Poultry Engineering, Economics & Management
Critical information for Improved Bird Performance Through Better House
and Ventilation System Design, Operation and Management
Auburn University, in cooperation with the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association Feature article
How to Control Rats, Mice and Darkling Beetles
The worst pests in poultry houses are darkling beetles and rodents. Did you know that a single rat eats asmuch as 20 to 40 pounds of feed a year? Infestation of a poultry house by rats or mice can put a major dentin your feed conversion numbers. Rodents also carry and spread bird diseases, and can do serious damageto insulation and even house wiring. Beetles will eat your bird rations, bird manure and dead birds, and soare especially dangerous as bird disease spreaders. One larval stage of the darkling beetle loves to burrowinto insulation, so you can count lost insulating value as another significant cost of beetle infestation.
Control of these poultry house pests is possible, and in this issue we will outline the most effective steps youcan take to keep your houses pest-free.
Rats and mice steal
It has been estimated that rodents can increase poultry feed usage by as much as bird rations, spread
2%. Especially in cold weather, mice and rats are likely to see a poultry house as a diseases and
great place to live and will want to move in. Mice can crawl through openings the size damage wiring and
of a dime and rats can contort their bodies to squeeze through openings the size of insulation.
Rodents spread diseases to flocks by contaminating feed and bird living area with urine or droppings. Ratsand mice are linked to poultry diseases such as salmonellosis, colibacillosis, coryza, pasteurellosis,mycoplasmosis, hemorrhagic enteritis, hymenolepiasis, capilariasis and ascaridiasis. Because of their abil-ity to harbor pathogens, rodents also can carry over disease organisms from one flock to the next flock,even if the facilities are cleaned and disinfected.
Since the upper incisor teeth of rodents continue to grow throughout their life, mice and rats must chewconstantly to keep their teeth from becoming too long. This means they will damage insulation, wood, cur-tains, electrical wiring and even metal objects.
Keeping Rats and Mice Out
Maintain a minimum three-foot space around the outside of poultry houses that is free of brush, trash andweeds. Prevent rodent access to houses by plugging holes and sealing doors. Carefully check the perimeter of all buildings for potential entryways and burrows. A common entry point for miceis the unprotected end of corrugated metal sidings. Close openings around augers, For every rat or
pipes and wires with cement or metal collars. Burrows with signs of fresh dirt indi- mouse you see,
cate new rat activity and should be addressed immediately.
there will be as many
Close monitoring for rats and mice is very important, and should be done on a strict as 50 you don’t see.
weekly schedule. Addressing rodents when there are only tell tale signs such asdroppings will be much more effective and less costly than waiting until you actually see rodents. For every rodent actually seen, there are likely to be 20 to 50 unseen. Seeing rodents duringthe day means the house is overrun by rodents during the prime night feeding time.
Controlling Rats and Mice
Any drastic change to their habitat may cause rodents to abandon a facility. However, they will only move tothe next house, or into the woods, and wait until the coast is clear to return. Therefore, the best plan is to tryto eliminate these pests before launching major exterior or interior clean-up operations, removing litter, etc.
Auburn University on the Web: www.poultryhouse.com US Poultry & Egg Association: www.poultryegg.org The most common controls for rodents contain anticoagulant chemicals which disrupt the blood clottingmechanism and cause rodents to slowly bleed to death internally. Most anticoagulant baits must be con-sumed over several days before enough anticoagulant is built up in the rodent’s system to cause an effect.
However, second-generation baits can effectively kill rodents with one dose.
Rodents have a strong dislike for new objects, so it is important to keep bait Keep rodent bait
stations in the environment continuously. They can smell and taste even small stations stocked with
