Apparently the word on the street around here is that my coop is a haven for wasps. Last count I had six different groups of wasps in the chicken coop, busy building away. I noticed the first nest about a month ago, right above the entrance to the chicken run. We leave each other alone, so I haven’t done anything about it.
But last week, while I was building the chicks (not really chicks anymore, but they’re still my youngest babies) a roosting pole inside the chicken run, I saw three more nests. One nest hung precariously close to where my head was as I drilled a screw into the beam they were hanging from. Eeeks. I started looking around after that, hoping to avoid a head to nest collision in the future and found SIX nests all total. All inside the chicken run. I guess word gets around fast in the wasp world. Come on over to this great coop! You’ll love it.
WHAT?!?! I don’t think so!
Honestly, the wasps don’t really bug me that much (no pun intended). They stay out of my way for the most part and I generally ignore them. Bonus points are that my chickens love to eat them (there’s no accounting for taste). And no, it’s not dangerous for chickens to eat wasps. BUGS are part of their diet.
It’s all fine and well that chickens like to eat wasps, but what if you don’t WANT wasps in your chicken coop? How do you get rid of them without danger to your flock? If you spray a bunch of toxic wasp killer into your coop, the wasps drop down in the run/coop and guess who is going to think you delivered them a tasty snack? You really don’t want your hens to eat poisoned wasps. Wasp killers are way more harmful to your chickens (and to you and the rest of the world) than wasps are.
I was reading directions online for some of those toxic products the other day and one of them said to DISCARD the clothing you wore while you were spraying the toxic solution onto the wasps. DISCARD? Really? I’m thinking if I have to throw away clothing that I was wearing while I was spraying something in the general direction AWAY from me, in an outdoor space with lots of ventilation, that is NOT something I want on my property. Wasps or no wasps.
In my case, the wasps in question are Paper wasps, which are helpful creatures (they eat other annoying bugs as well as aid in pollination). They are also less aggressive. I went out one night and knocked three of the nests down. I might get rid of one more (it’s a bit more tricky of an angle), but the other two are out of the way and I don’t care if they stay.
However, if you have wasps in the chicken coop, or anywhere else for that matter, and want to get rid of them, here are some general guidelines and suggestions:
One: Deal with the issue at night.
While wasps will notice you, they are slower at night and less aggressive.
Two: Cover yourself up
Wear long sleeves and something over your head (like a hoodie or bandanna).
Three: Forgo the flashlight
Using a flashlight is basically the way to help the wasps find you. It will attract them TOWARDS you which you do not want. (If you need more light, go out in the early morning when it’s just getting light instead of at night.)
Four: Pick a chilly night.
They move a LOT slower in the cold.
Five: Make sure you have a clear path for retreat.
This is a hit and run technique, so you want to make sure your escape route is clear.
Six: Make sure to GET the wasp.
If you’re spraying/coating them with something, it works better if the nest isn’t concealed. Coating the actual insect is the goal and it’s hard to coat them if you can’t see them.
Seven: Do any of this at your own risk.
Enough said about that one.
Eight: If it’s a big nest, consult a professional.
Or if it’s making you feel too weak in the knees. While wasp stings aren’t lethal (unless you’re allergic), they still hurt.
Okay, with all the general guidelines and disclaimers out of the way, let’s go for it. Here are some ways to get rid of wasps in the chicken coop. Refer to the above guidelines as you plan the below strategy:
Nine: Knock them down.
This is what I did. With a big stick.
Ten: Use Cooking Spray.
Liberally coat the wasps with cooking spray. It will suffocate them and kill them.
Eleven-Thirteen: Use Hot Soapy Water
With this method, liberal amounts of soap and hot water work best. And you can use soapy water in a few different ways. One is to dump it onto the nest (or rather throw it, as it’s most likely above you). Another is to put it in a spray bottle or a high powered squirt gun and spray it on them. The third method is to place the hot soapy water in a bucket with a piece of raw meat hanging above it. The wasps will eat the meat, become lethargic, and fall into the soapy water to drown.
Fourteen: Use Essential Oils
Fill a spray bottle with ½ cup each of white vinegar and water. Add 20-30 drops each of peppermint oil and lemongrass oil. Add 5 drops of clove oil. Add a drop or two of liquid dish soap. Shake together and spray on nest. MOST insects DO NOT like peppermint oil and wasps are no different. (Bonus points for using EO’s in the chicken coop is that it always makes the area smell so good and so non-chicken housing-like.)
Fifteen: Use Wasp Traps
You can buy these pretty much anywhere and they’re effective and inexpensive. (Like these)
Sixteen-Seventeen: Front Line or Rubbing Alcohol
Some people swear by Frontline Tick and Flea spray (the kind you use for dogs and cats) or 91% Rubbing alcohol (which evaporates quickly). These are less toxic than wasp spray but more toxic than the above solutions. You would use them in the same away as above.
Once you get rid of those wasps, how do you keep them from coming back? One piece of good news is that wasps rarely build a nest on an old spot. Yay for that.
Eighteen: A Fake Nest
Wasps are territorial. They don’t like to build a nest where other wasps already live. This is also good news as you can buy fake wasp nests (like this) or simply make one yourself out of a crumpled up brown bag. Hang them around the areas you don’t want wasps to be and they’ll stay away. (This paper bag trick is also a great way to keep wasps from coming around while you’re barbequing meat in the backyard. Just hang one nearby.)
Nineteen-Twenty: Stay on top of it.
Keep wasp traps up all the time to avoid the problem before they start building their nests. You can also periodically spray the above essential oil mixture on surfaces (or into cracks) where you see wasps coming and going to discourage them from hanging around.
Other folks have said if you rub soap (or furniture polish) on the underside of your rafters, etc. where wasps like to build nests, they won’t build a nest there. Or, I’ve also heard that if you paint the underside of your rafters and beams light blue, they also won’t build nests there (supposedly because they think the light blue is the sky). These could be worth a try. Let me know how they work for you if you try one.
In the end, no matter what you decide to do or not to do with the wasps in your chicken coop, use caution and try to avoid toxins. And, if they’re a ‘nice’ kind of wasp (like the Paper wasp), consider leaving them completely alone.
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