Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To

Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To
I wanted to understand the chemistry behind seasoning so I’d know how to fix this, but there is nothing that addresses this issue directly. A Web page on cast iron posted by someone similarly obsessed with the science gave me two crucial clues, the phrases “polymerized fat” and “drying oil”. From there I was able to find the relevant scientific literature and put the pieces together.
The pictures below are both of the same antique cast iron skillet. The “before” close-up on the left is from a picture of the skillet in my previous blog post on making German Pancakes. I stripped the pan with oven cleaner and reseasoned it based on my new understanding. The “after” close-up on the right shows the result.

Griswold skillet closeups: old seasoning on left, new seasoning on right

Griswold skillet closeups: old seasoning on left, new seasoning on right

Start With the Right Oil (It’s Not What You Think)

I’ve read dozens of Web pages on how to season cast iron, and there is no consensus in the advice. Some say vegetable oils leave a sticky surface and to only use lard. Some say animal fat gives a surface that is too soft and to only use vegetable oils. Some say corn oil is the only fat to use, or Crisco, or olive oil. Some recommend bacon drippings since lard is no longer readily available. Some say you must use a saturated fat – that is, a fat that is solid at room temperature, whether it’s animal or vegetable (palm oil, coconut oil, Crisco, lard). Some say never use butter. Some say butter is fine. Some swear by Pam (spray-on canola oil with additives). Some say the additives in Pam leave a residue at high temperatures and pure canola oil is best. Some say it doesn’t matter what oil you use.
They are all wrong. It does matter what oil you use, and the oil that gives the best results is not in this list. So what is it? Here are some hints: What oil do artists mix with pigment for a high quality oil paint that dries hard and glassy on the canvas? What oil is commonly used by woodturners to give their sculptures a protective, soft-sheen finish? It’s the same oil. Now what is the food-grade equivalent of this oil?
The oil used by artists and woodturners is linseed oil. The food-grade equivalent is called flaxseed oil. This oil is ideal for seasoning cast iron for the same reason it’s an ideal base for oil paint and wood finishes. It’s a “drying oil”, which means it can transform into a hard, tough film. This doesn’t happen through “drying” in the sense of losing moisture through evaporation. The term is actually a misnomer. The transformation is through a chemical process called “polymerization”.
The seasoning on cast iron is formed by fat polymerization, fat polymerization is maximized with a drying oil, and flaxseed oil is the only drying oil that’s edible. From that I deduced that flaxseed oil would be the ideal oil for seasoning cast iron.
As a reality check of this theory, I googled “season cast iron with flaxseed oil” to see what came up. The very first hit is a page written by a guy who seasons his cast iron cookware with linseed oil from the hardware store because it gives the hardest surface of anything he’s tried. (I’m not sure how safe that is; I don’t recommend it.) Below that were several sites selling traditional cast iron cookware from China, which they advertise as being “preseasoned with high quality flax oil”. I don’t know whether they really use food-grade flaxseed oil (which is expensive) or linseed oil from a hardware store. What’s significant is the claim. Seasoning with high quality flaxseed oil is something to brag about.
With this encouragement, I stripped one of my skillets and reseasoned it with flaxseed oil. As you can see in the picture above, the result was a dramatic improvement. The finish is smooth, hard, and evenly colored.

