The thought of raising chickens conjures up some pretty beautiful imagery.
You might think of happy hens frolicking through a meadow, nibbling worms and plants as they run about.
You may even think of yourself, walking out to the chicken coop each morning with a basket, plucking warm, freshly laid eggs from the nests for breakfast.
What you might not think of, however, is that all of you are likely to be surrounded by swarms of annoying, disease-carrying flies if you aren’t careful about taking steps to prevent them.
Flies present a major problem on farms all over the world, but with a little bit of attention, you can learn how to keep flies out of your chicken coop for good.
Here’s what you need to know.
Why Are Flies a Problem?
If you aren’t already aware of this, flies are a major pain when it comes to proper barnyard management.
The fly is a pesky creature that has been considered a nuisance pest for thousands of years. Not only can they affect human welfare because they transmit all kinds of disease, but they also breed in rotten food, garbage, and manure – that’s not exactly appealing to think about.
Flies can spread all of the following diseases, some of which can be passed to you, and others to your chickens:
- Avian influenza
In your chicken coop, flies can also cause stress, discomfort, and reduced egg production. If they’re annoying to you, chances are, they’re equally annoying – or perhaps more so – to your chickens.
Understanding the Life Cycle of a Fly
Before you can get rid of flies in your chicken coop, it’s important to understand how these pests reproduce and survive.
Luckily, the lifespan of a fly is only about two or three weeks. However, it can be as long as three months depending on the conditions.
A fly will start its life as an egg, which takes no longer than sixteen hours to hatch. After a few days, it hatches into a larva, which is when it begins to eat, grow, and develop.
Next, it becomes a pup before moving on to its final stage- the adult fly stage. As an adult, a female fly can lay up to 700 eggs. That’s all within two or three weeks, meaning one single short-lived fly has the potential to wreak some serious long-term damage.
Tips for Keeping Flies out of the Chicken Coop
Here are a list of out favorite tips to reduce flies in your chicken coop:
This goes without saying, but one of the easiest ways to prevent flies and other pests from setting up shop in your chicken coop is to clean it on a regular basis. Everything from manure, food, and mud can attract flies to your chicken coop.
After all, it’s a free source of food and water!
While you can’t exactly stop your chickens from pooping or eating – they kind of go hand-in-hand – you can do your best to clean up whatever debris is left.
Clean your chicken coop on a regular basis, using a rake or shovel to remove dirty bedding and spoiled food. You should also make sure you are cleaning out the dust baths, nesting boxes, and roost bars, too.
Remove any built-up bedding and wipe them down with vinegar and water to help remove any traces of odors or contaminants.
When you’re cleaning your coop, it’s a good idea to wear a pair of rubber gloves. This is a messy procedure and there’s plenty of bacteria in the coop that can make you sick.
Avoid using bleach or other harmful chemicals in your coop. It’s especially important to avoid bleach because, when mixed with the ammonia that is naturally occurring in chicken manure, it can create toxic fumes that can be deadly.
Mint is a natural herb that is highly effective at killing bacteria and even killing flies. There are several ways you can incorporate mint to help in your pest control efforts.
Many people simply plant mint near their chicken coops – the chickens will also enjoy eating it – but you may have better luck hanging actual mint plants inside the coop.
The chickens will still have a blast pecking at the “mint pinatas,” but the mint will be located in a more central location so that it can keep flies away inside.
You can also use mint essential oil. This concentrated solution is easy to make at home and can be sprayed liberally all over the coop.
For the record, mint isn’t the only essential oil or herb that flies abhor. You might also want to give some of the following herbs a try if you want to banish the bugs for good:
- Bay leaves
- Wild orange
Use Fly Strips
Fly strips may not look pretty, but your chickens probably won’t care.
These aren’t the most effective at preventing flies, but they can be super helpful when you’re trying to remove the files you already have. The only issue with using fly strips is that, if you have a lot of chickens, it’s going to be tough for you to keep up with changing the strips!
You will also want to make sure you hang the strips high enough up in the coop that your chickens won’t get their feathers stuck to the sticky tape.
Upgrade Your Coop
No, that doesn’t mean it’s time to add a hot tub or new siding. It just means it’s time to rethink the way your coop is designed.
One of the most common reasons why flies are attracted to chicken coops is because there is no ventilation or cross breeze to blow them all over the place. They have plenty of food and water to munch on, and no gusty wind to push them around while they’re doing it.
A coop with poor ventilation creates the potential for all sorts of problems, from frostbite to odors and everything in between.
Luckily, adding a bit of ventilation is easy to do. If you have windows (or even one window and a door) on opposing sides of the coop, crack them open. Make sure there’s an opportunity for a good cross-breeze to work its way through the coop.
If you don’t have good airflow, you can create an artificial breeze by using a gentle circulating box fan. Just be careful where you position this and make sure you clean it every day, as box fans have been known to cause fires as they build up dust from inside the coop.
You will also want to keep an eye out on your chickens to make sure they don’t interfere with the fan and hurt themselves. A fan that has a safety grate can usually do the trick.
While you’re in the process of remodeling your coop, add some window screens. More than likely, you already have chicken wire on them to protect against predators, but make sure the holes in this screen are small enough to keep out flies, too.
Plant Some Marigolds
Another plant that is highly effective at getting rid of flies is the marigold. Marigolds, also known as calendula, are unattractive to a long list of pests.
You can plant these lovely flowers near your coop to keep the pests away, or you can hang dried or fresh flowers in the coop. Just bear in mind that your chickens love the taste of marigolds, so you may have to replace them often!
Let Fly Predators Flourish
There are all kinds of insects that you can purchase that feed on fly larvae. These beneficial insects aren’t usually harmful but instead, get rid of flies in a more natural way. They are inexpensive and work well in small coops.
