A Devon poultry farm was hit by an infestation of flies following a change in the type of chicken feed used, a court has heard.


W J Watkins & Sons of Milton Damerel was fined a total of £8000 by Torridge magistrates after breaches of environmental regulations were admitted.

The court was told that, when environmental health officers went to visit the unit, which houses 390,000 chickens, in the summer of 2009, they encountered what they described as a plague of flies.

Evidence was given to the court that the problem may have been caused by a change to the type of chicken feed used at the unit.

The new feed – with sunflower seeds and a higher level of soya acid oil – caused the chicken faeces to have a much higher moisture content, which had created ideal breeding conditions for flies.

It  was also stated that the company had treated the manure with Neporex to prevent larvae developing into flies, but this was not sufficient to stop the infestation.

After the case Alison Gidlow, for the Environment Agency, commented: “This was a huge fly infestation that caused major distress to the local residents and businesses of Milton Damerel. The operator failed to notify the Agency of the problems it was experiencing as required under a condition of its permit.

“Poultry litter should be regularly inspected to ensure it does not become excessively wet and a breeding ground for flies. Appropriate steps should be taken to deal with any problem. Failure to do so can cause the local fly population to escalate to ‘plague’ proportions.

“Once we were aware of the scale of the problem we worked with the operator to isolate the fly-affected manure by covering it in plastic sheeting to prevent more flies from hatching. The fly problem at the farm was brought under control within a few days of our visit.”

The company was fined £6000, with £2000 costs.