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!
3 Common Chicken Pests and How to Get Rid of Them
Flies are already abundant in every area of our planet, from the city to the country and everything in between. Those flies will be sure to pay your property a visit if the coop and run aren’t kept clean!
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.
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’re already dealing with an encroaching fly infestation, act quickly! Remove the litter 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 or marine phytoplankton. Sprinkle it on the floor of the coop and run, and rub it into roosts and nesting boxes. The DE will help to dehydrate 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.
Put down fresh and dry litter when the coop is completely dry,
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 paper to cut down on the fly population on your lot. These are easy, clean, and safe to use, just make sure not to put them inside the coop because your chickens will get tangled in them! Liquid fly traps also work very well, but can be unpleasant to clean up.
Want more tips on fly control products? Don’t miss this post!
Now that you know how to get rid of the flies, you need to focus on keeping them away.
Chicken Coop Fly Prevention
Once a week take time to either lay down some fresh litter, 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!
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.
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. Lice spread easily, so if you find lice on one bird, the entire flock will need to be treated.
Food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) makes an excellent natural cure for poultry lice. Dust each chicken with DE on their entire bodies, concentrating on the vent and under the wings. Be sure to do this carefully to avoid inhalation of the dust. Don’t get the ash 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.
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.
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.
Signs of mites include feather loss and an increase in itching and preening activity by your chickens. Look for mites on your birds at night, or search the roosts, nesting boxes and walls of the coop during the day for any clusters of tiny bugs.
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.
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.
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.
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 chickens legs, pushing the scale outward and forming bumps all along the chickens legs. A bad infestation can lead to lameness and even death.
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. 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!