Seasoning Is Not Cooking: Different Principles Apply

The first time I seasoned a pan I chose avocado oil because it’s monounsaturated and doesn’t easily go rancid. It also has the highest smoke point of any edible oil, 520°F, so I could heat it in a 450°F oven without passing the smoke point. I knew that when cooking, you should never heat an oil past its smoke point because that causes the release of “free radicals”, which are carcinogenic. I was careful not to choose a polyunsaturated oil – and especially not an oil high in omega-3 fatty acids – because these are especially vulnerable to breakdown with heat and the release of free radicals.
Ironically, it’s for exactly these reasons that the best oil for seasoning cast iron is an oil high in omega-3 fatty acids – in particular, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Free radicals are actually what enable the polymerization. Drying oils, which produce the hardest polymers, are characterized by high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the omega-3 fatty acid ALA.
The lard that was traditionally used for seasoning 100 years ago was much higher in ALA than fat from pigs today, because back then pigs ate their natural diet. Today they are raised on industrial feedlots and forced to eat grain, making their fat low in omega-3s.
Since lard is traditional but no longer readily available, many people substitute bacon drippings, but this is a bad idea. If it’s conventional bacon, you’re baking in carcinogenic nitrates. But even organic bacon is not good for an initial seasoning because it’s filled with salt.
The reason that Pam seems to work well in seasoning is that its main ingredient is canola oil, which is relatively high in ALA (10%), making it a “semi-drying oil”. Flaxseed oil, a drying oil, is 57% ALA. But it’s not a good idea to use a spray oil, no matter what oil it’s made with, because of its additives. You’re doing chemistry here. If you want good results, use pure ingredients.
Fat polymerization can be triggered or accelerated in a variety of ways. As best I can tell from my reading, the cast iron seasoning process is an example of “radical polymerization”. The process is initiated when something causes the release of free radicals in the oil. The free radicals then “crosslink” to form the tough, hard film you see in a well-seasoned pan.
So what is the “something” that initiates the release of free radicals in fat? Iron, for one thing. High heat, light, and oxygen, for some others. To prevent cooking oils from going rancid – i.e., breaking down and releasing free radicals – you need to store them in dark, tightly sealed containers in a cool location. To initiate or accelerate the release of free radicals, put the oil in contact with bare iron and heat it above its smoke point, which will cause even non-drying oils to release free radicals.
I haven’t defined “free radical” or “crosslink” because that gets into details of chemistry that you don’t need to understand to season a cast iron pan. All you need to know is that the molecular structure of the oil changes and becomes something else, something tough and solid. The process is initiated with the release of free radicals, which then become crosslinked, creating a hard surface.
Free radicals are carcinogenic inside your body, and also a cause of aging. So don’t ever heat oil you’re going to eat above its smoke point. If the oil starts to smoke, toss it out and start again. When you’re seasoning a pan, you’re not cooking food. By the time the seasoned pan comes out of the oven, there are no more free radicals.

The Recipe for Perfect Cast Iron Seasoning

The basic idea is this: Smear a food-grade drying oil onto a cast iron pan, and then bake it above the oil’s smoke point. This will initiate the release of free radicals and polymerization. The more drying the oil, the harder the polymer. So start with the right oil.
Go to your local health food store or organic grocery and buy a bottle of flaxseed oil. It’s sold as an omega-3 supplement and it’s in the refrigeration section because it goes rancid so easily. Check the expiration date to make sure it’s not already rancid. Buy an organic flaxseed oil. You don’t want to burn toxic chemicals into your cookware to leach out forever more. It’s a fairly expensive oil. I paid $17 for a 17 ounce bottle of cold-pressed, unrefined, organic flaxseed oil. As it says on the bottle, shake it before you use it.
Strip your pan down to the iron using the techniques I describe in my popover post. Heat the pan in a 200°F oven to be sure it’s bone dry and to open the pores of the iron a little. Then put it on a paper towel, pour a little flaxseed oil on it (don’t forget to shake the bottle), and rub the oil all over the pan with your hands, making sure to get into every nook and cranny. Your hands and the pan will be nice and oily.
Now rub it all off. Yup – all. All. Rub it off with paper towels or a cotton cloth until it looks like there is nothing left on the surface. There actually is oil left on the surface, it’s just very thin. The pan should look dry, not glistening with oil. Put the pan upside down in a cold oven. Most instructions say to put aluminum foil under it to catch any drips, but if your oil coating is as thin as it should be, there won’t be any drips.
Turn the oven to a baking temperature of 500°F (or as high as your oven goes – mine only goes to 450°F) and let the pan preheat with the oven. When it reaches temperature, set the timer for an hour. After an hour, turn off the oven but do not open the oven door. Let it cool off with the pan inside for two hours, at which point it’s cool enough to handle.
The pan will come out of the oven a little darker, but matte in texture – not the semi-gloss you’re aiming for. It needs more coats. In fact, it needs at least six coats. So again rub on the oil, wipe it off, put it in the cold oven, let it preheat, bake for an hour, and let it cool in the oven for two hours. The picture above was taken after six coats of seasoning. At that point it starts to develop a bit of a sheen and the pan is ready for use.
If you try this, you will be tempted to use a thicker coat of oil to speed up the process. Don’t do it. It just gets you an uneven surface – or worse, baked on drips. Been there, done that. You can’t speed up the process. If you try, you’ll mess up the pan and have to start over.
The reason for the very hot oven is to be sure the temperature is above the oil’s smoke point, and to maximally accelerate the release of free radicals. Unrefined flaxseed oil actually has the lowest smoke point of any oil (see this table). But the higher the temperature the more it will smoke, and that’s good for seasoning (though bad for eating – do not let oils smoke during cooking).
I mentioned earlier there’s a myth floating around that vegetable oils leave a sticky residue. If the pan comes out of the oven sticky, the cause is one of three things:

  • You put the oil on too thick.
  • Your oven temperature was too low.
  • Your baking time was too short.

