Q I am a poultry farmer; however, my flock is being disturbed by mites (obuloolo), how do I take care of them?
It is true that mites are a big menace to poultry farming. Poultry farmers have fought sometimes losing battles.
However, this is what you need to know about these tiny, but stubborn parasites.
Mites feed at night and one bird can carry 500,000 mites, while they feed, which usually takes about two hours.
One mite can suck up to 5% of a hen’s blood in its lifetime.
Mites largely survive by hiding within the many crevices in the chicken house or in dirty materials around. They can survive in these crevices and dirty materials for many years even if they are not fed.
They communicate with members of their colony using pheromones that signal when to return to the crevices in the shed. They at times move outside the poultry house, but come back at night.
They multiply very first. One mite can lay up to 300 eggs. They affect the flock in several ways. For example, they cause stress, reduced production, retarded growth and spread diseases.
A lot of farmers do not realise that red mite can be responsible for a host of production issues such as a sudden egg drop or an increase in mortality and yet it is often overlooked as the primary cause.
Red mite causes stress in birds. So, birds become noisy and restless. There can be a production drop of up to 25% and then egg downgrades by blood spots.
Birds can become depressed, which causes reduced preening activity, dust bathing and loss of feather cover. The knock-on effect is an increase in feed consumption as the birds feed intakes increase just to sustain body warmth.
Houses with poorly managed floor are more prone to mites. They will have escape routes.
And once you delay managing them immediately after off-laying, they will hide where drugs cannot reach.
How to handle mites
Dusting the poultry house, the birds, in the laying boxes only reduces the infestation. A farmer can dust and spray even when birds are inside. When the host flock is off laid, the mites can sense that their host has been off layed. And they will run immediately and go to crevices. They can survive in the crevices for many months, even if they are not fed. However, they only produce when they have fed.
For proper eradication of mites from the farm, immediately after off laying, remove the litter, wash the room, spray the room with acaricide, apply disinfectants, wash and spray all equipment including perches, laying boxes, roof, etc.