amounts of toxic chemicals, so overdosing baits may only discourage consump- fresh bait. Change the
tion. Rodents can learn to associate tastes with harmful effects of new foods, type of bait if the pest
and they prefer fresh foods. Therefore if a heavy rodent population is suspected, problem persists.
frequent baiting and changing the type of bait may be helpful.
Since rodents must consume traditional baits for several days, it is critical that bait stations be kept stockedwith fresh bait and that adequate numbers of bait stations are present to supply the whole population. Baitstations are important for presenting poison to rodents because they 1) provide a dark, enclosed environ-ment that attracts rodents, 2) keeps bait clean and away from children, pets and livestock and 3) preventsunnecessary loss of bait. Bait stations can be purchased or they can be made out of PVC pipe (see illustra-tion on facing page).
The table on the facing page shows the baits available as well as their effects on rodents. Be aware thatresistant rodent populations can develop if there are inadequate levels of bait used or baits are overused.
This means that it is just as important to maintain records on what baits are used, as it is to maintain amonitoring schedule. One rodenticide company recommends that baits be switched as often as every 2months for second generation products, but traditional products may be effective for as long as six months.
The lesser mealworm or darkling beetle, as it is commonly called, has proven to be a costly pest for thepoultry industry. Beetles and larvae feed on dead birds and then become contaminated with disease organ- isms. Beetles have been found to be a source of transmission for Salmonella, Darkling beetles not
Marek’s Disease, E. coli, Infectious Bursal Disease, Newcastle Disease, only spread disease.
Clostridium and numerous other diseases. Chicks and poults consume beetles, One of its larval stages
exposing them to a direct inoculation of diseases. A good biosecurity plan shouldinclude measures for beetle control.
damages wood struc-
tures and insulation.
The adult beetles are dark brown to black in color and are about one-fourth inchlong. The wire worm-like larvae are yellowish brown and up to three-fourths inch long. The life cycle is temperature dependent with nine life stages occurring in roughly 42 days under idealconditions. Hence the beetle and typical broiler flock life spans track closely. Adults live 3 to 12 months anda single female can lay over 2,000 eggs. One life stage, the pupating larvae, burrows into insulation andwood, thus destroying the R-value of insulation.
Controlling Darkling Beetles
Most insecticides lose
Currently approved insecticides are used after house clean out for beetle control.
their effectiveness
Some producers also apply insecticides on built-up litter between flocks. Unfortu- against beetles within
nately many of the approved insecticides decompose rapidly in an alkaline (high days or a few weeks
pH) environment (see table on facing page). Since poultry litter typically has high after application.
pH (8.3 to 8.5), these insecticides do not maintain their effectiveness very long,especially on built up litter. In addition, spraying the poultry house with an insecticide may not be effectiveagainst the larva since its burrowing activity protects it from direct exposure to the insecticide. If the insec-ticide does not provide residual killing power, when the poultry house is warmed for a new flock of birds, theburrowing larvae will migrate out and continue to live.
Research has shown that applying an approved insecticide in combination with an acidic solution to bringpH down can greatly improve the residual killing power of the insecticide. The research trials used a com-mercially marketed poultry litter acidifier containing acetic acid (vinegar) and other acidic elements (tradename ULT). The product has a pH of 2.4-3.0 and was mixed following the manufacturer’s recommenda-tions. This solution was blended with an approved insecticide (active chemical cyfluthrin, trade name Tempo),which was mixed at one half the strength recommended by the manufacturer. This product was then appliedto floor pens which had new kiln dried pine shavings. Untreated floor pens served as the controls.
Darkling Beetle Control:
Acidified Insecticide vs Untreated

