Thursday, May 16, 2013

Protect Your Chickens Against Buffalo Gnats

It's Buffalo Gnat season.  They arrived yesterday much to our chickens' dismay.  The poor girls and Ringo spent the day snapping at them in the air, eating them off themselves and each other, and trying to hide from them.

Running for cover.
I had been dreading the three week invasion of these nasty little biting flies after I had heard of all the damage they had done to chicken flocks here in the past few years.  I dreaded it even more than the fox that managed to get one of our Rhode Island Reds one early evening while she was free ranging with the rest of the flock.  We can watch and take precautions and action against the fox and other predators, but these teeny tiny flies are a different story.

Buffalo gnats can kill chickens. The gnats arrive in swarms.  The swarms can kill chickens and small mammals by biting and sucking their blood, much like mosquitoes.  Many chickens who survive the bites have fatal allergic reactions.  The flies can also block the chickens' nostrils and asphyxiate them.   There have been reports of people losing whole flocks to the blood thirsty little flies in one day.

What can you do to protect your chickens if you have buffalo gnats in your area?

Make sure your chickens have shade.  Dense dark shade is best.  If you don't have a shady spot, you can create one simply by leaning a large board against a fence or tree.

Our make shift lean-to.  It provides dense, dark shade.
If your coop is large enough, you could keep them inside.  Keep it dark inside.  Turn off all the lights.  You may want to add some fine screening over any windows or vents.

Buffalo gnats do not like wind.  You can use a  fan to create wind in your run and/or coop.

Check for standing water and remove it and keep it cleared away.

Some people apply vanilla or Skin So Soft to the chickens heads, combs and wattles.  You can burn citronella torches around the run.  There are a few people who hang fabric softener sheets around the coop.  The vanilla does work.  I use it on myself and sprayed our chickens with it yesterday.  It didn't last very long.  You have to reapply it quite often.

EDIT:  Editing in from my comments below:  We did find something that provides instant relief for them but you do have to catch them to apply it. It's 'Skeeter Skidaddler, a 100% natural bug repellant. It from Gentle Breeze Farm . We used the furry friend formula. We have applied it a minimum of twice a day to their combs, face and waddles and any exposed areas on their body. The bugs left them alone for 2 to 3 hours each time. 

Pray for hot weather.  Buffalo gnats do not like temperatures over eighty degrees.

Hiding in the shade of the tree and lean-to.

If you have any other tips on how to protect your chickens from buffalo gnats, please share.

Linking up with: 



  1. I've never even heard of buffalo gnats, but they sound bad! Yikes! Thank you for sharing the tips for how to deal with them if they are a problem.

    Visiting from Farmgirl Friday :)

  2. We live in the quadcities in Illinois. We've lost 3 chickens so far and probably more before this is all over. The buffalo gnats are swarming. Also be careful, I got bit near my eye and now have to take prednisone and antibiotics. My eye swelled closed. I've tried banana boat spray on chickens, that's saying you can catch them.. not to easy....I tried the outdoor foggers, doesn't seem to even knock them down. I'll try the vanilla and pine oil...don't know what else to do..they have large dark coop, but gnats are also swarming in there. Poor chickens, run around getting eaten alive. They stay under the deck, they're free range chickens. Anybody have any other ideas, please let me know.....Brenda

    1. Hi Brenda.
      I'm so sorry about your poor chickens. We're in Central Illinois. Too much rain and flooding this's made the bugs bad! We did find something that provides instant relief for them but you do have to catch them to apply it. It's 'Skeeter Skidaddler, a 100% natural bug repellant. It from Gentle Breeze Farm . We used the furry friend formula. We have applied it a minimum of twice a day to their combs, face and waddles and any exposed areas on their body. We have a rooster and he is a bit rough on his girls. The bugs left them alone for 2 to 3 hours each time. That was enough time for them to eat...they were hardly eating or drinking anything. The bugs are still bad, but it's getting better. I will be stocked up with this. We applied it inside and outside the coop and also hung Dryer sheets in and outside of the coop which seemed to help.


  3. Hello, I live in eastern MO just north of St Louis. I came home to 3 dead chickens today. My husband thought a snake or a mink had gotten in the coop today. We did have a mink about a year ago that was killing them by biting their neck and sucking their blood! I didn't even know we had minks in the area. Anyways, I went to take a look for myself and found them acting strange. After a little investigating I noticed that they were letting me walk right up to them, so I grabbed one. OMG!!!! These gnats are eating my chicks ALIVE!!! Poor things. I panicked and didn't know what to do, I can't just let them suffer like that! After thinking for a minute, I thought to use Dawn dish soap and make a soapy bath. Our vet told us to use the combo for our dog who had a severe flea infestation when none of the "flea/tick" meds were working because she is in the water so much. So, I mixed up a bucket and one by one caught them and dipped them in and gently bathed them in the mixture. It definitely helped! Those nasty little bugs couldn't get away fast enough! I just did this a few hours ago and my chicks were BAD, so we will see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully I can report good news and maybe help someone save their flock!
    I've heard a couple other "treatments" such as using dryer sheets, a fan, bug zapper, sprinkling seven dust around the coop, wood ashes and Diatomaceous earth, , even a natural garlic spray called Mosquito Barrier that repels gnats, mosquitos and ticks.

    Like I said, hopefully I can report good news on the dawn long as they weren't too far gone when I bathed them! good luck to everyone else dealing with this issue!


  4. We just lost three chicks. Our neighbor lost fourteen within the last two weeks. All from the gnats.

    1. Awww... I'm so sorry to hear about your chicks and your neighbor's chickens. I hope the weather dries up and the bug situation improves fast!

  5. You can go to the vet and ask for gnat spray. . It's cheap. You add it to water and spray then lightly and around your coop. . Works great. . You have to reapply about every two to three days. . Sometimes it last longer. . Depends on weather and rain.

    1. I'll have to speak with our vet about it. I never thought about asking her.

  6. My parents have lost nearly 150 chickens in 2 days. They are in a shaded house surrounded by gravel. Dad has turned a fan on them but did not stop the gnats. Ended up using a commercial bug spray and letting a fine mist settle over the birds. Gave them some short relief

    1. I'm so sorry to hear this. It's terrible the damage they can do to a flock so quickly.

  7. Every year for three to four weeks in spring I have this biting gnats in my place. I have tried several things but what it seems to work for me is bathing the birds in a very light mix of water and malathion. I use a five gallon bucket and pour just enough malathion (about one ounce). I submerge the entire bird in the water keeping their heads above the mix so it won't drink it or get it on their eyes. Please note that mixing too much malathion where the water is murky white or near white is too strong and will hurt or even kill your chicken. The small the amount the better. All you want is a slight change in the water clarity. Once they dry out I apply vicks vapor rub in the heads, wattles, combs, and mainly behind the ears when those gnats seems to bite. I bath them once a week with the malathion and apply the vicks vapor rub every other day. With the Vapor Rub they get a day or two of relief. Please do not hate me for applying this stuff on my chickens. This has worked for me and have lost only one rooster in five years I have been dealing with the gnats. Hope this helps.

  8. Vanilla Fantasy. I spray it on rags and place it in my chicken coop and around the farm in the shade spots. I even use it to keep those nasty critters out of my house and myself. This stuff lasts for a long time. Found it around here at Dollar General and Farm and Home. I have 42 chickens and have not lost a one.