Flystrike: a chicken killer.
Cuddles beats the odds again.




My heart sank as soon as I opened up the coop doors to let everyone out for the morning.  Every morning the routine is the same and this morning was no different.  Wake up, pad downstairs, throw my particularly ugly Crocs on … and let the chickens out for the day.

The chickens wake up about 2 hours before I do so by the time I get downstairs they’re all waiting by the door anxious to get their jam packed day of scratching, pooping and lounging underway.  Chickens: the men of the animal world.

So when there were only 3 chickens instead of 4 at the door this particular morning I knew something bad was waiting for me.  If it had been Cheez Whiz, Mabel or Josephine that was missing I wouldn’t have thought a thing about it.  I’d know they were just in the nesting box laying an egg. But the missing chicken was Cuddles.  Cuddles doesn’t lay anymore, giving up on that after her near death experience last summer.  She now spends her time like most retirees do.  Snacking and napping. And playing golf.

I let the other chickens outside, then took a peek inside the roost where the chickens sleep.  Cuddles was still up on her roost with her head down looking sad.  But she jumped down when she saw me and slowly made her way outside.

Because it seems like she has issues with laying internally she gets icky feeling the odd time, but once she passes a hunk of solidified egg yolk, she’s back to normal.  It usually takes a half a day to a day and I figured that’s what the problem was.  So I went about my day checking on her the odd time.  She was not active, just sitting all day in one spot looking very lethargic.

You have to keep in mind that chickens can go from sick to dead in 24 hours so if one isn’t feeling well you really have to pay attention.  By 3 in the afternoon or so I noticed she was standing up and picking at her bum.  Which is good, because if a chicken can be bothered to groom themselves then they aren’t in that bad of shape.  A chicken about to die doesn’t dust bathe or groom, they just sit and wait to die.

When I went over to take a closer look at her, happy she was standing, I was in no way prepared for what I was about to see.

As it turns out Cuddles didn’t have what I thought. She wasn’t sick from laying internally.  She had Flystrike. What that means is when I picked Cuddles up to give her the once over I was in for the kind of shock normally reserved for page 284 of any Stephen King novel.


Coming out of Cuddles’ vent were hundreds of worms. Only they weren’t worms.  They were maggots.  And her entire back end was COVERED in them.   I was holding a chicken that had a mass of pulsating, writhing maggots.

Holy shit.

You know how you feel about maggots?  That’s how I feel about maggots.

Seriously.  Who the F*CK decided keeping chickens was a good idea?  WHOOOOO???  Ack.  Me.  It was me.  (Sorry about the disguised swear word there Betty, but I dare you to say anything different with an ass full of maggots inches from your face)

Luckily it was a really hot day so I could run the hose all over Cuddles at full blast to get rid of the maggots.  I also had to don a pair of surgical gloves to hand pick them out.  Getting rid of the maggots took over half an hour because they’d crawl INTO her to escape the water.

Finally they were all gone and I could get a good look at her.  The maggots had eaten a hole in Cuddles, just below her vent where they were literally eating her from the inside out.  Not dead tissue.  LIVE tissue.  Flystrike normally hits sheep but can also attack chickens.  Obviously.  I dried her off, wrapped her in a towel and applied WonderDust wound powder to keep it dry and unattractive to more flies.

Flystrike is deadly for a few reasons.  The maggots will literally eat the guts out of the chicken AND the maggots  have a toxin on them that poisons the chicken basically.  There’s also the risk of infection etcetera, etcetera.  I kept my eye on Cuddles for the next few days and she was fine.

Until she wasn’t.

You see these maggots have several stages of pupation and before I knew it, she was being eaten by maggots again.  Lesson to you … if you have a chicken that gets Flystrike, check them several times a day for at least a week to make sure they aren’t infested again.

The second time I realized she had Flystrike was around 5 days after the initial attack.  I had to go through everything again, removing the maggots and washing her completely.  This time it wasn’t warm out though so I had to keep her inside the house to make sure she stayed warm.  The maggots gave her a fever probably from infection so she needed to be extra warm.  I don’t know when the last time you blow dried a chicken but I can tell you it takes about the same amount of time it takes to find a bathing suit that looks good on you after the age of 17.  Hours.  HOURS.



