Just like animals and human beings, chickens can also die from bee stings. Their stings contains the toxin melittin, histamine and other biogenic amines that are responsible for pain and itching.
So, how can bees kill chickens? If a chicken that is highly tolerant to bee venom dies because of bee stings, it will be probably due to its body weight. A chicken that is highly allergic can be stung by one bee and die; that’s all it can take. In another scenario, if several bees stings a chicken with poor liver and kidney conditions, it will also die. This is because of the direct toxicity of the venom compounds the renal tube.
The following factors can all determine if a chicken will die or survive one, or many, bee stings;
- The number of stings
- The chicken’s body weight and age
- Condition of the chicken’s liver and kidney
- Quantity of venom injected by the bee
- The chicken’s tolerance of allergic reactions to bee venom. Determine if it’s high, medium or low.
Examples of Cases Involving Bee Stings on Chickens
A lady who keeps chickens and bees together, one day came back home only to find one of her chicken’s eyes swollen. Her chicken was not as active as normal and was in a daze staggering and walking in circles. She then took her hen to the vet for some antibiotic therapy. The vet noticed ‘thorns’ on the chicken’s face that resembled large sand grains.
She first assumed that the chicken had fell down on dirt only to be proved wrong. They were actually bee stingers! Her poor hen had around 20-30 stingers on her eye lids and around the head. After all of the stingers were pulled out, she got 0.5ml of liquid Benadryl PO. Her chicken’s condition was not getting any better, it was struggling to breathe. She then got her home and injected her with 0.03 ml of epinephrine IM.
The chicken improved very slightly but it still had difficulties in breathing, vertical nystagmus and uncontrollable vertigo. The chicken was even stretching her leg forward with flexed toes and the other leg was backwards with sole of the foot upwards. It seemed like partial seizures.
She then gave the hen the dosage hoping that her painful suffering would at least reduce. But, guess what? The dosage didn’t work. The hen continued to experience high fever and was still staggering in circles. The hen was then taken outside to at least cool her body temperature. It was at least a little calm but after 40minutes later, the lady heard a loud shuddering noise and found the hen thrashing all round. The hen then sadly died. What was worse for the lady is that her old rooster had just died a few weeks earlier and had similar large sand granules on his face. At least now she knows not to keep the bee hive too close to the chicken coop.
Benedryl and Medicine Dropper
A farmer’s chicken was also stung around the neck and head area. His chicken had a hard time breathing and then went into a shock. Her eyes were swollen and mostly shut. His hen was opening and closing its beak like a fish in water. It also seemed like the hen was gasping for air.
He quickly ran to the store and bought benedryl with a glass medicine dropper and gave it to the chicken. He also made sure that the chicken was warm for around an hour because it was shaking. After the chicken had calmed down he took it back to its coop hoping for the best. Luckily, the next day when he went to check on the stung chicken, he found it alive and kicking. The farmer believed that if he hadn’t done anything, he would have lost his chicken.
A backyard chicken keeper found a hen that had been stung by wild bees. She suspected that they were around 20-30 bees on the hen. She claims that her husband rescued the hen by giving it benedryl and put baking soda paste on the stings. The baking soda is believed to ease the pain, itchiness and swelling of the sting site. The hen was then taken back to the coop to cool down and relax. It also had shut and swollen eyes but survived at the end.
Symptoms and Treatments on Chickens Stung by Bees
Some of the signs and symptoms that proves your chicken has been stung by a bee are swellings or redness on the site stung, high temperature, drowsiness, troubled breathing, uncontrollable vertigo and partial seizures.
If you witness such symptoms, treat it with and NSAID like meloxicam. Don’t treat the chicken with antihistamine because it won’t help in curing the bee sting effects. In most cases, it is advisable to take the chicken to the veterinarian.
Can Bees and Chickens Live Together?
Despite all the above, bees and chickens can harmoniously live together. This is because bees, in the most part, are docile in nature and they only sting if they feel threatened.
