Bedbug infestation in Chickens

Bedbug Infestation

Bedbugs (Cimex lectularius and C. hemipterus) are small wingless insects that feed on the chicken’s blood at night. Bedbugs can cause chickens a great deal of stress. Heavy infestations may lead to excessive feather loss, cloacal irritation, lesions on the breast and legs, and even anemia in extreme cases (especially in younger and/or smaller-sized bantam breeds). In addition, bedbugs are known to harbor over 40 different pathogens.

What Bedbugs Look Like

Young bedbugs are much smaller than adults, and are a different color—they have a white-yellowish or translucent appearance and are barely visible to the naked eye.

Bedbug Behavior

Bedbugs are mainly nocturnal, hiding during the day in cracks, crevices and corners of coops and nest boxes. They feed by piercing the chicken’s skin with their beak-like mouthparts, which allow them to withdraw blood. They will generally feed for 5 to 10 minutes, after which they return to their hiding spot to digest their meal which may take 3 to 7 days.

Female bedbugs lay their eggs in the crevices, where they hatch in 4 to 12 days. One female bedbug can lay up to 540 eggs in her lifetime. Under the right conditions, bed bug populations can eventually double every 16 days. When disturbed, Bedbugs let off a distinct, offensive odor similar to what stink bugs let off; this odor is the result of the oily secretion produced by special glands. Bed bugs can survive and remain active at temperatures as low as 7В°C (46В°F), but they die when their body temperatures reaches 45В°C (113В°F).

Bugs in the chicken coop

YUCK! I’m scratching my head over here trying to figure out what is happening in the hen house. Sunday was a nice warm day here for us and as I was in the middle of mucking out the coop I took a pause and looked at it’s walls. There were little (tiny) crawly bugs everywhere on the walls and ceiling. They were evenly spaced except for a few places where they were more clumped up together.

I got worried we had mites so off Lee and I went to get some food grade diatomaceous earth. The only store where we could find it only carried 50 pound bags, so I am well stocked on that now. I went nuts with it dusting down the coop. Then I got two of the girls and checked around their vent areas and other places as well as I could. I still didn’t find any of these bugs or eggs on them. Later that night, when I went to go lock the hens in for the night, I looked around the walls again. Most of the bugs had disappeared. I don’t know whether this was because it was colder by then or if it was because of the diatomaceous earth.

Today when I went out to do another dusting of diatomaceous earth in the coop I still saw them but not nearly as many. It was also a colder day so I don’t know if that affected the bugs any. So what I am wondering is if I have a mite problem or a spider problem. I can’t seem to find anything that tells me you can find mites during the day time in plain sight on walls and such. The hens are laying just as fine as always. In fact I have more eggs per day then last year. They don’t seem to be adverse to getting into their coop. Those would all be signs of mite infestations. Now they do have some peck marks to their combs but I am attributing that to their 5 days of being stuck in the coop.

Here are two links that talk more about mites in poultry.

15 Responses to Bugs in the chicken coop

YUCK. are those mites? Or feas or what?

Did you get rid of the bugs? They look like spiders to me, but I’m certainly no bug expert. Once, when my chickens were very small, I was sitting in my coop with them, holding them, and I noticed some kind of bug on my hand. I had no idea what it was, but it was small & wiggly. I freaked out & went inside & showered. The next day we cleaned the coop & started sprinkling just a little bit of DE under the bedding when we put down new pine & cedar chips. I’ve never seen anything since, and I’ve looked for bugs often.

We’re wondering if it was a spider outbreak. There’s not much sign of them at all, although the weather has been cooler too. Robin has added DE to the bedding and nesting boxes, and also on all the lips and edges in the coop (window frames, ledges in the ceiling, around the roosts, etc). If they are spiders, then the ones that survive the DE will probably grow up to be chicken feed. No sign of bugs on the birds. Whew!

I think I have the same bugs. I have never seen them before until on of my chickens started sitting on her eggs and they only appear on the eggs that have managed to escape from underneath her. This is her first time sitting and she seems very irritated by the bugs. I don’t know how to get rid of them.
Unlucky for me the chicken sitting also appears to have these tiny bugs as well

Bed bugs in my coop!