The next morning I went to see a local vet that advises me the odd time something goes wrong with my chickens. He told me to keep her inside for a few days so I could keep a close eye on her, so she wouldn’t be picked on by the other chickens and so she’d be away from alllll flies (more on my hatred of them later).

I also decided to give her antibiotics.  I had some left over from her episode last year, plus got a new prescription from my vet.

To get her to take the antibiotics I diluted them in water and then put scraps of spinach and raisins to soak in it.  She would both drink the antibiotic water and eat the antibiotic laced raisins and greens.

By the next morning she was a bit better but still obviously sick.

By that night she was feeling well enough to know that laying on the floor wasn’t fun and hopped up into my pantry when it came time to roost.




By the third night she was feeling perfect, had a great appetite and the only trace that maggots had been around was the plum sized scab under her vent where the maggots had attacked her.  I knew when she jumped up on my shoe cabinet to roost for the night she would be O.K. to put outside the next night.




This all happened a few weeks ago.  I don’t have any pictures of the maggots because my concern was fixing Cuddles, not taking photos.  Also, I was 90% sure this was going to kill her and didn’t really want to document her death walk if I didn’t have to.



Which brings us to this question.


Flies are attracted to crap.  Chicken coops/runs are filled with crap no matter how often you clean the run.  Certain chickens have a tendency to have poopy bums.  Cheez Whiz and Cuddles are two such chickens.




No matter how hard they try, these two always have poop on their bums. They always have and I imagine they always will.





My two copper Marans on the other hand have never once had poop on their bums.




You could literally smash your face into their puffy bums with no fear of feces.



Flies are attracted to the poop on chickens bums and if given a chance will lay their eggs right there.  The eggs then hatch into the world’s most hospitable maggot condo:  the chicken anus.

Once they’re there, they aren’t leaving until they’ve eaten a big hole in your chicken, made you a gagging twitching pile of goo and generally turned your life into a horror movie of a maggoty mess.

In fact the only thing more revolting than the maggoty mess is the homemade fly trap that I made to combat the fly problem.  More on that and the other 2 fly traps I tested in the next post.

The moral of this story?  There are very few situations a little cuddle and the word f*ck can’t fix. And of course in certain situations a round of antibiotics can’t hurt either.

Update: Since this post, little Cuddles has died, but it wasn’t from Flystrike.  She had a long term bout with egg yolk peritonitis. The last day of her life had the potential to be one of the worst days of both our lives, but the world’s kindest vet came to the rescue


  1. Evette peterson says:

    What kind of antibiotics did you use, I have my 7 girls left list one to the same thing, my little granddaughter loves them

  2. Gazza H says:

    Maggots don’t eat fresh flesh, it has to be infection… Maggots suck up juices not chew flesh.
    Glad your chook survived.

    I use a fly zapper and remove the tray, then the dead flies fall to the floor and my chickens eat them. Win win!

    • Karen says:

      I’m sorry to correct you Gazza H, but that’s untrue. It’s a common misconception. Maggots absolutely will eat through live flesh as anyone who has seen a case of Flystrike in either humans or animals will attest to. If you still don’t believe me, I think if you Google images of Flystrike you’ll be convinced. ~ karen!

  3. Phylicia Mann says:

    Oh my GOSH! I was laughing so hard at your explaination of the F word I atarted crying! I completely agree! I could not think of a more perfect use of the word in that situation!

    Meanwhile, my husband thinks I have completly lost my mind because your posts make me laugh out loud!

  4. I’ll add a link back on my blog

  5. Excellent info! I lost a hen to that as I was a novice. I’ve never heard of WonderDust wound powder but will add to my chicken 1st aid kit!!!

