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Marigolds and Chicken Mites

3/2/2010 3:01:30 PM

Tags: Chickens, Mites, Health

A photo of Michelle Three days ago, my other Rooster Cashmere, would not let one of my red sex-link hens into the coop. Poor little girl was out in the run cold and scared, with Cashmere blocking the way into the coop. She let me pick her up, which let me know immediately she was not her normal self.

Into the ER playpen she went, after I checked her over. Besides white pasty poo, she seemed fine, but to be on the safe side I let her stay in the house with me so I could watch her. Nutmeg was not eating much or drinking water, so I finally found cream of wheat, oatmeal and strawberry Kefir that she showed much interest in. After two days of this, plus the syringes of baby vitamins and water, I had something crawl up my arm while I held her. WE had mites!

Nutmeg, one of the red sexlink hens

Since it was very late, I was not about to go out in the rain to clean out the coop right then and there. But being a concerned momma, I did make a kitty liter and wood ash tub for her. Well, did she use it like I had hoped to dust herself? No, she fell asleep in it.

The next day, after a trip to the vet for my cat Frankie’s rabies shot, it was time to strip and clean the coop. We had just had 24 hours of rain, but now it was nice enough with the sun out to not have to wear a coat. Oh by the way, I live in Massachusetts, bet you were wondering where this was all occurring . A full 20 feed bags full of old straw, poo and scattered feed came out and into the now visible gardens.

I am an earth mother of sorts and hate chemicals if I can keep away from them. I have used herbs for years and knew that marigolds have many benefits besides looking nice and keeping bugs out of your veggie garden. I just so happen to have a bag of dried marigold heads, so I cooked them up on the stove to make a very strong tea. Not the prettiest smell by any means, but I hoped it would be a good wash for all the wood in the coop.

My coop is a series of outdoor playhouses fixed together to create one large area plus its attached to a 3-by-4-foot wood coop box all inside my shop. Needless to say, my shop is covered in tons of dust now until the spring when I redo the coop.

Where was I ... oh yes mites. I washed down all the walls, branch perch, and door leading out into the run with the marigold wash. Then, because I have read they used to use old motor oil on the wood to deter mites, I grabbed a bunch of old marigold salve I had made a while back and coated the wood in the coop with this. In my mind, it’s safer and if the hens peck at it, it will not harm them. It’s lard based, so it will seal the wood some just like the motor oil did back when they used that. I also created a large wood ash and wood shavings dust bath for them that I put out in the run while I was cleaning the coop. The girls were in it before I could walk away, and Cashmere, being a gentleman, waited for them to bathe first before he got in. More on that boy in later blogs.

So, now I can just hear the old timers and experts saying “Why in the world would she use marigolds?” Well, my reply is this: One of the chemical washes used to clean coops with lists marigolds as one of its main ingredients. This plant is a mild antiseptic, it’s antibacterial and many bugs hate it. So, not only by washing the coop in it to scare off the bugs, if the chickens do peck at the wood it won’t hurt them. Plus by having their feet resting on the perch oiled in it, they are somewhat absorbing small amounts, which is good for them and it heals any bottom of the feet wounds.

Did you know a famous chicken company that advertizes on TV, feeds their chickens marigold blooms? Marigolds have benefits for your chickens so if you have never thought about it, plant some and give them the heads fresh or dried.

Back to the mites, Nutmeg has improved since I put in the dust bath, the girls and Cashmere are happy with their new clean home, and I am wondering ... if the mites left Nutmeg and my dining room has wood walls, do I need to wash my whole house in marigold tea because now they are at home in our house, instead of on the chicken?

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Cindy Newman
6/20/2011 10:41:21 AM
Thanks for the info, I am in Montana and just "enjoying" my first experience with chicken mites. So far have only found them in the coop under the nesting boxes and not on any of the "girls". I am not keen on chemicals either. I have heard that citrus oil is a good deterrent, though I haven't tried it yet. Orange Guard is a product that is also said to help with the situation and I am going to buy some when I am in town today to try it out. When my children were in school, I used to put sassafras oil in their hairbrushes and that was successful in deterring head lice, so am wondering if it would help to put a few drops into the girls feathers. If anyone has any suggestion regarding this, I would be pleased to hear it.

Kathleen Malmquist_1
3/22/2010 6:46:28 AM
Hi, I'm in Massachusetts, also, and had excellent results with using the Diatomaceous Earth (DE) for getting rid of mites on my flock. For anyone who would like to try DE just make sure it's the "food grade" DE and not the type that is used in pool filters. They are not the same thing. Kathy

Paul Gardener
3/3/2010 10:58:16 AM
Hi Michelle, I've actually found, strangely enough I thought, that I tend to get more mites in the cooler months as well. I'm in Northern Utah and while it get's too cold outside in the winter for most bugs to make it through (Even ticks and fleas generally don't make their homes here.) I find that the warmth and generally closed off nature of the chicken coop in the winter tends to foster Mite development. I've not tried Marigolds, but I can see the merits or sure. I too like to use natural and organic practices when I can and have found that a regular dusting of the coop and bedding areas with Diatomaceous earth every couple of weeks goes a long way toward keeping the problem in check. Best of luck with your little lady! Paul~

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