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Urban Chickens 101: How to be the Lord (or Lady) of the flies

A private bug-zapper is one way to cut down on pests.
  This Banty Shanty has a private bug-zapper. Photo by R. Caldwell

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It's true. In our Midwest summers, flies can be uncontrollable. Perhaps the pests will even make you reconsider having chickens.

I am about to share a little secret with you. I know how to control them, and you will soon have no more issues with the Bubble-Eyed Swarms of Disgust.

First, let me tell you how the struggle goes: if you have only a handful of hens, you won't notice any complication- however readers who have fallen victim to 'Chicken Math' know how a handful increases swiftly to whatever the ordinance governing your property declares the maximum number of chickens ought to be. It's true! So- those lucky urban farmers with many birds know that: Until the poo dries, you will have flies.

Like mosquitoes, they appear from nowhere, and the various traps and sticky papers are just a threat to the well-being of your birds (never let a white bird get stuck to fly-paper. It's not a good look) should they manage to get into these attempts to control the pests. Poisons are also dangerous to our already dwindling numbers of honeybees, so this is ill-advised. Drying products work well when in an area not subject to rain. Stall-Dri contains drying and caking agents and can be spread liberally around the coop or run without harm to birds. Another reliable product is food grade diatomaceous earth, which can be purchased at premium pet stores, such as Brookside Barkery and Bath, with multiple Kansas City locations. Please only use food grade, as no other grade is acceptable for animal use. You can dust your birds with this (being careful to wear a mask so you don't inhale it) to prevent mites as well. I sprinkle this liberally in all of my nesting boxes and mix it with sand and fine wood shavings for their dust-bathing bliss. This can also be mixed 1 part to 50 parts feed to deter internal parasites and cause poo to dry faster. It's an excellent assistant in poultry-keeping. Keeping the area free of waste is clearly helpful, but not always practical.

I discovered some time back that pure vanilla extract indeed repels mosquitoes, and when mixed with cloves and lemon, works for hours. My friend Christy told me her naturopath recommended using more than one scent to prolong the deterrent's effectiveness. Recently, it became rumored that the scent of vanilla could work on flies, too, but uninterested in spending whopping gobs of money on high-quality vanilla- which seems to work better than the cheap stuff- I found a great solution:

Vanilla scented rear-view mirror air-fresheners. 

Mock me. Doubt me. I accept the disbelief. Try it, and if it fails, let me know. I think I'll compile a list of brands available in the Kansas City area and compare them via your comments!

For more info: 5 myths about backyard chickens


  • revolutionmama 5 years ago

    That's what I need is a bug zapper!!!!

  • ckennedy 5 years ago

    Good ideas, Renee. Thanks : )

  • BethieofVA 4 years ago

    I use the little vanilla trees, too. I think it helps.

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    now they like me more than my chickens since my house is warmer...can't they all just drop dead!

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