It’s possible to use a suboptimal oil for seasoning, like Crisco or bacon drippings, and still end up with a usable pan. Many (most) people do this. But the seasoning will be relatively soft, not as nonstick, and will tend to wear off. If you want the hardest, slickest seasoning possible, use the right oil: flax seed oil.

Why you should thank the hunter that shot the albino buck

albino1

Why you should thank the hunter that shot the albino buck

Legendary Albino Buck Harvested by Bowhunter

By Josh Gowan

The top story in the outdoors this past week has been well-documented and dramatically over-reported on, so staying true to journalistic form, I’d be remiss if I didn’t beat it into the ground a bit more!

Here’s the headline: “The majestic White Stag from Narnia was bludgeoned to death by a heartless murderer in the name of fame, fortune, and evil, and now the good townsfolk are arming themselves with pitchforks and torches and aiming to lynch the accused.” That might had well been the headline anyway, but at the end of the day, the only thing that happened was a deer hunter killed a deer, and a pretty nice one at that.

Jerry Kinnaman from Cape Girardeau, MO took the big, mature, white buck that has caused a lot of uproar and nonsensical dramatics among our community. It was a great kill for a lifelong hunter, and one he should be proud of and able to enjoy, rather than have to get bashed by people who know little and have done less to help this deer, let alone the rest of his species.

First and foremost, Jerry passed on this deer before, because his neighbor had asked him to, and it wasn’t until his neighbor’s property was becoming overrun with people attempting to see and photograph the deer that he told Jerry to please harvest the buck. As Jerry told him, it’s not that easy, and it was 3 years later before he had the chance to shoot the buck, who at 7 ½ years old had a very small chance at making it through the winter.

Secondly, albinism is not a gift from God, and as far as nature is concerned it would much more closely resemble a curse. Deer are brown for a reason, and white deer very rarely make it in the wild. Many states, like Missouri, encourage the shooting and harvesting of white deer so that their traits are not passed down causing an unhealthy balance in the herd. That’s THE HERD, encompassing all the deer in the state, not just the pretty ones.

White fawns are very rare, but white 2-year-olds are much rarer, as predators pick them off easily due to their lack of camouflage. This buck living as long as he has has produced many fawns that didn’t make it to their 6th month, but hey, that’s just nature being nature, not blood thirsty humans shooting them for sport, right? Not quite.

The problem with that line of thinking, or lack thereof, is that if weren’t for hunters, there would be no white deer, brown deer, or any other deer. In 1925 our state’s deer herd was estimated to be around 400 due to the European settlers wiping out anything and everything they could eat, wear, or turn into a dollar. In 1937 the first Conservation Commission was formed by concerned hunters, and deer season was closed for five years, while they stocked deer from northern states. The state began training conservation agents, and by 1944 the state’s herd was estimated at 15,000 and Missouri held a 2-day, bucks-only season that 7,557 hunters bought licenses for and took 583 deer.

Today the deer herd in the state of Missouri is estimated at over 1.5 million, and our conservation agency is touted as one of the top in the nation. In 2013 alone, 4,487 hunters donated 227,358 pounds of venison to the Share the Harvest program to feed the needy, and the opportunities for youth to enjoy the outdoors through our conservation departments numerous programs are the envy of other states, and continue to grow. Hunters and fishermen alone supported the MDC up until the late 1970’s, when Missouri passed the Design for Conservation Tax, allotting 1/8 of 1 percent of the state’s sales tax to go to the conservation department. This money, along with the licenses and tags bought by hunters and fishermen, along with the deep appreciation of land management and the conservation of fish and game by outdoorsmen and women, is the reason that majestic white buck was there in the first place.

Hunters and fishermen, WE are the ones who put in the work, who pay the bills, who manage the land, and who undoubtedly have a much deeper connection and appreciation of deer, ALL DEER, not just the pretty ones, than anyone else.

