Chicken Coop Fly Control

Chickens poop. A lot. A standard-sized laying hen produces as much as 4 ounces of manure a day. Chickens can’t control when they defecate. They go all of the time. They poop when they’re sleeping. It accumulates under the roosts.

manure under roosts

Chicken manure is 75% water. It’s high in nitrogen. As it decomposes, it gives off ammonia fumes. (Which is a good reason to have your roosts well off of the floor of the coop – so your hens don’t breathe in the damp, caustic air while they sleep.)

Flies breed in rich, soft, moist manure.

I hate flies. They’re bothersome. They carry disease. In a rare case, they cause the worst thing ever – fly strike. I do everything that I can to limit the population of flies in my coops.

The first line of defense is the most obvious – remove the manure! I’ve written about manure management here. But, since chickens poop all day long, and you can’t follow them around with a scoop and bucket, you’ll have to take other steps.

Use bedding that is dry and absorbent. Pine shavings work well. A product like Koop Clean, which is chopped chaff mixed with a desiccant, is especially drying. There’s manure right in the center of this photo – dried out and so not a place that flies can breed.

dry manure


If you have dropping boards (or, in the case of my Big Barn, a beam,) scrape the manure off daily. Despite the maintenance, during fly season, I see tiny immature flies on the damp wood.

immature flies

I kill them with a spritz of citrus vinegar.

citrus spritz


This summer, I saw those immature flies on my windows. But, someone else also saw them – these insect-eating insects! This is why I don’t use pesticides. Over the course of three days, these bugs (can anyone identify them for me?) scarfed up the tiny flies, decimating the fly population, and then were gone.

fly eating insects


I’m a big fan of fly strips. Before those brilliant insect-killing insects appeared, the ones hanging over the goat stall looked like this:

full fly strip

Fly strips are very effective! (Just make sure that you don’t hang them where a flighty hen can tangle in them. Read about Florence’s adventure here.)

With all of my management techniques – a clean, dry coop, citrus vinegar, fly strips, and working with beneficial insects, I’ve kept the flies in check. Even late in August when the pests should be at their worst, look at this. It’s been hanging for 24 hours, and it had almost no flies to trap.

empty fly strip


My hens thank me.



  1. I use your methods too! In addition, I have also had success using the Captivator fly trap–though I make my own “stink bait” so that I don’t need their chemicals. It makes me shudder to see how many flies it can trap over the course of a few days.

  2. Off the subject but is Betsy still broody? Haven’t seen her on the cam in ages. I don’t raise chickens but grew up with them. Check your site every day. I do enjoy it.

  3. I think you have a type of Braconid wasp, but it is hard to tell by the picture. They are wonderful to have around gardens, too!

  4. I don’t have a fly problem in my coops – in large part, I’m sure, because I use all your methods – but I do have a problem with flies and smell in the run on really hot, humid days. I have tried hanging fly strips out there too, but they don’t seem to be that efftective. I’ve also tried those vanilla-scented pine tree car air fresheners, and have thrown in sprigs of lavender, thyme and rosemary. That helps to keep the smell down a bit but doesn’t seem to deter the flies. The only thing that helps a bit is if I go around scooping poop and throwing down DE over the freshly laid stuff to dry it out before the flies get it at. However, I can’t spend every moment on poop patrol, and they don’t stop pooping after I’ve cleaned up, even if I ask nicely. ;-) Any suggestions?

    • I rake the yard once a week. Also, sunshine is a natural disinfectant. Is your pen entirely in the shade? That’s harder to maintain. The ground can get packed down and dense with manure. Once a year I turn it over with a pitch fork and add all-purpose sand. It improves drainage. Do a blog search for pen maintenance (use the convenient bar on my website) and you’ll find posts and photos with how I maintain the run.

      • I would describe the run as having dappled sunlight, with full sun at the front of the run in the early morning. Because we have had some rather wet spells followed by hot and humid days, it does take a while for the ground to dry out in spite of having sand mixed in with the soil. I rake it weekly, but I guess it’s time to turn over the dirt and add more sand. Thanks for the tips, Terry.

        • The fact is that chicken manure does smell, and wet stuff smells the worst. It’s a challenge to keep it as nice as we’d like it to be.

  5. Looks like summer hit your area today….87! Wow! Thanks for the reminder about the vinegar/orange disinfectant…the flies are everywhere right now…looking for a place to winter!

  6. The unfortunate side effect of fly strip use is that it also attracts and kills beneficial flies. *sigh*

    If the top wasp is as big in reality as in the picture (I’m using the difference between the two wasps), you could have both an Ichneumon wasp (top) and a Braconid (bottom).

    I have been enjoying my citrus vinegar in my kitchen and bathroom all summer (it’s on ration, as I only had enough peels for one gallon). I have saved my empty gallon vinegar containers to fill with orange and grapefruit peels as I eat one or the other every day all winter. I think of you regularly! :D

    • Once in a very rare while the fly strip gets something other than barn flies and the very nasty horse flies. Very rare. So I feel that it’s worth it.
      Sounds like it’s time for you to buy another bag of oranges :)

  7. It looks like it was poor Florance, acording to that link, that got the fly stip stuck. Poor girl.

  8. You wrote you saw tiny immature flies on the wood. But after the metamorphosis from larval and pupal stage into fly the fly is mature and doesn’t grow anymore. So small flies are other species than big ones.

    • You’re right! Your comment prompted me to go read about flies. Those tiny flies might be another species. OTOH, Wikipedia says that small flies can be due to “insufficient food during the larval stage.” In any case, they certainly aren’t going to grow larger, as I’d thought. I appreciate being set right!

  9. I found these fly traps at Lowe’s. By far, they are the best traps for flies I have ever used. Only flies are attracted to the scent produced in the trap so other good insects are harmed. Once full, just throw the trap into the trash. When I say full, i mean 2 to 3 inches of flies and more keep coming. See the item info below:

    RESCUE Disposable Fly Trap
    Item #: 46767 | Model #: 1FTD


  10. I am new to all of this and have 21 chicken and roosters combined. One big rooster and a small, what I call Bannie or Bantam. There are other Bantams coming up the ranks and were included when I bought the pen and laying area from someone else. After reading this, I am thinking of containing my big beautiful rooster who does favor and hit on the same hens who have bare backs and necks void of feathers. I have purchased the medication from Tractor Supply for the cannibalization and also purchased a spray for mites. I noticed that when they line up on their perch at night and the group I bought are exclusive to each other, they are all pecking at themselves. After reading on here that the mites or lice are night blood suckers, I am thinking they may have something. It may be why the man wanted out of having them and sold them to me, Either someone is stealing our eggs or they aren’t laying much. I have the laying food, I have oats, I have just about everything including their treats, the worms. I am thankful for this site, and I will go to work on some of these suggestions. It sounds like citrus vinegar is citrus peelings allowed to sit in vinegar. Is that regular white vinegar or what? I didn’t see a recipe. And lastly I bought fly traps at the tractor store, three to be exact and there was one fly that ended up in all three. What is that about. Reports of inches of flies are blowing me away and I am definitely a fly trap failure! LOL!

    • Welcome to the world of chicken keeping! There are many reasons why hens don’t lay. You’re coming into molting season. They could be old. There could be mites. Also, be careful about feed. Check my FAQs page about that. There’s a link on this blog post to a tutorial on how to make the citrus vinegar. As you found out with your fly traps, good advice doesn’t always work in every situation :)