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3 Common Chicken Pests and How to Get Rid of Them

Raising chickens is great fun, right up until you find something creepy crawly on them, or discover your chicken coop swarming with flies.

No matter where you raise livestock, you’re bound to encounter some pests, and insects top the list of chicken pests to keep an eye out for. 

In this article, we’ll go over the different types of insects you may have to deal with in your chicken flock, and just how to get rid of them. All of the chicken pests on this list are relatively easy to handle, once you know what you’re dealing with. Don’t fear, you’re facing a common problem in chicken keeping, and it’s totally solveable!

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A silkie chicken taking a dust bath.

3 Common Chicken Pests and How to Get Rid of Them

Flies

Flies are already abundant in every area of our planet, from the city to the country and everything in between. If you have chickens, you’re no stranger to flies. They love swarming around chicken coops and runs.

Flies tend to congregate in areas where livestock live for several reasons. The allure of manure and decomposing food draws them from all corners of the globe, then they decide to stick around when they see what a feast your coop offers! As you’ll quickly notice, chickens poop a lot, and they also tend to make a big mess of their food, water, and treats.

Flies also love chicken coops because they like to breed in wet or moist areas. Litter that has been moistened by rain, droppings, or the water fount are a great breeding ground for these chicken pests. 

A fly trap full of dead flies.

How to Get Rid of Flies in the Chicken Coop

The best way to deal with flies is to prevent infestations before they start. Clean the coop as often as you possibly can, if you have time to at least clean under the roost and around the water fount daily, you’ll make big strides to keep flies at bay.

If you’re already dealing with an encroaching fly infestation, act quickly!

Remove the bedding from inside the coop and the run. Clean out any leftover feed, kitchen scraps, or old eggs that you might find along the way. Scrub down the inside of the coop with white vinegar, it has disinfectant properties and is non-toxic.

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth can be a big help with insects. DE for short, this substance consists of fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. Sprinkle it on the floor of the coop and run, and rub it into roosts and nesting boxes.

A fly.

The DE will help to dehydrate chicken droppings and kill fly larva at the same time. DE floating in the air is not good for chickens delicate respiratory systems, so be sure they’re out of the coop while you apply it. 

After you’ve applied the DE you can lay down fresh bedding right on top of it.

Also, take the time to ensure that water isn’t pooling anywhere, as this is where flies love to breed. Secure water founts so they aren’t spilling into dry litter. If the chicken run doesn’t have a roof, place tarps over the top to keep water from pouring in.

A dry coop is a happy coop!

Once the coop is clean, set out some fly traps to cut down on the fly population on your lot. Just don’t make the mistake of hanging fly tape inside of the coop, because flying chickens can easily get caught in the tape.

We like to hang fly strips outside of the chicken run to cut down on the fly population. Liquid fly traps also work very well, but can be unpleasant to clean up.

Now that you know how to get rid of the flies, you need to focus on keeping them away.

Want more tips on fly control products? Don’t miss this post!

Two fly traps set up outside the chicken coop.

Chicken Coop Fly Prevention

Once a week take time to either lay down some fresh bedding, or remove what is soiled in the coop and run.

Chickens produce the most waste while they’re sleeping. Setting up a droppings board or sand box under the roost is helpful here. The droppings can be cleaned off and disposed of every morning, eliminating them completely.

Another great option is to use the deep litter method in the coop.

The deep litter method provides a good environment for helpful bacteria and nematodes, which help to keep down the pest population at the microscopic level.

You’ll need to put in some effort to do this method properly, but we feel it’s well worth it for healthy, happy chickens! 

Poultry Lice

The next chicken pest you may to have to deal with is poultry lice. Your chickens could end up with these tiny straw colored parasites, which live on the birds and eat the dead skin and feather shafts. Lice are one of the most common external parasites you’ll encounter.

It’s a good idea to do a monthly check of your entire flock, during which you should be looking for lice and mites. Lice tend to congregate around the vent and under the wings.

Separate the feathers in these areas and look closely for movement. You may also find nits (lice eggs) around the base of the feather shaft. The nits look like white fuzz at the base of feather shafts. You’ll know you have a lice infestation if you can see the lice crawling on the chickens skin.

Chicken lice spread easily, so if you find lice on one bird, the entire flock will need to be treated.

A chicken being treated for Lice.

Food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) makes an effective treatment for poultry lice. Dust each chicken with DE on their entire bodies, concentrating on the vent area and under the wings. Be sure to get the DE all over the base of the feathers as that’s where lice live and lay their eggs.

If you don’t want to use DE, a more natural method is to use cooled wood ash from a firepit or wood stove in the same manner.

Be sure to use DE carefully to avoid inhalation of the dust. Don’t get the ash or DE on their heads or in their faces. Protect yourself and anyone helping by using a dust mask and eye protection.

Repeat the dusting three times, in one week intervals, to kill the newly hatching lice.

There are a few poultry treatments on the market for lice and mites but most contain insecticide, which can be dangerous for your flock and for you, the eater of their eggs. Natural treatments really are the best way to go!

Learn more about natural lice treatments here.

A box full of wood ash and DE.

