Mites are ectoparasites that feed on the blood of live chickens. A mite infestation causes other serious diseases in addition to skin irritation and inflammation. On the other hand, mites in chickens are not dangerous for humans.

Are chicken mites dangerous to humans?

Bird mites generally only infest chickens and other birds. Humans, on the other hand, do not belong to their hosts and are therefore not haunted – with one exception. If the red mite does not find enough food, for example because the bird’s nest has been left or the mite population has become too large, it will look for alternative hosts. It can also be people who get these symptoms from the blood-sucking activity of the arachnid:

  • heavily red puncture site
  • swells
  • itches very badly
  • often in the crook of the elbow or behind the knee
  • belly button area also often affected

These itchy wheals are known as bird keeper dermatitis or bird keeper scabies. They are uncomfortable but heal within a few days and are not dangerous. These spots may become inflamed, which happens especially after vigorous scratching. In this case, you should consult a doctor who will prescribe you an anti-inflammatory drug. Therefore, do not scratch the stitches! It is better to coat them with an ointment from the pharmacy that relieves itching, for example Fenistil. In addition, you should definitely combat the mite plague in a sustainable manner.

4 Common Chicken Mites

There are countless species of mites that feast on your chickens. The best known (and also most dangerous) is probably the red mite. The tiny animals are arachnids and can easily be mistaken for a tick. Like these, they feed on the blood of their host animal, which most species only visit at night. During the day, the parasites hide in the smallest niches and cracks, especially near the nests and on the perches. The following four types of mites are particularly common in chicken coops.

Tip: The prescription drugs Ivomec and Exzolt are very effective against all mites in chickens and other ectoparasites. Ivomec is actually used for parasite problems in cattle, sheep or pigs, but is also suitable for poultry. It is a drip solution that you apply directly to the skin of the infested animals. Exzolt, in turn, is given to the animals via the drinking water. Ask your vet about it.


Feather mites only live in the plumage of the infested bird. There is not just one specific species that specializes in chicken birds, but many different ones – around 2000 different species of feather mites are known to science. But which one has actually settled on your chicken is irrelevant for further treatment. It is only important that you recognize an infestation and treat it if necessary:

  • constantly live on the chicken
  • do not leave the host animal
  • are quickly recognizable on closer inspection of the plumage
  • heavily infested animals scratch conspicuously often
  • light infestation, on the other hand, often remains without symptoms

In contrast to other mite species, feather mites do not feed on the blood of their host animal, but on parts of feathers and dander. A subcategory of the feather mites are the feather mites, which live exclusively in the feather follicles and can thus lead to (partial) loss of the plumage. An infestation with feather mites is unpleasant for the affected animals, but not dangerous. Treat all animals acutely with a mite spray, which you can also use preventively.

Note: Do not spray the animals just once, but several times in a row at intervals of seven to 14 days – this is the only way to catch the nymphs that have hatched from the eggs by then. In hot summer weather, the second treatment should be carried out after seven days at the latest.

Limebone mites (Knemidokoptes)

Limebone mites are tiny arachnids, less than a millimeter in size, that live in the skin of their host animals, where they trigger the symptoms typical of an infestation:

  • scaly, calcareous moistened skin mainly on the legs
  • yellowish growths on legs and feet
  • Scales stand out visibly
  • Infested animals are restless and try to scratch themselves constantly

The symptoms described are also referred to as “calcified legs”. These arise because the calcified leg mites create tunnels in the scale layers of the legs and feet and deposit their eggs there.

If you notice such changes in your animals’ legs, you should

  • Immediately isolate infected animals from healthy ones
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect the chicken coop, enclosure, run and laying nests

Combat calcified leg mites

  • Bathe chicken legs in warm soapy water made from curd soap
  • Carefully remove softened bark
  • then treat the legs with a suitable ointment
  • a sulfonamide cod liver oil fatty ointment or so-called penetrating oils are recommended

The treatment should be carried out over a period of several weeks. It is important because the animals suffer greatly from an infestation due to the severe itching. The control measures also include thorough disinfection of the perches, for example with diesel. Dusting the entire barn with diatomaceous earth not only kills any calcified mites, but also other types of mites.

Nordic Bird Mites (Ornithonyssus sylviarum)

The northern fowl mite is closely related to the red fowl mite, but there are some differences between the two species. These mites feel particularly comfortable in cool weather, while the red mite prefers warm temperatures. Furthermore, the northern fowl mite remains on the host animal throughout its life cycle and only leaves it in exceptional cases, for example to look for a new host. For this reason, only a few in a flock of chickens are often infested with the northern fowl mite, but not all of them.

However, this type of mite not only remains on the skin’s surface, but actually burrows into the skin at the quill. An infestation with this parasite is very unpleasant for chickens due to the itching, and the arachnids can also transmit pathogens. You can recognize an infestation by these symptoms:

  • small, black dots on the quills
  • crusted skin on the feather keels
  • restless chickens that are intensely preoccupied with preening
  • Plumage looks disheveled or torn
  • Feathers break off or are plucked out by the chicken itself
  • infected chickens lose weight and lay fewer eggs

The northern fowl mite is difficult to combat because many of the commercially available mite remedies only have a superficial effect. The already mentioned Ivomec works very well against this parasite, good stable hygiene and the occasional dusting with diatomaceous earth also has an effect. In general, hygiene in chicken farming is the top priority.

  • regular and thorough decluttering
  • Sealing of the smallest cracks and niches
  • Disinfecting the stable floor, walls, laying nests and all furnishings with diatomaceous earth

In this way, mite infestation can be effectively combated and prevented.

Rote Vermelmilbe (Dermanyssus gallinae)

The red mite is probably the most dangerous mite species. A number of seemingly inexplicable deaths among chickens can be attributed to this parasite, as these nocturnal mites literally suck the poultry dry. The affected animals become weaker and weaker and lose their vitality until one day they drop dead for no apparent reason. In contrast to other mite species, the red mite does not live permanently on the chicken, but only visits it to eat. During the day, the arachnids hide in the smallest cracks and other inaccessible hiding places.

As a result, you will hardly find any specimens of these animals in the barn to prove a suspected infestation. However, you can wrap the perches with double-sided adhesive tape and set a trap for the bird mite: if a few tiny mites stick to the adhesive, you definitely have a problem and must combat it immediately. This includes above all:

  • thorough cleaning and disinfection of the chicken coop
  • handle all furnishings
  • Be sure to seal the walls and floor to close cracks etc
  • then dust the stall with kieselguhr
  • Lubricate the perches with oil (e.g. tea tree or neem oil)
  • Treatment of the infested chickens with an antiparasitic agent

Incidentally, mother hens and their chicks are particularly at risk from the red mite. Breeding hens develop a high body temperature at which the parasites can reproduce optimally. The number of mites literally explodes and the mother hen is literally sucked dry. The chicks, in turn, become infected as soon as they hatch, when the bird mites get inside the young animals through the body openings. These are often only a few days old after an infection.

Note: You should be alert if the flock of chickens no longer wants to visit the coop at the usual time, but refuses instead. Here the red mite is often behind it.

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