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Poultry Pest Patrol

Chickens for Fly Control

[From Mother Earth News February/March 2002]

We have raised show rabbits for seven years and have had wonderful experiences with my daughters showing them. The major downside, as with all livestock, is manure management and flies. Parasitic flies reduce the nasty fly population, but have to be bought every year and are expensive. We've tried chickens, but even Bantics with clipped wings would flap their way up and roost on the cages. Usually they roost right over the water bottle or dish ... and yuck! This year we took a double path to a fly-free, cleaner environment. We put stall mats under the rows of cages (25 to 30 cages) so raking and shoveling were easier, and we had a cleaner floor when we were done with that once-a-month job.

We bought Silkie Bantam chickens who do a very poor job of flying because their feathers are hairy instead of stiff. They do hop and flap a lot and have made it to the top of a closed garbage can with the help of a cage left beside the can. But none have made it to the top of the cage.

I started with five chickens, which were too many, but a marauding raccoon took three, including the rooster. Two hens are just perfect for a 20x20 rabbit house. Once or twice a week they get out and see the world, and I frequently drop them some comfrey greens while feeding the rabbits.

Besides the reduction — probably 80 percent fewer flies compared to last year — my chickens make me happy.

Snohomish, Washington



Mosquito Munchers

[From Mother Earth News June/July 2003]

Why do some folks jokingly call the mosquito the state bird here in Minnesota? Because they're big, they're aggressive, and there are lots of them here in the summertime. Most — if not all — people hate them, but our Muscovy ducklings just love them — for feed, that is. Young ducklings, from the second day of their lives, go after those bloodsuckers all day long. By the evening, the little ducklings are so stuffed they can hardly move. They probably take care of thousands of mosquitoes and other small insects.

Our yard is practically mosquito- and tick-free without using any chemicals. Grasshoppers also are a favorite snack, if the mother ducks don't get them first. The only bugs the ducks don't care for are the box-elder bugs, except when they see a flying one, mistaking it for a mosquito. I'm keeping the ducklings out of the garden, though, as they like to nibble on young vegetable plants, too.

Isanti, Minnesota

You can order Muscovy ducks from: Sand Hill Preservation; (563) 246-2299;; and Hoffman Hatchery; (717) 365-3694; Also check out our Hatcheries Directory — MOTHER 

More on Muscovys

[From Mother Earth News June/July 2003]

I read the article on chickens and pest control (Mother Earth News February/March 2003), and thought I would drop you a note about my ducks.

I have three horses boarded on 6 acres here in Kentucky. For years I had a terrible problem with face flies, deer flies and ticks. We even had the 2-inch-long "horse flies" in huge numbers; one year, I swatted 15 during an hour-long riding lesson. The bites are terribly painful, and the horses go crazy trying to get away from these bloodthirsty pests.

Then, someone gave me six Muscovy ducks. They did very well the first summer, but that winter coyotes got all but one nesting female. She hatched out 16 ducklings, and the fun began.

Those little ducklings were hungry all the time. They would hang out in the horse stalls, snapping up every fly they could catch. You've heard the saying, "Like a duck on a June bug," haven't you? It's an amazing sight to see: Little bitty ducklings hunting bugs like cats after mice. These little guys would position themselves in all the places the flies would lay their eggs, and feast on the incoming flies. They made a good-sized dent in the bug population; I haven't had a tick on me since that year, and I'm a tick magnet.

We kept a closer eye on this generation, so we didn't lose any over the winter. It included eight females, who hatched out from 12 to 20 ducklings each the following spring. The coyotes and the cats kept busy, but the females didn't give up. As a batch of ducklings hatched, they all crowded together, not really caring which hen they followed. My females would take up in pairs, two "moms" for about 20 ducklings, then the rest would start laying again. The last batch hatched in August.

We have a small pond, so the ducks never stray very far. However, the pasture borders on a subdivision. I've gone out to feed many an afternoon to see ducks all over the neighborhood. When I start to feed the horses, the ducks will start to fly in, or I will call them with a bell. Usually they are already waiting, as feeding time is 4 p.m. For some reason, my neighbors don't mind the ducks at all, and will come over to chat with me about what kind of mischief they've been up to.

Three things that I didn't know earlier about Muscovy ducks: They are strong fliers; they like to perch on houses, gates, trees, fences and barn roofs; and they are really quite tame.

Also, we have had the West Nile Virus break out in the horse population here; I was fortunate to have my ducks on mosquito patrol until I could get my horses vaccinated.

Radcliff, Kentucky

Chickens' Bug Feast

[From Mother Earth News June/July 2003]

Any time I am rototilling my garden, I usually let my chickens out of their pen because they follow right behind the tiller, catching any bugs — especially grub worms — that happen to be turned up by the tiller.