Many farmers who keep chickens also practice very successful beekeeping as well.
In such a setting as the farm, they will only sting the chickens if they are a threat to their colony. This can happen any time they notice movements closer to their colony. Therefore if the hive is placed in a distant position, chickens will hardly be stung. However, you cannot rule out the possibility of a sting. The benefits associated with this, are both short and long term.
Factors to consider Before Rearing Honey Bees and Chickens Together
Local City or County Urban Animal Keeping Rules
Depending on your area, some restrictive rules allow only six chickens and three honey bee hives to be reared. In fact, some rules prohibit roosters to be reared with bees due to the noise nuisance.
Keep in Mind that Chickens Feed on Everything in Their Path
Ensure that your chickens are in an enclosed coop or allow them to be in a free range within the yard. This will prevent them from interfering with bees thus, the lesser chances they risk being stung. Make sure you arrange your vegetables appropriately if they are in a free range so the bees and chickens are unlikely to meet by the flowers.
You should separately place water sources of honeybees and chickens. This is essential because while bees will be scouring the yard in search of water, they won’t come in contact with chickens drinking in their coop.
Benefits of Rearing Both Chickens and Bees together
1. Bees provide honey which can be a source of income. Chickens on the other hand lay eggs, which are also a good source of income. However, not all farmers have managed to work out this plan successfully, especially if it is a single yard for both projects. But, you can make it work with planning.
2. Another great benefit of chicken bees co-existing is cleaning. Chickens are considered to be great at cleaning. They do this by eating ants, beetles and other bugs that are unwanted around the hives. Just make sure they’re not too inquisitive.
3. Bees are considered as protectors to chickens. A number of farmers mostly place the beehive close to the entrance of the yard to keep away skunks, bears and raccoon’s.
4. Chickens can also be used for managing minor pests in the hives. Varroa mites are found on drone broods and chickens just love feeding on drone larvae. So once the drone cells have been laid by the queen and the drone cells have been capped by the worker bees, treat your chickens with the larvae remains.
5. Bee venom is also supplemented in water to improve a chicken’s feed intake. Thus, it increases the chicken’s body weight. Of course, it is a prescribed amount of venom so it is not advisable to try and milk the venom yourself!
Safe chicken yard practices With Bees
1. Just like humans, water is important for both bees and chickens. Use chicken nipple waterers to supply water. Bees will always forage towards a water source. They may therefore move towards the chicken’s water in case they do not have a water source and may drown and die as a result. In case you want to set up a water source, place pebbles and small sticks to provide them with support. If they are more attracted to chicken waterers, consider changing them to a different location. Possibly for a duration of up to 6 weeks. Avoid places that are near the neighbor’s pool.
2. Some variety of chicken feeds attracts bees. For example the herbs used in the feeds may contain Anise Hyssop which attracts some types of bees. You can consider observing the behavior of bees around the chicken feeds and change accordingly. A veterinarian could also advise on the best feeds.
3. Keeping the beehive at the entrance of the chicken yard is a good security measure. However, consider placing the hive a distance away from the ground. This is because the chickens will peek into the hive to eat bee larvae and wax. It will then trigger the bees to sting in defense of their hive if not controlled.
4. Ensure the chicken yard has no floral vegetation that attract bees. This will prevent bees from interfering with chickens.
Chickens can be killed by bees but in most cases they can survive the stings. Of course this depends on their natural immunity, which will vary by breed and size. They can also live together as long as the chickens don’t go looking for trouble and the bees aren’t too aggressive in nature.
thefreerangelife.com/chicken-coop-necessities/; academic.oup.com/ps/article/89/11/2396/1601335; www.backyardchickens.com/threads/bees-attacked-our-chickens-today-with-dozens-of-stings-each-help.417906/page-2; www.backyardchickens.com/threads/multiple-bee-stings.1106537/