Keeping your chicken coop as pest-free as possible is vital for protecting the health of your feathered friends. Pests and creepy crawlies can easily sneak in and bother your flock and, if left unchecked, can cause serious problems for your birds! Rodents (like rats and mice) can transmit diseases to poultry, and can also gobble up their feed. Biting bugs, like lice and mites, feed on the skin, blood, and feathers of your hens. In the case of heavy infestations, this can interrupt their sleep, harm the overall health of your flock and even reduce egg production.
Restoring the health of your birds once it’s been compromised can be both time-consuming and costly, so keeping your coop critter-free is the best way to keep your chickens on top form. Read on to find out which pests are most commonly found lurking around chicken coops, and what steps you can take to banish them for good!
Which pests do you need to look out for in and around your chicken coop?
Chicken coops can come under attack from all sorts of insect and mammalian pests, many of which can be injurious to the health of your hens. But which ones should you be on the lookout for in and around your coop?
Chicken mites are a common coop invader. These tiny arachnids are easy to miss, as they are only just visible with the naked eye and may appear as dark, moving specks in the feathers of your birds. Diminutive as they may be, the presence of mites in your coop can present a serious problem! The most damaging of all chicken mites is the poultry red mite (Dermanyssus gallinae). These bugs are among the most prevalent of all poultry pests, invading coops in backyards and farms around the world. The effects of these insects on the health of your chickens can be devastating, causing pain, irritation and high levels of stress. This can, in turn, lead to excessive and aggressive self-grooming, which can cause injury and infection. Red poultry mite infestation is also associated with decreased egg production and transmission of pathogens such as Salmonella.
How to protect your chicken coop from mites?
It is in every chicken keeper’s best interests to keep their flock free of mites, but how can you control these pests in and around your coop?
Fortunately, there are several simple steps you can take to keep these bugs off your birds. Mites hate garlic, so this pungent bulb can be used to great effect in your war on the bugs. Mix crushed garlic into your flock’s feed, add it to their water and scatter the skins around their bedding to keep mites out of your coop and off your hens.
Dusting your hens with diatomaceous earth can also reduce the number of mites lurking in their feathers, and scattering this natural product around your coop can help to repel the bugs. Pesticides (available as sprays, wettable powders, and dusts) can also be used to rid your flock of mites to great effect.
Lice are another common chicken coop pest. These tiny, straw-colored, wingless bugs feed on the blood, skin, and feathers of your flock, and can spread rapidly from bird to bird. Adult lice can lay up to 300 eggs during their three-week lifespan, so infestations of these insects can take hold with alarming speed.
Though they are not known to transmit any poultry pathogens, lice can cause the general health of your flock to deteriorate rapidly. They are especially problematic for young birds, as they can disrupt sleep and cause stress. They can also cause excessive grooming, which can give way to skin damage and infections.
How to protect your chicken coop from lice?
Several pesticides (containing pyrethrins, synthetic pyrethroids, and organophosphates) can be used as an effective chicken lice treatment. These can be used to kill lice living in the feathers of your birds but must be repeated to take out newly-hatched insects. Pesticidal resin strips can also be used to repel lice (and mites) from your coop on a long-term basis. Place these strips near feed, water, and bedding to ensure that your hens are continuously exposed to the treatment for the best effects.
Remember to also check the feathers and skin of any new birds thoroughly before introducing them to your flock. This can be the most effective preventative measure against lice infestations in your coop.
Rats and mice
Rats and mice live comfortably among humans, making rodents one of the world’s most common pests. If they invade your chicken coop, these tiny mammals can transmit harmful pathogens, such as Salmonella, to your hens.
They can also gobble up large amounts of chicken feed, especially if an infestation takes hold. This can significantly raise the cost of keeping hens, so keeping them at bay is the best way to protect both your birds and your finances.
How to protect your chicken coop from rodents?
There are several steps you can take to keep rodents out of your coop. Rats and mice can sneak in through even the smallest cracks and crevices, so sealing up entry points is the first thing you should do. It may not be possible to block off every entry point to your hen house, so setting up traps around the outside of your coop is also advisable.
Keep your coop clean to discourage rats and mice from entering in search of food and change your chicken’s bedding regularly to disrupt potential nesting sites. If possible, remove the feed from your coop at night so to avoid tempting rodents inside.
Further tips and tricks for keeping pests out of your chicken’s coop
- Ensure chickens have access to a dust-bathing area. Dust-bathing is how chickens naturally prevent parasites like mites and lice, so making sure they have somewhere to do this can help to keep your coop pest-free.
- Scatter diatomaceous earth around your coop. Diatomaceous earth (and other repellent substances, such as garlic) can help to deter pests from entering your coop.
- Set up some rodent traps. If you have a problem with rats and mice, the best way to keep them out of your hen house is to kill them before they get in. Setting up rodent traps around the outside of your coop can stop rodents in their tracks!
- Keep your coop clean. Change your chicken’s bedding regularly and keep your coop clean to discourage infestations of insects and rodents.
- Quarantine new birds. Keep any new birds separate from your flock until you have checked them thoroughly for lice and mites. This way, you can avoid introducing pests to your coop.
Pests (such as mites, lice, and rodents) regularly invade chicken coops, where they may steal feed, transmit diseases to your flock, and harm the overall health of your birds. Keeping your coop free from pests is, therefore, the best way to ensure the happiness of your flock, and to keep egg production running smoothly. Preventative measures (such as the use of diatomaceous earth and rodent traps around your hen house) can help to prevent infestations from taking hold, while there are several natural and chemical treatments available for ridding your hens from parasites.