Nothing is worse than being bothered by flying pests. It can make life miserable for you….and, yes, even your chickens! Here 6 ways to keep mosquitoes, flies, and gnats off your chickens so you AND they can enjoy time outside!
When it’s the time of year for flying insects to make their presence known, you need to be prepared to fight the battle and win.
I’ve shown you how to keep flies out of your chicken coop, true enough. But as your flock plays in their run or tractor, or free ranges, you might notice them shaking their heads quite a bit and looking somewhat miserable, particularly on humid days.
You might even hear some annoyed clucks and squawks.
It’s possible your flock is being annoyed by mosquitoes, gnats, flies, and the like – and it can impact their health.
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Why flying insects can cause health problems in your backyard chickens
Think about it – if you’re trying to forever keep insects from bugging you, you’re not eating, drinking, and enjoying life. The same is true for chickens. Maybe even more so since they aren’t reasoning creatures with access to an air-conditioned house.
The extra energy spent constantly moving to keep bugs off can cause your chickens to lose weight and experience heat stress. Not to mention they are physically uncomfortable.
Flies and mosquitoes also harbor diseases and bacteria, which can affect your flock’s health. Yes indeed, they are the perfect disease transmission specialists.
So, in this article, I’ll show you 6 different ways you can keep flying insects off your hens! (plus more tips)
6 All-Natural Remedies
Citronella is safe for chickens. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how great it is at keeping bugs away – particularly mosquitoes. Yes! It will repel mosquitoes.
Each year about this time, I put a few potted citronella plants in the coop. They look great, keep the air smelling fresh, and help keep mosquitoes from bothering the hens.
Just be sure to clean your nesting boxes 3-4 times a week if you’re using fresh herbs.
Lemongrass and citronella are related. They both contain the chemical constituent that does a great job keeping us bug-free during the summer.
I have not found the citronella plant as a dried herb, so I use lemongrass in my flock’s nesting boxes to give them extra protection while they lay eggs.
I’ve noticed that when the hens sit still to lay their eggs, they’re way more prone to mosquito bites. Plus they can be irritated by gnats, flies, and other creepy crawlies as well. This can make it pretty difficult to get those butt nuggets out easily.
Imagine trying to give birth while having a mosquito buzzing around your head. No fun.
Lemongrass is a main ingredient in PestsBGone, which I developed specifically to keep pests away in coops.
Both of these are the same herbs I use in my own backyard chicken flock’s nesting boxes. It helps make them happy and have better egg production.
#3 Dried Lemon Balm
Lemon balm also contains citronella and can be mixed in feed and nesting boxes.
We grow it every year in our garden and it’s a perennial. So, we have a constant supply of fresh lemon balm. We hang it in the coop or mix it into the nesting boxes.
You can also tear fresh lemon balm to release the essential oils. Then rub them on your flock’s combs, wattles, legs, and other areas that seem bothered by insects.
You can buy started lemon balm at your local big box store and replant it into pots. Dried lemon balm smells GREAT and the essential oils are concentrated.
You can also mix dried lemon balm into your flock’s feed. They love the fresh taste and picking at the herbs.
Our product called Stronghen is a great choice as well.
#4 Citronella essential oil mixed with a carrier oil
Not everyone wants to use essential oils on their chickens – and that’s fine.
If you DO use oils on your flock, citronella essential oil is a GREAT choice. Apply to your flock if they’re REALLY bothered by gnats, flies, and mosquitoes, and are completely miserable.
Each year I usually have a few hens who seem especially bothered, and they seem much relieved after applying citronella oil.
You can mix 1 drop of citronella essential oil with 1 tablespoon of carrier oil. Some choices for carrier oil are coconut oil, cocoa butter, and mango butter. Apply the mixture to combs, wattles, etc to keep the bugs at bay.
If essential oils aren’t your thing, you can combine citronella, dried lemongrass, or dried lemon balm with olive oil. Allow to steep for 2-4 weeks so the olive oil absorbs the essential oils from the plants, and then apply as needed.
I avoid essential oils altogether with chicks. Instead, I opt for simply keeping fresh or dried herbs around them to prevent pests.
#5 Peppermint coop spray & fly spray for chickens
I cover how to make peppermint coop spray here and natural fly repellent here, and they’re both great options to keep flies and other pests away. Please note that these sprays aren’t meant to be sprayed ON your chickens – just around the coop.
I have a recipe below that you can use ON your chickens.
Flying insects hate peppermint. Although I would also add something like citronella or lemon balm to get a double (or triple) punch. I’m not convinced peppermint is as effective as plants containing citronella when it comes to flying insects.
If you plan to spray your flock to keep bugs away, consider steeping peppermint with lemongrass in hot water. Allow to cool, then gently mist by spraying the mixture up towards the sky, allowing the mist to fall down.
Don’t drench your chickens – you’re not looking to give them a bath. Just mist them a bit, making sure to avoid eyes, ears, and nostrils.
If they’re particularly bothered in those areas, you can squirt your fingers and gently apply by rubbing your fingers AROUND those areas – not in or on them.
If I need to apply around the eyes, I only apply UNDER the eyes to avoid any drips that might harm their eyeballs.
We’ve found this to work to provide some relief during particularly muggy & buggy days.
As stated above, I avoid spraying chicks at all and opt to keep fresh or dried herbs around them to keep them bug-free.
Marigolds are the go-to for gardeners to keep pests out of the garden, and they’ll work for your coop also. Don’t confuse them with calendula, which are great flowers to feed your backyard chicken flock for golden yolks. Regular marigolds you can find at your local farm store in early spring.
We love putting marigolds in window boxes, hanging them around the coop, and placing the petals in nesting boxes to provide relief and help keep our hens comfortable.
They’re safe for backyard chickens, and it’s best to put any fresh flowers or herbs we discussed in this article at the same level as your flock.
But if you find your hens stripping off the petals, put the marigolds out of reach so they can still do their job, or give your flock something tastier to rip apart.
The pretty color of marigolds brightens the interior of the coop and nesting boxes. Just be sure to clean your nesting boxes regularly, and keep watch for any potential external parasites such as chicken mites.
Help! I Don’t Have Time To Figure Out the Herbs!
No worries! Many of my followers don’t have the time, or the desire, to grow, harvest, and prepare herbs and plants for their chickens (or any other reason). It’s okay, no judgment here. I do have help for you though.
Here is a list of some of the pest control products we have designed to make your life easier and your chickens’ lives better!
Other Tips To Keep Bugs Away
You can find methods online to trap mosquitoes and that can be helpful. But I recommend doing that in tandem with the methods I shared in this article. You can trap the ones that resist the repellent.
Keep an ultra-clean coop. The chickens’ odors will attract bugs and the cleaner the coop, the less appealing it is for nasty bugs.
These methods will also help keep mosquitos and other bugs away from goats, sheep, and horses.
Standing water in old stock tanks, an old bird bath, unkept ponds or oversized puddles will contribute to the mosquito population. Therefore, fixing those areas will also help protect your flock.
Some ducks are considered to be mosquito predators (they eat them), so you might look into a duck or two.
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.