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We noticed after opening up our chicken run and allowing the flock to free range that we saw a noticeable drop in the number of ticks we saw. This prompted us to ask, "Do chickens eat ticks?".
Anyone who has ever worked on a farm or homestead understands, all too well, how big of a problem ticks can be. They are invasive and, when left unchecked, can cause any number of diseases and illnesses.
These issues can not only affect your livestock, but also pets and family members.
So, Do Chickens Eat Ticks Or Not?
There has not really been a lot of research done on the subject, to be honest. However, we do know of one study done in Africa in 1991. Their result was that, yes, chickens eat ticks.
A flock of chickens were added to a tick infested livestock pen. They were allowed to free-range for 30 minutes to an hour. Afterward, they were dissected and were found to have ticks still remaining in their crop.
And it wasn't just a few ticks. Each chicken had anywhere between 3 and 331 ticks. During this test, the average chicken ate a whopping 81 ticks! Another interesting note is they showed a preference to unengorged ticks as opposed to ticks that had already found a host.
Aside from that study, there has not been much other verifiable proof that chickens eat ticks. However, there is a whole lot of anecdotal evidence. Ask just about any farmer and they will swear that chickens, as well as Guinea fowl, work wonders at cutting down the tick population.
What are ticks
Ticks are small, parasitic creatures. They find a host, climb onto them and attach themselves, by the mouth, to an area in which they can draw blood.
They will feed on their host as long as they can until they are either removed or become engorged.
When do they come out?
Ticks tend to show up during the warmer months of the year and die off once things get cooler. There has been talk that, with the rise of global temperatures due to climate change, the season of ticks, and other parasites, seem to be starting earlier and ending later.
Why do you want chickens to eat them?
Aside from being pests, ticks can, and do, spread a variety of diseases. Some of these illnesses can infect both humans, livestock, and pets.
Need some help keeping your chickens health and care taken care of? Check out the Organized Chicken Keeper for an easy to follow system.
There are a number of tick spread diseases that can wreak havoc on your health. Some of the most well known illnesses are Lyme disease, Colorado tick fever, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Some others are:
- Anaplasmosis (found in the north east and upper midwest in the United States)
- Babesiosis (found in the north east and upper midwest in the United States)
- Bourbon virus (found in the Midwest and southern US)
- Colorado Tick Fever (found in the Rocky Mountain states)
- Heartland virus (found in the midwest and southern US)
- Lyme Disease (found in the north east and upper midwest in the United States)
- Powassan Disease (found in the Great Lakes region and northeast US)
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (found across the US, Central, and South America)
According to the CDC, some of the more common symptoms of tick born diseases are:
- a variety of body aches and pains (joints, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, etc)
How To Avoid Ticks
The best way to cut down on your tick population is to make sure they do not have an environment in which they can thrive. Your flock of chickens is a good start. Some other things you can do is:
- pick a breed of chicken that is a good hunter and forager like a Buckeye or Welsummer
- make sure your grass is always cut short
- keep dead leaves and grass clippings picked up
- have your pets on a good flea and tick prevention
- use bug spray
- wear long sleeves, long pants, and boots when in high risk areas
- check yourself, kids, and pets after walking in high risk areas
- remove ticks immediately if found
How To Remove A Tick Safely
If you have a tick attached to you, you want to remove it as quickly as you can. You also want to make sure that you do not leave the head or any mouth parts behind in the wound.
To do this you can either use a small, sharp pair of tweezers, or a specialized tick removal tool.
Simply, place the end of the tweezers at the base of the tick, right against your skin, pinch the tick without crushing it (this can cause the tick to regurgitate back into your skin), lightly pull and twist. This should cause the tick to release and not leave anything behind.
After removal, flush the tick down the toilet and immediately clean and treat the affected area.
If you need more help with taking care of your chickens, check out The Organized Chicken Keeper for a complete system for managing their health through keeping their supplies stocked and coop clean.