When I harvest my corn, I walk among the stalks and push each one over with my foot as I pick the ears. This usually sets the grasshoppers and other bugs to going every which way. The chickens are right there to enjoy this "bug smorgasbord," too.

Each year, some species of bugs flourish. Last year it was crickets, and this year it's grasshoppers. I am the only one around here who has no problem with the annual bugs. When I see an invasion of bugs coming, I just let the chickens out, and they enjoy another feast.

If any vegetables or fruits are picked overripe, the chickens will love 'em! Over the years, I have discovered that chickens will eat anything but bones, watermelon rinds and cantaloupe skins.

Grady County, Oklahoma

poultry_2.jpgGuard Guineas

[From Mother Earth News June/July 2003]

We have about 50 guinea fowl. We use them mostly for bug control in the gardens. We originally got five of them for tick control because my 82-year-old dad said it would work. Within six weeks we stopped seeing ticks. The fleas disappeared within a year; our three cats never need any form of flea control. Guineas also gobble down many other bugs; even 2-week-old keets go nuts when you give them a grasshopper to fight over.

These birds also are great for snake control. I have seen them kill everything but a rattlesnake. They just circled it for hours and screamed bloody murder until we took the snake away. Poor little rattler was terrified. We also have never lost even one of our pasture-range chickens to birds of prey. The guineas let out a warning if a hawk is near, and the birds all run for cover. I have witnessed a group of guineas chase two foxes in the pasture. These birds are definitely mischievous, entertaining and much more intelligent than chickens. Here in the Smokies they also were used to sound a warning for the moonshiners, to help protect the stills.

Waynesville, North Carolina

Buy Babies

[From Mother Earth News June/July 2003]

In 1998 my husband and I took over the family farm. We soon discovered the pastures were infested with ticks and other crawling critters. Soon afterward, my husband developed Lyme disease. We were desperate, but we did not want to use poisons, as that would ruin the land for our cattle and our pets.

Someone told us to get some guineas, as they were great for pest control. We purchased some adult guineas, but they continually escaped. Finally, we decided to start with babies. We began to turn them out during the day to forage when they were 5 weeks old. At night, we put them up for their own protection. It took awhile, but we began to see the difference: This past year, our upper 25-acre pasture was tick-free. The guineas truly have been a blessing to us.

We added two geese to our poultry flock this past summer. At night, they all go in to roost together. They have an order as to who goes in first and last. The chickens go in first, then the guineas, then our rooster and, finally, the geese.

Dover, Arkansas

Barred Rocks Rock

[From Mother Earth News June/July 2003]

I have been meaning to write to you on so many subjects since I first got a subscription in 2001. But the subject of poultry pest patrols hit home. We bought our dream property in June 2002 and have been working happily ever since to make it into what we really want. One of the goals was to have chickens. Fresh eggs, the farm atmosphere, roosters crowing in the morning — the whole effect. What we didn't realize was that we also would have a solution to a major pest problem here in our area: We have millipedes — hundreds of big, long, black ones! They invade our house, even the upstairs!

Well, when our chickens started to free-range several months ago, we noticed that our millipede problem was diminishing. At first we thought it was the winter season that had discouraged the bugs, but now that the weather has warmed, we still are not having the problem we did last year, thanks to our wonderful Barred Rock chickens! So if anyone has the problem that we had with millipede migration, we can attest to an easy solution: chickens. We love 'em and are planning on letting them have chicks this year so we can enjoy more.

Scappoose, Oregon

Guineas vs. Ticks, 'Hoppers and Snakes

[From Mother Earth News April/May 2003]

I just picked up my first issue of Mother Earth News (December/January 2003) and found it to be an excellent source of information. In fact, I signed up for a subscription along with giving my neighbor and friend a gift subscription.

In reading the "Dear Mother" section, I saw a letter entitled "Grasshoppers & Guzzlers" that was in response to an article from a previous issue regarding grasshopper control with the biological pesticide called Semasphore.

My wife and I live outside of Jamestown, Tennessee, on the northern edge of the Cumberland Plateau. While viewing our property in consideration for purchasing it, we noticed that standing in the grass for two minutes would yield at least five ticks on your person. After purchasing the property and doing a little research, in March of our first year here we ordered a shipment of 15 French guineas from Ideal Poultry for pest control.

Every few years this area is inundated with grasshoppers that eat everything, including metal window screening (they do not seem to like the taste of fiberglass, however). Our first year here happened to be one of those seasons, and there were so many grasshoppers that you could not see my house, except for the roof.

In June, we released the guineas to free range. Within one week, there was not a grasshopper to be found. Within two weeks, we could spend all day outside and not have one tick attached to us. The guineas never harmed the garden and they live amicably with our chickens.