More options

Gallo del Cielo

La Gallina Resort & Spa



Are you talking about kissing bugs? They live in pack rat nests, etc.
We had them around when we lived in Tucson.

What do they look like? Can you find a picture of them for me?

@ [email protected]


I have them in my HOUSE — my tenant brought them home from the ferry ship he works on, and the government health dept doesn’t care AT ALL. We’ve called, others have called, they don’t think its a big deal.
BE WARNED — they are a menace if you get them in the house! Leave a change of clothes outside for coop work for the next 6 months, NEVER wear anything you touched a chicken with back in your home. EVER.

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That being said. you can get them out of your coop. Remove all of the shavings and rinse out the coop. Scrub it out with detergent, rinse, let dry.
Now, we’ll kill the bugs. Get yourself a steam-cleaner (ours was $50), and make sure it has attachments for the end. You need to steam clean every square inch of your coop. Steam kills bugs, eggs, and larva. Steam it over and over until you think it’s overkill. Then steam some more. Blast it into cracks, everywhere!
When dry completely, put down a good layer (half inch, to be safe) of diatomaceous earth, you’ll find it in bulk, and cheap, at your feed store. Put fresh shavings on top.

Now, you can’t steam your chickens, but you CAN wash them. Water, no matter how hot or cold, won’t kill bugs, eggs, etc. But you may be able to wash the bugs out of the feathers. A nice warm, soapy bath should do the trick. Ruffle the feathers to rinse as many out as possible. Blowdry, and when the birds are completely dry, flip them over and dust them with DE. Put more DE where ever they dust bathe.

This should do the trick! Check every single week for the next 6 months in the cracks, on the birds etc. It takes a while because DE isn’t a poison (it clogs their breathing pores and cuts their bodies), but it’s the only legal remedy (along with steam, always steam!)

For any clothing etc in contact with chickens or the coop:
Wash normally in hot or cold water, with soap, as usual. Put everything trough the dryer cycle TWICE on the hottest and longest setting, it is the ONLY method proven to kill them. We wash our sheets once a week and sometimes just toss the bedding into the dryer for an hour every couple days. They are the WORST pest to get in a house, leaving huge itchy welts everywhere they bite. Vacuum your house like crazy and steam the floors too. Good luck!

A complete guide to getting rid of rats — forever!

Rats in the chicken coop are a risk. Extermination sounds cruel, but is essential for your flock’s health — and yours.

Please note : Backyard chickens and rodents do not automatically go together. This page and others on the same subject are there simply to help you know what to do should you discover a problem.

Good husbandry is very important — and very effective — at keeping vermin at bay. Get rid of them first, and then make sure they don’t return by getting rid of uncovered grain! See my review of an automatic feeder which can help.

This article covers the ten most common methods, my personal experience of some of them, and the pros and cons of each.

My aim? To help you decide which one is best for your circumstances.

Having rats in the chicken house is something no-one wants to see. And telling the difference between rats and mice is not always easy.

It’s tempting to see evidence and think «It’s only a little field mouse, what harm can he do?»

I was so sure I could never have a rodent problem, so convinced it was just one little weeny mouse who just needed a bit of warmth in the winter.

So by the time I accepted I had rats in my coop there was an infestation of three separate nests, which proved incredibly hard to deal with.

Please — learn from my mistake.

Don’t leave it. As soon as you see any evidence — take action! It’s not pleasant, but it must be done.

The question then is: how?

Let’s look at the options.

I’m neither advocating nor opposing any of these methods, with one exception.

I’m just outlining the most common methods of rodent extermination and assessing them. Some I have used personally, others I have discussed with rodent control officers in the UK.

Different procedures will suit different situations and different people. Not everyone will be comfortable using the same methods.

Your job is to gather all the information on each method and then make a judgement for yourself as to which would suit you, your family, your situation and your chickens.

This is a long article.

If you’re particularly interested in learning more about one method, click the links below to go straight to thhat section.

Otherwise, keep reading!

