Jul 3, 2014

Flystrike in Backyard Chickens, Causes, Prevention & Treatment

Flystrike is a sanitized nickname for maggots living in and feeding on the dead skin of a live animal, which results in an infection. Flystrike can affect chickens, humans and other animals. Flystrike is also known as myiasis, blowfly strike and fly-blown. Whatever you call it, it’s nasty and can be fatal if undetected in time.
Flystrike is an extremely important topic for backyard chicken keepers to be aware of, but I’m going to warn you: it’s gag-worthy, so I promise to be as succinct as possible in covering the topic.
Flystrike is an extremely important topic for backyard chicken keepers to be aware of, but I’m going to warn you: it’s gag-worthy, so I promise to be as succinct as possible in covering the topic.

WHAT IS FLYSTRIKE?
Flystrike is a sanitized nickname for maggots living in and feeding on the dead skin of a live animal, which results in an infection. Flystrike can affect chickens, humans and other animals. Flystrike is also known as myiasis, blowfly strike and fly-blown. Whatever you call it, it’s nasty and can be fatal if not recognized and treated promptly.
Flies favor dark, moist locations for laying their eggs and while any area of the body can be affected, the vent area of a chicken is a fly favorite. Add stinky to the list of preferred fly aromas and a dirty chicken butt is a recipe for flystrike.
WHAT CAUSES FLYSTRIKE?
Many fly species favor dark, moist locations for laying their eggs and while any area of the body can be affected, the vent area of a chicken is a fly favorite. Add stinky to the list of preferred fly aromas and a dirty chicken butt is a recipe for flystrike. After the fly eggs are laid on or in the skin, the larvae can hatch into maggots in less than 24 hours; the maggots then begin feeding on the skin, causing deep, painful sores that can become infected. The most common flies responsible for flystrike are botflies, blowflies and screwflies. Occurrences of flystrike are most common in warm weather.
Chickens do a great job of maintaining their personal hygiene by dust bathing, however, runny droppings or chronic diarrhea that builds up on vent feathers can make it impossible for a bird to keep clean.
FLYSTRIKE PREVENTION
Chickens do a great job of maintaining their personal hygiene by dust bathing, however, runny droppings or chronic diarrhea that builds up on vent feathers can make it impossible for a bird to keep clean. A droppings-soiled vent area can cause the skin to breakdown, which may as well be a “vacancy” sign hanging in front of Hotel Maggot.
A droppings-soiled vent area can cause the skin to breakdown, which may as well be a “vacancy” sign hanging in front of Hotel Maggot.
Following some of these suggestions can help reduce the risk of flystrike in chickens:

1. CONTROL FLY POPULATION
Keeping the fly population down can reduce the risk of flystrike. Read my article HERE for 15+ tips for controlling flies in and around the chicken coop. 
Keeping the fly population down can reduce the risk of flystrike. Read my article HERE for 15+ tips for controlling flies in and around the chicken coop.
2. MAINTAIN OVERALL HEALTH
The obvious recommendations are to keep chickens healthy by feeding them properly, keeping their coop and run clean and providing plenty of clean, fresh water. Probiotics can be added to the chickens’ water to maintain digestive health.

Pay close attention to any injured areas on a chicken as healing wounds regardless of size or location are particularly vulnerable to flystrike.