Snakes do not stand a chance with guineas. They usually work as a team to peck the snake apart. There have been instances where a single guinea killed a snake by itself and then played "keep away" with it from the rest of the flock. The guineas have had to contend with a lot of copperheads and a few garter snakes, which average 8- to 10-inches long . The record was a 2 1/2-foot-long king snake. So far, none of the copperheads have killed any guineas.

I would be remiss to not mention that guineas are very vocal and are most definitely for those at some distance from their nearest neighbor. But after witnessing their effectiveness against grasshoppers, ticks and probably a lot more insects than I know, when I hear the guineas call out, I just smile. Their call is a lot less irritating than the destruction caused by the grasshoppers, and the aggravation and danger of ticks.

I just wanted to share this with you in the hope you will decide to pass this information along to your readers in your wonderful magazine, so they, too, can learn how grasshoppers can be controlled without the use of pesticides.

Jamestown, Tennessee

Turkeys vs. Hoppers

[From Mother Earth News December/January 2003]

Just read the "Grasshopper Gala" in the "Dear Mother" section of the October/November 2002 issue. Sounds like a sad tale.

It reminded me of a year a while ago when we lived in Illinois. The grasshoppers got so bad about July, that if you took a walk in the field it was like a fountain going off all around you. I was working in the garden when I noticed the six or eight turkeys we bought in the spring heading down the runway to the pasture. When I caught up with them, I found them happily dining on gourmet grasshoppers. We turned around and headed back to the barn, a quarter mile round-trip. When we got back to the yard, one of the bird's crops was so full of grasshoppers that it could barely walk — the crop hung almost to the ground. More turkeys would have cleaned up our grasshopper problem.

Turkeys are also good in the garden for bugs, cabbageworms, etc. The only problem we had was you have to keep them out of the garden when the plants are real small. When the plants get a little bigger, the birds walk down the rows looking for bugs and don't seem to bother the plants. Fun to watch. My turkeys took very little feed and were great scroungers. Also, we had the best, juiciest turkey dinner.

Watertown, Wisconsin

Hens Eat Plenty of Bugs

[From Mother Earth News February/March 2003]

There are lots of grasshoppers around here, but my hens patrol the garden perimeter fence and really reduce the numbers of insects in the garden. Before I got the hens, some crops were totally destroyed by the 'hoppers. The hens also have helped control scorpions — they peck off the stinger and then work on the rest.

The chickens also have reduced the fire ant population by eating the bugs and seeds the ants would have sustained themselves on. I have no ticks here, but the chickens have reduced one nasty pest that had been around everywhere — termites.

New Braunfels, Texas

Silkies and Barred Rocks Control Rats and Mice

[From Mother Earth News February/March 2003]

We have a 40-acre horse farm. Unfortunately, where there are horse barns there also are rats and mice. The horses leave bits of grain on the ground after they eat, and some undigested grain shows up in their manure. With all of this food, we had a serious rat and mouse problem.

My grandfather set out rat poison, and a trip to the veterinarian and $500 later, I found out that my Jack Russell terrier really likes the taste of it. She is fine, but I refuse to allow any more poison on our farm.

Instead, we got chickens. The birds accompany the horses and clean up all the grains on the ground and in the horses' manure. Their careful gleaning eliminates the source of food for the mice and rats, and now the pests have all but disappeared.

The benefit I had not counted on when I added chickens to our farm is that now we no longer have a flea problem. The chickens also help control flies and lawn grubs. I love having the chickens. Not only do they control unwanted pests, but they are fun to watch, too. We have experimented with several different breeds, but our favorites are Silkies and Barred Rocks.

Lewisville, Pennsylvania

Chickens, Turkeys and Guineas Control 'Hoppers

[From Mother Earth News February/March 2003]

When we came to Cross Plains during a long drought, we found that our windmill supplied plenty of water for a garden, so we planted one. Next we knew, thousands of grasshoppers came from every direction and left us with bare stalks.

To beat the 'hoppers, we built a chicken and turkey run that surrounds our garden. The fencing is 5 feet high and has occasional cross fencing to keep hawks from swooping in and snatching up one of the chickens. Any grasshoppers that approach the garden have to move into this "moat," where the chickens and turkeys quickly gobble them up.

We also let guineas loose in the garden (they don't tend to scratch as much or peck the vegetables the way chickens and turkeys do). So far, this one-two punch is working well.

Cross Plains, Texas

Pillbug Problem

[From Mother Earth News February/March 2003]

An outbreak of pillbugs (rolypoly bugs) was eating us alive! Eating up all our tender little lettuce plants, that is. The big greenhouse was filthy with them. So was the hoophouse. Even the new midsized greenhouse was infested with these little wriggling crustaceans.

