What You Need to Know About Flystrike in Chickens
Updated: Aug 26
Today we’re going to address the not-so-beautiful side of raising backyard chickens. Sound like fun, right? (Insert sarcasm). When I first started researching the different illnesses, diseases, and injuries chickens can receive and how to prepare for them, I remember flystrike as one that I prayed I would never have to deal with! Not only can it be deadly for your chickens, it is absolutely gross!
Fortunately, I have never had to deal with it, but recently my sister, Tamar, has had to treat one of her favorite chickens for flystrike. We will be talking with her today on how she found it and how she dealt with it to save her sweet little Rizzo’s life.
This is how Rizzo sat before Tamar knew he had flystrike... quiet and lethargic.
But first, what is flystrike? According to poultrydvm.com, “Flystrike, also known as myiasis, is a painful, potentially fatal condition. It is caused by flies laying their eggs on the chicken, which hatch into maggots and begin to eat the bird alive. Although flies are most commonly attracted to open wounds and feces-coated feathers, some species (including the most common myiatic flies—the botfly, blowfly, and screwfly) can create an infestation even on unbroken skin. Flystrike can occur very quickly and needs to be addressed as an emergency. This is because flies reproduce extremely fast - the eggs only require 8 to 12 hours to hatch. Without immediate veterinary care, your chicken will go into shock and die.”
Learn more at: http://www.poultrydvm.com/condition/fly-strike
Now you can see why this is a condition that I prayed I’d never have to deal with! However, Tamar wasn’t so fortunate. I asked her a series of questions in order to help us understand how to identify flystrike and the steps she took to treat it.
1. What led you to check Rizzo for flystrike?
He and a few other chickens were pretty lethargic after a coop attack. Where the others bounced back after 2-3 days, Rizzo did not. I began noticing an odor 6 days post attack and a drop in weight. I moved him into a kennel in the garage to give him some quiet and easy access to food/water. That evening the odor he was emitting became overwhelming. I brought him inside to look him over better and I noticed his vent area was a mess. It wasn’t until I was bathing him that I noticed larvae falling off into the water.
2. What did you do when you realized he had it?
I cleaned up his vent area by bathing him with warm water and blue Dawn dish soap. I followed a process of bathing with dawn soap, rinsing, spraying with a diluted Chlorhexadine mixture, picking off larvae, & repeating until I was confident that I had gotten every last one.
3. What areas were affected?
His vent was the main area with damaged tissue. I did find a large patch of larvae on the back of his neck but didn’t see any damaged tissue there.
4. What steps did you take to help him heal?
My vet sprayed his damaged tissue with a liquid bandaid type product and started him on an antibiotic and a pain medication. He lived inside my house to better monitor his eating/drinking, administer his medicines, and keep him away from flies or nosy chickens.
5. How long was treatment/recovery?
He lived inside our home for 1.5 weeks total. His pain medicine was given for 3 days and his antibiotic for 14 days. Rizzo struggled to eat the first few days of treatment which caused problems administering his antibiotic. I discovered the only way to get him to eat anything was by sprinkling First Peep by Strong Animals Chicken Essentials on his food/treats. I also gave him and the others Flock Fixer after the stressful attack on our coop. I noticed improvement within 3 days once I got him eating and getting full doses of pain meds and antibiotics into him. Once he perked up and I saw some good healing of his tissue, I put him back out in the coop. I continued to administer his antibiotic for the remaining days. I continue to maintain his vent area as he continues to make a full recovery.
6. Anything else you’d like us to know?
Flystrike is awful! Administering pain medicine and antibiotics orally to chickens is not easy! Thankfully Rizzo is a bantam cochin and a very loving rooster so I noticed the changes in him pretty quick. I now diligently check my hens and roosters over in the evenings when they come into roost. I check their vents and feet and make sure I give them a little sniff! Haha!
This is Rizzo on his way to full recovery! He’s beautiful, isn’t he?
Thankfully, Tamar is diligent with her chickens and was able to identify this case of flystrike in Rizzo just in time. Raising chickens is an adventure, yet it can have its fair share of unfortunate things to deal with. Being prepared and educated is the best way to intervene when needed. Rizzo is on his way to a full recovery and we are so thankful!
--The Wing Lady