I can't believe the faff this is going to cause, Poultry Shield to the rescue!
Red Mite Facts (I'm scratching as I type)...... :(
The red chicken mite is a common external parasite of birds. Although very small it can be seen by the naked eye. Mites feed on blood or feathers, skin or scales of birds. Mites are generally regarded as pests but heavy infestations can result in poor health, reduced performance (egg laying or weight gain) or, in extreme cases death.
At high infestation levels mites cause increased stress to the birds which leads to reduced egg production, anaemia and death. Mites have been implicated as vectors of several significant diseases of poultry including chicken pox virus, Newcastle virus and fowl typhoid. Poultry mites will bite mammals, including humans, causing painful skin irritation.
The appearance of the red mite is dependent on when they last fed. When recently fed they appear red and this colour goes through black to grey as the time since the last feed increases.
Red mites only feed on birds in darkness and blood feed for 1-2 hours each night.
Red mites spend most of their life in cracks and crevices and this is where the female mite deposits its eggs.
The eggs of red mite are small (0.4mm x 0.25mm) oval and pearly white. Under warm conditions the eggs hatch in 2-3 days into 6-legged larvae.
Before the first feed the larvae moult into an 8-legged protonymph (usually within 24 hours of hatching).
Protonymphs start to feed on the roosting birds and moult to a deutonymph that continues to feed before moulting into an adult male or female.
Under favourable conditions a mite can complete a life cycle (egg to egg) in 7 days.
Populations can build up very rapidly within poultry houses.
Red mite can survive for up to 8 months without a blood meal and, when hidden within cracks, are very resistant to desiccation.