconut oil (melt the oil then add the drop of lavender).

 

Rub it on the flesh inside the ear, but only the upper portion – NOT inside the ear. Keep the ears clean regularly, and reapply the coconut/lavender oil.

 

Ticks

Once your pets have ticks, you just have to pull them out. To clean the wound, you can use 1 drop oregano oil mixed with 1 tablespoon coconut oil and apply after washing the wound well.

 

To make an all-natural repellent spray, mix 3 drops of lavender in 8 oz of water. Spray liberally before your pet goes outside, making sure to avoid the face, eyes, ears, and nose. You can also use cedarwood.

 

The CDC has even said that these oils are safe essential oils to repel certain insects, ticks included.

Eye Worms, Letting Chicks Outdoors, Getting Rid Of Mites, Fertile Grocery Store Eggs, & Greek Yogurt [Podcast]

Eye Worms, Letting Chicks Outdoors, Getting Rid Of Mites, Fertile Grocery Store Eggs, & Greek Yogurt [Podcast]

Eye worms and mites are nasty parasites chickens can get, and they’ll totally gross you out.

 

They can be dangerous to your chicken’s health, so in this podcast, we talk about them as well as how to safely get rid of them.

 

But those aren’t the only questions you guys had this week!

 

We also talk about putting chicks outdoors, greek yogurt, and grocery store eggs.

 

You’ll learn:

 

  • What eye worms are and how to avoid them
  • How (and when) to let chicks get used to the great outdoors safely
  • Why mites will kill egg production, and natural, non-toxic ways to say goodbye to them
  • Whether grocery store eggs are fertile
  • How to safely feed Greek yogurt to your flock

Links we discuss:

Medications your vet can administer for eye worms

 

Transcript

Hi there, and welcome to session 28 of What the Cluck?!, a podcast devoted to keeping chickens for fun and self-sufficiency. I’m Maat from FrugalChicken, and today is the day that I take your questions.

 

Now this week, we have a diverse amount of questions, but the thing they’re all common questions that I’ve had listeners ask. I think you’ll be blown away by some of the interesting information you’ll learn today.

 

A million thanks to everyone who submitted, and due to time limitations, I can only take 5 questions, but if your question isn’t answered today, rest assured I’ve taken note, and will try to answer them in next Tuesday’s episode.

 

Just as a reminder, if you would like to submit a question, you can shoot me an email at [email protected] or contact me over social media. You can find me on Facebook at TheFrugalChicken.com/Facebook.

 

 

 

When can I put chicks outside?

There’s a few considerations to make here, such as the age of your chickens and the temperature outside. You should also consider whether predators are an issue in your area, as well as whether you use something like a chicken tractor.

 

The best advice is to permanently put your chickens outside when they are fully feathered and better able to withstand the elements.

 

Feathers provide insulation from extreme heat and cold, and in the summer, they keep your chickens cool, and in the winter, they provide warmth by fluffing up and retaining heat.

 

Until chickens have feathers, they don’t have any ability to regulate their body temperature – that’s why you need to give them a heat lamp from the time they are born until they’re able to stand the ambient temperature in your house or barn.

 

Now, that being said, there’s a couple other considerations.

 

Chickens are fully feathered at around 12 weeks, and personally, I would not throw 12 week old chickens outside in 32 degree weather without some sort of period to get them used to the cold, especially if they’re used to living inside or under a heat lamp.

 

I would allow them to go outside during the day, then bring them in at night until they seem like they’re doing well.

 

Similarly, I would take caution on wet, cold days, and I’ve learned the hard way that young chickens don’t always weather those days so well.

 

You should also remember that young chickens are easy targets for predators, especially bantams because they’re so tiny.

 

If your area has a lot of predators, consider a chicken tractor instead of free ranging, and take special care at night to make sure they’re secure in their coop.

 

A lot of times, young pullets and roosters don’t start roosting until they’re well into 16 weeks old. Until then, in my experience, they prefer to sit on the ground, in large groups.

 

This makes them a really easy target for predators. Sometimes, putting them with older chickens, who will roost and will show the young ones what to do, is a good idea.

 

Now, during hot weather, you can put unfeathered chicks outside. After all, before we started raising chickens indoors, they were all born outdoors.

