Boxwood Avenue

The Bug Battle

ranch lifeChloe | Boxwood Ave.Comment

Update on OSA: bugs.  LOTS OF BUGS. 

Bug Battle: Northern Fowl Mite | Boxwood Avenue

It all started when I was cleaning out the chicken coop... I noticed a few red bugs crawling underneath the hay as I removed it.  No big deal, I thought, but just to be on the safe side, I googled it. My google search went a little something like: "Little Red Bugs In...", the first search that popped up was, "...in chicken coop".  This should have been my first red flag, literally, that we had trouble in paradise. 

So as I took the dive into the world of google, I discovered my chickens had mites. Gross, I know, but at this point I was still completely unaware of the war that had just been declared. So I drove down to the feed store, purchased some diatomaceous earth (D.E.), and in the meantime discovered that one should never use hay as chicken bedding.  They looked at me like the Geico commercial, "Everyone knows that, duh!".  

When I got home, I dusted my little girls with the D.E., sprinkled their new non-hay bedding generously, and poured the remains into their dustbath.  That should do the trick, right? 

WRONG!

Later on in the week, I was moving garden soil bags, and as I flipped a bag over, I came across my enemies once more (click on photo to enlarge if you're trying to ID a bug you've found!).  Only this time, there were millions.  I'm not exaggerating, there were at least a million little mites everywhere. If that's not enough to send shivers up your spine, I don't know what is.  I was out of D.E. and the stores were closed, so I was forced to dive, once again, into the depths of google.  

Here's what I discovered:

  • Mites are very hard to get rid of. 
  • Once they infiltrate your house, you basically have to burn it down and start over. 
  • Most sites suggest "throwing all clothed goods away" (including couches).
  • My life was basically over. 

As I sat in the dark at 2 am, blinking mindlessly into my computer, I decided to get up, and use my phone's flashlight to investigate the mite situation.  After an hour of crouching down in the dark like a lunatic, it was safe to declare, the mites had not made their way into the house yet.  Thank the heavens, because our homeowners insurance isn't that great, and arson is a felony. 

I got up the next morning to go play some light tennis with my no-so-next-door-neighbor, but not before bagging a sample of my mystery bug.  Perhaps I would take it down to the garden store and they'd tell me, "oh that's just a friendly little bug that doesn't bite or suck blood!"

WRONG AGAIN!

Neither one of the stores in town had seen the type of bug before, and ultimately decided poison was necessary. Okay, so some of you might say, "Oh but Chloe, how could you use poison? That's bad for the environment."  All I have to say is, that if you saw a million of these bugs crawling everywhere, you'd resort to poison too, and I guarantee you wouldn't feel bad about it. It was either the mites or the chickens, and the health of the hens was my first priority. 

So when I got home, still in my tennis skirt, I once again gave the coop a deep cleansing, and discovered, it was completely free of mites.  Proving that D.E. is very effective, and probably saved the lives of my birds. This is not to say, that all of the mites were dead, I still had to deal with at least half a million out in the field.  It is to say though - that all you D.E. doubters can kiss my diatomaceous grits, because it worked, and my chickens have not requested an inhaler as of yet. 

Using Sevin spray, I sprayed the field, the coop, the pathways, and all along the edges of the garden, and not once did I question the fact that this was making my veggies questionably inorganic.  Mites are not the added protein I'm looking to incorporate into my diet. Then, I went back in with D.E. and sprinkled the perimeter, coop, and field.  If that doesn't get rid of the mites, we will be moving.

So that is how I managed my mite problem. You can agree or disagree with my use of a) D.E. and/or b) Sevin spray; what works for me, might not work for you, and that's perfectly fine! There are a ton of websites that sell natural oils, dis D.E., and offer ransoms for those who use pesticides. The choice to use any of these products is completely up to the chicken/home owner, but I made the choice to come at them with guns blazing. 

So this is the story of how I decided that I'm not against pesticides or D.E. (when needed).  It might be the unpopular opinion, but in this case, there was absolutely no way to avoid it. If you have any alternative you'd like to suggest, I am all ears - I'd love to go all natural when possible, and would also love to learn more about chicken keeping.