I’ve seen a lot of posts on Facebook about this being a bad year for ticks. Ticks are no fun. In addition to being disease-carrying creatures, they tend to gross people out. Honestly, I’m immune to their ick factor, having pulled hundreds out of my family. But, I do give ticks a great deal of thought, and I thought I’d share with you our strategy for preventing tick bites on our homestead.
When we purchased our land it had been in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for years. CRP land is taken out of agricultural production, and while certain management practices are allowed, like planting hardwoods, or mowing, it is essentially fallow. In our case, the non-forested areas grew up as dense meadows. When Spring, 2013 came and we began spending more time on our land, we’d generally come for the day, bring a picnic lunch, and work as long as possible. At lunch time, we’d spread a blanket down on the grass, and enjoy our meal.
That is, until tick season began.
When the ticks became active, we noticed that they were everywhere. We would place our blanket down on the grass, and within SECONDS, it would be covered with tiny, crawling ticks. When we sat on our outdoor sofa, we were constantly brushing ticks off the cushion
Our Tick Management Strategy
In our situation, camping on raw land while we built a house and homestead, we were unable to avoid ticks. My attempts at using herbal or natural tick repellents were almost laughable, and I do not feel comfortable using DEET on our skin. Since repelling ticks was not effective, we relied on three strategies to reduce tick bites: 1) Removing favorable tick habitat, 2) Allowing chickens to free-range our property and eat ticks, and 3) Checking ourselves frequently to ensure that ticks were not embedded.
Remove Favorable Tick Habitat
The first step in creating a livable homestead was to mow the prairie grass, and convert it to lawn. Luckily, my husband Brian loves to mow. Over the past three years, the wild meadow that was once our front yard has been converted to a very lush lawn. It is now rare that I see a tick in our immediate living area.
Let Chickens Eat Ticks
Our flock of free-range chickens has been incredibly helpful in reducing the number of ticks on our property. We allow them to roam all over our 10 acres during the day, locking them in their coop at night. Their range is really impressive; they enjoy eating flies out of the cow patties in the pasture, then spend a few hours scratching and pecking in the forest behind our house, and later on mosey out to the lawn for a bit of fresh grass, eating ticks along the way.
Some homesteaders recommend guinea fowl for tick management. While I do enjoy the beauty of guinea fowl, I have found them to be a bit too vocal for my liking. Chickens do the job just fine.
Check for Ticks Frequently
This is the most important part of our tick management system. And I’m going to get a bit specific here, but I think it’s important. Ticks will seek out nice warm areas of your body, which means that they are going to crawl to, and embed into your most private areas. Your underwear line, your armpits, in between your butt cheeks, under the scrotum, in the armpits, attached to the ear lobes, and in the hair line. We have found ticks in ALL of these places.
Each night, we strip down and do a thorough tick check. Even though we have lights in all of our rooms, we use a flashlight for better visibility. We methodically check each part of the body (it’s easier with a partner), and then do a hair tick check on the kids. While Brian and I have found ticks in our earlobes and neck line, we have never found one embedded in our scalps, whereas the kids get them in their hair & scalp quite frequently, probably because they are lower to the ground.
If we find a tick, we generally just pull it out with our fingers, crush it, and call it good, although the Center for Disease Control recommends using tweezers, and cleaning the area with rubbing alcohol, iodine, or soap and water. Luckily, we have never developed a rash, fever, or any other reaction to a tick bite.
For more reading about preventing tick bites, check out these resources:
What is your favorite strategy for preventing tick bites?
Share it in the comments below so we can all benefit!
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