 

Using a chicken tractor is best to protect them from predators as well as getting lost or stuck in something, I have had that happen even when they were protected, so it is a cause for concern.

 

Personally, I would wait until a hot day, at least 85 degrees or so, before putting them outside. Make sure they have shade or a way to get out of the sun, and plenty of water and feed.

 

Until chickens are 12 weeks old, you want them to have free access to feed, and outside is no exception.

 

Putting young chicks outside is not necessarily a bad thing. They’ll get exposed to dirt, and build up immunities, and generally enjoy being a chicken.

 

You will have to provide chick grit to help them grind up anything they eat outside, and consider a probiotic to help them establish good gut flora in case they pick up any parasites or bacteria that might cause an issue.

 

 

What is an eye worm

Eye worms are a type of roundworm.

 

You find eye worms in the eye, hence their common name, and, according to the University of Florida, you’ll find them under the nictitating (nict-tit-tate-ing) membrane of the eye, and in the naso-lachrymal (lak-ruh-muhl) duct, which is their tear duct.

 

So, just for clarification, the nictitating membrane of the eye is the third eye lid that chickens have, and it helps them protect the eye and keep stuff out of it, like dust, dander, dirt, etc.

 

If you want to see the third eye lid in your chickens, a good time for that is when they’re dust bathing.

 

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, eye worms are more of a problem in tropical and subtropical climates, and the host animal is actually cockroaches.

 

So, symptoms of eye worm include scratching of the eyes, and in extreme cases, blindness. It also can cause inflammation and tearing, and you might find your chicken has a lot of inflammation, for example, their eye might look like it is bulging.

 

So the way your chicken picks up eye worms is interesting.

 

The eggs are laid in the eye, then make it to the the pharynx by the tear duct, there’s a fancy scientific name for that, but we’ll keep things simple here.

 

The eggs then are swallowed, and eventually passed in the feces. They then have to be ingested by the Surinam cockroach, which incubates the eggs until larvae hatch, and become something that can infect your chicken

 

When your chicken eats the infected cockroach, the larvae then migrate up your chicken’s esophagus to the mouth and then through the nasolacrimal duct to the eye, where they then lay eggs, and the cycle continues.  

 

There are other insect species that can host the eye worm, such as beetles, grasshoppers, and also earthworms, but cockroaches are the biggest hosts.

 

According to the University of Florida, the time it takes to complete the cycle can be a few days or up to several weeks.

 

To treat eye worms, the Merck Veterinary Manual suggests using a local anaesthetic and removing the worms manually. The worms are then exposed by lifting the third eye lid, and removed.

 

There’s also medication your vet can administer, and I’ll put a link to the Merck Veterinary Manual in this episodes show notes that you can refer to.

 

To prevent eye worms, which are a species of round worms, your best bet is to keep your chicken’s coop clean and free of moist environments, feces, urine, etc.

 

How do I get rid of mites?

So, there’s a lot of different species of mites that can infect your chickens, but the ones we’re talking about here are red mites, which are a common problem with backyard chickens.

 

If you see tiny red or black spots on your chickens on their vents or around there ears, then they have mites.

 

They particularly like to huddle around a chickens vent, and like tiny vampires, they like to bite and suck your chickens blood.

 

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, these mites can live up to 7 days, but can lay hundreds of thousands of eggs in those 7 days, so this has the potential to be a real problem with your flock.

 

Although they only live 7 days, they can infect your house for up to 6 months, although their ability to proliferate is slowed down in the winter.

 

Chickens get mites from other chickens, but people can also bring them into the coop if you’ve walked in an infected area. The mites can also live on inanimate objects and jump onto your hens.

 

The mites like to hide in cracks during the day and hop onto hens at night because they’re nocturnal, and like to eat at night.

 

If they’re not treated, then they can prevent your rooster from wanting to mate, and kill egg production in your hens. In extreme cases, it can make young chickens lose weight, and cause anemia and death.

 

There’s chemicals you can use to treat your flock, but today, we’ll talk about natural solutions. Diatomaceous earth has been proven to be useful in treating external parasites.

 

You can carefully apply diatomaceous earth to your hens, or allow them to dust bathe in it. If you apply it yourself, be careful to not do too much at once, since diatomaceous earth, if inhaled, can cause problems with their respiratory systems.

