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Prevent and Treat Flystrike | Keep Those Chicken Butts Fluffy

Flystrike (or myiasis) is the condition that occurs when maggots infest the dead skin of a live chicken, often around the site of a wound or infection.

We all love Fluffy Butt Friday - and with good reason. There's nothing more beautiful than a gloriously full, fluffy chicken butt! 

But there can be danger lurking beneath all that fluff, so use Fluffy Butt Friday as a weekly reminder to check over your chickens for a potentially deadly affliction called "flystrike".

Prevent and Treat Flystrike | Keep Those Chicken Butts Fluffy

Also called "myiasis", flystrike is probably one of the most disgusting things you could ever imagine happening to one of your girls.

Because it is so gross, and because I've never actually seen a case in person and therefore have no pictures of it, I'll spare you photos.

And trust me, you probably don't want to google it either!

What is Flystrike?

Flystrike refers to the deadly condition where the larvae (aka maggots) of the botfly, screwfly or blowfly hatch in feces stuck to a chicken's vent or in an open wound and begin to feed on the skin tissue of the host. 

They will eventually burrow into the body and then literally start eating the host animal, in this case your chicken although it can affect other types of livestock as well,  alive from the inside out. 

They can tunnel through the skin and organs and will eventually kill the host.

When and Why Does Flystrike Occur?

There are some chickens who have a tendency to have poopy butts. Sometimes it's just because they're super fluffy, sometimes it can be due to internal parasites or bad bacteria in the gut. But you know who they are. 

And flies are attracted to that manure.  They like to lay their eggs in or around the vent and a poopy butt is super attractive to them. 

Sometimes because of a pecking issue or problems with mites, your chickens can lose the feathers around their vent. That raw exposed skin tissue can also attract the flies.

Other times, you might miss a small cut or open wound which will attract the flies in the same way. Warm weather is the most common time to see problems with fly strike, but it's important to be vigilant year round. 

Reproducing quickly, in just 8-12 hours those eggs begin hatching and the damage is done. Not only can the infestation of maggots be painful, but infection can occur.

Although maggots will only eat dead skin tissue, the skin around a wound or under caked-on feces can die due to irritation from the maggots and their droppings or the resulting infection.

What are the Symptoms of Flystrike?

Symptoms of flystrike include :

  • lethargy
  • excessive preening
  • ruffled or dirty feathers (especially around the vent)
  • and of course, the presence of maggots.

Even a minor accumulation of feces around the vent can signal the beginning of a problem, so it's a good idea to monitor your flock for early signs.

Treating Flystrike

If you do find that one of your chickens is affected, you need to act quickly:

In the Case of a Wound

  • Remove all the maggots you can with a pair of tweezers.
  • Using a plastic turkey baster or syringe, clean the wound with sterile saline solution.
  • Separate the victim so she can heal.
  • Keep the wound clean and keep removing maggots as they hatch.
  • Offer Vitamins & Electrolytes along with feed and plenty of cool, fresh water. If the infestation looks bad, or the wound could possibly infected, contact a vet. Antibiotics might be necessary.

In the Case of an Accumulation of Feces

  • Soak your hen in warm water with some Epsom salts until you can remove the caked on feces.
  • Trim any dirty feathers that you need to. 
  • Dry the area with a soft towel or hair dryer set on low heat.
  • Separate the victim so you can keep an eye on her.
  • Keep checking the vent area and removing maggots as they hatch.
  • If the infestation looks bad, contact a vet. Antibiotics might be necessary.

Preventing Flystrike

Like most things in life, prevention is far easier than treatment after the fact. Preventing flystrike is of utmost importance. 

That means doing regular checks of your chickens, cleaning up any poopy butts and eliminating any hints of diarrhea quickly as well as reducing the fly population in and around your coop.

Here are some of the best ways to prevent flystrike in your chicken flock:
  • Add probiotic powder to your daily feed. This helps with digestive and intestinal health by building "good" bacteria
  • Add regular window screens to your chicken coop windows in addition to your predator-proof welded wire to keep flies out of the coop
  • Regularly check your flock's butts for an accumulation of feces and clean if necessary
  • Keep a close eye on any cuts or scrapes
  • Plant herbs around your coop and run that flies aren't known to enjoy such as basil, dill,  lavender, lemongrass, lemon thyme, mint and rosemary

Fluffy Butt Friday definitely is a fun "thing" on Instagram and Facebook. And a fluffy butt is a healthy butt. So it's a good idea to also use the day as a reminder to check those butts so Fluffy Butt Friday doesn't turn into Flystrike Friday!

And be sure to follow me on Instagram and share your Fluffy Butt photos each Friday using the hashtag #fluffybuttfriday.

p.s. Sorry to gross you guys out with this one. Flystrike isn't terribly common, but it does happen. And when it strikes, it strikes fast and can be deadly, so it's good to know what to look for.

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