1. Getting rid of rats with poison.

An effective means of extermination, but not a long-term solution.

I needed to use rat poison because the rodent infestation had grown so large by the time I recognised it that any other, longer-term way would have been potentially putting my chickens at risk of disease. Rats multiply very quickly.

But poison really should be a last resort. It’s an unpleasant death for the rat, potentially dangerous for pets, livestock and people and not a topic to be taken lightly.

For that reason, I’ve given the use of poison an article all of its own. Find it here .

2. Electric traps.

This is second on the list because it’s the method I have used ever since I managed to bring the infestation of rats I had under control.

These traps are powered by battery. The rat, enticed into the box by a yummy treat, steps on a metal plate.

This triggers an electric shock which kills instantly.

The main advantages are that it’s relatively quick and the rat is killed without blood being spilled, which makes cleaning up easy.

It’s also impossible for pets or poultry to fit inside, so they’re safe for other animals. And they don’t harm the environment.

For those reasons, this is my preferred method of rodent control. I’ve found these traps very effective for controlling both rats and mice — in the house and garage as well as in my chicken coop.

I have written a very detailed review of electronic rat traps, to help you decide whether it’s a good method for you.

See my electronic trap review at this page.

(Links in this section are «affiliate links», which means that if you click and buy something, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you).

3. The old favourite — snap traps.

Quick and effective, but messy.

How to use them.

  • Set in places where you know the rodents are moving, usually around the edge of the chicken run or an outbuilding.
  • Place them well out of the reach of your children, chickens or other animals.
  • Leave them there for several days un-baited until the rodents get used to them. Rats are cautious creatures and won’t go near something new and unknown.
  • Cheese is the accepted bait, but try baiting them with peanut butter — really! Rats are very attracted by the smell and you’ll only need a tiny smear.
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  • Cheap, easy to set and very quick to kill, so the rodent doesn’t suffer unduly.
  • Due to their small size, these are better suited to mice than rats.
  • Having to empty the traps of decapitated creatures. No matter how much I dislike vermin — and trust me, I do — this is not a pretty way of dealing with them.
  • Rodents are actually intelligent animals and will learn not to go near traps which they’ve seen to be harmful to their community. You need to move them around often.

4. Humane traps.

Kind — but the rats may well return.

Our neighbour uses this kind of trap. The rodent is caught inside, triggering the door to close. The rodent then has to be re-located.

The best humane traps are made of metal. You’ll find information on making them from plastic bottles on the internet, but even mice can gnaw through a bottle on a matter of minutes. Rats will take seconds.

  • If the idea of killing any living being is difficult for you then this is the only real option.
  • Doesn’t harm either the rat or any other animal which happens along.
  • You end up with a live rat on your hands. Now what?
  • Rats are territorial animals. Once they set up home they like to stay there. So the likelihood is that if you release the rats anywhere close to your coop, they will return.
  • Advice is to take the rat at least five miles away from its nest before setting it free.
  • Even then, there’s nothing to say it won’t find its way back. And you may just be re-locating the problem onto someone else’s property.

5. Exterminating rats a priority? Get a cat!

Not an option for everyone — and you need the right kind of cat!

This is third on my list because it’s another option I’ve found which is very effective, particularly when combined with the battery operated trap (see here).

I live in rural Italy where feral and semi-feral cats are common and, because we have wheat and sunflower fields, we also have mice which attract feral cats.

When a mother cat had her litter in our shed, then, I had no problem in inviting them to stay. Good decision!

If you’re thinking of getting a cat to keep control of the mouse or rat population it really needs to be a large feral or barnyard-type animal which is used to living outside and has been taught by its mother how to tackle the problem.

Most smaller, domesticated cats are unlikely to have the courage to take on a full-grown rat.

Be careful, though, about how any cat reacts with chickens. It’s fairly common for cats to kill baby chicks — after all, to a cat they look just like birds — and some will even take on full-grown hens.

6. Terriers.

Good solution for farmers — but you need a friendly local terrier owner!

I used to work in an old, overcrowded Victorian prison in northern England. There was a massive problem with rodent infestation because the drainage system was old and over-used.

