When most people think of flies, they envision pesky houseflies that hang around smelly garbage cans and dirty dinner plates. When chicken owners think of flies, we think of real pests that can cause health problems for our flock.
My worst experience with flies was during an especially hot and humid summer. My flock was especially large that year because I took on a few extras that some close friends of ours were giving away.
There was room in the chicken house for everybody, but the living space was tight. Keeping their living space clean became more and more challenging, and a heatwave struck just a few days after very heavy rain.
This combination resulted in the worst fly infestation I have ever seen. The only upside was that my chickens got to chase down and eat flies to their hearts’ content.
What Causes Flies?
In general, flies tend to be a seasonal problem, and their prevalence can vary widely according to the weather patterns of the year.
You’ll hardly ever see a fly-free year, but sometimes they can just be too bothersome to ignore. Luckily, there are quite a few ways to deal with flies.
The appearance of flies in your coop hinges on quite a few factors. Some of these are within your control, and some of them aren’t.
For example, flies have natural predators, like frogs and other insects that control the population.
These predators may have good years and bad years. If your local fly predators aren’t already present, you may have more flies.
On the other hand, I’ve seen times where the field surrounding my patch was just covered in frogs, and there was hardly a fly to be seen.
How To Control The Fly Population Around Your Chicken Coop
Luckily, there are also quite a few things within your control that can affect the local fly population. Below are a few tips on how to get rid of flies in and around your chicken coop.
1. Keep Your Chicken Coop Clean
My first and most obvious piece of advice is to keep your chicken coop clean.
Giving your chickens fresh bedding and regularly removing chicken poop can go a long way towards keeping flies away from your chickens.
Flies are generally drawn inside during the summertime because they like to keep cool, but a clean environment will tend to dissuade them from bothering your hens and roosters.
If you remove any material that flies might be breeding in, you’ll notice a marked drop in the number of flies in your chicken coop.
Beyond this, cleaning your chicken coop has many other benefits. As a general rule, you can never go wrong with giving your chickens lots of space to live in and clean bedding for nesting.
2. Pay Attention To Natural Predators
Flies are most noticeable when they make their way inside your house or your chicken coop, but you might not realize how many live naturally in the wild. This is why natural predators are an effective way of managing your fly problem.
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You’ll want to promote the presence of insects and animals that prey on flies. Make sure that you’re not doing anything to dissuade spiders and frogs from taking up residence near your chicken pen.
You may not find spiders inside your pen because your chickens will likely eat them, but spiders outside your pen might be negatively harmed if you use insecticide. This is one way that insecticide can actually compound your fly problem.
3. Fly Traps
I generally don’t recommend fly traps as the first course of action because there are many more effective ways to get rid of flies that are more beneficial.
For example, letting your chickens eat them will give your birds a more varied diet. Also, encouraging the presence of natural predators will be beneficial for your local ecosystem.
When these methods don’t work, you can use fly traps to mitigate the problem. However, you should be aware that fly traps typically don’t target the root of the problem. If they’re hatching faster than your hens can catch them, or if the flies are secretly breeding somewhere nearby, you’ll be treating the symptom rather than the root of the problem.
If you do decide to use fly traps, you’ll have to pay special attention to where and how you set them up. Tape can be hung from the ceiling of your chicken house, but make sure it’s in a place where your chickens won’t tear it down or get stuck to it themselves. In this same vein, if you’re using a liquid-based trap, make sure it’s in a location that is inaccessible to your hens.
In general, I don’t recommend using chemical insect repellent, but it is an option as a last resort. Insect repellent can be detrimental to the health of your flock, and it can be harmful to other insects that you aren’t trying to target. For example, if you use a can of insecticide inside your pen that inadvertently kills any spiders along with the flies, you might end up with an even worse fly infestation later on.
Finally, if you decide to use a fly trap to help you gain ground on controlling the fly population, I recommend these disposable fly traps. I use these and they work great. I simply just hang them up near the coop where the chickens can’t access them.
4. Feed Your Chickens Outside
This one might seem like a no-brainer for experienced chicken farmers, but it isn’t obvious for new farmers who might be used to feeding their first round of baby chickens in an enclosure. This tip also goes for farmers who are in the habit of feeding their chickens table scraps to save money on chicken feed.
Enclosures are great at protecting your chickens from pests like hawks and coyotes, but there are a ton of benefits to giving your chickens extra space to roam. If you feed your chickens outside, any flies that come through to lay their eggs in rotting leftovers or manure will be more exposed to the sunlight.
Flies are usually averse to laying their eggs in direct sunlight. It also makes these flies and maggots more vulnerable to ants, wild birds, and other insect predators.
5. Natural Fly Repellents
Finally, you should consider growing plants around your chicken coop that naturally repel flies. Some of my favorites are basil, lavender, and mint. This can have the added bonus of producing tasty herbs that you can harvest for yourself.
A Warning About Mint
My final word of warning is about mint. This plant may initially seem like a great idea because of how fast and thick it can grow when it’s fertilized with chicken manure, but it can quickly get out of hand.
Mint reproduces extraordinarily fast, and if it’s left unchecked, you’ll find it taking over your entire property before you have time to react. With that said, it’s still a great choice if you have the time to monitor and manage its growth.
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