I can honestly say we have never had mites, thank goodness. Well then why am I writing a piece about mites? Well because there is a lot of misinformation floating around the internet by "popular" sites that are pointing people in the wrong direction. That may sound harsh of me, but I am more concerned for people and their birds then someone else's ego. So here is the real information YOU need to know about food grade diatomaceous earth, mites, and your chickens.
So what is diatomaceous earth (DE)? DE is a naturally occurring sedimentary rock that is ground to a powder. So how does it work on mites? DE absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects' exoskeletons, this causes the mites to dehydrate and die.
So why do some people have it out for DE? Honestly I don't know. Some people claim DE is bad for a chicken's respiratory system.... but chickens take DUST baths.... they like dust. Dust baths can be made up of simple dirt and sand along with wood ash and our friend DE. If it is a naturally occurring thing, well I will take it over the alternatives any day of the week.
Some sites say you should use Sevin Dust, which is the commercial name of the chemical insecticide Carbaryl. Yes, I said CHEMICAL and frankly I like to avoid toxic chemicals when it comes to my girls. While Sevin Dust does effectively kill mites it also kills non targeted insects, like the beneficial honey bee. Sorry but I like my honey bees too.
Here are some other suggested mite cures I have seen floating around the Internet, which makes me just want to slap my forehead (or someone else’s) because why in the world would you use these........
1.) Dog flea shampoo - One thing to say about this.... TOXIC. It is meant for dogs, not chickens and should NOT be used on them.
2.) Pyrethrum - It only kills adult mites, not eggs. This mean you will be making repeated application. Repeated applications means more chance of toxicity for your birds. If you are using this on meat birds, you will need to make sure to trim the fat as pesticides often concentrate in fat.
3.) Ivermectin - According to veterinary sources, this is usually limited to cases that prove to be resistant to topical treatments (like DE or Sevin Dust) or which present in an advanced state. You don't just use this stuff straight out of the gate. You should avoid eating eggs from chickens treated this way form seven days up to a month depending on the source.
So what does all this mean? Well a pound of prevention is well worth the time. By proving your chickens with DE in their dust bath, you may never be faced with having to use anything else. But if you do use something else..... well do your research, know the risks, and as always, do what is best for your birds.... but don't believe everything you read on the Internet. Well except this! LOL