They were everywhere. Big ones. Little ones. And lots of in-between ones. We had to do something before they ate us out of greenhouse and home. But what? We searched all our books and files for nontoxic controls, to no avail. Old books said to use DDT, lindane or chlordane, all toxic pesticides now banned in the United States. New books said pillbugs usually feed mostly on dead organic matter, but that wasn't true in our greenhouses.

Finally I remembered a book about using portable coops to let chickens feast in garden beds. Before we replanted the lettuce beds, we penned a half-dozen hens in a bed. The minute they spotted the first pillbug, garden soil flew, hens' feet became yellow blurs, and the chickens' heads bobbed up and down like runaway sewing machines.

After about an hour, things calmed down and the chickens were napping on the freshly fluffed soil. There wasn't a pillbug to be found.

Emmaus, Pennsylvania

A Fowl Approach

[From Flea and Tick Control By Lynn Keiley, Mother Earth News August/September 2002]

Free-range chickens, turkeys and guineas will feed on ticks and other pests, such as grasshoppers, Japanese beetles and mosquitoes. Guineas in particular are relentless insect-eaters. The Guinea Fowl Breeders Association reports 65 percent of its members have noticed radical declines in tick populations after they began keeping guineas. (For information on raising guineas, read Gardening with Guineas, by Jeannette S. Ferguson).


Birds, Poultry, Reptiles and Small Animals

[From Pacifism in Pest Control by Charles F. Jenkins, Mother Earth News May/June 1971]

Larger "animated insecticides" also earn their keep around the garden. Geese, ducks, chickens, toads, snakes, birds, skunks and other of our small feathered, scaled and furry friends do an incredible job. Beatrice Trum Hunter, in her book, Gardening Without Poisons, quotes The Garden Club of America Conservation Committee:

  • A House Wren feeds 500 spiders and caterpillars to its young during one summer afternoon.
  • A Swallow devours 1000 leafhoppers in 12 hours.
  • A pair of Flickers consider 5000 ants a mere snack.
  • A Baltimore Oriole consumes 17 hairy caterpillars a minute.
  • A Brown Thrasher can eat over 6000 insects in a day.

Feeding birds in the wintertime encourages them to stick around and help out in the bug-laden summer ... and a bird house or two doesn't hurt either.

Post a comment below.


Ognen Polenak
4/15/2013 5:53:56 PM
This was supposed to be an answer to your problems - Just dissolve 20 ml of apple cidervinegar, one piece of garlic into 1l of watter. Many of your chickens internal and external parasites will be gone and your birds will be healthy. Give this sollution once a week in the drinking watter you will notice the differance.

Ognen Polenak
4/15/2013 5:52:32 PM
Just dissolve 20 ml of apple cidervinegar, one piece of garlic into 1l of watter. Many of your chickens internal and external parasites will be gone and your birds will be healthy. Give this sollution once a week in the drinking watter you will notice the differance.

4/5/2013 3:54:14 AM
Our chickens range free in our fenced yard and their chicken coop is sitting in the shade of our approximately 50 year old apple tree. Since we started letting the chickens have free range in the backyard we no longer have any worms in our apples. The apples are now large and perfect with no worms! Apparently, the chickens eat the bugs before they can travel up the tree. We have natural pest control & organically grown apples!

Christine Hunt
3/28/2013 5:59:51 PM
I've been reading the April/May article on keeping chickens, the chicken tunneling system etc. Won't the chickens eat plants, fruits and veggies from the yard and garden as well as the bugs? I like the idea of free range and want to add chickens to my yard but I don't want to lose the labor involved in my gardening.

Holly Jones
10/13/2012 2:19:48 AM
Our chickens have stick-tight fleas. These buggers attach mostly around the lower neck and face of the chicken and are there for life. They spew eggs into the litter, and so goes the cycle. The coop and yard are under a California Pepper tree which hums with bees all summer long, so flea powder is not an option. That stuff is implicated in colony collapse disorder. I am spraying the coop litter weekly with pyrethrum and feeding the hens daily nutritional yeast and liver pills called FleaTreats. The idea is that the fleas don't like the taste of chickens fed these ingredients. I am not sure whether this will work, but the hens love the FleaTreats and fight over them. If anyone has additional advice I'd be grateful. They tend to lose feathers around their necks and some of them have fleas near the eyes. Apparently not all fleas are easily dealt with by chickens!