  6. Fk says:

    Thanks for info tomorrow the d.e. powder is getting reapplied and I’m hanging those Stinky jugs to catch flies… again

  7. Paula says:

    One of my four chickens is definitely my pet, she comes when I call her and sits on my lap when I sit down outside. She was injured about four weeks ago and has taken up residency in my kitchen because I didn’t want the other chickens to eat her (as they had started to do). She is in a rabbit cage in the evenings and she seems quite content and not stressed because she is laying well. I let her outside during the day to run around. Now my concern is re-introducing her to her ‘sisters’; I have considered getting another couple of chickens to take the pressure of off her. lol
    The warmer weather is coming (hopefully) so I will have to keep watch for flystrike; I read this post last summer but I had forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. esther says:

    I was so happy to see her perched in the pantry!! Bless her, sweet girl! I’m so glad I read this, had no idea they could get maggots! My Ameraucanas tend to have poopy bums. One of my girls had an incident with my dog, and she lived in my master bath tub for 3 weeks while I nursed her back to health! My husband thought I should’ve given up on her that first night. Why would I have animals and not do all I could to make them well?! People think folks like us are crazy, but I sure love my girls, all 11 of them!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Esther! You’re right. People don’t think of chickens as pets but they are! Well … some of them are more like pets than others. ;) ~ karen!

  9. Cyndi L Collinge says:

    Happy Boxing Day, fellow chicken nut!
    I thought only myself (and my friend Patty-who also happens to be a vet) would bother to do such things for our chickens! You my friend are a saint! Funny as h*ll too, (tho a little crude). It truly warms my heart to know your pet chicken got to come into your house and “rule the roost” so to speak when she was unwell. I most recently raised 2 chicks inside (Sonny&Cher), who’s mother had abandoned them. It was 8 “short” months to me, and 8 “long” months to my husband.
    They would spend all day outside with me, then come in at night and after a snooze and cuddle and a curl-up on my dog Neil, I would put them in their crate for the night. So I totally get it! I look foreward to more great stuff on your site, and thanks so much for doing it. All the best, Cyndi L.

  10. Susan says:

    7. Dust your chicken coop

    I thought of you when I read this article about diatomaceous earth. I had never heard of this before.
    #7 is
    dust your chicken coop

    Many chicken keepers add diatomaceous earth to their chicken coop and chickens’ dust bath to protect their chickens against lice and mites. Even if you coop currently doesn’t have this problem, a regular regime of diatomaceous earth can prevent these problems from cropping up. the article is at

  11. Christal says:

    Gross, gross, gross! I’m glad she’s ok, though! You are a maggot-exterminating warrior woman!

    On an unrelated note, you used the phrase “the odd time” three times here, twice in one paragraph. Do I sense a new favorite phrase? I totally do that. My friends still tease me about the summer of ‘amazing!’…

  12. Julie says:

    I thought the article about “flystrike” on Wikipedia was horrifying, and then I read the rest of this post.

  13. Daphne says:

    Lost my 7 year old hen Dorothy to this cheap horror story two months ago. She had some problems pooping for months so I had to clean her behind every now and then. When it was time for her weekly bum bath I noticed she didn’t want to eat. When I picked her up and checked her butt it was pretty obvious why she wasn’t feeling well. I might be Dutch, but I’ve used the same F-words you did. Sadly, Dorothy was too far gone and I had to do the right thing. She seriously laid an egg and was still bitching her girls (and rooster) around two days before she died. Such weird but amazing animals.

  14. Teresa Jennings Richardson says:

    I love chickens, but can’t have them in my small backyard. So I enjoy other people’s . Naturally, when I saw this article, I thought of you and how you pamper your girls. You may have seen this already, and it may not be anything you would like, but I wanted to share this neat chicken feeder made from PVC pipe with you just in case you did.…

    ‪#‎DIY‬ ‪#‎MYO‬ ‪#‎Chickens‬ ‪#‎Backyard‬ ‪#‎home‬ ‪#‎DoItYourself‬ ‪#‎Budget101‬

  15. TERRI says:

    Never had fly strike on my chickens but I will tell you that in the years of chicken keeping I quit trying to give them antibiotics in their water or food. I now give shots and its the fastest I have seen chickens recover…. I highly recommend the injection, esp being most of the time they are to sick to eat or drink. Then you can blog about giving your first injection…. easy peasy after the first time.

    • Karen says:

      I’ve given horses shots, I’m sure I could handle a chicken. I’ll ask my vet about it! Thx. ~ karen!

