How to Get Rid of Ticks and Prevent Lyme Disease

Practice these tick prevention strategies on your property and in your home to help prevent Lyme disease from affecting the health of your household.

| August/September 2015

Poultry Tick Hunters

Poultry are proven tick hunters, and by raising a free-range flock you can decrease tick populations on your property.

Photo by Getty Images/Catherine MacBride

About 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year, according to new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that multiply in the bodies of ticks, people and animals, including mice, deer and dogs. A whopping 95 percent of human Lyme disease cases are concentrated in only 14 states situated throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwest (see slideshow), but infections have been reported across the country and into Canada. Scientists predict that Lyme disease will continue to spread as climate change causes an increase in the humid summer conditions and mild fall weather favored by the tiny blacklegged deer tick, which is the most common transmitter of Lyme disease.

These deer ticks pick up Lyme bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) when they feed on the blood of infected mice, chipmunks and other hosts. Infected ticks in both the nymphal and adult life stages can then transfer the Lyme bacteria to humans if they latch on for a meal and feed for approximately 36 hours or more. Lyme disease is highly treatable when it’s detected early, but devastating when the infection goes unnoticed for more than a few months. An early-generation Lyme disease vaccine is available for dogs, but people must rely on other defensive measures to avoid ticks and the diseases they often carry. If you’re interested in getting a Lyme disease vaccine for your dog, discuss options with your veterinarian and read up on it at Lyme Info.

Let Poultry Help with Tick Prevention

Leafy wooded areas and grassy meadows are the preferred habitats for blacklegged deer ticks and American dog ticks, which both spend their larval stage in leaf litter, their nymphal stage on small animals, and their adult stage in tall grass or other shrubby vegetation. People have learned how to get rid of ticks by keeping foraging chickens and guinea fowl on their property. In April 2015, we launched the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Chickens and Ticks Survey, and responses revealed that:

• 71 percent had an existing tick problem before they got poultry.
• 78 percent kept poultry that helped control or eliminate ticks within the birds’ feeding range.
• 46 percent experienced a drop in tick populations within a month after getting poultry; 45 percent saw good control after several months to a year.

Many respondents noted that small bantam chickens and game hens can get into tight spots where larger birds can’t fit, resulting in better tick control.

For maximum effectiveness, poultry should be allowed to feed in leaf litter starting in early spring, because that’s where ticks and their eggs hide out during winter. Poultry will eagerly work their way through leaf piles and ground debris when given the opportunity. Poultry also help control other pests, including mosquitoes, grasshoppers and even snakes; see Poultry Pest Patrol for more on these winged pest warriors.

5/16/2016 11:13:22 AM

Great article! Free range chickens do a good job, but free range Guinea Fowl do a GREAT job! If you provide feed and close them up at night, it will help keep the Guineas from going feral, (they are essentially a game bird). Mine were free at night as well, and disappeared after 3 years. Guinea's will do less damage to the garden and seek out every bug other than squash bugs, (nothing seems to want those). I had a 150 ft. row of bush beans that did not have a single bean beetle hole in any leaf. I love those ugly, noisy birds. It helps if you hatch them yourself or can put the fertile Guinea eggs under a broody hen. Then they think they are chickens. The chickens that could get into the garden ate all my tomatoes, so you might need tunnels for them. I finally just planted extra tomato plants for the chickens and fenced off the ones I wanted to harvest from. I had no ticks on 10 acres and they kept the flies down in the horse pen as well. We were all happy.

8/13/2015 9:30:51 PM

Nice article. However, the statement that it takes at least 36 hours of tick attachment for Lyme disease transmission is incorrect. A recent journal article that did a review of transmission times of Lyme disease after tick attachment stated that in animal research, transmission can occur in <16 hours. Some human studies also found transmission times of less than 24 hours (and as little as 6 hours of tick attachment), but so far the minimum attachment time for transmission of infection has never been established. Lyme borreliosis: a review of data on transmission time after tick attachment. My own experience supports that tick attachment of less than 12 hours can result in a tick borne disease.

8/12/2015 8:03:05 AM

I was in remission from Chronic Lyme and got a bulls eye rash from a mosquito bite in Colorado.

7/27/2015 11:31:16 PM

Another tick disease, that most aren't aware of, is called Q Fever. It can have the same symptoms as Lyme, but it also can instead cause inflammation of the brain and heart, and can become very serious. I was treated for Lyme while we were waiting for the Lyme test results to return; it was negative. I was 46 at the time, very fit, and have always been physically active. Over about 2 months, I developed severe arthritis in all my joints. 3 months after the bite, I couldn't stand up out of a chair without using my arms to raise my body, and lost most of the strength in my hands. When I woke in the morning, my hands were like stiff claws. I couldn't do even low impact aerobic exercise, because of the pain in my knees, heels, and ankles. My doctor referred me to an infectious disease specialist, who ordered $6,200 in lab tests be done. She is familiar with Q Fever, and had a suspicion that was my illness. My result was strongly positive. The treatment is initially a round of doxycycline (also the treatment for Lyme, but the pre-diagnosis dosing didn't eliminate it). I must also add that my church also had healing prayer for me. I did recover quickly, but now a year later some of my symptoms are intermittently recurring. I've just gotten tested to see if I have the chronic "version". Most statistics show that this is a rare disease, and I became part of the statistical data that the county health department maintains. My doctor says it isn't rare if you test for it. Meaning that most doctors don't know about it and don't test for it. I wrote because I know many people are in chronic pain, and some are being treated for fibromyalgia, because their doctors can't find out what's wrong with them. If you are one of them, ask your doctor to check you for Q Fever.

7/27/2015 12:20:25 PM

It's also been proven that Lyme disease can be contracted from the bites of mosquitos and fleas. I'm sure that it will also be found that other biting insects can transmit it as well. It is also in the donated medical blood supply in this country, and the donated blood is not being tested for it at present. It can also be communicated through intimate human-to-human contact, and passed to a fetus or a child during the birth process. I believe that I contracted Lyme from a polio vaccine. There is false hope given by the statements commonly read that Lyme is only endemic in a few states. It is pretty well known that it can be caught anywhere, anytime, not just in certain areas during "tick season".

7/27/2015 8:33:04 AM

thanks for this. very informative. We are having a very bad year for ticks where I live in NJ. Now getting them in our yard, where we hadn't seen them previously. and we now have three kinds: Dog, deer, and lonestar. My dog has had Lyme, as well as another infection, the agent of which I can't recall. All of us have been bitten by deer ticks. Luckily, they are very irritating so the are generally found soon after biting (except on my dog). Possibly could miss the little nymphs, though. I worry about using Permethrin,as I have a small child. The tubes are new to me and I will try them. We have chipmunks and mice. I should trap more of the mice, I suppose. But, we will still get ticks from parks and other places.

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