Fitbits for chickens detect mite infestations

Fitbits for chickens are backpack-like devices that are attached to the backs of chickens. But then, what is it for?

These Fitbits for chickens are intended for monitoring the behavior of chickens infested with mites.

Even when left to roam the farmyard, chickens are still susceptible to infesting blood-sucking mites. This smart health connected device could let breeders know when these mites bite, so treatment could begin as soon as possible.

Poultry mites, which usually infest the back of the chicken, bite the skin to feed on the blood. This results in inflammatory skin lesions that itch and are distressing to the bird. This often results in decreased egg production in hens.

Under the direction of entomologist Amy Murillo, scientists at the University of California-Riverside suspected that infested chickens exhibited increased grooming behaviors such as self-picketing, preening and dust bathing. In order to track these behaviors, the researchers equipped a group of hens with small motion detectors. These devices are worn on the back, apparently without causing discomfort, and are described as “Chicken Fitbits”.

Using a specially designed algorithm, a computer analyzed the raw data collected by the backpacks. More precisely, each incidence of the actions associated with pecking, smoothing and bathing was counted.

These behaviors were found to increase in hens known to be infested with mites. Also, once the birds have been successfully treated and their skin has healed. Also, the detected grooming actions decreased to return to normal levels.

“These results could let breeders know it’s time to examine their birds for parasites. Explains Mr. Murillo. “And the tools we have developed can also be used to examine the effects of any change in a bird’s environment or diet.”

An article on this research was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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