  16. Itzy says:

    Hi Karen,
    Congratulations !
    Flystrike can also be deadly to goats.
    I think any ‘pet’ can be plagued with it. Daily inspections are essential. I was thinking DE might be great to sprinkle on sores or cuts that flies love to find. I sent you info on Ziploc bags with water in them. Add strip of blue painters tape. Around barn and chicken coop. Amazing results ! ‘No Pest Strips’ are great in food containers and closed in areas. NC Dept of Agriculture approves their use.
    I do swear by DE but am careful during application. Do not breathe dust or get it in eyes. Also stops squash bugs ! We often have a white garden ! LOL. It is effective after getting wet. Rain washes it down into soil where grub worms flourish. There moles/voles ruin a smooth yard and make it dangerous for horses etc. Step in deep tunnel and snap a leg bone. Very expensive vet bill, sometimes worse. It dries with soil and is effective again. Pool DE does not work, been over processed for that.
    We buy the Food Grade of DE. We add it to all feed.
    Goats, Horses, Dogs, Cats, even birds. You can find several articles online.
    So glad Cuddles is doing great. Been there, done that.
    Not an easy task.
    I even used a bleach mixture. Life with ‘critters’ is not easy. Daily inspections are vital.

  17. Leslie says:

    Cuddles is a fighter. And good for you for knowing your flock’s habits so well. She has a good home.

  18. Shauna says:

    You need Spalding Fly Predators:

    Seems pricey at first, but works wonders and only need to replace every 4-6 months if I remember correctly.

    I’m still gagging over here. Maggots (and roaches) are the F**#ING worst!

    • Shauna says:

      p.s., you just reminded me to place my 2015 order. They provide a 6 month schedule with the full cost, but you can opt to pay per shipment before each one is sent out. I have 4 chickens and ordered 6 shipments starting in July for $127.38; each shipment is $21.23. Each shipment is 5000 fly predators, except the first one where you get a bonus of 10,000 fly predators.

      • Karen says:

        Thanks Shauna! I’ll take a look. I don’t think $127 is a bad price if they work. Mind you. It’s a bunch of bugs that rapidly reproduce for free for the suppliers, lol. Chances are they don’t ship to Canada but I can look into it here. ~ karen!

        • Phylicia Mann says:

          I use fly preditors and the work fantastic with horses. I wonder if the chickens would eat the cocoons the little guys hatch from though?

        • Karen says:

          Thanks for the reminder! Other readers said they use fly predators last year and I wanted to remember to order some. I’ll look into it today! ~ karen

  19. Teddee Grace says:

    I didn’t know this had a name. I had this happen to a cat and had to have her put down. It was terrible. I’m so glad you were able to help Cuddles recover. She is not having an easy life.

  20. Maggie says:

    So glad to hear Cuddles pulled through! Thankfully, my hens have never been plagued with flystrike. Please know that rabbits can be targets for flystrike as well. (Just in case you ever get them.)

  21. Jack Ledger says:

    I guess even maggots have a good side………

    Certain blowfly maggots — notably, those of the blackbottle fly (Phormia regina) and the greenbottle fly (Phaenicia sericata) — were used in medicine to consume and clear away both bacteria and dead tissue from deep wounds and so promote their healing. This was a favorite part of the treatment of osteomyelitis (infection of bone) and other deep suppurative (pus-filled) lesions. In a sense it was biologic (rather than surgical) debridement of a wound. The maggots also promoted healing by secreting allantoin, a supposedly salutary substance found also in fetal urine.

  22. Kathy says:

    It read like a wonderful story of love. Cuddles unable to help herself and you did all you possibly could to care for her. She looks beautiful in your pantry, like she feels safe. The story moved me. Thanks for sharing.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Kathy. To be honest I think both Cuddles and I were surprised it turned out so well. I actually said my goodbyes to her (out loud) the first night she was sick. Told her it was O.K. … she could go. I never expected her to be alive in the moning. This isn’t a chicken who listens to me apparently. ~ karen!

  23. maggie van sickle says:

    You are one good chicken Mom. Not sure I could deal with that. Kudos to you Karen.

  24. Kelli says:

    Ugggghhhh maggots. Bad enough on their own, but poor Cuddles! I didn’t even know this was a thing. See? I learn a lot from you. Even the icky stuff. Kudos on the karma to come!