Laurie Silvia
6/15/2011 7:27:22 AM
I was wondering about quail. I really need tick and bug control. Are quail beneficial? I really want to raise them so any positive reasons why I should would be helpful. Thanks, Laurie

4/1/2010 12:30:39 AM
We usually have a few ticks on our dog , and I put tick drops and powder on her , still ticks!!! In the past 6 months no ticks on us or the outside only dog ;then we noticed we have not seen a scorpion in the house , 38 hens scratching are no match for bugs :) I just hope the horse loppers get eaten they really mess up my day-lilies [ I believe they lay eggs on the roots ] stressing the plants to death .... I think this because the little ones show up end to end along one of the leaves up to a dozen +

June Shorten_5
7/11/2009 2:33:09 PM
In eastern Washington we had a bad problem with earwigs. They congrigated above the back door and when one would open the door they'd get a shower of earwigs. I needed a place to put a banty hen with chicks so put her in a barrel on it's side at night but they free ranged in the yard during the day. I soon began to notice there was no earwig shower when I went out the back doot. After that I would keep a banty and her chicks in the yard every summer. Also we had about a foot and a half foot high ant hill that disappeared within a few hours one morning. In western Washington we had big slugs and a young son wanted a duck so driving on a back road one day we saw a sign "Ducks $1" so we stopped and got his duck. She loved slugs and every day for a while we had to catch her and clean off her beak as the slime from the slugs would slime her beak shut.

Fran Tracy
6/26/2009 10:52:01 PM
I got 5 guineas a few months ago. My problem is that they keep going into my neighbor's yard. They are impossible to catch since they will not go into any kind of enclosure and they roost 25' up in the top of my pear tree. The males drove the extra male away and he just flew away. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to control their rangeing? I through out scratch grain daily and keep grower or layer feed out for them constantly. Fran

6/24/2009 4:36:48 PM
Hi Everyone! I hadnt seen a tick for two years or so because of my free range chickens and two runner ducks (the ducks eat flies too!) until this year, I've been bitten three times now, and its only the start of summer here in Wisconsin! Geez! Those bugs are bad! Has anyoone heard if any farm creature that will eat those darn "Tent Caterpillars" though? My chickens or runners wont touch them for some reason. Those bugs have almost ruined my fruit trees, and if it wasnt for pulling the suckers off the branches all the time all spring they would have demolished them! Thanks for any help!

Charles & Katie Woodbury
5/29/2009 2:01:01 PM
We live right in town on a 1/4 lot where we do a LOT of gardening, vegetables as well as flowers and perennials. We have experienced all of the standard and expected bug and pest problems. But, the worst have been the Japanese beetles and their grubs, slugs, ticks, and moles (and, of course, Katie especially dislikes the snakes – quite a few around ranging up to three feet, but none dangerous). We recently have become interested in acquiring a half dozen barnyard foul to help. Reading these reports at Mother Earth News has helped to encourage us greatly. We do have neighbor's yards directly adjoining us on either side, and have spoken with them each about the possibility. On one side and across most of the front (street side) of our yard we are fenced adequately. In back is a drainage ditch that stays at least damp even in the driest part of summer and a high and very steep wooded hillside and no fencing. Both of our neighbors are agreeable about having some birds around because they too experience the pest problems. One neighbor raises English Bulldogs which are fenced. We have a beagle and indoor cats (who do escape sometimes), but otherwise there are a few neighborhood feline toughs about. It will not be a problem to create and provide a coop within our attached small barn, and a small adjoining pen for confining any foul. What we need is to learn whether cats can be a concern for the birds, and whether their ranging is likely to include wandering into or across the street. On the other side of the street from us is only a long fenced in construction company yard with a small river behind that. Our next opportunity to acquire some birds is about two weeks away when a local Farmers Union takes the second and last delivery of chicks and keets. We’ve had some advice praising chickens over guineas from a local and more rural herb and tree farm where they’ve had both, but are continuing only with the chickens. The general impression we’ve gained so

2/27/2009 8:50:47 AM
FROM: Cheralee England-Johns I have read articles threw out the years where you have talked about pest control. You have talked about chickens however I haven't seen you mention duck and geese. I love my ducks and geese we have never had one that didn't have its own unique personality. They have been the best natural pest control we have ever had. When our neighbors were suffering with mosquitoes and flies we had hardly had any. They even control the mice. I’ll never forget walking into the chicken coop and seeing one of our geese running out with a mouse hanging out of its mouth. If you don’t think that ducks eat mice I want to share a story with you. I will never look at Mickey and Donald the same again. A few days ago one of our Chihuahuas was chasing a rather large mouse our female and male mallard saw this and joined in the fun. After a while the Chihuahua got tired of the game of chase she left then the ducks started to toss the mouse (still alive mind you) back and forth catching it in the air. The male wasn’t as good at it as the female was he would miss or drop the mouse. She would get mad and yell at him every time she had to chase after the mouse. After about five minutes of the game the female got sick of chasing the mouse after the male dropped it she tossed the mouse in the air opened her mouth wide and swallowed the thing whole. I always wondered why Mickey put up with Donald being suck a pain…..I guess we know the rest of the story now. Cheralee England-Johns (Blackfoot, Idaho) "What does not kill us makes us stronger.....Am I dead yet?" "When you see the light at the end of the tunnel, make sure it's not the train coming"

