Pest Control in Organic Poultry Production

Organic Agriculture May 15, 2018 Print Friendly and PDF

eOrganic author:

Dr. Jacquie Jacob Ph.D., University of Kentucky


A variety of pest problems can occur on poultry farms. There are external parasites that can infest the birds, insects that develop in manure and harbor disease-causing organisms, and rodents that carry disease-causing organisms and cause damage to poultry facilities. Disease control on any poultry operation requires strict control of these pathogen-carrying pests. Organic poultry producers are not allowed to use the synthetic pesticides routinely used in conventional poultry production operations, thus making prevention critical in the management of these pests. This article summarizes prevention and control standards for pest control in organic poultry production provided in the USDA's National Organic Program Final Rule (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2000).

§ 205.238 Livestock health care practice standard.

(a) The producer must establish and maintain preventive livestock health care practices, including:

(3) Establishment of appropriate housing, pasture conditions, and sanitation practices to minimize the occurrence and spread of diseases and parasites;

(c) The producer of an organic livestock operation must NOT:

(4) Administer synthetic parasiticides on a routine basis;
(5) Administer synthetic parasiticides to slaughter stock;


The best method for controlling pests is to prevent their entry in the first place. The NOP regulations identify some control measures:

§ 205.271 Facility pest management practice standard.

(a) The producer or handler of an organic facility must use management practices to prevent pests, including but not limited to:

(1) Removal of pest habitat, food sources, and breeding areas;
(2) Prevention of access to handling facilities; and
(3) Management of environmental factors, such as temperature, light, humidity, atmosphere, and air circulation, to prevent pest reproduction.

(b) Pests may be controlled through:

(1) Mechanical or physical controls including but not limited to traps, light, or sound; or
(2) Lures and repellents using non-synthetic or synthetic substances consistent with the National List.

Examples of preventive measures related specifically to poultry include:

  • Proper manure management to prevent the development of manure-breeding flies and beetles
  • Proper storage of feed to reduce rodent problems
  • Frequent rotation of pastures to prevent intestinal parasites


The outdoor access requirement for organic poultry production (§ 205.239 Livestock living conditions) makes prevention of pests difficult. As a result, control programs must be in place. In addition to harboring pest flies, beetles, and mites, manure also provides habitat to several beneficial insects and mites. Predaceous mites, hister beetles, and parasitoids are all important biological control agents for suppressing fly populations. Historically, pest control measures on many conventional farms relied primarily on pesticides. Extensive use of pesticides results in the destruction of biological control agents and can result in the development of pesticide resistance. On organic farms, an integrated pest management (IPM) system is used. To ensure the effectiveness of any management system, producers must first correctly identify the pest and understand the its basic life cycle and potential damage.

§ 205.271 Facility pest management practice standard.

(c) If the practices provided for in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section are not effective to prevent or control pests, a non-synthetic or synthetic substance consistent with the National List may be applied.

(d) If the practices provided for in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section are not effective to prevent or control facility pests, a synthetic substance not on the National List may be applied: Provided, That, the handler and certifying agent agree on the substance, method of application, and measures to be taken to prevent contact of the organically produced products or ingredients with the substance used.

(e) The handler of an organic handling operation who applies a non-synthetic or synthetic substance to prevent or control pests must update the operation's organic handling plan to reflect the use of such substances and methods of application. The updated organic plan must include a list of all measures taken to prevent contact of the organically produced products or ingredients with the substance used.

(f) Notwithstanding the practices provided for in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (d) of this section, a handler may otherwise use substances to prevent or control pests as required by Federal, State, or local laws and regulations: Provided, That, measures are taken to prevent contact of the organically produced products or ingredients with the substance used.

For specific organic pest management information, visit:

Control of internal parasites

Control of external parasites

Darkling beetle control

Rodent control

References and Citations

United States Department of Agriculture. 2000. National organic program: Final rule. Codified at 7 C.F.R., part 205. (Available online at: (verified 28 July 2013)

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.