Acidified Insecticide
Acidified Insecticide
ounts 140
eetle &
Decomposition Rates of Insecticides
• Chloropyrifos (Dursban) at pH 10 – 7 days
• Tetrachlorvinphos (Rabon)
at pH 7 – 44 days
at pH 10 – 3 days

• Dichlorvos (Vapona) at pH 7 – 8 hours
• Carbaryl (Sevin) at pH 8 – 2 to 3 days

To make a rodent bait station use 1.5 inch diameter PVC
• Cyfluthrin (Tempo)
pipe for mice or 2.5 to 4 inch diameter for rat stations.
at pH 5 – stable, no decomposition
Construct an upside-down T as shown above, using 8- to
12-inch PVC pipe sections. Provide a removable cap for

at pH 9 – 30 to 60 minutes (half-life)
the vertical tube. Attach bait stations permanently to side
walls along footings using pipe straps.
Commercially Available Rodenticides
Generic Name
Trade Names
Single feeding; slow acting death 5-7 days post feeding.Rodent continues to feed after lethal dose Single feeding; slow acting death 5-7 days post feeding. Rodent continues to feed after lethal dose Single feeding; slow acting death 5-7 days post feeding. Rodent continues to feed after lethal dose Multiple feedings; slow acting death 5-7 days post feeding. Rodent continues to feed after lethal dosehas been ingested.
Multiple feedings; slow acting death 5-7 days post feeding. Rodent continues to feed after lethal dose Metabolic inhibitor Single feeding; quick acting-death 2-3 days post Single-multiple feedings; death 3-5 days post feeding. Quintox Eraze, Ridal-Zinc, ZP, Squirrel &gopher pellets Source: Leslie Hinkle, AgriLynx Corporation, Rodent Management on Poultry Farms Note: Trade or brand names are shown strictly for information purposes, and no recommendation or endorse-ment of any commercial product is intended or implied.
In the first trial, birds were placed in the pens and then grown to 42 days of age. After the first grow-out thetreated pens were then retreated for a second trial, with birds again grown to 42 days. In all the evaluations,weekly litter samples were taken from the same location in each pen and beetles and larvae were counted.
It is important to note that the floor pens are only separated by a wire barrier and beetles could migrate frompen to pen.
Even though in the first evaluation, the facility had been cleaned and new litter added, beetles and larvaewere found to be present the week birds were placed in the pens. This indicates how difficult control of these beetles can be. However, beetle and larvae counts dropped drastically as soonas the acidified insecticide mixture was applied. Results from the first two evalu- Mixing an acidifying
ations showed that when compared to untreated pens, the acid-insecticide solution with insecti-
mixture was very effective in keeping the beetles out of the treated pens even cide has been shown to
though beetles could have easily migrated from the untreated pens to the treated give excellent darkling
beetle control.
Thanks to the following for their support of
In a third evaluation, floor pens which had Extension poultry engineering programs at
one flock on old litter were treated with the acidified insecticide mixture Auburn University:
and additional pens were treated with the insecticide only (at full strength). In this trial, both treatments were effective against the beetles and larvae until week 5. In the last two weeks of this growout, beetle and especially larvae counts were up drastically in the insecticide-only Hired Hand, Inc. . 800-642-0123Munters Corp. . 800-446-6868 pens, while the acid-insecticide mixture continued to provide effective Poultry Guard . 312-706-3294Poultry Litter Treatment-PLT . 800-379-2243 In conclusion, it appears that combining an acid solution with an ap- proved insecticide can provide effective control of these beetles for an extended period of time. Although the research trials used only one Aerotech, Inc. . 800-227-2376Big Dutchman . 616-392-5981 commercial acidifying product and one insecticide, it seems reason- able to assume that the method could give improved control using other similar products. However, further research is needed to deter- mine effectiveness of treatments using other products.
Chore-Time . 219-658-4101Reeves Supply . 888-854-5221 – Dr. Susan E. Watkins, Extension Poultry Specialist, Agri-Ventilation . 800-526-4118Aviagen . 800-826-9685 – Prof. Jim Donald, Extension Ag Engineer, Auburn University BioSentry . 800-788-4246CoolAir . 904-389-1469Cumberland . 217-226-4401Dandy . 800-222-4166 The Poultry Engineering, Economics and Manage-
Ellison and Ellison . 770-427-8929Federal Land Bank Assoc.
ment Newsletter is now being produced in coop-
eration with the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, as
First South Farm Credit . 800-955-1722Lewis Brothers . 912-367-4651 part of their commitment to poultry industry edu-
cation. We are proud of this new association, and
know it will help to improve our continuing efforts
Ventilation, Inc. . 800-458-5532Porter Insulation Products . 800-999-0430 to bring you the critical information you need to know about
poultry engineering, economics and management.
The Poultry Engineering, Economics and Management newsletter provides up-to-date information on topics of inter-est to poultry production personnel, focusing on most effective and efficient uses of modern technology and equip-ment, with a special emphasis on economic implications. The Newsletter is published six times a year, or as neededto address emerging or special issues. Contact: Jim Donald, Extension Biosystems Engineering, 228 Corley Bldg.,Auburn University, AL 36849-5626, (334) 844-4181, fax (334)-844-3548, jimdonald@aces.edu. Published by: Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work in agriculture and home economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, and other related acts, in cooperationwith the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System ( Alabama A&M University and Auburn University) offers educational programs,materials, and equal opportunity employment to all people without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability.
Auburn University on the Web: www.poultryhouse.com US Poultry & Egg Association: www.poultryegg.org

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