Controlling Poultry Mites Herbally

October 4, 2017

As a longtime proponent of adding herbs to my chickens' diet and environment, I always get excited to read about new studies and research coming out about natural remedies and supplements. Unfortunately, not much study has been done on the specific benefits of herbs in chicken keeping, but since my first book Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens...Naturally came out in 2013, more and more is being learned about the value of herbs - and the exciting thing is that it seems to back up and validate the things that I've been doing for my chickens for years!
According to a recent article in Poultry World, which is a wonderful aggregate of poultry research and studies being done worldwide, several specific herbs added to chicken feed has been proven successful in controlling red poultry mites. Now, this was really interesting to me because all of the other mite control methods I've read about, both commercial (i.e. chemical) and herbal have always involved external application. But this new study was done by adding dried, powdered herbs to chicken feed.
Mites can wreak havoc on a flock.  They contribute to anemia, feather pecking, aggression, cannibalism, and even death. They also can be responsible for a reduction in egg production and decreased egg quality, as well as an increase in feed consumption. Once they take hold in your coop, they can be awful to get rid of, so trying to prevent them is critical. I sprinkle herbs in my nest boxes and in my chickens' dust bath area and regularly check the roosts and around my girls' vents and under their wings for evidence of any type of parasites. But sometimes prevention is not enough....and to find that there may be a natural, herbal treatment really excites me! 
The herbs specifically being used (and shown to result in a 75% decrease in mite populations in flocks being fed the herbal feed supplement) are:

Chamomile

Chamomile strengthens the immune system and aids in healing skin tissue damage caused by the mites.


Garlic

Garlic also benefits the immune system and is an antiparasitic.


Thyme

Thyme possesses antibacterial and antiparasitic properties and also aids in blood circulation.
Dried, powdered herbs were added to the chickens' feed in the study in varying ratios and were determined to reduce mite infestation in the treated chickens. You can read more about the study HERE
I realize that a lot needs to be taken on faith when it comes to the health benefits of herbs, but the more I read and the more time goes by and I see how healthy my flock is, I continue to believe in raising my chickens naturally. I add all kinds of culinary herbs to my chickens' diet and environment because I really do think that there are so many more benefits for chickens that we have yet to realize and recognize. 
In addition to providing your chickens a wide variety of herbs, fresh and dried, mixed into their feed and also free-choice from the garden, a dust bath is the best way to help them stay mite- and lice-free. They wriggle around in the dirt/wood ash/sand mixture and that helps to smother any parasites. And why not toss a few herbs in your nest boxes as well...it can't hurt!
References/Further Reading:
Phytogenics Against Red Mites in Poultry
Treating Red Mites Holistically
Mites: How to Prevent and Treat Them
Common Herbs and their Health Benefits

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