Paul Matzek
2/3/2009 10:56:50 AM
Vitamin B1 works to ward off blood sucking insects, both for me and my old tom cat. For Chips, I grind B1 tablets in my coffee grinder and mix the powder thoroughly into a batch of dry food. On occasion, when the food canister is empty, I give him food without the B1 until I have time to mix up another batch. If I start finding flea bites on him, I know I have procrastinated too long. That usually takes about a week, summer or winter. Last spring, however, I raised a small flock of chickens and am enjoying chemical-free, non-polluted meat and great tasting eggs. The chickens get to free range each evening after I get home from work and after about noon on weekends, after most of them have deposited their eggs in the nest boxes. It is irritating sometimes, that they seem to prefer grazing close to the house and insist on getting on the patio and deck, but I believe I have found an unexpected benefit. I used the last of the mixed cat food about the first of November and kept putting off mixing more, but Chips hasn’t had any bites, and here it is nearly the end of January. I had started to wonder if the chickens had decimated the flea population when I saw your request for reader’s input on this subject. I guess I’m not the only one who has noticed. Paul Matzek 2460 N Highway 11 SE Elizabeth, IN 47117

1/27/2009 8:49:29 AM
We use Muscovy ducks here on our small farm in Oregon. We started with two ducks and a drake several years ago, and now raise hundreds a year, keeping about 10-15 for breeding, selling the rest for a good profit. Our ducks are free-range, but we must keep their wings clipped, otherwise they are over at the neighbors pond, which he doesn't appreciate. For the life of me, I can't understand why, they do such an awesome job at eating mesquito and flies. The also make a quick meal out of snakes, mice, and my favorite, wasps and hornets. I used to get stung an average of 3-5 times during the year by yellow jackets and bald face hornets, I had terrible reactions and had to seek medical help on two different occassions, causing me to miss work every time. No more, I haven't been stung in years, and I rarely even see them around, they used to be everywhere on our property. An added bonus, we only mowed our lawn twice last year, it looks like we mow it weekly, and since the ducks are not penned up, there is no mess, visitors always comment on how shocked they are that you can't tell we have that many ducks.

1/26/2009 9:42:42 AM
I love my chickens! They are the perfect pest control. We have even noticed the indoor insect population has decreased. One minor annoyance, of having the chickens free range, is the lovely droppings they leave on the decks. But it's a small infraction compared to the worth of my girls. They eat all manner of pests, from the grasshopper to the scorpion, centipede, black widow and even mice! Whenever we intend to do a big backyard clean-up we invite the chickens along to help. Every trough, board and boulder that gets flipped over is followed by chickens ready to attack those big scary creepy things. Call me crazy but my hens are my heroes. And I'm not Eggsaggerating! ~Tina Yarbrough Central Arizona

1/20/2009 7:57:41 PM
We started out on our new farm with approx 50 chicks, 25 keets (day old guinea fowl), and 15 turkey polts purchased from McMurray Hatchery. They ate anything that moved. As they all grew to free-range size, they fanned out over our ten acres and continued to eat everything that moved slower than they did. Eventually we had almost no bugs left on the property, and the ticks that infested every shrub and blade of grass were gone. The guineas were well behaved about it, but the chickens were very destructive to all my flower beds and gardening was impossible. The turkeys got too big so they got fenced in first. Then we fenced in the chickens to confine them to the barn and pastures (a LOT of goat wire fencing but we needed it for the eventual arrival of the goats) and let the guineas free range the yard and unfenced areas. Although we have lost a few guineas to cars and preditors, they are great at reproducing; we found 4 guinea nests hidden in the strangest places. The last guinea nest hatched in September and we were supprised one chilly fall day by a pair of Guinea mommas herding 18 little keets to the Guinea House, where they knew they would always have shelter, fresh water and food. The chickens keep the fly population down because they scratch through all the Llama and Goat poop in the barnyard and pastures to eat the fly larva. The chickens are never allowed near my garden nor flower beds.

1/16/2009 8:51:09 PM
We produce naturally raised beef and started layer pullets for small flocks. Since reading an article on the virtues of using chickens for fly control, we have used roosters in our cow pasture to control flies and have been impressed with the results. Though we have had some predator trouble, we find this to be an economical and natural pest control method. The roosters are sold for meat and are beautiful on their totally free-range diet. The customers have been impressed with the quality of the meat. We have not had to use any insecticide on our cattle and even during wet periods this summer we did not have trouble with flies. We also have a few guineas and chickens in our yard to help control ticks and our dogs and cats have had a lot fewer ticks as a result. I was skeptical at first, but I have told many people about our success with this method of pest control and will continue to use it.