  25. Suzanne says:

    Karen! I’m sorry to hear that cuddles had another rough patch. When I read the story I was utterly confused. I thought maggots/flies (other than bott flies which I think are in South American) only ate dead tissue. They even use maggots to clean wounds.
    Imagine my surprise! ( It was not nearly as bad as finding maggots on Cuddles’ bootie.)Despite all this I plan on getting chickens when we move in a month to a place that allows us to have chickens. Is there a breed that has less dirty butts than another breed? Or is it just each individual chicken’s thing? Thanks again for keeping us informed. Cuddles is cool.

    • Karen says:

      Good! I’m glad you’re still going to get chickens. And I’m glad the people who were freaked out by this aren’t going to get chickens anymore. Because if you can’t handle this and think chickens are just going to be an easy road with free eggs, that’s not what it’s about. For the most part you’re their vet. And if something goes wrong you have to figure it out or ask others in the chicken community because a) most people don’t want to spend thousands of dollars keeping a chicken alive as opposed to a dog and b) most vets won’t/don’t treat chickens. As far as the bum thing goes, I have no idea. I just know my two mixed breeds have poopy bums and my two Marans do not. No idea why. It could be the amount of water they take in (looser poops means they’re more likely to stick to feathers on the way out) or their basic shape or what they snack on. Since there’s no figuring it out, you’d be best to look at breeds that are good in the type of weather you have. My Marans are NOT good in this heat. They’re always panting. They prefer the cold. So that’s something to consider. ~ karen!

      • Rebecca says:

        I have a flock of Plymouth Barred Rocks. And, I have one of the bunch that has a poopy rear. Miss Piggy is the queen of foraging (though not widely free-ranging), eats EVERYthing and is constantly on the lookout for something else that might become available. The others that are a bit more refined and controlled, have beautiful clean backsides.

        My problem is that these chickens do NOT like being touched. Miss Piggy is the only one who will hop up on my knee and stay there until she thinks I’m going to touch her. I got them when they were 11 weeks old because I was so busy at work that I didn’t trust being able to monitor a brooder as well as I should. I won’t make that choice again. Any tips for how to clean the bum of a chicken who doesn’t like to be touched…besides sneaking out in the dark with a headlight on and pulling her out of the coop?

        So glad Cuddles is well! I’m going to try the rotted shrimp fly trap too (but not tell my husband first).

        • Teresa Corum says:

          Try some cornmeal in their food. This help with the poop sticking to the bum. I think we all as chicken folk have experienced this at one time or another. The cornmeal does seem to help. Also use lemongrass oil with water & spray bum feathers & flies DO NOT LIKE THIS AND IS NOT GOING TO HURT THE HEN. IF ALL ELSE FAILS , HAIRCUT!!!!

  26. Lori says:

    I love that you love your chickens so much. My daughter has chickens and oh the things we have been through. Even had to find a vet who could euthanize a chicken humanely.
    A couple of things that might work for Cuddles: to keep flys away there are two products that work well on our horses. SWAT, a fly ointment and the spray we use is Pyranha It works great!
    For healing try Vetericyn . It comes in several forms. We like the spray gel. Best of luck to you and the chickadees!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Lori! I think the good thing about the Wonderdust is it is dry. Anything ointmenty would be wet and attract the flies. I used to use Wonderdust on my horse (this was years ago) and loved it them but I’m sure there are a whole host of better products out now. :) I’ll take a look at your suggestions ~ karen!

  27. Vikki says:

    Your love for your chickens warms my heart, Karen.

  28. Lisa says:

    So, for the first time I do not read your post the minute I wake up in the morning, but decide to read it while eating lunch…bit mistake. Glad she is on the mend.

  29. Anita says:

    GASP! Poor cuddles! Thank you for putting right in the title that she’s ok. Oh that poor baby. What an ordeal, for you BOTH.

  30. Alex says:

    F@cking maggots! I learned I can handle a lot after I picked maggots out of an injured baby squirrel at three am one night. (Orphaned animals often have fly eggs or maggots.) Dusting with cornstarch makes them easier to remove. It makes them less sticky. Yuck!

    • Dee says:

      Good on you for taking care of the injured squirrel and Thank you for the cornstarch info….we never know when/if that info could be a life saver for some animal. When an animal needs us we have to suck it up and do what we can….save the reactions for later.

