“Keep your mouth shut…”
That used to be my routine bit of advice for anyone entering my chicken coop during the summer months.
Fly control in the chicken coop used to feel like a losing battle for me, and the results were… gross. The cloud of black, buzzing flies used to be so thick when you’d open the door, you almost needed a welding helmet to keep them out of your eyes and mouth.
If you think I’ve been talking about bugs a lot lately, it’s because, well, I’m a little obsessed with natural fly control strategies… When you have big piles of future compost (aka manure…) sitting behind your barn, it tends to attract a lot of flies, which end up in your house, in your barn, in your food, in your homemade lemonade… You get the picture.
Unless you want to blast your homestead with massive amounts of pesticides (and I don’t), I have yet to find a one-size-fits-all cure for dealing with summer bugs on the homestead. However, taking a multi-faceted approach has been very successful for me.
In fact, I currently have fewer flies in my chicken coop than I do my house… For reals. If any of you have tips for getting Prairie Kids to keep the front door shut, let me know. But in the meantime, I’ll think you’ll like these strategies for natural fly control in the chicken coop—>
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6 Strategies for Fly Control in the Chicken Coop
1. Fly Predators
Fight fire with fire. Or in this case, fight the annoying bugs with good bugs. I’m still a newbie to fly predators, but am hopeful thus far, especially considering the rave reviews I’ve heard from other homesteaders and horse/agricultural folks. I released my first fly predator shipment mid-May, and my second shipment came last week.
How do Fly Predators Work?
After you order, you’ll get a lovely little baggie of predator pupae (cocoon things) in the mail. Let the bag sit for a few days until the tiny predators begin to hatch, then deposit them in key spots (aka manure piles) around your barnyard. The adult predators feast on the pupa of the annoying flies, and you get a fly relief program that doesn’t require pesticides. One caveat: chickens like to eat the predator pupae, so try to deposit them in an area where your chickens don’t have easy access.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is just handy to have around, period. DE is a fine powder made from the fossilized remains of algae, or diatoms. I use it in various applications around my barnyard, garden, and the coop as a natural pest deterrent. Some people also feed it to their livestock/chickens and claim it works from an internal aspect as well.
To use Diatomaceous Earth in the Chicken Coop:
Sprinkle DE in and around coop bedding or in areas where chickens take their dust baths. DE works from a mechanical aspect, not a chemical one, as it tends to dry out insects and make areas less hospitable for larvae.
The key with DE is not to expect it to be a ‘miracle fix’, but rather a component of a full fly-prevention program.
Diatomaceous Earth Cautions:
- Always be sure to purchase food-grade diatomaceous earth, not the stuff designed for pools.
- Wear a mask while sprinkling DE. It is a fine particulate that may cause lung irritation.
- Allow the dust to settle and the coop to ventilate a bit before allowing the chickens back in (to minimize the dust in the air they would be breathing).
3. Hang Water Bags
An old wives tale? Maybe. But considering it costs practically nothing to try, why not?
How to Do It:
- Fill a heavy-duty gallon-sized bag (Ziploc freezer bags would work) half-full with water
- Add 1-2 pennies.
- Hang by doorways and entrances to the coop.
Some people say this is dumb, while others swear by it. If you have a good water-baggie story, be sure to let me know in the comments!
4. Make Essential Oil or Herbal Sprays
Again, not a miracle fix. But a part of an overall fly program? You bet! There are many, many herbs and essential oils that bugs just plain don’t like, and mixing them into a spray is a great way to make your chicken coop even less appealing to our little buzzing friends. An added bonus: it makes your coop smell all happy.
A Few Essential Oils Bugs Hate:
Rosemary, basil, dill, peppermint, spearmint, lavender, thyme, geranium, lemongrass, citronella, lemon, wild orange, etc.
A Few Herbs Bugs Hate:
Rosemary, mint, basil, dill, lavender, thyme, bay leaves, tansy, etc.
Chicken Coop Fly Repellent Recipe
- 2 cups vinegar (how to make your own vinegar)
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons real vanilla extract (how to make vanilla extract)
- 40 drops of essential oil (can be a single oil, or a combination of any of the oils listed above)
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well, and spritz generously in the coop wherever flies congregate. (For me, that’s around the main door. It has a window in it and always has the most flies around it– unless I keep it sprayed down, that is.)
- Hang bunches of fresh herbs in various places in the coop
- Place fresh herbs in nesting boxes. Not only do many herbs deter flies, but your chickens will love it.
- Mix dried herbs into your nesting box bedding.
- Plant an herb garden close to the coop. The challenge with this would be keeping the chickens out of the herbs, but that’s a post for another day…
NOTE: This tip won’t work well unless you utilize Tip #5, which is—->
5. Keep it Clean
Sounds obvious, right? But man, it’s effective (and doesn’t cost you a cent)! Flies like stinky, smelly, sticky, sweet things. Therefore, one of the best ways to discourage flies from congregating is to remove aforementioned stinky, smelly, sticky, or sweet things.
For me, this means cleaning out and freshening the coop more frequently to remove areas of wet manure (a fly’s #1 favorite substance). The main offending areas are underneath roosts and perches. Some folks place a board under those areas, so they can easily carry the board outside to scrape it off. I personally just make it a point to clean the bedding under the roosts more frequently, or remove the big piles.
I also add fresh bedding frequently (to reduce the smell), turn over existing dry bedding, and sprinkle on my diatomaceous earth in the process.
Also, while I love to feed my chickens scraps, the food residue can be a huge fly attractant in the hot summer months. Therefore, I always put the scraps outside in the summer, NEVER inside the coop, and I try to rake up any leftovers. Otherwise, you’ll end up with crazy fly swarms.
6. Fly Traps & Fly Strips
Can we all just take a moment to recognize the humble fly strip? Lowly though it may be, it offers immediate results (yes, I have fly strips hanging in my kitchen…), and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
While you can certainly use fly strips in your coop,depending on how many flies you have, you might find yourself replacing fly strips quite frequently… If that’s the case, a better option is a fly trap.
You can purchase fly traps (and accompanying attractants/bait) from Amazon or your local feed store, OR make your own homemade fly trap from an old plastic bottle instead.