So in closing, if you truly loved that white buck, rather than curse and demean Jerry Kinnaman, go shake his hand, and thank him for doing his part for conservation, and hope that we outdoorsmen and women remain the vast majority, so that the rest of you will have plenty of beautiful animals and picturesque landscapes to enjoy for years to come.

Hunter becomes the hunted after shooting famous albino deer

Hunter becomes the hunted after shooting famous albino deer

Jerry Kinnaman was up early, hunting in southeast Missouri, when he saw it. It had been a chilly night — the ground was crunchy — but on Tuesday morning, Kinnaman spotted the albino buck about 85 yards in the distance.
Kinnaman bagged the buck — which was called “arguably Cape Girardeau’s most notorious deer” by the Southeast Missourian. It was a legal kill, but a controversial one.
“This is a buck of a lifetime,” he told the newspaper.
“Not my biggest buck but at 7 1/2 years old he might be the oldest,” Kinnaman wrote on Facebook. “Let the bashing begin!”
And it did. Kinnaman said in an interview with The Washington Post on Thursday that it has gotten so bad, he has received death threats over the deer.
“People are all tough on the computer,” he said, “but it’s easy for them to say that because they know they’re not going to get in trouble for it.”
The deer was something of a celebrity in Cape Girardeau. Kinnaman said that some locals felt a connection to it and would notice the animal on drives through the city.
“I was the same way as anybody else about this deer, so I understand the relationship some of these people have,” he said.
Here’s the thing, though: The deer wasn’t doing well, Kinnaman said. He said there was “not an ounce of fat on him,” and Kinnaman’s taxidermist noted that the deer’s teeth were in poor condition. The animal would have died this year, Kinnaman said, whether he harvested it or not.
“They never even thought about how hard it would be for this deer to survive once he got to a certain age,” he said.
For what it’s worth, Kinnaman contacted a local conservation department office and was told that he hadn’t broken any regulations. After his taxidermist is finished, Kinnaman said he might donate the mount to a local nature center, so Cape Girardeau residents can continue to see the deer.
“There’s a lot of rumors I shot this deer for a reward,” he said. “I’m, like, ‘no.’ ”
The kill — and subsequent backlash — follows a similar incident in Michigan, in which an 11-year-old boy bagged an albino buck. Gavin Dingman was crossbow hunting with his father, Mick Dingman, when he shot the deer in October.
“I’ve had people tell me, ‘You should have taken the shot. You don’t let an 11-year-old take a shot at a deer like that,’ ” Mick Dingman told the Daily Press & Argus. “To me, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter if it’s a spike or a doe or a trophy deer. If you have confidence in them, it shouldn’t matter what they are shooting at.”

Missouri Bow Hunter Takes Rare Albino Buck

It’s rare to see a mature buck, much less a mature albino, while in the deerstand.  Legendary bow hunter, Jerry Kinnaman, has done just that. This amazing buck is approximately 7.5 years old.  This Southeast Missouri buck is known to some as Whitey, Casper, Ghost, and The Goat.

After years of practice, preparation, and patience, Jerry’s plan finally came together on a cold December morning.  As he sat quietly 24 feet in the canopy the elusive buck crept underneath.  Jerry heard a small crunch as the buck stepped through the icy leaves. Without moving a muscle he slowly gazed to his left and spotted the buck creeping between the brush. Jerry’s heart pounded. He could see his breath as it hit the bitter cold air. He slowly stood up as the buck passed behind a small tree, then as the buck passed a thick bush Jerry realized it would be his last chance to raise his trusty bow before this buck disappeared into the distance.  Jerry held his bow and focused on his target.  He said to himself, “Aim small, miss small” he quickly went through his shooting checklist.  Grip-check, anchor-check, pin-check.  He slowed his breathing and gently released the string.  The arrow was true and the shot deadly.  It pierced his heart and the great animal was down within 30 yards.

Jerry lowered his head.  He had finally been given this wonderful opportunity. All of his practice and patience was worth it.  He passed the test. He overcame the challenge.  He hung is bow and crossed his frozen fingers.  He said a prayer and thanked the Lord for blessing him with this hunt.  He looked up and smiled like a little kid.  He was filled with excitement and pride.

Shooting albino deer is somewhat controversial. Most hunters look at an albino as a rare opportunity and a trophy.  Some believe they should be left alone because they are rare, yet evolution says that this is not a favorable trait.

