Bird mites: what you can do

There is a wide range of bird mite species. Most of them go undetected, but some mites can trigger severe symptoms. We will explain how to recognise and treat mites on birds.

How do I recognise that my bird has mites?

These parasites infest birds very frequently and can cause a variety of problems. However, the extent of the signs of disease depends on many other factors, including the bird's immune status and housing conditions.

If the following symptoms emerge, you need to be attentive:

  • Increased restlessness, frailty and weight loss
  • Severe itching with loss of feathers
  • Changes to the skin, beak and claws
  • Avoiding nests
  • Reduced output (for instance, reduced egg production)
  • Respiratory difficulties like sneezing or coughing

When to visit the vet

As soon as your bird's general well-being considerably worsens or you notice some of the signs mentioned above, it's advisable to see a vet who can thoroughly examine your bird and treat a mite infestation in a targeted manner.

What are the treatment options to combat mites with birds?

Treatment of the infestation depends on the bird mite species in question. In order to carry out targeted treatment, a detailed diagnosis is absolutely essential.

For instance, if the mite species can be identified from a microscopic examination, the following treatment approaches are available:

  • Red mites require quite extensive treatment with an anti-parasitic medication (such as Ivermectin). Not just your birds need treatment though, but potentially their environment too. Since this mite can survive for one month in a cage, the treatment must take place over several weeks. If this alone is not sufficient, complete sanitation of the cage area should be considered.
  • Mites that feed off dead skin cells like dust or feather mites can be effectively tackled with spot-on treatments (e.g. Ivermectin or Fipronil).

These are applied to the bird's neck in order to kill the mites. A single treatment is usually sufficient. In addition, you can also apply paraffin oil to the affected skin areas, although you should use this method over a longer period of time. Nevertheless, it may not lead to the desired success, in which case you should switch to different treatments.

  • You can also use spot-on treatments with air sac mites. In most cases, however, affected animals need to be treated for several days.

Along with targeted treatment, you can boost the immune system of sick birds with supportive measures. Vitamin preparations or heat therapy are helpful options.

red mite
Red mites feed off the blood by penetrating the skin of birds.

What species of mites are found on birds?

There are many different bird mite species. The most common ones include:

Red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae)

Light-grey or red mites feed off the blood by penetrating the skin of birds with their long mouth parts. A special characteristic of this mite species is its temporary occurrence, since it stays close to the host most of the time. It likes to hole up in nests, crevices or small gaps. Along with chickens and pigeons, it also infests canaries and wild birds.

Dust mites (Knemidocoptes mutans)

In chickens, these mange mites lead predominantly to typical scaly changes to the skin known as scabies. By eating the skin and flakes of skin, dust mites also cause itching and decreased egg production.

Air sac mites (Cytodites nudus)

Air sac mites are found in the respiratory tract and infest all kinds of bird species, including, for instance, chickens, ducks, pigeons and exotic birds like budgies. An air sac mite infestation often goes undetected for a long time, although the mites can lead to severe inflammation of the air sacs or the constriction of the respiratory tract.

Feather mites (Knemidokoptes pilae)

Budgies and canaries can develop scaly foot from a feather mite infestation. It strongly resembles scabies in dogs, which is triggered by dust mites. This mite species also feeds off the skin and flakes of skin.

How can I prevent mites with birds?

In order to prevent your chickens having any contact with wild birds, you can cover the outdoor coop area with a net or build an aviary. However, care should be taken to ensure that the hole size is suitable.

Since red mites like spending time in nests, old bird nests should be removed. In order to protect new nests from mites, you can also purchase special nest material.

Regularly cleaning the environment, including eating and drinking areas, is also important to prevent a bird mite infestation. Furthermore, the environment can undergo preventive treatment with several mite products.

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