3. MONITOR DIGESTIVE HEALTH
 Chicken droppings vary widely in texture, but consistently runny, watery, loose poop is an indicator of a problem. Diarrhea can signal a worm infestation, coccidiosis or a number of other illnesses. However, before rushing to treat chickens with anything, including purported “natural remedies,” the cause of the diarrhea must be identified.  I recommend having a fecal float test performed when there are abnormal droppings. All veterinarians routinely perform these tests whether or not they treat chickens. Even if they don’t feel comfortable analyzing chickens’ samples, they can always send the sample out to a lab for you.
Until any chronic droppings problem can be resolved, it is imperative to keep feathers underneath the vent clean to avoid flystrike. If droppings begin to accumulate beneath the vent, give the chicken a bath as described in this article. If feathers are impossible to clean thoroughly, carefully trim them off with scissors.
4) KEEP VENTS CLEAN AND DRY
Until any chronic droppings problem can be resolved, it is imperative to keep feathers underneath the vent clean to avoid flystrike. If droppings begin to accumulate beneath the vent, give the chicken a bath as described in this article. If feathers are impossible to clean thoroughly, carefully trim them off with scissors.
Spending time with backyard chickens and regularly inspecting them for wounds and dirty butts goes a long way towards avoiding flystrike.
5) PAY ATTENTION & INSPECT
Spending time with backyard chickens and regularly inspecting them for wounds and dirty butts goes a long way towards avoiding flystrike and detecting it early.
 Segregate the affected chicken from the flock to avoid the possibility of cannibalism. It should remain isolated in Chicken Hospital until the infection has healed fully.
FLYSTRIKE TREATMENT
1. Segregate the affected chicken from the flock to avoid the possibility of cannibalism. It should remain isolated in Chicken Hospital until the infection has healed fully.
2. Offer the chicken vitamins & electrolytes in the drinking water for a day or two and keep her hydrated. 
Bathe the chicken, submerging the affected area in water, to assess the extent of the wound and drown as many maggots as possible.
3. Bathe the chicken, submerging the affected area in water, to assess the extent of the wound and drown as many maggots as possible.
4. Physically remove visible maggots in, on and surrounding the wound. Yup. Good times.
Flush the wound with Betadine diluted in water or saline water. If the wound is very deep, use a syringe to squirt the Betadine solution into the cavity.
5. Flush the wound with Betadine diluted in water or saline water. If the wound is very deep, use a syringe to squirt the Betadine solution into the cavity.   Peroxide is an acceptable substitute for the first cleaning or two, but don't continue using it because peroxide can kill live tissue, preventing the area from healing properly.
6. Dry the affected area. If any of the feathers are in the way or preventing complete drying of the area, simply cut them. to dry it thoroughly afterwards. A hair dryer set on low heat can make quick work of it. Most chickens enjoy the spa treatment.  
Spray Vetericyn Wound & Infection treatment on the area affected by flystrike. This step may obviate the need for antibiotics in many cases of flystrike.  Avoid ointments as maggots appreciate a moist, goopy, warm environment.
7. Spray Vetericyn Wound & Infection treatment on the area affected by flystrike. This step may obviate the need for antibiotics in many cases of flystrike.  Avoid ointments as maggots appreciate a moist, goopy, warm environment. 
Spray Vetericyn Wound & Infection treatment on the area affected by flystrike. This step may obviate the need for antibiotics in many cases of flystrike.  Avoid ointments as maggots appreciate a moist, goopy, warm environment.
Obviously, having a veterinarian treat the infection is the preferred course of action, but absent that luxury, most uncomplicated cases of flystrike can be managed at home.
8. Repeat steps 3-7 two to three times per day until the maggots are gone and the wound is fully healed. 

Obviously, having a veterinarian treat the infection is the preferred course of action, but absent that luxury, most uncomplicated cases of flystrike can be managed at home. Should it become apparent that the infection is too severe to treat at home or is not responding to home treatment, a phone consultation with a compassionate vet can provide some guidance as to whether antibiotics or euthanasia are recommended.
When fully healed, re-integrate the injured hen very carefully with this method.
When fully healed, re-integrate the injured hen very carefully with this method.
Sources and further reading available upon request.
 The Chicken Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick

42 comments :

  1. I'd love to get some Vetericyn!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tina Baker7/3/14, 6:32 PM

    It would be nice to have vetericyn on hand, but I pray I never have to use it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Cheryl Tilton7/3/14, 6:32 PM

    Veterycin wound care is the greatest stuff I have found for treating wounds. It saved the life of more than one of my birds.. I would LOVE to have some more, It is quite expensive so when I run out of the bottle I have, I will be in trouble..

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is an absolutely gross condition that never came up in my pre-chicken acquiring research! Thanks for the info!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Caitlyn Ralston7/3/14, 6:34 PM

    I would love to win some Vetericyn! Thanks for the opportunity!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Kathy J. McNiel7/3/14, 6:34 PM

    Thanks for the heads-up! I love all the amazing info I get from your blog (even when it's icky).

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nasty subject! I'm going to become a butt-watcher fully before my chickens even think of hosting a party for maggots! I appreciate your information, Kathy!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Rebecca Blake7/3/14, 6:36 PM

    Wow! I've never heard of that. Thank you so much for the information!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jeanwood Brown Smith7/3/14, 6:38 PM

    Please enter me

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hope I will never need it, but this would be good in my first aid kit for my girls.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Denise Allison Magil7/3/14, 6:38 PM

    good information

    ReplyDelete
  12. Good blog.. a lot to take...thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  13. It looks like I need to get ready just in case...