Loree Powell_1
12/17/2008 10:46:02 AM
We started our chicken adventure nearly 2 yrs ago with 50 hatchlings. The 25 roosters ended up in our freezer, and we have 24 healthy hens remaining (we aren't sure what happened to Rosie, sadly). We were hoping that our free rangers would help our carpenter ant problem as an aside to fresh eggs, and yeah-howdie they did! As an added bonus, we had significantly fewer mosquitoes and ticks. To add to the bonus features, several of the chickens have been seen pecking and swallowing young snakes - the older ones know enough to steer clear! They are also great at mulching leafdrop to a fine groundcover in the wooded areas with their constant scratching!

Gerard Schubert_1
12/14/2008 9:05:20 AM
We moved to a 5 acre, lowland place 3 years ago and had a major wood tick problem that first spring and summer. We removed a number of ticks from our golden retriever, and after applying poison around the baseboard of the bathroom (which I don't like to do) I collected 7 - 10 dead ticks every day. We had 9 Orpingtons in a coop with a run to protect them from northern Harriers (marsh hawks), and brooded a couple dozen Wyandottes in the barn that spring. When it came time to move the chicks to the coop, we allowed the older hens to free range while the pullets and cockerels adjusted to the coop. The second spring/summer they all free-ranged and I found a total of 3 ticks in the house the entire spring/summer (no poison required), and the dog had none. I mentioned this to a neighbor while shearing our sheep, and he said he had no problem with ticks the previous year. Then it dawned on me that he had chickens and guineas free-ranging all of the time. Yes, they do make a difference, and I lost none to Northern Harriers. When one is in the neighborhood, they scurry for the pines.

12/10/2008 10:49:24 AM
Comment from: Ernest Brown of Brookfield, NH Until wild Turkeys were reintroduced in New Hampshire ticks were becoming a serious problem. I have had numerous neighbors diagnosed with Lymes Disease. Since the turkey's comeback in New Hampshire the results have been encouraging. On my land, the tick population has been diminished. While I cannot scientifically quantify it, we have gone from numerous ticks on a daily basis to just a few in a season

Heather C. Akerberg
12/9/2008 8:44:11 PM
When my sister and I found out that Omaha's city ordinance allowed certain types of "livestock" to be kept in your backyard, we jumped on the chance to raise chickens in the middle of the city. We built a coop and run and ran to the nearest chicken breeder. We have 2 laying hens, a Silkie and an Easter-egger. They both go after any kind of bug that may be buzzing or crawling about our yard. The real story is in the two silkie chicks that we purchased. We keep a worm composter in our garage, so as to be near the kitchen but not in the house. Everytime you open it, you're sure to let a few fruit flies out. Fruit flies are the peskiest of insects--they flit and zip about the house and always seem to be able to avoid your *swat*. We'll since it's cold here and the chicks don't have all their feathers yet, we decided to create a make shift run with a nesting box and heater in the garage. One afternoon when the chicks weren't older than 3 weeks, I went out to put some kitchen scraps into the worm composter and, of course, let out a stray fruit fly. Just a few feet way, the two chicks stood to attention and the moment the fruit fly was within reach it was gone. That little chick snapped it right out of the air!! It's aim was right on--got him in the first snap of it's little beak. Now, whenever I let a fruit fly out, I just grab one of the chicks and no more fruit fly.

Karen Moore
11/30/2008 5:02:49 PM
We have a small five acre market garden coexisting with 36 free range chickens - 18 breeds of brown and colored egg layers, plus crossbreeds with which the most determined setters grace us each year. (Their beautiful eggs are a fantastic hit at market!) In addition to the pleasure of their company, the chickens provide us with excellent mosquito control and the greenest lawn in the neighborhood. We rarely are bitten during all our long hours in the garden. We also see the occasional chicken running from the flock with a small snake dangling from its beak. Our garden is not fenced and the chickens roam it freely. There will be an occasional peck in a pepper or tomato, but the only real problem has been with Thai hot half-inch peppers - they will totally strip the plant of peppers unless it is protected. I'm not quite sure what else they are eating in the garden, but we have very few grasshoppers or caterpillers. When we plow or till, the chickens follow immdiately behind the tiller to feast on the insects that have been turned up. We also leave a chicken-sized opening in the fence around our 7 x 17 ft compost heap, and the chickens thoroughly work it over for us. We have raised Muscovy ducks in the past, and they practically vacuumed the yard, but their survival rate was low as ducks are ill equipped to deal with hawks and horned owls. Unlike chickens, they did not recognize yard boundaries and wandered into the road.