Chicken Mites

Mites are one of the trickiest pests to deal with. Unlike lice, most mites don’t live on the birds at all times. They live in the chicken coop, hiding in cracks and crevices, and come out at night, like tiny vampires, to suck the blood of the flock while they sleep. Mites are tiny, almost invisible to the naked eye, and only about as big as the period at the end of this sentence.

There are several different types of mites including red roost mites, Northern Fowl mites, and scaly leg mites.

Signs of a Mite Problem in your Poultry House

Signs of mites include feather loss and weight loss on your chickens as well as an increase in itching and preening activity by your chickens. You may have also noticed a decrease in egg production and some of your hens may have a pale comb and wattles.

Look for mites on your birds at night, checking at the base of feathers for tiny dots of brown or red. You might even mistake mites for specks of dirt because they’re so small.

You can also search the roosts, nest boxes and walls of the coop during the day for any clusters of tiny bugs.

Painting the inside of the coop a nice bright white will help to decrease mites. Not only does it fill in those cracks and crevices, it makes it easy to see mite infestations on walls and the floor. Mites are experts at finding hiding places in the coop, so do what you can to make it as difficult as possible for them.

Food grade DE works wonders on mite infestations. First, clean out the entire coop and run, making sure to dispose of all waste and litter. Sprinkle the floor, roosts, nesting boxes, and walls with DE. Lay down fresh bedding on the floor and nesting boxes. 

Check frequently for mites and repeat this cleaning as much as necessary until the mites are gone.

A flock of chickens dust bathing.

Mite and Lice Prevention

Mite and lice prevention is quite easy as long as you know what to do.

Mites are usually introduced to backyard flocks by local wild birds or the introduction of a new flock member that hasn’t been properly quarantined.

Wild birds are also attracted to the coop by chicken feed and treats. Building a solid fenced-in run and coop using hardware cloth will keep these birds out.

Another good way to prevent mites and lice is to provide dust bathing areas for the flock, especially in winter or rainy seasons when they may not have access to the outdoors.

You can make a dust bath very easily by filling a shallow, wide bin with equal parts soil, sand, and cooled wood ash or DE. The chickens will bathe in the mixture, which suffocates insects on their skin and helps them to naturally keep many chicken pests at bay.

Learn more about preventing and treating mites here

A chicken taking a dust bath.

Scaly Leg Mites

These mites are quite a bit harder to spot as they’re so tiny they’re invisible to the naked eye. You can, however, see evidence of scaly leg mites in the form of, you guessed it, scaly legs.

These mites burrow underneath the scales on the chicken’s legs, pushing the scale outward and forming bumps all along the chickens legs. A bad infestation can lead to lameness and even death.

To see what evidence of scaly leg mites looks like don’t miss this post on Tilly’s Nest!

If your birds are showing signs of scaly leg mites, start by giving their legs a nice bath in warm, soapy water for several minutes. Dry off the legs and coat them with petroleum jelly which will suffocate the mites.

You will need to be repeat the treatment several times over the course of a month in order to cover the entire life cycle of the mites. It’s easiest to do this process at night, while the birds are sleepy and roosting. That way they’re more likely to stand still, and they won’t get their jelly-coated legs all dirty.

You’ll know the process is working when the old scales fall off and new, sleek ones are forming. Never pull old scales off, let them come off naturally.

No matter what chicken pest is currently plaguing your flock, there’s a solution. With just a little effort and love from you, your flock can thrive once again!

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Top 40 Tiny Black Bugs In Chicken Coop Update

Wednesday 26th of October 2022

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wayne geddes

Wednesday 26th of October 2022

What about Chicken butterfly they will host in humans. What does it do to humans. Reason- I watched this small white butterfly like this on my arm poking me. brushed it off. Next day had a roll of itchy black dots there. Now going on about a year of morgellion disease. some doctors say it's in your head, some have read the new research and understand might be something else. Comes in cycles with tiny black dots and turns into sores with hair like things. Also bought a package of chicken breasts at store and one had one of these hair things on it under the unopened wrap. Question- Could these butteryfly things be the cause of Morgellion. I know they say butterflys can't bite, but have read about them hosting in human just don't know how.Thanks. Any info would be helpful

Linda Baehr

Monday 25th of July 2022

What type of mite or lice jump onto human legs and arms and appear whitish?

Meredith

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

Hard to say without a photo, but could be poultry lice, they do hop onto people on occasion.

JHC

Friday 5th of November 2021

We've had chickens for over 20+ years now. WE ... take "OLD ASH" from our Woodstove[s][3] And put the ASH out in the 12 X 20 RUN [for Winter ... when Girls can't get out due to snow] or somewhere in better weather ... where "WE KNOW" the Girls like to take "SHOWERS" ... We have NEVER had a problem with Lice or Mites.

But what do we know ... we'uns are just their stupid momma & pappa on 15 acres and have the cutest / smartest HORDE of Cluk-Cluk's ever.

Cindy

Friday 30th of April 2021

I was told not to paint inside coops. If it's ok, what kind of paint? I use D.E. in my chicken's coop and run. During spring and summer months I sprinkle it along the foundation base and in flower beds and veggie garden. It's awesome stuff!

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