Canadian Poultry Magazine

Greener ways to keep pests out of poultry barns

By Alice Sinia   

Features Barn Management pest management

IPM an effective, environmentally friendly approach for preventing pest issues.

A proactive, preventive approach to pest management is essential.

With the environment becoming more of a hot topic for consumers every year, companies may find themselves reevaluating how they get business done. In a study last year by IBM and the National Retail Federation, nearly 70 per cent of consumers in North America said they thought it was important for a brand to be sustainable or eco-friendly. Moreover, more than half of those surveyed said they were ready to change their shopping habits to reduce negative impact on the environment.

While pest control isn’t usually the first thing you think of when it comes to sustainability, you do have options. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) – an approach based on a common sense, comprehensive philosophy – is the most effective and environmentally friendly approach for preventing pest issues. By using good sanitation and facility maintenance processes to eliminate the potential for pests, you can prevent pest activity before it starts and reduce your dependency on treatments that negatively affect the environment. For companies or farms facing an ever-greening consumer base, sole reliance on chemicals treatments may outweigh the benefits, especially when non-chemical methods provide the same results. Extensive or incorrect use of pesticides can leave behind harmful residues in meat and eggs and contaminate the environment.

The goal of the IPM approach is to restrict pests’ access to the three elements they need to survive and establish populations – food, water and shelter. An IPM program is recommended for all industries, but its roots are in the agricultural industry where it originated to limit the use of chemical treatments around food.


Now, we can all agree the only thing you want nesting down in your poultry barns is, well, poultry. But pest like flies, rodents and beetles may become the foxes in your hen house if they go unnoticed for too long. Recognizing and preventing pest activity will help shield you from potential loss of revenue, reduction in product recalls, a damaged reputation and potential disciplinary action from regulatory agencies. So, what can you do to protect your poultry barns, product and reputation?

IPM maximizes its impact because of key steps, which companies work on in tandem with a licensed pest control provider:

  • Monitoring– Every effective plan relies on good data obtained from continuous monitoring. You know your facility best, so regular monitoring is key. Regular inspections are a great way to monitor facilities for pest activity, and it may help you find structural defects, too. Don’t underestimate the impact of passive monitoring tools. Glue boards, light traps and insect traps help you keep constant eyes on the pests in and around your barns. Your pest control provider offers an additional layer of support in spotting small places or pests that may cause problems later down the road.
  • Identification – If you’re regularly monitoring for pest activity, providing that information – including locations and times of sightings – will help your pest provider create a plan specifically for you.
  • Customization – IPM works so well because it is tailored to your needs. A one-size-fits-all model doesn’t provide the protection you need.

This isn’t a one-time process, but rather an ongoing cycle that helps keep pests out of your barns. And while several pests can infest poultry, the biggest concern for food safety comes from flies, beetles and rodents. Here are some helpful tips to reduce the risk of disease spreading to poultry.

  • Flies leave behind pathogens every time they touch a surface and can be responsible for spreading things like E. coli, Salmonella and Shinglla. They’re especially attracted to poultry barns because manure build-up in caged layer houses offers the perfect conditions for breeding. Good manure management practices are the first line of defense when it comes to developing a preventative strategy for flies. Revisit your protocols for frequency of manure collection, disposal, aeration and drying. Proper ventilation is critical; good airflow in your barns will keep old manure dry, making it less attractive to flies. Another great way to manage flies is to use baited fly traps – they are highly specific, allowing you to draw flies to the trap without them escaping. Consider placing insect light traps in strategic locations throughout your barns. Flies are attracted to the ultraviolet light and then captured on non-toxic adhesive boards within the device. With the non-toxic glue board, you don’t have to worry about additional contamination from insect parts like you would with a traditional “bug zapper.” You can run these lights around the clock, so you have a continuous barrier against f
  • Beetles present a double threat, particularly mealworm beetles. They spread pathogens but can also cause structural damage. Mature larvae will seek safe places to pupate, so they bore into the physical structure of your barn – this includes Styrofoam, fiberglass, and insulation panels in the walls of poultry houses. And since pupation happens out of site, these beetles are more difficult to control. Good sanitation practices will help you keep beetles at bay. Proper management of chicken feed, cleaning up spills quickly – tightening up these routine protocols will have a big impact on your pest population. In addition, pipe traps and glue boards work well to monitor for lesser mealworms and hide beetles, the most common beetles associated with. Adult lesser mealworms can live up the 12 months, and female mealworms will produce eggs most of their lives (with the potential of laying 2,000 in a single mating session!). By identifying the presence of beetles in a timely manner, as well as the species, your pest management provider can take the appropriate actions.
  • Rodents, like beetles, are a threat to both the health of your poultry and the structure of your barn. Rats carry more than 40 viruses and bacteria, including Salmonella, Hantavirus and Trichinosis, spreading diseases through their droppings and urine that affect both humans and chickens. Exclusionary tactics – “rodent proofing” your barn – will help keep rodents out. You’ll also want to be vigilant in and around storage facilities because rodents like to find shelter – they do not like to be out in the open. Regularly cut the grass around your facility and limit debris, like piles of wood, trimmings and decayed product, from the property. Seal cracks and crevices around coops to limit access. Although mechanical traps and non-toxic baits can be used on rodents that find their way into barns, there are several technologies you can use as well. Electronic monitoring is the way of the future when it comes to rodent control. It uses barcodes on pest management equipment so you can scan traps and instantly collect data on the number of rodents caught in a given period of time. This technology provides great insight for your constant inspections, which may help you in the long run identify hot spots, and it saves time and reduces paperwork.

IPM focuses on using sanitation and facility maintenance best practices to proactively reduce pest pressures. Staying vigilant and conducting routine assessments will help you spot pest activity before it becomes a problem. Rely on your pest management professional as a trusted partner. Through assessment, implementation and proper monitoring, you can strengthen the processes you have in place to further mitigate the risks associated with pests in your poultry barns. With the IPM approach, you’re addressing the problem with solutions that make the most sense for your product, your consumer and your business.

Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is quality assurance manager of regulatory/lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 20 years of experience, she manages the quality assurance laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, email Alice Sinia at or visit

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