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh yes...I could use this...my Vetericyn is getting low. Interesting article....I hadn't heard of this happening to chickens.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Jennifer Laforest7/3/14, 6:42 PM

    Good to know. And also...yuk!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Patty Watson7/3/14, 6:44 PM

    I have to start checking on supplies to get ready for

    ReplyDelete
  17. nancy weckbacher7/3/14, 6:48 PM

    Your articles are so full of information I love reading them. Also I would love to win this item. I'm going to get a bottle just incase I need it. I need a first aid kit for my gils

    ReplyDelete
  18. Christine Marie Smith7/3/14, 6:51 PM

    Wow! I'm new to having chickens and so glad I found this out! Thank you so much. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Susan Fischer7/3/14, 6:52 PM

    Thank you, Kathy, for this excellent article. I hope I never see any wounds like these on my chickens. We keep the poop cleaned up twice a day, and so far, no fly problems.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Margo Seely Giunta7/3/14, 6:55 PM

    Always appreciate what I learn from you. I never, EVER, thought of this possibility. Yuck, here's hoping I never encounter it either! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thanks for providing such helpful info!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Jenny Landry7/3/14, 6:57 PM

    That is terrifying!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Peggy Kolesar7/3/14, 6:58 PM

    Hi Kathy, I have a white leghorn that I took to a vet because I thought she had a prolapsed vent & I just couldn't get her clean enough to be effective..well, it wasn't a prolapsed vent..the vet wasn't sure what was going on & he knocked her out & cleaned her up as best he could.(I had blucoted her butt because one of the other chickens was pecking at her, so she was a real mess)..inside I kept giving her epsom salt soaks & she seemed back to eating , drinking & sharing her displeasure at being inside..she did end up with a prolapsed vent so back in she came, more soaks, pre-h & that finally stayed where it belonged..(she did lay 2 blood smeared eggs outside & a rubber egg inside)..this bird's butt is still a watery mess..the urates are not with the poop & I am concerned about her getting flystrike..she was in the coop way early tonight & roosts above the door where I can't get to her..I'll be catching her tomorrow & bringing her back in..she smells horrendous & I was wondering if it was vent gleet, so I gave her some yogurt today..any ideas? I don't have a pic..think she's running when I have the camera..

    ReplyDelete
  24. Wow! This is my first time having chickens (they are already 8 weeks old) and every time I read your articles I'm amazed at how much there is to learn about my girls. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Michael Wayne7/3/14, 7:03 PM

    This reminds me.... getting low on Vetericyn.. ... :) Been using it when my girls get their weekly Foot Spa Treatments... as well as my CAPT ROO.. ... :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Ok. My chicken has this, I did not know this was a thing! Also, it's BIZARRE that this was posted as I was gagging in the chicken pen. Anyway, as I was getting info on this a few forums suggested using "screw fly" wound spray since it will kill the flys, maggots and eggs post haste. Do you recommend against this? I'm usually against any pesticide, as a beekeeper, but this is an extreme situation in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I never heard of flystrike before thanks for the information.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Christina Greutink7/3/14, 7:08 PM

    Thank you for the information! It gets rather damp under the chickens' mister and the flies love that. But without the mister they'll die of heat. Not sure what to do -- perhaps a fly trap in the run?

    ReplyDelete
  29. Wow I'm a newbie and have never heard of this! Thanks for sharing. I would love to win this.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I hope I never have to deal with this...yuck! But grateful for the treatment info!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Invaluable information. Thanks Kathy! One can never be too informed!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Annamaria @ Bakewell Junction7/3/14, 7:14 PM

    Oh my goodness! I hope this never happens to my chickens.
    Great info on how to treat.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Okay, after that lovely zombography, I deserve to win since I will never get that out of my head!

    ReplyDelete
  34. I'd say keeping them alive is more important than controlling the fly population.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Oh Man! This looks BAD! I just got some vetericyn in the mail yesterday! It's a tiny little bottle, but I thought I'd better have some on hand. Well... After looking at the above mess, I'm thinking I need a LOT more! I hope I win a good sized bottle. I'll be checking ALL my girls for this horrible yucky-yuck-yuck in about 2 hours. Hope I don't see any, but I'll have my tiny bottle in hand! Thanks for the info! I'm sure it will be a life saver!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Hope to not run into this but definitely good to be prepared!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Kelley Price7/3/14, 7:19 PM

    So glad that I have never had to deal with this.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Wow! Thanks for the great info!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Ellen Belshin7/3/14, 7:20 PM

    All I can say is Eeeek and yuck!!!!! I have never heard of this, thanks for the good info. I'm gonna go get a fly trap first thing in the morning!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Lori Benton7/3/14, 7:22 PM

    Gag-worthy indeed but something a chicken parent had better know! Thanks again for informing us! Would love to win the Vetericyin to keep the girls and roo healthy!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Barbara Sherman7/3/14, 7:23 PM

    Oh my, what would I do without your posts. Thank you so much for great info?

    ReplyDelete