How rare is an albino deer?
In a December 2013 report published by USA TODAY, Wisconsin naturalist John Bates, co-author of “White Deer: Ghosts of the Forest,” said albino deer are born once in about 20,000 births. Some biologists claim only one in 100,000 deer is born albino, the report said.   It is even more rare they they make it to this age. Truly amazing.

Texas Rig Instructions

Texas Rig Instructions

The “Texas Rig” refers to a way of riging your bait. It is one of the most common rigs used while fishing with soft plastics. One of the reasons it’s so popular is because it’s almost completely weedless. This rig is great for fishing in and around weeds and heavy cover.

What you need

  1. Worm hook
  2. Plastic Worm
  3. Bullet Weight

How To rig it

Texas Rig Instructions

Power Bait Trout RIgs

PowerBait Trout Dough Bait

PowerBait Trout Dough Bait comes in a variety of colors and scents. Depending on your area, one color and/or scent may be preferred over others.
As a general rule, we use two in particular – Glitter Trout Dough Bait Rainbow with Garlic Scent and Glitter Trout Dough Bait Rainbow with Extra Scent.
We have discovered the extra scent and the different colors along with the glitter tend to trigger more strikes in the ponds we fish.
That said, we also bring a container of pink PowerBait Trout Dough Bait as a back up; pink is one color missing in the Rainbow offering.
To fish the PowerBait Trout Dough Bait, the Team uses four fishing rigs which are described in the sections below.
Do check them out and let us know if they work for you this Season!

PowerBait – Trout Dough Bait

PowerBait FW Natural Garlic Scent Glitter Trout Fishing Bait (Rainbow)

List Price: $5.99

Trout Fishing Rig Components
Trout Fishing Rig Components

Components for the Trout Fishing Rigs

The photo in the sidebar shows the components used for the four Trout Fishing Rigs used by the Field Team.
In addition, the following is a list of the components for your reference:

  1. Three 1/8oz Bullet Weights
  2. One 3/0 Split Shot
  3. One #6 Split Shot
  4. Three Beads
  5. Two Small Barrel Swivels (or Snap Swivels)
  6. Four Treble Hooks (size 14-20)

These are the basic components used to make the four Trout Fishing Rigs. However, the weight of the Bullet Weights and the size and/or number of Split Shot used can be modified based on the existing conditions such as wind, current flow, and casting distance.

4lbs Fishing Line
4lbs Fishing Line

Fishing Line

For ease of illustration, we are using a yellow Dacron line to make the Trout Fishing Rigs described in this article.
When fishing, we use 4-6 lbs test monofilament fishing line. More often, the brand is Stren or Trilene; whatever happens to be on sale at our local sporting goods store.
Trout Fishing Rig #1 Components
Trout Fishing Rig #1 Components
Threading the Bead
Threading the Bead
Completed Bead
Completed Bead
Trout Fishing Rig #1
Trout Fishing Rig #1

Trout Fishing Rig #1

The first of the four Trout Fishing Rigs described in this article uses a Bullet Weight, a Bead, and a Hook.
To make this rig, begin by threading the fishing line through the Bullet Weight, pointed end toward your reel.
Next, thread the fishing line through the Bead from one end.
And then, double the fishing line back, and thread it through the Bead a second time.
The fishing line should pass through the same end when threaded through the Bead the first time.

When the fishing line is tightened, the Bead should look like the picture in the sidebar – “Completed Bead”.
Also, allow for 12-18 inches of fishing line on the tag end. If you need to increase the tag end, loosen the line through the bead and adjust to the desired length.

Finally, using an improved clinch knot, tie the hook to the tag end. Refer to the picture in the sidebar – “Trout Fishing Rig #1” to see the completed rig.
This is a quick rig to tie and allows for adjusting the tag end (leader) by loosening the loop through the Bead.
When used with an Ultralight Fishing Rod, it casts easily and makes for long cast when needed.
It also is sensitive to light strikes as the line slips through the weight minimizing drag, which will increase hook ups with finicky Trout.
The drawback… it is limited in strength because of the loop created by the Bead. It should only be used where small Rainbow Trout are stocked (9-13 inch Trout).
If larger Rainbow Trout are in the area, better to use Trout Fishing Rig #2 or Trout Fishing Rig #3.