 

If you handle your hens to treat them, be sure to wash yourself and your clothes in hot water, and scrub your shoes in a bleach or citrus vinegar solution, to kill any mites that might be on your person.

 

Power wash your coop using water which can contain soap. Another alternative is to power wash with water mixed with a citrus vinegar solution.

 

Citrus soaked in vinegar makes an extremely powerful solution, and I can tell you from experience it is an excellent cleaner that will wipe out a lot of nasty pathogens.

 

To make it, all you do is grab a quart mason jar, place some orange peels in it, then pour in white vinegar.

 

You want to use white vinegar for this, not apple cider vinegar.

 

Allow it to mix for a week before using. When you spray this in your coop, make sure your chickens aren’t in it because the essential oils might overwhelm them. Let it air dry for a few hours before putting them back in it.

 

Are eggs in the grocery store fertile?

So, the answer to this question depends on some conditions. Generally speaking, the eggs you buy at the grocery store are not fertile.

 

Largely, these eggs come from industrial egg farms that don’t have roosters because they have no economic value.

 

While the eggs themselves are not examined for fertility, they are examined for things like blood spots, lack of yolk, and other irregularities, so the chances of getting an egg that has developed into an embryo are very small.

 

Without cracking open the egg, it’s impossible to tell if they’re fertile or not, although they are developing machinery that can tell us just that. But the bottom line is large egg farms generally do not have roosters, which are necessary to have fertile eggs.

 

Now, I do know of smaller stores that carry eggs from local farms that do have roosters in their flock.

 

In this case, it’s entirely possible you will end up with a fertile egg, and unless the seller examines each egg individually or the eggs are collected daily, then you might end up with a developed embryo.

 

Chances are slim, but still there since a rooster is involved.

 

Now, the question you might be wondering is whether you can incubate grocery store eggs, and the answer is no. If the egg has not been fertilized by a rooster, then the egg will never develop an embryo.

 

But let’s say you buy eggs from the grocery store that came from a local farm.

 

In all likelihood, those eggs won’t hatch either, and that’s because the eggs have been kept in a cold enough temperature that the possibility of the embryo developing after warming up is pretty slim.

 

I’m not going to say its impossible because it’s not, but it’s very unlikely, and you’ll do better to buy guaranteed fertile eggs from a local chicken owner.

 

Would it be alright to give my hens Greek yogurt? 

For the most part, giving chickens yogurt is perfectly fine, but there are some things to watch out for. Yogurt that is just milk, enzymes, and live cultures is best, and you should always stick to unflavored yogurt.

 

Other yogurts out there contain chemicals and other questionable ingredients that you don’t want your chickens eating, and if you don’t want to eat them yourself, then you don’t want your chickens eating it either.

 

While many mass produced products claim to have “natural flavoring” that does not mean something unsavory was added to give it flavor. For example, some natural flavoring derived from beaver anal glands, and personally, I don’t want to eat that.

 

In addition, some yogurts also have preservatives in them that might not be healthy for your hens, and might even harm them.

 

Studies show that a hen’s diet directly effects the quality of her eggs, so sticking with organic yogurt with simple ingredients is best.

 

You will know if the yogurt contains live cultures by looking at the label, and this is the most beneficial part of yogurt for your chicken.

 

Studies show that the beneficial bacteria in fermented products, which is what yogurt is, helps create a healthy digestive system for chickens.

 

In studies, hens fed fermented feed laid better, and their eggs were also larger. Their plumage looked healthier, and they were all around just healthier birds.

 

The best yogurt to give your hens is homemade yogurt, because you know exactly what they’re getting. However, if you don’t want to make your own, then giving them organic yogurt with only simple ingredients is best.

 

So, that’s this week’s podcast, and I hope it gives you some idea of how to successfully get started with chicks.

 

Now, if you’re interested in learning how to raise baby chicks and want some extra help, I actually have a book available on Amazon which can help you get started.

 

The book is called Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, and if you’re interested in raising chickens naturally, then this book is for you.

 

It’s a 50 page ebook all about how to naturally raise a sustainable flock of chickens. You can check it out at TheFrugalChicken.com/chickenbook.

 

Thanks for listening to this episode of What The Cluck?! and I’ll see you next time!

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Have you ever experienced eye worms or mites? Leave a comment below!