Fly predators are usually small wasps – don’t worry, they don’t sting – that eat fly larvae. They have no chance of hatching and becoming adults. Although you’ll need to work through an entire fly life cycle in order to see results, it shouldn’t take long for you to realize that these predators are hard at work.
One thing to be aware of, however, is that if your fly problem is out of hand – or if you live near a very large farm that does not practice any kind of fly control – you won’t be as successful in this solution. You will need quite a few more predators in order to make an impact.
Compost the Smart Way
Make sure your compost pile is as hot as possible. The hotter your compost is, the faster decomposition will begin. This applies both to compost outside of the coop as well as composting bedding, also known as the deep litter method of bedding.
An easy way to do this is to compost vertically instead of horizontally. By minimizing the amount of surface area exposed to the air, you will increase the temperature of the pile and also reduce odors that can attract flies. Turn the pile often to help keep things cooking.
If that doesn’t work, you might need to move your compost pile. Lots of backyard chicken owners keep their compost piles near their chicken coops because chickens love pecking through the pile each day.
To be fair, this is a great way of getting your compost turner for free, too! However, it may be necessary to move the compost to cut down on flies.
Rely on Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is every chicken keepers’ favorite holistic remedy. Not only is it an effective way to keep internal and external parasites away, but it can also help get rid of flies in the chicken coop, too.
This compound is essentially just ground-up fossils of other insects. It works by cutting the exterior of a fly’s body, causing him to become dried up and eventually die.
Diatomaceous earth is not harmful to chickens or people but it is effective against both adult flies and fly larvae. It takes some time to work, so be patient.
Make Sure Your Bedding is Dry
While removing dirty bedding is a great way to cut down on flies, an even easier way to reduce your chores and your fly population is to use a dry source of bedding. While straw, hay, and shredded paper are great bedding types for chicken coops, they hold a bit more water than other types of bedding – like sand.
If you use sand as your litter of choice, it will coat the droppings as they fall and dry them almost immediately. This can reduce odors and prevent flies from being drawn to your chicken coop.
Rethink the Water Situation
Although it’s not practical to put feeding troughs outside – the open source of food has a tendency to attract rodents and other pests – you should reconsider keeping your waterers indoors. Put the drinkers outside of the coop to eliminate excess moisture in the coop.
If your chickens free range most of the day, you don’t need drinkers inside the coop, anyway. They don’t drink water except during waking hours.
Similarly, you should avoid leaving any standing water in any area of the property. This is a tough one to remember, especially in the spring when it seems like just about everything is muddy.
However, you will want to eliminate stagnant water as much as possible. It not only serves as a breeding ground for flies but can draw mosquitoes and other pests, too. Install adequate drainage systems and make sure water does not accumulate in things like empty planters, birdbaths, and other receptacles.
You don’t have to cut out snacks altogether, but rethink when and how you feel treats. Some people only feed treats and scraps in designated feeding troughs or special pans so that clean-up is easier when the chickens inevitably leave some behind.
Even if you don’t do this, make sure you clean up any extra food that’s left behind. While all food can attract flies, they especially like sticky, sweet foods like fruit. Don’t let them get their paws on it!
When it comes to the rest of your feed supply, make sure it is stored in airtight drums. Ideally, these drums won’t be in your chicken coop, where they can attract pests and potential predators, but in a separate location.
Give Vanilla a Go
There is some anecdotal evidence that flies don’t like the smell of vanilla. Try hanging a vanilla air freshener in your coop to see if that makes a difference. At least it’s cheap if it doesn’t work for you!
Hang Some Water Bags
The concept of hanging plastic bags full of water in the chicken coop to keep flies away is as old as time. It might be an old wives’ tale, but there are plenty of chicken keepers who swear by it.
All you have to do is fill a large gallon-sized bag about halfway full with water. Add a couple of pennies, then hang the bag by the doorway to the coop. Likely, this works by catching the reflection of the light and scaring the flies away – but nobody really knows for sure!
Diversify Your Poultry
Chickens aren’t the only birds that like to eat flies. Ducks love them too, and they’ll also eat fly larvae. If there’s a ton of standing water or even a few ponds on your property, ducks can help keep fly populations under control.
Should I Use Fly Traps and Insecticides to Keep Flies Out of the Chicken Coop?
If you do a quick search for ways to keep flies out of your home or barn, you will likely get a long list of fly trap product suggestions.
While there are, of course, some benefits to using these traps, there are also some serious disadvantages. Not only are they unpleasant to look at, but some are quite expensive. They can also be quite dangerous to your chickens, especially when you consider that they can contain harmful chemicals.
There are a few natural insecticides you can use, however. Spinosad is one such option. This product is actually the final product of fermentation of a type of bacteria and it can kill flies along with various types of mites. You can use it to spray buildings and it has very few risks associated with its use.
If you use a trap, opt for one that isn’t loaded with chemicals. Ideally, you should position the trap so it’s at least 30 feet away from your chicken coop. That way, you’ll be attracting the flies out of the coop and to a new location.
It can also start to smell bad as it collects more flies, so the further away from your walking path, the better.
Keep Flies Out of the Chicken Coop for Good
For the best and most long-lasting results, you may want to consider combining a few of these tactics in the long term.
What works well on one population of flies may not be as effective on another, so it’s important to take some time to figure out what works well for you.
At the end of the day, knowing how to keep flies out of your chicken coop will help you stay on top of any health, sanitation, and disease issues before they ever become problems. Your hens will enjoy the luxury of a clean, fly-free coop as they lay their daily eggs – and you’ll enjoy the serenity of being able to walk into your coop without having to swat flies away from your face!