Your Options For Chicken Mite Treatment

Mites and Lice are an Unpleasant Fact About Chicken Keeping That Can Be Treated and Prevented


Before starting a chicken mite treatment it’s important to know if your flock has mites. So the first step is to perform a Chicken Health Exam. From there, if you have this common problem, there are many choices. I want to offer technical information about the common chicken mite treatments we use on birds to keep them healthy and free of pests so you can make an informed decision when the problem presents itself.

Off-Label Use

There are other effective products available on the market that can be used to control red mites and be used as a chicken lice treatment, however they are not approved for use in poultry and their use on chickens would be considered off-label use. It is illegal and potentially unsafe to use a product in a way that is inconsistent with it’s official labeling without the supervision of a veterinarian, so I will not be covering treatments that are not labeled for use on poultry.

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All of the following treatment options should be treated as hazardous to your health, even the organic ones. Use personal protective equipment such as a respirator that is intended for use with pesticides (not the silly little paper face masks, a real respirator) as well as gloves and eye protection. None of these products should be used by or near children. Assume these products to be toxic and treat them as such. Never allow pesticides to wash off into nearby waterways. Always follow the labeling on the product and do not use it in any way that is inconsistent with the labeling. I have included Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) links for your convenience and safety. MSDS sheets offer important information such as health hazards, environmental hazards, cleanup, disposal and other pertinent information.

Common Chicken Mite Treatments


Pyrethrin is an organic liquid concentrate derived from the flower Chrysanthemum Cinerariifolium, also known as mums. Mums are naturally resistant to pests thanks to the pyrethrin in their chemistry which is a natural neurotoxin. Pyrethrin (MSDS) is considered to be a safe, low-toxicity pesticide that is easily inactivated in the mammalian or avian body, however it is highly toxic to insects, cats, fish and aquatic invertebrates. Pyrethrin does not last long and biodegrades quickly which is good for the environment. You can find this as an active ingredient of many mite and lice sprays found in retail stores.


Permethrin is the synthetic version of Pyrethrin. It does not degrade quickly like Pyrethrin, so it offers residual efficacy giving it more time to kill more bugs. In field and garden applications, permethrin leaves residuals that wash into waterways and cause serious ecological issues, but this is not a major concern for us since we are spraying a small amount of it directly on our birds and coop, not over acres of farmland. Just like Pyrethrin, Permethrin (MSDS) is a low-toxicity pesticide that is easily inactivated in the mammalian and avian body, however it is highly toxic to insects, cats, fish and aquatic invertebrates. This product is a common active ingredient in retail pest sprays and concentrates, it’s used in the Nix shampoo so many school children have used to rid themselves of lice and it’s on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines. Many military and hiking product companies treat uniforms, bug nets and other clothing items with this to guard against biting insects, especially in areas where malaria is prevalent. You can find different liquid concentrations of permethrin in farm stores and online.



Known widely as Sevin powder or garden dust, Carbaryl is one of the most popular and readily found products for treating mite infestations in poultry. Carbaryl is extremely toxic to aquatic invertebrates and pollinators like bees, so caution must be used if applied to crops, but again, we are talking about dusting poultry here not our strawberries. Sevin Powder is as the name implies; a fine powder which is unfortunately easily inhaled. Inhaling Carbaryl (MSDS) can temporarily and immediately exasperate existing health conditions such as asthma, and is labeled as a likely carcinogen by the EPA. Carbaryl is toxic to vertebrates (including humans), but they do detoxify it and eliminate it quickly. You can find Carbaryl as an active ingredient in other products such as Carylderm shampoo which is used to combat head lice. As an alternative to dusting, this product can be used in a suspension and sprayed as a liquid.


Tetrachlorvinphos, commonly known as Rabon is an organophosphate. This product is more commonly used in commercial farm operations and can be found in many pet flea and tick treatments. Rabon is toxic to aquatic life and vertebrates. It is not labeled as a carcinogen, but it has been shown to cause cancer in animals. This product is hard to find for the backyard farmer, and even if you could find it I don’t suggest using it. Rabon (MSDS) is a powered product that can be used in that form or mixed with water to create a suspension that can be sprayed.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth or DE for short, is made from fossilized remains of diatoms (algae), which is mined from the earth as a rock and pulverized. Once dried and processed, DE (MSDS) is composed of 80 to 90% silica, 2 to 4% alumina and 0.5 to 2% iron oxide. DE is a fine crystalline powdery substance that is used for water filtration, tooth paste, abrasives, dynamite, brewing beer and much more. It works by abrading and dehydrating pests, which makes this a mechanical pesticide versus a chemical pesticide. DE can present an inhalation hazard due to crystalline silica which is regulated by OSHA in the US. OSHA mandates that DE products contain 1% or less of crystalline silica by volume to reduce the potential of Silicosis in humans, which is caused by inhaling the powdery substance. Inhalation of DE can also exasperate preexisting respiratory conditions and irritate even the healthiest set of lungs. It’s effectiveness against poultry mites is a hotly debated topic.

