In this month's edition of Chook Feed, Bruce Pattinson replies to a concern about Stickfast Fleas.
I live on a farm with half a dozen backyard hens.
Stickfast fleas moved in about three years ago and have been particularly bad this summer.
The shed and perches are iron, one nesting box and one rail are timber, others are plastic.
I have been painting the fleas on the chooks heads with olive oil every few days which seems to reduce the accumulations.
The soil is full of fleas in the shed and yard.
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Stickfast Fleas are a real problem for poultry and others.
This means they have to go and breaking the life cycle is the best way to do it. The fleas are more common in backyard flocks as the concrete floors of big sheds stop the breeding cycle.
The complete life cycle of the flea takes about four weeks and the female fleas lay at night while attached to the bird, and the eggs fall to the ground.
In about four days, small wormlike larvae hatch, feed and burrow down to develop into adults. After two weeks they emerge as adults and the cycle begins again.
Not all breeders have, or want, concrete floors and there are some natural remedies such as using Vaseline on the infected birds. Smear over where you think the fleas are and this will suffocate them.
I think this will be more effective than olive oil, which is also recommended by some breeders.
To help break the cycle clean out the litter and burn it.
Organic producers use diatomaceous earth which is the fossilised remains of marine phytoplankton called diatoms.
Used sparingly, but often, it will be most effective I'm told. Some growers use garlic as well but this is a general tonic for birds.
For a chemical solution you can treat the birds with a 0.5 percent solution of maldison or a poultry dust that contains Maldison.
Again you need to treat the birds and the litter. Burn the litter, spray all the shed and run, including the soil.
Spraying needs to be repeated after 12 days to break the cycle.
I try not to use chemicals so this is the Department of Agriculture recommendation.
There are other chemical remedies available but may have withholding periods for eggs and especially the meat so they may not suit.
Bronwyn, thanks for the letter. I hope this helps and good luck in fixing the problem and best of luck with your poultry.
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