  31. Gretchen Sexton says:

    What a ‘tale’! Ha! I’m SO glad it had a happy ending! Ha!

  32. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Cuddles looks adorable in the pantry..she is a cute so sad that she gets the grossest things wrong with her..I’m glad she is all better again……Am I forgiven yet??

  33. Tigermom says:

    Wow. Congratulations on nursing Cuddles through another near death experience.

    It’s looking like my decision to experience chicken ownership vicariously through you was one of my best.

  34. Jackie says:

    Oh, Poor Cuddles, and poor you. I can’t imagine doing all that you do. You & Cuddles are lucky to have each other. And Cuddles is one tough bird. Love to you both.

  35. Jennie Lee says:

    I’m sorry that you and Cuddles had to go through all that. Do you think ALL copper marans have nice clean bums? If so, I’d definitely stick with copper marans, if I were you.

  36. brenda says:

    you are def a most excellent chicken mommie!

  37. Karol says:

    My favorite part of this post…
    The chickens wake up about 2 hours before I do so by the time I get downstairs they’re all waiting by the door anxious to get their jam packed day of scratching, pooping and lounging underway. Chickens: the men of the animal world.
    Ha! Good one Karen!
    My least favorite part was that I was (I said WAS) eating breakfast while I read the post. Just reading the word maggot makes me woozy. Maggots and chicken butts, not for the faint of heart.

  38. Melissa in NC says:

    Cuddles is a survivor! Thanks to you, the best chicken momma ever. Thank you for not posting any gross photos. I could barely read the post without gaging.

  39. IRS says:

    Holy snappin’ arseholes Batman! Previous to this post, the odds of me ever wanting to raise chickens were about the same as me joining the NASCAR circuit, but after reading this, I can honestly say that I will tar and feather myself before any living chickens ever make it onto my property. I know that Cuddles is not just a source of eggs for you (or used to be), but is a beloved pet, so I am glad that she is OK now. However, I still say you are playing with your food. Go out and get a fistful of McNuggets, and bring home a nice dog. Maggots in chicken butts? Sheesh. And I thought expressing canine anal glands was gross.

  40. Kipley says:

    I lost my chicken to this last week. She had prolapsed vent and …. the maggots. A few hours later she was dead. I had never heard of it before your article… prolapse yes, but not the fly strike. :-(

  41. Ev Wilcox says:

    Who cares about the “F” word when dealing with an ailing pet? Not me! So sorry you both had to go through this. Poor both of you. I am sure you are distressed as much as Cuddles was in pain. Good luck with it all. You are a wonderful chicken mama. Wishing you the best, a fellow lover of animals.

  42. Liz says:

    I was clenching muscles during this post read that I didn’t know I had… shudder. uuuuhhhhhh! Way to go, Cuddles! And extreme kudos to your mom, Karen. gross gross gross.

  43. Jodi T. says:

    I’m so glad she’s ok!!! I’ve been wondering how they were doing.

  44. Shirley says:

    Chicken butt check time tonight! Oh Lord!! I wormed them last night by injection down the throat. That was not fun. May as well check out the other end tonight! I didn’t realize how important a clean butt is for them. A couple of mine have poopy butts too. I think it is the type of feathers they have.

  45. Kiara says:

    WOW. Cuddles is lucky to have you. I love reading your posts and seeing the affection with which you care for your verboten chickens.

  46. Donna says:

    No chickens or slop buckets for me !

  47. Debbie says:

    Sadly, I read this just before breakfast. No breakfast today. Thank you for the no pictures part, though your very descriptive writing (which I usually love) made for a gagging visual. I now know something I could have lived the rest of my life happily not knowing.

    I am glad to know that Cuddles is okay to snack, nap and play golf another day.

  48. I´ve had sick chickens before, but this is way more disgusting that I could ever imagine.
    Poor cuddles, thankfully she´s better now :)

  49. Barbie says:

    Oh poor Cuddles! I am so glad she made it. She is a VERY fortunate Chicky……to have you for an owner! Bless her sweet lil chicken heart!

  50. Helene says:

    If I tell this story to the resident man there’s just no way in hell he’ll ever let me have hens. HUSH! (Glad you both made it through!)

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