The last few days have been a living nightmare for myself and the chickens but, much worse for the chickens! I noticed mid last week that the chickens combs and lobes were looking very pale and they weren't their normal selves and smelt more well... like bits of chicken than real living ones! I assumed that as the temperature had dropped recently that they were beginning to go into moult as the paleness was evident on their combs.
On Friday morning things had gone a stage further and my favourite little chicken Betty was not herself at all. It took forever for her to come out of the hutch and then she just stood there in the morning sunshine with her eyes closed looking really unwell. I decided to separate her from the other chickens and put her in her own little cage in the laundry where I could keep an eye on her. She normally makes little warbling noises but she could only muster the odd sigh and just looked all floppy and unwell. I went back to the pen to check on the others and thought I should just check inside the hutch. To my horror I was faced with a really bad infestation of 'Red Mite'. The inside of the hutch was just moving with these tiny little mites, some brown but most red where they had obviously fed overnight! No wonder the girls looked so pale, they had literally been blood sucked all night. I grabbed the rest of the crew and put them in a stable until I would be back at lunchtime and could deal with the situation.
The next morning I got up early in order to give the hutch a second treatment for good measure. The whole ordeal had shocked me so much that I wasn't going to give these little creatures any kind of chance. Before the second treatment I had to clear away the corpses from the day before. Dust pans full of these things ...really enough to make you throw up, just nasty!
Another tell-tale sign to red-mite is
So, my advice to you is look out for this horrible parasite. All chickens will get it sooner or later and if you keep them in a wooden hutch or shed then this is where the mite will thrive!!! Treat all wood exposed to the chickens (inside and out) with creosote towards the end of June/beginning of July and again if you have any suspicions of a recurrence, in September time.