Predators & Pests

Chickens & Mosquitoes

Most of us experience mosquitoes as a minor annoyance. I remember traveling to southern Saskatchewan and exploring the prairie dog colony at dusk hoping to see other wildlife. As we slowed to look out for badgers or pronghorn antelope, our windshield turned black with swarming mosquitoes as though something out of a horror movie. We stayed out of the car for as long as we could endure and were rewarded by spotting a burrowing owl.

For some folks they can be more serious. I had a partner whose eye swelled shut due to a bite and another who had a mosquito fly up, and inconveniently die in, her nose requiring surgery to implant an artificial tear duct. And for those in other areas of the world, mosquitoes can carry viruses like Zika, West Nile, Chikungunya and dengue, or malaria.

I live in an area of few mosquitoes so it’s hard for me to imagine, but I do read online of folks battling clouds of the insects. Their concerns mostly seem to be for themselves, but some kinds of mosquitoes can also be an issue for chickens. Because they suck blood large infestations can lead to anemia, decreased egg production or death.

Those pests can also transmit chicken malaria (Plasmodium), St. Louis encephalitis, Fowl Pox and West Nile viruses. 

I avoid using insecticides when possible as they kill both beneficial insects as well as the targeted ones I don’t want. My preference is to control pests by working holistically and naturally.

Here are some suggestions to reduce mosquitoes around your house and coop:

Prevention

  • Remove breeding habitats by emptying water-filled rain barrels, troughs and empty tires.

Natural Predators

  • Install bat roosting boxes. In my area we have several species of bats, including Little and Big Brown Bats. Despite having a bat biologist approve the location of our bat house the intended residents decided they’d rather live under the shingles on the second story of our house. We have co-existed with those bats for years and they’ve caused no damage to the siding nor gotten into the attic.
  • I’ve put up 12 bird nesting boxes on my fence posts, on the side of the coop and in the forest, mostly attracting chickadees, wrens and violet green swallows, which are all fantastic mosquito killers. Robin and hummingbirds nest on the property and also eat mosquitoes.
  • Other bird species that eat mosquitoes include nighthawks, martins, migratory songbirds and waterfowl.
  • My chickens eat flying ants and termites, and given the opportunity they’d probably eat mosquitoes if they came across them.
  • If you do have an artificial or natural pond on your property it’s both a negative and a positive. It’s bad because mosquito larvae require water to develop, but the good news is water also attracts other wildlife that predates on mosquitoes, both adults and larvae: fish, turtles, frogs and tadpoles, newts, dragonflies and damselflies.
  •  If you have a garden, plant flowers that attract birds and insects that will help you control your mosquito population.
  • The following strong-smelling plants are recommended to repel mosquitoes: lavender, marigolds, lemon balm, catnip, basil, garlic, peppermint, rosemary, pennyroyal, geraniums and sage.

Dealing With Mosquitoes

  • I remember staying at a friend’s cottage when their neighbours weren’t there, but had left an electric bug zapper plugged in. As you can imagine we heard it going 24/7, which was not only annoying, but more concerning in that they are indiscriminate killers of beneficial insects and butterflies.
  • Screen your house and coop windows.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants.
  • Apply bug spray to your skin, rather than spraying the general environment.
  • You can make a spray by combining coconut and neem oils mixed well with water.
  • There are all kinds of commercial and DIY lotions, sprays and traps that use natural, non-toxic ingredients.
  • Burn citronella candles or coils.

I know the easy solution is to use a chemical insecticide. It’s problematic in several ways: all the chemicals that we inhale or absorb through our skin have a negative, cumulative impact on our own health; mosquitoes can become resistant to pesticides, making them harder to eradicate; and manufactured products can have a negative impact on other insect, bird and mammal species in our environment. Working with the natural ecosystem, like birds, bats and plants, is both healthier and just as effective as using pesticides.

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