It is in the news again and I suspect that as the popularity of keeping backyard chickens continues to rise, so will the cases of salmonella. I haven’t really chimed in on this topic, so I think it is time. I also think that it is very important not to leave our common sense at the door, when reading the articles that are filling up the headlines. As I write this, it is chick days. New chicken keepers are going to be embarking on this amazing adventures and others will be adding to their flocks, because chicken keeping is so much fun! Here’s what you want to know.
|Free-ranging chickens are at risk.|
As avian influenza begins to emerge in even more backyard flocks of chickens, I thought that it was time to chat a little about how and why this is happening here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
The other day we needed to move some furniture from the house to the garage. I pinned open the storm door, then my husband and I heard it, a loud thump. A black capped chickadee had flown into the window. My husband scooped it up in his hands. It was laid out flat. It’s toes were curled and it’s neck was wobbly. My husband immediately feared it had broken its neck. I told him to quickly warm it in his hands as I fetched a dish towel. The poor thing’s toes were curling around my husband’s fingers. I took it and wrapped it snugly into the dish towel. It stared into my eyes and blinked. Still nestled in the towel, I propped it upright on the front step so that it could peer out into the world. It needed a moment to recover from the shock of the accident.
Flies and backyard chickens are never a good combination. Not only are they a nuisance to you and your flock but they can also lead to some serious problems. There are two types of flies that can affect chickens and they are categorized as biting and non-biting. The non-biting flies are called filth flies. Your typical housefly falls into this category. The biting flies are typically found near water sources. Biting flies that mostly affect chickens are black flies and biting gnats. Black flies are also called “buffalo gnats” or “turkey gnats” while the biting gnats go by “no-see-ums”, “sand flies”, and “midges”.
Filth flies can cause the following trouble in chickens:
They are a nuisance.
They can lead to tapeworm in your flock as your flock ingests them.
They can spread pathogens that cause Exotic New Castle Disease and Caronavirus.
They can spread bacteria including Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. Coli, and Listeria.
They can lead to disputes between neighbors due to excessive fly populations.
They can leave spots on your eggs.
Black Flies/Biting Gnats can cause the following issues:
They can cause anemia/death- if a large swarm is present.
They transmit leucocytozoonosis.
They cause flocks to become restless.
They lead to decrease in your flock’s appetite.
1. Keep the coop dry. Flies love moisture. Repair any known leaks in and around the coop where rain sneaks inside.
2. Keep rain water from puddling in the run. Clear drainage areas from being choked by weeds.
2. Promote good ventilation. Fly eggs need a moist environment to thrive. Drying out the coop air, manure and bedding helps to cut down on the number of hatching eggs.
3. Be sure to clean the coop well when you change the coop’s shavings out. By leaving just a bit of old damp bedding and manure, you are leaving behind hundreds of fly eggs.
Black Flies/Biting Gnats:
1. Apply fine mesh screens to your chicken coop windows.
2. Attempt to control larvae in the Spring through the use of pyrethrum. Pyrethrum is a natural plant based insecticide made from the Chrysanthemum family. Pyrethrum should not be used after the Springtime. Flies can become resistant to it when it is used on a long term basis.
3. Eliminate any stagnant water sources on your property.
1. Keep coop and run dry.
2. Try using fly sticky tape ribbons hung in the rafters. Replace periodically.
3. Add food grade diateomaceous earth (DE) into the chicken coop bedding/shavings and in the dust bathing areas. Please wear a mask to prevent breathing in the DE dust. It can cause a chronic lung condition called Silicosis.
4. Provide fresh clean drinking water daily.
5. Keep soiled shaving and manure removed from the coop away from where the chickens can access it. This removes the fly eggs and larvae away from the coop.
6. Clean up food and water spills. Be sure the litter underneath is dry.
7. Harvest eggs promptly.
8. Try using a fan to create a gentle breeze. Flies will avoid wind.
9. Close the coop door at night to prevent flies from coming inside.
To learn more about why flies in and around your coop are bad for chickens, click here to read about flystrike.
Damerow, Gail. The chicken health handbook. Pownal, Vt.: Storey Communications, 1994. Print.