The prison authorities dealt with it by paying the local Border Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier clubs to come into the prison once a month, after dark, and let their dogs loose in the yards where the rats were running. Watching the dogs ‘at work’ was mesmerizing!

This is a fascinating video by the BBC, showing terriers killing rats on a farm in the UK. If you’re at all worried about this method of getting rid of vermin, please — don’t watch it.

  • Terriers are bred for this kind of work and love doing it.
  • It’s a quick death for the rat — the dogs are fast to catch them and shake them to death.
  • This is a process still used on many farms where these dogs are kept for this specific purpose.
  • Very effective in the short-term.
  • Needs doing regularly. The dogs will only catch rats which are running, so babies will be left in the nest unless it’s found and cleared.
  • You need to find a terrier owner or club near you!

7. Guns.

Not a method I have direct experience of, but if you’re a good shot and have time on your hands this may be an option.

Is it legal? And how does it work?

Yes, it’s perfectly legal. Although in Europe personal use of firearms without a certificate is illegal, it is perfectly legal anywhere to shoot vermin, as long as it’s on your own land and using an air rifle.

If you have permission, it’s also legal to shoot rodents on someone else’s land.

  • Some famers advocate this as a quick and humane method, particularly when the rats are trapped in a barrel in a dry version of the ‘walk the plank’ trap (see below).
  • Another way of keeping the rats in one place is to lay bait down. Either peanut butter or diced up cat food works well, in my experience.
  • Rats generally like to come out at night, so you need to set up just before dusk to be most effective.
  • Shooting by artificial light isn’t a good idea — the rats will simply remain in their nest.

8. Home made traps.

Amusing to read about, not so amusing to use.

  • Search online for ‘homemade ways of getting rid of rats’ and you’ll find all kinds of ideas. Some are dangerous, some imaginative, some downright quirky.
  • One of the most common is the ‘walk the plank’ option. Take a barrel, fill to about 6″ with water. Add some grain.
  • On top of the barrel balance a plank, one end hovering over the centre of the barrel. Add a smear of peanut butter at the edge.
  • The rats ‘walk the plank’ to get to the peanut butter, topple into the water and drown.
  • Inexpensive (providing you have a barrel).
  • Unpredictable — you need to be sure the plank will stay in place.
  • Inhumane — it will take several minutes for a rat to drown.
  • Not very effective, according to people who have used it.
  • Not recommended.

9. Glue traps.

This is the only method which I categorically say do not use . I’ve seen these used in a workplace which became over-run with mice.

It was inhumane and cruel.

  • Used mainly by commercial companies because they’re cheap and very effective.
  • They’re literally pads of glue which are set in rat-run places. When rodents — or anything else — moves onto them, they find themselves stuck.
  • The animal either dies from exhaustion trying to escape, starves to death or has to be killed manually.
  • They catch anything moving across them, including insects and birds.
  • If the animal doesn’t die from exhaustion or literally tearing itself apart trying to escape, you will have to kill it.
  • I don’t normally recommend or oppose any method but I would have to say, having seen these first-hand, that I do not think they should be used. Ever.
  • Yes, rats are not welcome. Yes, getting rid of vermin is vital to your chickens’ health — and your family’s. But there are more humane ways.
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10. Ultrasonic repellers.

Wishful thinking — these may work on bugs (although even that is questionable) but there are no scientific studies at all which have found them to be effective in getting rid of rats and manufacturers have been repeatedly warned not to make false claims by the Federal Trade Commission of America.

See here for more information.

How do they work?

  • Ultrasonic repellers are small devices which plug into an electric socket and emit a very high pitched noise which is not heard by the human ear, but which rodents — supposedly — dislike.
  • Some are relatively inexpensive (although some are very expensive).
  • Easy to use.
  • A passive way of trying to control vermin
  • Some people swear by them, particularly to deal with roaches and other bugs.
  • Once you already have an infestation of rodents these will be completely useless. Communities of rats will not be put off staying in their comfortable nest by some high pitched whining.
  • At best, if you’re looking for something to deter rats and mice coming into your property, they may be worth trying before you try anything else but be warned — there are no studies whatever saying they have any effect on getting rid of rodents.
  • My own experience of using them in my house to deter tiny fieldmice bears that out — they just didn’t work.
  • Please note : Because I undertake only to promote products I think will benefit you, and I have no evidence that these are worth spending money on, I am not providing a link to buy this product.
  • However, if you want to give them a try, they are readily available on Amazon.

