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Fly strike in chickens

Of all the things we look forward to over summer, fly strike in chickens is certainly not one of them. 

While fly strike is typically more prevalent in sub-tropical climates and generally when the weather gets warmer, it can occur anywhere that has a high population of flies. 

It’s a particularly unpleasant and serious condition; however, prevention is always better than cure and so, if you keep a close eye on your hens and examine them often, fly strike hopefully won’t burden your hens anytime soon. 

How does fly strike occur?

Hens are good at disguising the fact that they are unwell; this is a natural defence because they don’t want to appear vulnerable to predators. 

Because of this, diarrhoea or a discharge from her vent and soiled feathers may go unnoticed. Your hen may also stop preening and grooming and be more reluctant to move around. All of this creates a perfect storm for a fly to land on your hen and lay its eggs in the soiled feathering, which is how fly strike occurs. 

If this is not spotted quickly the eggs will very quickly hatch and the tiny maggots will burrow into the skin. They then begin to feed which causes significant pain and damage. 

This is a very serious situation and if not quickly addressed the hen can die. 

How to treat fly strike

Fly strike happens very quickly and should be treated as an emergency, because flies reproduce extremely fast with eggs only taking 8 – 12 hours to hatch. 

If you spot any signs of fly strike, please book an appointment with your vet immediately. 

As a first-aid measure, if you see any sign of maggots immediately prepare a bowl with warm water and a mild bubble bath. Immerse your hen and remove as many maggots as can be seen with a pair of tweezers.   

Repeat every two hours and be sure to remove all maggots. Despite removing the obvious maggots, there may well be damage to the skin and microscopic maggots that are difficult to remove.  

Your hen will then need to visit her vet for examination; she may well need more aggressive treatment to kill off the remaining infestation and to deal with the shock, as well as surgical debridement of the infested area. 

Preventing fly strike in chickens

We really cannot stress enough how important it is to keep a close eye on your flock during the summer months (and all year round) to keep them happy and healthy. 

You know your hens better than anyone, so taking action at the first sign of a problem is the best way to go. 

If you have health concerns about any of your hens please call our Hen Helpline on 01884 860084. 

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