Do Chickens Eat Ticks? How To Control Tick Population With Backyard Chickens
According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), 1,328,002 people were tested for Lyme’s Disease last year. 57,941 of those people tested positive. If you live in an area where you can raise chickens, you also live within reach of ticks.
Fortunately, chickens are natural born killers of ticks. They offer these tick-killing services totally free of charge.
Chicken owner Sarah Siegel from Maine told the Sun Journal that her family was being constantly attacked by ticks until they bought chickens. They let the chickens roam the property and they saw a significant decrease in the number of ticks. They had to deal with chicken poop on the porch but they did seem to win the battle against the pesky predators.
Chickens, A Natural Warrior Against Ticks
Thirteen million Americans are backyard chicken raisers from a report in 2013 from the US Department of Agriculture. The percentage of more people jumping on the chicken bandwagon is growing every year.
Chickens can help with pest control as they eat bugs and larvae from the ground, off of plants, and from grass and bushes. They’re excellent removers of larvae and insects like ticks which can help prevent possible infestations.
Ticks and Diseases
While Lyme’s Disease is the most common disease spread by ticks, they also carry and transmit several other diseases to humans and animals. Some of the most common include:
- Powassan Virus Disease
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Ticks typically are found anywhere from early spring to late fall. Tick season will vary according to where you live. The CAPC records the locations in the United States where ticks are most prevalent. Any area where there is grass or woods, including backyards and gardens, will be a hiding spot for ticks.
Letting your chickens roam for a few hours a day in your yard or on your property can reduce the tick population and decrease the chances of you or your animals contracting a tick-borne disease.
However, the amount of ticks a chicken eats and its effectiveness in reducing numbers is based on anecdotal evidence and not scientific studies. There are many stories of chicken owners seeing a reduced number of ticks on their property after introducing chickens.
How are chickens beneficial for controlling the tick population?
Tick Encounter from the University of Rhode Island reports that the only scientific study conducted on poultry eating ticks was conducted in 1991 and published in Veterinary Parasitology.
The study dissected crops and gizzards and counted the number of ticks ingested by chickens placed in a cattle pen for an hour a day in Africa. The chickens in the study ate 3 to 331 ticks making the average number of ticks consumed in an hour, 80 ticks per chicken.
If you Google “chickens and ticks” there are over a million results. Most are positive stories about people using chickens and other poultry to reduce the tick population on their properties. While there is not much scientific research conducted on this topic it is clear the popular consensus is that chickens are effective in reducing ticks.
What Chicken Breeds Make the Best Tick Hunters?
When you’re looking for a breed of chicken that will maximize the opportunity to forage for bugs, be sure to look for a heritage breed. Commercial chickens have been specifically bred for either meat or egg laying. Many of their natural instincts have been bred out of them in the process.
Heritage breeds (the original breed mix) have been preserved through many generations and tend to be hardier and more likely to have strong foraging instincts. When choosing a breed for backyard pest control, look for a large bird that is active and loves to hunt.
Another important quality for ranging chickens is their ability to survive predator attacks. If your chickens are too docile, they become easy prey for every other animal that likes to eat chickens. Survivability should be another factor when looking for chickens that will survive free-ranging.
Here is a look at some of the classic foraging breeds that will do their best to eliminate every tick and bug within their ranging capabilities.
The Best Chicken Breed For Controlling Tick Populations
1. Plymouth Rock
This American heritage breed is a very well-rounded breed. They are hardy and love to forage, do great in cold weather, produce lots of eggs, and have pleasant personalities. Rocks are smart and savvy when it comes to survival skills. They may be one of your best bets if you live in a very rural area with fields and forests nearby.
2. Rhode Island Red
A barnyard classic, Rhode Island Red is one of the most popular and well-known of all chicken breeds. They have great personalities, are excellent layers, are hardy, and do very well in the foraging department. This heavy breed has a strong appetite. They are quite adept at evading predators and are very tenacious when it comes to catching ticks and other insects.
A less-known breed of chicken, the Welsummer has all the good characteristics of the other top heritage breeds. Their strength is in their camouflage pattern that helps protect them when they forage. They are more petite than other breeds but they excel in the foraging department. They have very lively personalities that make them dart around with abundant exuberance. They are top-notch in the department of bug catching.
If you are looking for a strictly free-range bird, you should put the Buckeye at the top of your list. In fact, these birds don’t do well in confinement. This dual-purpose bird is very hardy and lays a moderate number of brown eggs. Originating in Ohio, the Buckeye does well with lots of space and room to roam. When left to do their jobs, the Buckeyes will be relentless in hunting down ticks and bugs on your property.
A breed for warmer climates is the Spanish bred Minorca. They are not a northern heavy breed but they are excellent layers of large white eggs. They are on the flighty side and their preference is to forage. If you can get them to lay in nesting boxes and return to the coop at night, they will be voracious in their pursuit of ticks. They are not known as “people birds” but are very intent on hunting and will do a great job of reducing a tick population.
Utilize A Chicken Tractor
If you have a small yard but still have a tick problem, you can let your chickens help with the problem without letting them free range. Build or purchase a chicken tractor. These moveable coops can be relocated around the yard and your chickens can eradicate the ticks a few square areas at a time. The Outdoor Run and Nesting Box on Amazon lets you roll your chickens around your yard to fertilize and feed on unwanted insects.
Can Chickens Get Ticks?
Since chickens are ground foragers, they are susceptible to certain types of ticks latching onto them. Chickens are adept at eating many varieties of ticks including deer ticks, dog ticks, and wood ticks. There are some species that do attach themselves to chickens. Tick Encounter has identified species of ticks found on chickens in the US like the Lone Star and Asian longhorn, and Argas persicus (also known as fowl tick).
Part of the maintenance of your flock should be looking for mites and ticks on a regular basis. Ticks will mostly appear on combs, wattles, and ear lobes of your chickens. Nymphs can lodge in the corner of the beak.
You can purchase a tick pulling tool called the O’Tom Tick Twister on Amazon that makes removing ticks a snap. This tool can be used to remove ticks on animals as well as humans.
Tips for Dealing with Ticks
You should never depend solely on your chickens to annihilate your resident tick population. There are measures you can take along with your chickens for cooperative tick prevention.
- Use natural products or chemical sprays when you are outdoors on skin and clothing. Your chickens can’t get every tick. Keep your family safe from Lyme’s and other diseases spread by ticks by keeping them off your bodies.
- When walking in the woods, wear long sleeves and long pants. Tuck your pant legs into your socks to keep the ticks from crawling onto your skin. Do a tick check after every outing in the woods or through long grass.
- Keep grass near your home and barn areas short. Ticks will be hiding in the long grass. This makes finding them more difficult for the chickens. Shorter grass will make the chickens’ job of eating and eliminating the ticks a lot easier.
- Rake leaves up and remove them. Ticks will hide under leaves.
- Mow your lawn frequently.
- You can place a barrier of wood chips or gravel between woods and your yard. It is best to use gravel as the chickens will be relentless in scratching in the wood shavings and relocating them to your grass.
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