Want to know more?

There are several other articles on my website about getting rid of rats and other rodents which I hope you’ll find useful.

Click on the pictures to go to whichever you think might help.

Does your chicken coop have bed bugs?

Bed bugs feed on the blood of chickens but hide during the daylight hours so you often won’t see them at all. Bed bugs have lots of places to hide in chicken coops and commercial poultry housing. Like poultry mites, bed bugs hide in cracks and crevices of the chickens coop. Between boards, under feeders, in curtain folds and inside nest boxes are all good hiding places for bed bugs.

Similar to stink bugs, bed bugs give off a strong odor when smashed which may be an indication that there are bed bugs in the chicken coop.

Bed bugs can be hard to spot though as they tend to be either bright red, reddish, brown or opaque black colored depending on how recently they’ve ate. The newly hatched bed bug nymph is translucent. So pretty much any insect that looks like a tiny cockroach or unfed tick is suspect when trying to identify a bed bug. *sigh*

Signs your chickens have bed bugs

Treating the chicken coop for bed bugs

Once you’ve found bed bugs in the chicken coop you’ll want to treat the coop immediately. The chickens do not need treated since the parasites are only on them long enough to feed at night, before scurrying back to their hiding spaces.

If you’re familiar with the recent resurgence in bed bug infestations then you’ve probably heard that many of the insecticides that used to work are no longer as effective. Permethrin is the current insecticide of choice when battling bed bugs in your chicken coop. Permethrin has a low toxicity for birds and is approved for use in poultry housing. However, it doesn’t work 100% of the time.

Unfortunately most stronger treatments can not be used around chickens. Which means you’ll probably have to do the permethrin treatment a few times to get the situation under control.

Your first course of action is to remove the chickens from the coop, clean it out and spray inside with a permethrin solution. Make a special effort to get the solution into all cracks and crevices, in between boards, underneath roosts and nest boxes and generally anywhere a bed bug could hide. Follow the directions on the label for the appropriate timing to return the chickens to the coop. You’ll need to treat the coop again in 2 weeks to target freshly hatched nymphs.

Adult bed bugs can live for 5 months (or longer at cool temperatures) without a meal, so leaving the coop empty for awhile will not be enough to kill them.

Unfortunately adult bed bugs will not be affected much by diatomaceous earth. Bed bugs have a high desiccation tolerance, which means they can endure the extreme dehydration that food grade DE inflicts on insects to kill them. DE has a low success rate against adult bed bugs in arid conditions and is even less useful in humid conditions.

DE can help to kill bed bug eggs and nymphs though. If you decide to use food grade diatomaceous earth, use a duster to get it into the cracks and crevices of the coop where bed bugs might hide and lay eggs. It will take 7-14 days for DE to kill bed bug nymphs. Permethrin dust can be used in the same way.

Mississippi State University Extension suggests calling a pest professional to help with bed bug infestation of chicken coops. It might be necessary in extreme cases but minor infestations can be handled with the above directions.

Bed bugs cannot be killed by common heat or cold as they can survive extreme temperatures for several days. Bed bugs can survive at least 5 days at only 14°F. Temperatures of 115 ° F are required for at least 7 minutes to kill them! There are pest services that remove bed bugs from your home by heating the home past these temperatures, however I do not believe they will do this for outbuildings.

To prevent the spread of bed bugs to your house do not bring anything into the house from the coop and do not wear your clothes into the house after being in the chicken coop. Wash clothes in hot water and dry on high heat after wearing them in an infested coop.

Hopefully we never have to deal with bed bugs in the chicken coop, but at least we’re armed with the knowledge to handle them if we do!

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