Trout Fishing Rig #2 Components
Trout Fishing Rig #2 Components
Trout Fishing Rig #2
Trout Fishing Rig #2

Trout Fishing Rig #2

The second Trout Fishing Rig uses a Bullet Weight, Bead, a small Swivel, and a Hook.
To make this rig, begin by threading the fishing line through the Bullet Weight, pointed end toward your reel.
Next, thread the fishing line through the Bead, and then, using an improved clinch knot, tie the small Swivel to the fishing line.
Then, measure 12-18 inches of fishing line to make a leader; and then, cut and tie it to the other end of the small Swivel.
Finally, tie the tag end of the leader to the Hook. Refer to the picture in the sidebar – “Trout Fishing Rig #2” to see the completed rig.
This rig takes a little longer to tie compared to Trout Fishing Rig #1 and does not readily allow for ease of adjusting the leader’s length. However, it will handle larger Rainbow Trout!
It is sensitive to light strikes as the line slips through the weight minimizing drag like in Trout Fishing Rig #1.
It’s drawback is when fished in rivers with a strong current the rig may slip and result in missed hook sets. When this happens, use Trout Fishing Rig #3.
Trout Fishing Rig #3 Components
Trout Fishing Rig #3 Components
Trout Fishing Rig #3
Trout Fishing Rig #3

Trout Fishing Rig #3

The third Trout Fishing Rig uses a small #6 Split Shot, a Bullet Weight, a Bead, a small Swivel, and a Hook.
To make this rig, follow the same steps as Trout Fishing Rig #2.
Then, push the Bullet Weight and Bead against the small Swivel.
Finally, attach the small #6 Split Shot about two inches from the Bullet Weight. Refer to the picture in the sidebar – “Trout Fishing Rig #3” to see the completed rig.
By adding the small #6 Split Shot, the rig will handle stronger currents and lessen the likelihood of a slack line caused by the current.
Trout Fishing Rig #4 Components
Trout Fishing Rig #4 Components
Trout Fishing Rig #4
Trout Fishing Rig #4

Trout Fishing Rig #4

The fourth Trout Fishing Rig is the simplest to setup, using a 3/0 Split Shot and a Hook.
To make this rig, attach the hook to the fishing line with an improved clinch knot.
And then, measure 12-18 inches from the hook and attach the 3/0 Split Shot.
That’s it… refer to the picture in the sidebar – “Trout Fishing Rig #4” to see the completed rig.
This rig is the least sensitive of all the rigs described because the fishing line does not slip through the weight and the fish will feel drag against the weight.
However, it will handle larger Rainbow Trout. It uses a minimum of components (a hook and a split shot). More weight can be added as conditions require. And, it is quick to setup especially with cold fingers in freezing weather!

15 Tips to Reduce FLIES Around the Chicken Coop

15 Tips to Reduce FLIES Around the Chicken Coop

15 Tips to Reduce FLIES Around the Chicken Coop


by

Kathy Shea Mormino


When keeping chickens or other animals, flies are an expected nuisance, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce the overall fly population, thereby limiting the risks of disease they carry.

When keeping chickens or other animals,
flies are an expected nuisance, but there are steps that can be taken to
reduce the overall fly population, thereby limiting the risks of disease
they carry. Flies thrive in warm, moist, “fragrant” environments and
different types of flies require different elimination tactics, making a
multi-pronged strategy necessary. So…let’s roll one out!
1. Remove the Poop: Promptly remove nightly droppings from the chicken coop. A droppings board is the best solution to this stinky fly attractant and it takes less than a minute daily to scrape it down & add the manure to the compost pile.
1. Remove the Poop: Promptly remove nightly droppings from the chicken coop. A droppings board
is the best solution to this stinky fly attractant and it takes less
than a minute daily to scrape it down & add the manure to the
compost pile.
Promptly remove nightly droppings from the chicken coop. A droppings board is the best solution to this stinky fly attractant and it takes less than a minute daily to scrape it down & add the manure to the compost pile.

2. Sand for the Driest Coop Possible: Use sand as chicken coop litter and run ground cover. Sand coats droppings and dries them out, reducing odors and moisture simultaneously.

