As much as we dislike the small disturbing insects, flies usually come along if you are keeping chicken.
Those black pestering creatures are usually at every nook and cranny in the farm and multiply pretty quickly with one female fly getting sexually active just after 24hours of being in the adult stage. A female fly can lay up to 500 eggs in its lifetime.
As tiny as the fly appears, they have many negative impacts to your farm and you need to take measures to prevent or control any infestations before they get out of hand.
What exactly is this fly?
The house fly (Musca domestica), is a big nuisance in poultry farms all over the world. To get rid of the flies, you must first understand their life cycle and how the flies interact with the environment in order to establish the best way of dealing with them.
The fly life cycle goes through four unique stages. At each stage, they may pose a certain risk to the poultry farmer. The stages include:
- The egg stage
This stage usually lasts for 8-16 hours. They are usually white and shiny and are difficult to see with the human eye. You can find eggs in damp organic material such as the chicken droppings.
- The larva (maggot) stage
This stage lasts for about 3days to several weeks depending on the conditions. They account for 80-90% of the populations in most infestations.
This stage lasts for about 2-10days. The adult fly will be encased in a reddish-brownish exoskeleton. The pupa may remain dormant for weeks if the environmental conditions are in the extremes.
- The adult fly
The average lifespan of flies from the egg stage to being a mature adult is usually 2–3 weeks to lengths of even 3months depending on environmental factors like temperature. Adults remain alive for up to 4weeks where the female can lay up to 500 eggs in its lifetime.
The adult fly is usually active during daylight hours. This is when it breeds and eats. They prefer temperatures of between 20–25°C to operate with relatively low humidity. At low temperatures >10°C, the adult fly will remain dormant.
Why do they love your chicken coop?
- Abundance of food
Everybody loves food, and flies do too. In your chicken coop, there is usually a fresh supply of chicken poop which is the flies’ favorite food. Given that it is almost impossible to keep the coop 100% poop free, you surely will not miss a couple of flies enjoying a feast out of the droppings.
The chicken coop makes the perfect ‘maternity’ for flies. The moist environment is the most ideal place for flies to breed and lay their eggs. This is especially true if the drainage in your coop is poor or the roof leaks whenever it rains. Flies prefer to lay their eggs in compost with water content of averagely 55–85%. Fresh chicken manure has about 75–80% moisture content. This makes it most preferable as a compost for growing and developing of fly populations
How do flies affect chicken?
A huge fly infestation is a nuisance to both the farmer and the chicken in the coop. They negatively affect production in your farm and this will lead to losses in your venture. There are several ways flies affect your chicken flock. These include;
- Disease carriers
Apart from the flies looking unsightly, flies are known to be pathogen carriers of disease that affects both humans and poultry. They transmit disease by carrying viruses, parasites, bacteria and fungi on their bodies. They can also carry the pathogens through their mouthparts after ingesting infectious matter. The chicken may sometimes feed on the flies at any stage of its’ life cycle and this can infect them with disease. Some of the diseases pathogens flies carry include; avian influenza, Botulism, salmonellosis, e coli, Newcastle disease, roundworms and tape worms.
- Feed contamination
Flies feeding on the chicken feeds tend to leave specks of contamination on the feeds. In addition to contaminating the feeds, the flies tend to reduce the feed conversion efficiency thus reducing productivity in the farm.
- Disease reservoirs
Fly populations have the potential to create a harbor for disease in poultry farms. This will make it hard for you to treat diseases and completely eliminate them. You will end up spending money on diseases that keep on recurring due to the harbor created by the flies.
How do you keep them at bay?
There are several methods you can try to keep flies from invading the coop. Some of the ways include;
- Cleaning the coop
The most effective way to control flies is clean the coop out completely. The flies are attracted to smell and moisture of rotting manure and chicken feeds. You should dispose it promptly and do so in an area far away from the chicken coop.
Clean out any leftover feed, kitchen scraps, or old eggs that you might find in the coop. To remove any smell that may attract the flies, scrub down the inside of the coop with white vinegar and water.
- Rectify and dry out the coop
As I had earlier mentioned, flies like moist places for their breeding purposes. To keep them at bay, you must ensure that the litter is dry and aired frequently.
To do this, make sure that the roof of the coop overhangs the windows so as not to allow rainwater to get into the coop. Also, you will need to fix any leaking roofs or pipes in the coop. You can also use food-grade dichotomous earth to dehydrate droppings whilst also killing the fly larva.
- Using fly traps
Fly traps attract and kill flies that invade the chicken coop. when sourcing for one, ensure you get one that is nontoxic to the chicken. You can as well get one that can be hang out of reach of the chicken. Usually, fly traps need replacements after some time of use. It is therefore not as cost effective but it still gets the job done.
- Using fly predators
Keeping populations of other insects that prey on or compete with the flies can help to aid other aspects of the fly elimination strategy. Mites such as Macrocheles muscae domesticate and Fuscurooda vegetans thrive in poultry manure and also feed on fly eggs and larvae.
You should however take care not to introduce insects that will also be parasitic to the chicken.
- Structural defenses.
Putting up a barrier such as an insect net really helps keep the flies away from your flock. This will not only block insects but also other animals such as wild birds and rodents that are known vectors of disease. Apart from putting up the net, you will also need to minimize the times you keep opening the door to keep flies from entering the coop as you move in or out of the shed.
- Keep air circulating
Install a fan or open any windows in the coop to improve ventilation. This not only brings fresh air but also helps dry out droppings and litter. Also, since flies do not like moving air, an open window and a slight breeze will go a long way in keeping flies from bothering the chickens.
If by any chance you woke up in the morning and find multitudes of flies in the farm, do not panic. It is never too late to control the flies. Just practice the above control measures and within no time, the flies will have disappeared. The best and most effective control measure is hygiene. You can never go wrong with a clean and fresh coop.
Even if the fly situation goes overboard, try as much as possible to avoid using chemical insecticides. Not only could they be toxic to the chicken, but also affect fly predators more than they affect flies. This is because, over the years, flies have developed some degree of resistance to many insecticides. Also, the chemicals affect other insects like bees that do not necessarily interact with the chicken. Prioritize the use of organic control measures that are friendly to the environment.