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Mrs Frugal


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Many thanks to Egluntyne for this very informative article on Flystrike in hens.




Is a condition affecting mainly sheep, deer and rabbits, but is not uncommon in poultry.


This article deals with Flystrike in hens.


It occurs when flies lay eggs in the dirty feathers, usually those contaminated with faeces around the vent.


The emerging maggots burrow into the flesh of the hen, particularly if there is an existing wound, and eat the hen alive.


It might not be immediately obvious, so for that reason, regular examination of the hen is crucial, as once Flystrike takes hold, the bird will succumb very quickly.


Signs and symptoms:

Very sick hen with open wound, usually around vent, which is crawling with maggots.


The hen will be lethargic, off its food, and is likely to be pecked by its companions.


This condition needs urgent treatment.


~ Sit hen in bowl of warm saline and keep her in it for 10 -15 minutes. This will give the wound an initial cleaning and will drown many of the maggots. Change the saline solution a couple of times. You may find that the maggots will thrash about in the saline bath.


~ Carefully trim the feathers around the wound with blunt ended scissors and then remove as many maggots as you can with a pair of tweezers,


~ With a syringe, flush the wound thoroughly with fresh saline solution.


~ Pat dry. Do not use anything that will leave linty bits in the wound.


~ Isolate hen. Keep her warm and encourage her to drink, syringing water into her beak if she is reluctant to drink of her own accord.


~ Repeat the above two or three times a day till there are no maggots left.


~ After the first soak, you could give an initial flush out with a weak hydrogen peroxide solution, but don’t use this too often as it is rather harsh and over use will interfere with the formation of granulation tissue.


~ Another option is to use a weak iodine solution, with just enough added to water so that it looks like milkless tea.


~ If using a saline solution, sea salt is a better option than table salt, as it has not been refined.


~ It is best to keep the wound open and dry, so that the air can get down into it. Most of the harmful wound bacteria are anaerobic and they thrive in closed conditions.


~ Avoid using wet ointments as flies find the wound and lay their eggs deep in the ointment.


~ It is essential that all maggots are removed, as they will eat healthy flesh as well as dead tissue.These are not the specially bred and clinically reared maggots used in the healing and debridement of gangrene or necrotic tissue etc in clinical situations.The maggots are full of bacteria and secrete toxins which are largely responsible for the death of affected hens.


Further care:


~ Isolation of affected hen is essential as its wound will be pecked, and hen will be very weak.


~ Keep hen well hydrated.


- F10 Spray is an insecticidal and germicidal spray effective against bacteria and repels flies. There are also several Ivermectiin based products that can help protect against fly-strike. Most are not licensed in poultry.


~ Avipro, Rescue Remedy, Electrolytes….all are useful additions to the hens diet.


~ Feed hen with good quality layers pellets, and extra protein when hen recovering.



** NB If there is no improvement, or a deterioration after the initial cleaning and first few flushings, or if the wound is extensive in the first place, the advice of a vet should be sought.


Picture of Flystrike in a hen. Maggots Circled in red. **Warning…not pleasant.



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