Locavore author, Bruce Ingram tells us how he treated Flystrike or myiasis in one of his hens.
Our hen–my wife Elaine and I named her Six–came into this world lucky. When her mother Mary gave up sitting on her nest after five chicks had hatched, the egg containing Six went two days without being brooded. Picking up the egg and carrying it outside, I was actually preparing to hurl it into the woods when I heard a feeble “cheep” from within. Hurriedly turning on an incubator and putting the egg inside, we were overjoyed when Six hatched a few hours later.
Six’s lucky streak, however, almost ran out when Fly Strike attacked her a year later. This affliction, also called myiasis, happens when botfly, screwfly, or blowfly lay their eggs in skin opening such as wounds, or in the case of chickens, in the manure clinging to the vent area. When the maggots hatch, they burrow first into the vent and eventually across a chicken’s entire body.
One morning this past summer, I watched our chickens file out of their henhouse and head for the feeder and waterer. Six came out last and immediately sat down just outside the entrance. Knowing this was not normal, I picked her up and took her outside the run to examine her. I couldn’t find anything wrong on her back or wing areas, but, remembering how fly strike had afflicted other chickens in years past, I tipped her over. There, I found maggots teeming in her vent area.
Treat and Isolate
From past experience, I knew that a chicken stricken with fly strike can be saved on the first day or two after this plague occurs, but by day three the bird is either dead or too weak to recover. So I knew I had to work fast. I immediately applied Prozap Garden and Poultry Dust to Six’s vent and then over her entire body. The active ingredient, permethrin, is an insecticide in the pyrethroid family that acts on the insect nervous system. It is a synthetic compound based on the natural extracts from chrysanthemums. The maggots came streaming off her and soon died.
Next, Elaine and I placed Six in isolation in our basement, so that she could recover without her flock mates bullying or pecking her, as chickens are wont to do when they detect weakness. Elaine also sprayed Vetericyn to the vent area to promote healing and put probiotics in Six’s water. Vetericyn contains hypochlorous acid in a pH balanced solution which both cleanses wounds and helps promote skin healing.
Six remained lethargic the rest of the day, eating and drinking little. I hand-fed her a few blueberries. On day two of her recovery, she was considerably more active and her appetite returned. On day four, we deemed her well enough to return to the flock and a fortnight later, Six resumed laying.
Over the years, several of our chicken rearing friends have told us they found maggots on their chickens after they died. My contention has been that perhaps the maggots were the cause of their birds’ demise, not an aftereffect. During the warm weather period when flies are active, please consider checking your chickens for fly strike at the first sign that your birds are lethargic or not their normal selves in any way.
Bruce Ingram is a freelance writer/photographer and author of 10 books, including Living the Locavore Lifestyle (a book on living off the land) and a four-book Young Adult Fiction series on high school life. To order, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, go to his website or visit his Facebook page.