People tote the many diatomaceous earth uses including an alternative to typical worming treatments, however studies have shown it to be largely ineffective on internal parasites. DE is used in many commercial feeds as an anti-caking agent rather than as an internal parasite treatment.



I use and recommend Pyrethrin or Permethrin for chicken mite treatment. I find spraying a solution of these products is effective, safe for both me and the birds and is comparatively easier. I also find the inhalation hazard to be considerably less with a liquid solution in comparison to a powder which is a deal breaker for me and my sensitive respiratory system.

A tip from reader Marykay Mendoza: Permethrin is available in a strip of plastic, online under the name of No Mite Strips. Strips of material permeated with medications and pesticides are not a new idea, and the bee keeping world has been using it for a long time, so it stands to reason that you can hang these strips near or on the roosts and let the bugs find them themselves. Marykay reports her birds are bug-free after 3 days of using the strips. I have yet to test them personally, but I plan to shortly.

The Mississippi State University’s poultry pesticide webpage is a also a great resource for dilution rates to use these products in a suspension or solution

*Please note. The companies, brands or products I mention or suggest have in no way compensated me or influenced my opinions. I offer this information on chicken mite treatment at face value and in good faith. Brands, external Internet links or products named herein are offered only as a convenience.*

7 thoughts on “Your Options For Chicken Mite Treatment”
  1. Hi

    My little Japanese bantam who is 1yr female. Is living indoors as her small feet turn slightly inwards making difficult to walk around like normal chicken’s would and also finds it hard to groom.
    I do help her with a comb probably not everyday as she would preen herself daily.
    She has now developed what looks like a skin condition which develops from the bottom of her feather shaft. Ive come across mites and eggs before but l cannot see any mites at all. Her feathers are starting to come out and this yellow waxy substance is spreading.
    I bath her regularly which helps but isnt the solution. Ive also finished a course of xeno which in the beginning weeks l thought it was clearing but hasn’t.
    Please help.

    1. Hi Vicky, have you treated for mites even though you can’t see them? They can be very difficult to see, and using a poultry dust wouldn’t hurt as long as neither she or you breathe it in. I recommend treating for mites first, and repeating within 10 days to catch any eggs that hatch. Then, if she’s still having the issue, move forward to see what else can be causing the skin issue. Good luck!

  2. Thank you Marissa for your email.

    I have used a course of Xeno which contains ivermectin. Since l have also applied Diatomaceous Earth.
    The Yellow scabs look to have dried up alittle but l fear again is not the solution.
    It seems tobe a waxy substance, could it be something to do with the oils getting clogged with her not been able to groom, as its in the areas she cannot reach?

    Many thanks for any advice. Vicky

  3. I have a chicken with a yellow waxy substance at the base of his feathers also and wondered if you ever found out what it is and how to treat it?

    1. Hi Gigi, often that substance is lice eggs. It looks waxy but under a magnifying glass, you can tell it’s eggs. Treat with the same products you would use for mites, and be sure to repeat again in two weeks after eggs hatch.

  4. The old time method of controlling these pests is to use wood ashes from a wood burning stove. I would build a wooden box (no top, no bottom (optional), just the sides) out of 4 each, 1″ X 12″ boards cut 24″ long. You stand the boards on edge and nail or screw the corners together to form a box. You will probably want a plywood bottom on it, if you’re chicken house does not have a dirt floor. I had a dirt floor and would let the ashes get spread around on the floor to help control pests. The most important part of this is to make sure the wood ashes are completely cured, or burned. DO NOT use ashes right out of a stove you will burn your chicken house down! I find a steel bucket and put wood ashes in it from the stove and store it in a dry place for at least 3 months to make sure that any hot coals in the ashes are completely cured or burned. Only fill the box with ashes about 1/2 full. If you have been around chickens much you have definitely seen them dust bathing themselves on the ground in the dirt. That is exactly what they will do in a box of wood ashes. Wood ashes have lye in them and when the chickens dust bath in them it helps control the mites and lice. Whenever the ash level gets low just add more ashes to keep the box 1/2 full. The best thing about this is that the chickens can treat theirselves when needed and as many times as they need, not only when I have time to do it. The box has to be kept inside a chicken house or building to keep the ashes dry. Wet ashes will not work! Don’t be surprised if you open your chicken house door one day and you can’t see inside for all the ash dust. If several chickens dust themselves in a row it creates a lot of ash dust. I was taught this method by an 75 year old neighbor about 30 years ago and it has always worked for me.

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