There’s nothing like a good chicken roasted with plenty of savoury garlic. So why not start seasoning them early!
When your chickens get mites you can see them become extremely agitated. It’s not too dissimilar to a child squirming under the burden of head lice or the incessant fidgeting we succumb to when the mosquitoes come out to play.
Signs of Mites
Some of the early signs of mites are not all that obvious to the average person. You will notice that the chicken’s comb (that floppy strange glove attached to their head) starts to look all droopy and sad, kind of like an emo fringe flopping in front of their face. It may also look a little crusty and white like when you wake up with your eyes fused shut by conjunctivitis. This also happens to their wattle; that flappy, red beard under their chin.
You may also notice that the feathers around the tail of chickens start to fall out. It is most noticeable where the back meets the bum and the feathers plume out into a tail. That’s because they’ll scratch that area with their pecky little beaks which causes the feathers to drop out.
As the mites develop you may start to see them. They appear like a plague of locusts on their faces and they swarm most visibly around areas that aren’t covered in feathers. What you’ll see is little black or slightly red dots milling around their eyes and beak and on their red bits.
You may also notice a change in egg production. Firstly, you may see little blood spots on the eggs themselves and then a drastic drop in egg production. Who has the patience to focus on dropping an egg when you’re swarmed with a plague of gnawing beasts?
How to Make a Garlic Mite Spray
A sensible permaculturist is one that hopes for the best but plans for the worst. In this case, when you’re looking at having chickens, it’s a good idea to plant some garlic around their coop. Try a perennial variety like Elephant Garlic so that it reduces the need for annual replanting and management. You can check out this great article on The One Straw Revolution written by Larry Korn on how to grow perennial, low-management garlic (full sun, make sure it doesn’t have a wet bottom and feed it with rotted manure and leaf mulch).
Sidenote, you might as well plant mint too as it keeps the rats away.
Once you have a healthy supply of garlic, you can make yourself a little preventative garlic mite spray. Here’s a recipe I use for 15 chickens that I apply every other day:
You want to combine two full cloves of garlic with half a litre of water. I do this by chucking it in a blender, but you can just chop it finely too.
Place the mixture into a jar and let it sit for at least 24 hours.
Sieve the mixture and place the garlic back into the jar with new water; this can be recycled until the garlic has no more smell or starts to rot (about a week or so in my experience)
Pour the mixture into a spray bottle or a pressurised sprayer and combine with another half a litre of water.
Now you want to spray them, which I’ll be honest, they are really not down with. Try to get them into a small area and be prepared for them to run and try to fly away (it’s best not to be in an enclosed area in case they fly at you, talons at the ready). Now think strategically and try to spray them as quickly as possible, one at a time, making note of which ones you’ve sprayed and which you haven’t.
I would also advise that you clean the coop regularly and thoroughly spray the coop, the bedding (try not to wet it too much) and the walls, especially any nooks and crannies. Do not forget the ceiling.
How To Make a Garlic Mite Ointment
It is also a great idea to apply an ointment to prevent the mites from settling on the chickens faces. This helps to get rid of them more quickly as well as keeping the chickens a little more comfortable.
You’ll need some neem oil, some of your concentrated garlic mix and some citronella oil. A little bit of me feels like this could also be a wonderful baste…
Mix together a generous glug of neem oil (about a quarter of a cup) with 3 tablespoons of garlic and 4 drops of citronella oil.
You need to catch the chickens one at a time. This is by no means easy. Some people use a net, some just go for it, but one thing is for sure, you’ll need to be holding them.
You can use a cottonbud to apply the ointment; I use a toothbrush with soft bristles as it makes it easier to spread.
Spread it on their faces, combs, wattles, feet, and any areas of bare skin where the feathers have been lost.
Do this every day if you see the signs of mites.
I tend to use the ointment if I start to see signs of mites, but I spray the garlic mite spray every other day regardless to help keep them away. We are quite prone to mites so I feel this is necessary but you may want to do it just once a week.
I wonder if they’ll have a garlicky taste come harvest time…