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International 3Rs Prize now open for applications. £30k prize (£2k personal award) for outstanding science with demonstrable 3Rs impacts.

NC3Rs | 20 Years: Pioneering Better Science
Skills and Knowledge Transfer grant

Using a novel, high welfare in vivo feeding device for poultry red mite and its integration with other novel tools for this parasite

A pink eppendorf rack

At a glance

Award date
August 2021 - September 2021
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Dr Alasdair Nisbet


Moredun Research Institute


  • Reduction
  • Refinement



Why did we fund this project?

This award aims to reduce the number of hens needed to test novel control methods for poultry red mite infestation by using an ‘on-hen’ mite feeding device.

Interventions for poultry red mite infestations are tested in field trials typically after assessing the intervention in vitro. Field trials involve a large number of hens (up to 400 per treatment group) being exposed to red mites for prolonged periods. The mites bite the animals and feed on their blood, which causes irritation and anaemia. With NC3Rs funding, Dr Alasdair Nisbet developed an ‘on-hen’ mite feeding device, which allows a precise number of mites to feed on the leg of an animal for a controlled length of time. The mites can then be recovered from the device and analysed for mortality and fecundity. Using this method reduces the number of hens needed to test an intervention from 400 to four per treatment group. The length of time the animals are exposed to the mites is also reduced from a number of weeks to three hours.

Alasdair has previously optimised the use of the ‘on-hen’ device to allow mites at all developmental stages to feed on the hen without impacting on the animal’s behaviour. Alasdair will now give a workshop with researchers from six different research institutions from across the UK and Europe to facilitate the adoptions of the ‘on-hen’ device in their intervention development programmes.