David Lindsay_2
11/30/2008 3:27:17 PM
Chickens 10, Crickets 0 We have a small hobby farm that we shared with what seemed like millions of crickets. At times the garden was black with them especially in July and August. For a few years I had been purchasing hundreds dollars worth of every cricket killing pestcide we could find, all to no avail. Since my wife and I were raised on the farm we decided to try a few chickens and ordered 10, twenty week old Reds in the spring of 2005. They foraged heartily and by October the chickens had developed a daily cricket route that scratched out almost every covert cricket on the farm. They literally ran trying to out do each other during the first half hour after morning coop release and interestingly they never went beyond the farm fences. In 2006 they concentrated on the cricket life cycle gobbling up the new borns from the previous years eggs. We reduced our chicken number to 6 in 2007 and they supplimented their diet with other insects. This year, in September 2008, we saw one cricket and I'm sure he was a lonely male from the adjacent farm who had yet to learn that crickets are fast but chickens are faster. Our initial concern had been crickets but other bug species numbers have been seriously reduced since 2005. Go "Green, Go Bugless, Go with chickens"!!!!!

Bill Anderson_1
11/30/2008 8:40:24 AM
We bought a place in the country 7 years ago. On the 20 acres, we have a mixture of pasture and pine woods, hard woods, and lawn. Horses, goats, cats, dogs and a few chickens make up the menagerie on our small farm. We have all kinds of bugs on our property. We acquired a few chickens to see if we could get a few eggs out of the deal. What we didn't count on was the resident fox. The chicken population dwindled until only two were left. We decided we didn't need to feed the fox, so we got rid of the remaining chickens. The bug population soared. We had no idea how good of a job the chickens were doing. So after a year of dealing with bugs, we acquired some more chickens. For our farm, game chickens are the best for running loose on the property, and for protecting their young. We didn't have many problems with the fox after we bought a guard dog for the goats. The dog will protect the goats and the chickens. The chickens will sound the alarm when a predator comes around, the dog will chase the fox off, and they will both go to eating the dog's food. Share and share alike, I guess. An added benefit to the chickens is the lower stress rate. After dealing with traffic, dealing with the different personalities in the work force (read difficult people), and the other everyday stresses, it is nice to sit and watch chickens scratch for food, steal grasshoppers from each other, sing their egg song, and watch mama's teach their babies how to forage and drink. Wouldn't trade it for anything.

11/28/2008 8:44:26 PM
My chicken coop is a wonderful place for all the mice on our property to spend the winter - free food, free staw for bedding - a happy home. Until one night I turned on the light and mice were running everywhere. This seemed to anger one of my Rhode Islands Reds and she started pecking at one mouse at her feet. He squeaked, she pecked, he squeaked louder, she pecked harder. She finally picked him up in her beak and with a final blow, whacked him down on the floor and he was dead. I did not see her eat the mouse, but did not find a carcass the next morning when I could see better in the daylight. I have never heard of chickens attacking mice, but it sure works for me! And I thought they only kept the bug population down!!!!!!!

Susan Perry_1
11/28/2008 2:29:11 PM
We have free range Game Chickens and a couple big differences we have found is that moles are no more in our yard! We had hardly any Japanese beetles this year and usually they COVER our grapes and ornamentals! The chickens work the yard, so, no food for moles! The chickens eat all bugs and anything that looks tasty as they find it! We also have horses and the chickens mine the manure pile, keeping things turned over, so flies have a harder time surviving! Besides all the natural pest control chickens offer, they are SO fun to watch! The game chickens are more wild in their habits, which makes them wonderful survivors and great at reproducing! My grandmother always put her regular breed chicken eggs under her Bantam hens and they raised the next generation of her bigger chickens! They are the most protective and caring mothers for chicks! No, they are not great for gardens, but my husband just puts a snow fence around his tomatoes, as they LOVE to poke holes in them! But, when the garden is done, they work it over for him for the next season!! Oh, and the eggs are WONDERFUL! Free range, organic fed chickens produce eggs that make store bought eggs look puny and pale by comparison! Get chickens and enjoy life!!

11/25/2008 8:04:00 PM
Fowl and pests. Besides the usual bugs and smaller varmints I have see chickens eat little copperhead snakes. The hen with the snake will run from the others until she puts it down to start pecking and then another hen will grab it and the chase continues. As for ducks, we had a huge termite swarm which collected on a downed pine tree. The rouen ducks spotted the termites and begin to scoop them up. After a few scoops the ducks would run over to the water dish and then back for more termites. They ate termites until they were pushing their crops along the ground. I've never seen ducks eat that much before or since.

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