Use sand as chicken coop litter and run ground cover. Sand coats droppings and dries them out, reducing odors and moisture simultaneously.
3. Plant Warfare
  • Plant herbs around your coop and yard. Basil, lavender, mint and rosemary are all natural fly repellents.
  • Grow some carniverous plants that eat flies. 
Spice it Up: Herb it up is closer to the point: add herbs to your chicken coop- fresh or dried. I make Spruce the Coop Herbal Fusion comprised of many insect-repellent herbs and sprinkle it in the nest boxes and coop.

4. Spice it Up: Herb it up is closer to the point: add herbs to your chicken coop- fresh or dried. I make Spruce the Coop Herbal Fusion comprised of many insect-repellent herbs and sprinkle it in the nest boxes and coop.

Spice it Up: Herb it up is closer to the point: add herbs to your chicken coop- fresh or dried. I make Spruce the Coop Herbal Fusion comprised of many insect-repellent herbs and sprinkle it in the nest boxes and coop.
I put fresh stalks of rosemary inside my chicken coop during the growing season.
I put fresh stalks of rosemary inside my chicken coop during the growing season.
5. Clean Up After Snack Time: When giving chickens sweet treats, especially when trying to help them beat the summer heat, don’t leave sticky, sweet remnants behind that will attract flies. Clean up the rinds & compost them.
When giving chickens sweet treats, especially when trying to help them beat the summer heat, don't leave sticky, sweet remnants behind that will attract flies. Clean up the rinds & compost them.

6. Keep it Dry: Eliminate stagnant, warm, pooling water, which serves as breeding grounds for flies. Install drainage where necessary.
Eliminate stagnant, warm, pooling water, which serves as breeding grounds for flies. Install drainage where necessary.

7. Employ Insects:  Fly Predators are
tiny, non-stinging wasps that eat fly larva so they have no chance of
hatching & becoming adult pests. The challenge with Fly Predators is
that chickens love eating them, so they must be strategically placed. 

8. Compost manure vertically
instead of horizontally in a wide pile. This increases the compost
temperature, expedites decomposition and minimizes the amount of surface
area exposed and fly-attracting odors.
Compost manure vertically instead of horizontally in a wide pile. This increases the compost temperature, expedites decomposition and minimizes the amount of surface area exposed and fly-attracting odors.
9. Dial up Compost Temperature:
Cover compost with black plastic sheeting to increase the temperature
inside the pile. Flies like it warm, not hot. Turning the pile also
keeps the pile cooking because the process requires oxygen.

10. Keep It Moving: Install fans to promote airflow inside the coop. It’s tough to fly with a lot of air turbulence.
Install fans to promote airflow inside the coop. It's tough to fly with a lot of air turbulence.

11. Move Compost Pile: Locate compost pile as far away from the chicken coop and yard as practical. 


12. Eliminate Dirty, Wet Hay: Either compost soiled hay or spread it out on the ground on a sunny day to dry it out (moisture+ smell=fly attractant).

13.  Vanilla scented air fresheners. Some chicken-keepers swear by them. Read more about using them them here.

14. Fly traps. Each type of
physical fly trap has its drawbacks: some are stinky, nasty to look at
and some are costly, but most are effective to varying degrees.

  • The type of inexpensive, disposable trap shown below should be hung no higher than four feet from the ground. They’re stinky, but they work. 
Each type of physical fly trap has its drawbacks: some are stinky, nasty to look at and some are costly, but most are effective to varying degrees.
  • The Epps Biting Fly Trap attracts
    flies that bonk into the unit, fall into soapy water and drown. My
    neighbor has been using hers for years and can’t say enough good things
    about it. A visit to her chickens and horses is remarkably fly-free. You
    can see my neighbor’s Epps unit in this photo behind Scooby, the white
    horse enjoying a dust bath. 
The Epps Biting Fly Trap attracts flies that bonk into the unit, fall into soapy water and drown. My neighbor has been using hers for years and can't say enough good things about it.

15. Biological Warfare: Use an all-natural, organic, live enzyme purifying/cleaning solution such as Farm 360
to expedite the decomposition of organic waste. By breaking down
organic waste, odor-causing compounds are eliminated, ammonia is
neutralized and the coop and yard are healthier for chickens to live in
without those pesky flies around. 

Use an all-natural, organic, live enzyme purifying/cleaning solution such as Farm 360 to expedite the decomposition of organic waste. By breaking down organic waste, odor-causing compounds are eliminated, ammonia is neutralized and the coop and yard are healthier for chickens to live in without those pesky flies around.