Keeping Mosquitoes and Other Biting Insects at Bay
Chickens make a delicious dinner but not only people enjoy dining on them. Raccoons, opossums, and other furry or feathery predators kill and eat them with enthusiasm.
Most predators work the night shift when sleeping chickens are nearly comatose and easy to snatch. Wise owners secure doors, windows, and pop holes at dusk. If predators can’t access chickens they can’t kill them.
Unfortunately, a closed door won’t exclude blood loving mosquitoes, gnats, and other insects.
They can’t easily bite through thick feathers but fleshy combs and wattles are blood rich and targeted. A few insect bites won’t kill a chicken but constant biting drains blood, introduces possible diseases, and pesters birds trying to sleep.
Hungry mosquitoes don’t limit their hunt to chickens. They also relish human blood and swarms of the pests cruising around the coop make life miserable for both hens and people. Reducing their numbers makes life more comfortable for both the birds and their owners.
Fogging the coop area with insecticides will kill bugs but there are better ways of reducing their abundance without using toxic chemicals. A three-pronged approach will put a big dent in insect numbers.
REDUCING SKEETER REPRODUCTION
Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Within 48 hours they hatch into larvae that mature into adults in another week to ten days. Newly emerged female mosquitoes are biters that require a protein rich blood meal to produce eggs for the next generation. Males are content feeding on nectar.
Mosquitoes can’t reproduce without standing water. Chicken keepers often carelessly leave water filled containers in the yard and chicken run. Fount type waterers and buckets can breed mosquitoes. So, will water filled toys, trash, old tires, and anything else that holds moisture. Even an old can will produce hundreds of biting skeeters.
The solution is simple. Drain everything that holds water. Buckets and fonts chickens need to drink from should be emptied at least every couple of days and refilled with clean fresh water. Waterers that allow chickens to drink from tiny spouts probably won’t breed mosquitoes and may be the best choice in buggy areas. Gutters are notorious for holding puddles of rain water that produce mosquitoes. Make sure they drain completely after each rain. Rain barrels that store gutter water are handy but should have tight fitting lids with netting covered holes to exclude laying mosquitoes.
Insects don’t respect property lines. Encouraging neighbors to keep their containers drained will help reduce numbers throughout the area.
ENCOURAGING MOSQUITO PREDATORS
Bats, many birds, toads, fish, and frogs all love dining on insects. Welcoming them to the yard will reduce mosquito numbers. Goldfish love eating larvae and a few stocked in tanks that can’t be drained will rid them of larvae. Creating damp dark places in the garden welcomes toads to move in. They are effective mosquito eaters. Bats, swallows, swifts, and many other birds devour skeeters. Although they prefer roosting in hollow trees often they’ll occupy special houses easily made at home or bought from garden supply stores.
EXCLUDING SKEETERS FROM THE COOP
Raccoons easily rip standard mosquito screening but can’t force their way through stout wire. With mosquitoes, it’s just the reverse. They cruise right through the heavy-duty wire that keeps out the racoons but can’t penetrate insect screening. The solution is simple-install double wire barriers over each coop window. Place raccoon proof heavy wire on the outside of windows and mosquito screening inside. This lets cool summer breezes enter the coop while keeping both insects and mammals at bay. Mosquito netting is made of nylon or aluminum and can be purchased in rolls from hardware stores. It is easy to cut it with heavy duty scissors and staple it to the inside of windows.
It’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate mosquitoes, gnats, and other biting insects from a chicken coop or run, but diligently eliminating standing water, encouraging insect predators, and double screening coop windows will make life more pleasant for both hens and their owners.