Keeping chickens has been a learning process from the start. And even though I have had chickens in my yard and in a coop for over a decade, I am still learning new things.
Last fall, my neighbor down the road was complaining about the tick problem everyone had this year. I wondered why seeming infestation from the woods in the area had not affected my yard. My dog was not acting unusual, and my outdoor cat was clean as ever.
I went home and did a sweep of the yard, and the mystery was quickly solved as a watched my flock excitedly chase a flock of gnats across the grass. If they could see those gnats, surely they would attack a tick with the same vigor.
Do Chickens Eat Ticks?
Chickens do eat ticks and other pests because they will eat almost anything that moves and catches their eye. But they are not enough to be the only form of pest control in most cases, and they too can become victims of the ticks that they enjoy eating.
My preliminary research indicated the reason I was saved from that autumn’s tick problem in the area was that my chickens kept all insects at bay. But I wanted to be sure. After all, I had a dog that liked to explore the woods and a lot of potential for exposure.
So I scheduled an appointment with my friend and local agricultural professor at the community college. He referenced me to the latest research on the topic and told me about the Fowl Tick that has decimated whole flocks of professional chicken farms in the past.
It appeared that the fact that my chickens would eat ticks did not let me off the hook when it came to pest control, and the amount that the chickens consumed could be unreliable considering they were only partially free-range, and my dog had the ability to track pests in the yard when he decided to go off into the woods.
Further research into seed ticks, tick infestations, mites, and fowl made me worry, so I had to do an inspection to ease my mind. What I found astounded me and made me take immediate action. Do not continue reading if you do not want to hear about a type of tick that will haunt your nightmares forever.
I rake my chicken coops and use the refuge for the compost pile about once a season. I am not too diligent about it because my hens keep up with the area pretty well, and it never has smelled or attracted flies. This time when I went to inspect the area, I instantly found my pants covered in little dots that started spreading quickly up the light fabric like something right out of a horror movie.
I quickly dropped those clothes right there in the pen and ran inside for a shower. (Good thing my coop was in the back yard away from the roadside view!) A quick internet search told me I had seed ticks or baby ticks. These monsters hang out in a glob just waiting for a host. After that scalding shower and a search with tweezers, I decided I was brave enough to reenter the chicken coop, this time with boots, pants tucked into my socks, bug spray, and an arsenal of boric acid.
My hens were kicked out of their pen for the week, and I made a big bonfire for all the litter, then spread the boric acid powder into all the cracks. I was not satisfied really that I got them all, but it felt like a start.
The problem resided in a fact that kept bugging the back of my mind: Ticks can infest chicken coops and stay there without food until an animal comes in for up to three years!
All I can do is keep cleaning and checking the area to ensure that the very pests that my chickens eat out of the yard do not turn my chickens and their coop into their nursery for millions of offspring. They may be able to go hungry for years, but they won’t withstand the fire and natural poisons I throw at them.
I checked each of my hens and my rooster. I was relieved to find that the seed tick nest I got from their pen was seemingly only for me. They were relatively clean and certainty not infested, as I have seen in my research about chicken mites, seed ticks, and fowl ticks. I still began them on their own regime of natural pest prevention.
Natural Tick Prevention For Fowl:
- If you are into essential oils or if you happen to grow these herbs, then peppermint, oregano, and clove oil are all repellant to ticks and safe for chickens as long as you avoid the eyes.
- Food grade Diatomaceous Earth is horrible to all types of bugs, including fleas, ticks, and roaches, and it is harmless to chickens. You can place it where they take their dust baths, in their bedding, and in the cracks and crevices of their pen.
- Boric acid is not harmful to chickens as long as it is not placed directly on them, and pests hate it. It is a fine powder that will fit into hard to reach areas.
- Garlic crushed in the water and in the chicken feed is said to prevent ticks from wanting to feast on your chicken because they notice the smell. If you grow your own or have extra cloves, it is something to try.
- Even planting certain plants around the pen like peppermint and lemongrass can reduce tick and other bugs, but it is also recommended to reduce brush in tick risk areas, so balance these directives.
- Vinegar in chicken water also makes them smell different from ticks, fleas, and even mosquitoes, but it does not affect the egg taste or smell. Those who eat their chickens claim that the meat is more tender from the vinegar as well, but my flock is pets, so I cannot attest to this either way.
While chickens will eat ticks, fleas, and other pests, there are things you should do to ensure that they themselves do not get an infestation in the coop because they can become overwhelmed and sick if tick eggs are permitted to hatch.
Ticks lay their eggs, and between 2,000 to 5,000 emerge in the form of the tiniest little specks that even chicken would not notice. If a chicken is infested with these “seed ticks,” they can quickly lose feathers, appetite, and even pass on if the pests are bad enough.
I know I was nothing less than horrified and discussed to see them on me. I cannot even imagine how bad a small chicken must feel with a true infestation. They have no recourse. This is why we must be diligent.
Certain breeds of chickens are known for eating ticks better than others. Guinea Hens are an interesting breed that likes to roost high in trees, make a ton of noise, and have a reputation of being great for pest control.
I had a few in the past, but I also discovered a prefer a more homey breed that does not try to wander to the neighbor’s property in the hunt for their next bug. Instead of buying a specific breed to eat ticks, I tried to find ways new to make my current flock less appealing to ticks, and of course, keep their pen pest free.
Chickens may help keep large and easy to see ticks at bay because they go after anything that moves, but you should keep your yard mowed, all yard debris collected and put to the side or disposed of, and do your best to stay out of brush without protection.
Ticks carry many diseases, including Lyme, Rocky Mountain Fever, Bartonella, and more. These tick-borne illnesses can affect you and your pet alike. They are not to be taken lightly, and even a large flock will not eat enough ticks to keep them all at bay, but they may actually end up spreading them and their “seed ticks” around under their wings, exacerbating the problem.
Be sure to protect your flock, yourself, and your pets from the nasty bloodsuckers with plenty of preventative measures and a clean-cut farm.
Before that autumn day, when my neighbor complained of a tick infestation in the woods, and I decided to dig deeper into why there were no large ticks in my yard, I simply assumed that chickens ate all the ticks that my dog would bring into their vicinity.
I am glad I did the research to discover that while chickens do eat ticks, they cannot handle a “baby” tick infestation. I now do my part to keep them safe from seed ticks while they still scour the yard for full-grown treats to gobble up.
Chickens are known to be an effective form of pest control in folk remedies, but you have to look at all sides of the situation when you ask the question if chickens eat ticks.
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