I subscribe to a local chicken chat group and read that someone had to put down a beloved hen the other day due to Flystrike. I had never heard of this until now and after a little research, felt compelled to blog about it. Especially, because it is so preventable.
Flystrike or Myiasis, is a condition that can affect many animals including rabbits, cats, dogs, sheep, goats and chickens. It occurs when certain species of fly lay eggs on another animal. The eggs hatch into maggots that then begin to eat the animal's flesh. It causes serious pain and suffering and as we know from above, it can be fatal.
Flies are attracted to the soiled or wet area around the chicken's backside, although, any area of the body can be affected, especially, if there is a cut or wound. And it only takes one fly!
It's more common in the warmer months but can happen anytime of the year and a little prevention here can go a long way in protecting your flock. First off, keep your runs clean. DE can help so be sure to sprinkle some on the floors of your coops, in your nest boxes and in your hens favorite dust bathing holes. I have a compost bin just for the chicken droppings and when it gets warm, I do notice more flies. So I'll sprinkle a good dusting of DE over the top layer to help discourage flies.
I even went out and purchased a fly trap to hang in the run.
These fly traps work great and are just a few dollars at the hardware store. You simply cut a hole in the top and pop up the yellow plastic trap, attach a string to the top and fill with water. It contains a non-toxic attractant that lures the flies in where they drown. It doesn't contain poison and you simply toss it when it's full. I must advise you that they do stink, so be sure to place them away from windows and doors.
I would also recommend that you regularly give each hen a good once over and check their backsides. For those with seriously fluffy butts don't hesitate to take a sharp scissors and trim away some of the down. You'll be amazed and how little you need to trim off to help keep them clean back there.
I like to do this in the evening after eggs are laid and the girls have full tummies are a little tired. I gather up the hen and hold her in my arms until she's calm. Then I lay her on her side in my lap and cradle her close so that she feels safe. I keep talking to her through the whole process which usually consists of just two good snips. It's also a great time to check the bottoms of their feet for bumble foot. And then I like to give her a couple of meal worms as a treat so she has a positive association with the whole process.
If you do find a hen with Flystrike, you need to take immediate action. You will need to smother the maggots. Some do this by soaking the hen in saline water several times a day. I've read other recommendations to smear their backsides with Vaseline. I would also advise seeking the advice of a vet for further guidance in this area.
And remember, happy, healthy hens, lay more eggs, so a little effort on our part can go a long way in keeping our flocks happy and healthy.