Preventing worms in your animals is the unfortunate but necessary job of all pet owners. Looking after your poultry pals is the same drill as any other pet - prevention is the best cure! There are products, natural and medicinal, that you can give to your chickens to prevent worms or kill current ones.
So let’s go inside the not altogether lovely but definitely necessary topic of worming your chickens- yay!
What are worms?
There are a number of different kinds of worms - here are some common ones that are known to affect poultry animals:
Hair worm - can be found in the oesophagus, intestine, stomach, and the crop.
Roundworm - affects the digestive system.
Gizzard worm - affects the gizzard- primarily an issue in geese.
Gapeworm - affects the trachea and lungs.
Caecal worm - causes blackhead organisms to occur- particularly potent to turkeys.
How do chickens get worms?
Chickens often pick up worms as a result of foraging. Generally, worms are transmitted through droppings, as they live in the droppings of an infected bird. These worms will then stay on the ground until they are picked up by another chicken that’s foraging around for food. The types of worms that are commonly transmitted in this way are roundworms, gizzard worms, hair worms and caecal worms.
The birds can also pick up worms indirectly, through eating creepy crawlies such as earthworms, snails and slugs. This happens because the crawlies the chickens snack on have eaten the worms excreted by another infected bird. Hair worms, gape worms and tapeworms can be transmitted through this method.
What are some signs my chickens might have worms?
There are a number of symptoms that chickens will exhibit if they’re affected by worms - none of them are particularly pleasant, but are important to identify.
Weight loss or weight gain
Eating more feed than usual
Gasping for breath (this will be the result of gapeworms blocking the airway)
How do I treat worms?
There are a number of different products available for the treatment of worms.
- Chicken wormers:
You can buy specially made chicken wormers from any major pet stores or online. It generally comes in liquid, tablet or syrup form, and should be added to your chickens water once every three months. You can generally administer orally as well, but might be easier just popping it into the water! How much you add will depend on your flock size, but there should be guidelines on the box.
The wormers generally cater for the prevention of ALL types of worms, rather than just one specific type.
Some common worming brands (in Australia) include:
AristoPet Wormenda Poultry Wormer
MavLab Avitrol Bird Wormer Syrup (tablet form also available)
Skyes Big Pig and Poultry Wormer
Vetsense Kilverm Pig and Poultry Wormer
- Natural Remedies:
Diatomaceous earth is often added into chickens feed because it acts as a natural dewormer. It works by dehydrating the parasites and worms that exist internally. In terms of its effectiveness, the jury still seems to be out on whether it will DEFINITELY kill all parasites, however, feeding your chickens diatomaceous earth is actually great to give them egg-stra trace minerals - so is beneficial regardless.
Apple Cider Vinegar is a marvellous thing to feed your chickens - it has many great health benefits as its packed with vitamin and mineral goodness, so you should be adding it to your chicken’s water anyway!
In terms of its worming capabilities, Apple Cider Vinegar acts as a mild antiseptic and also a mild antibiotic, so it will kill some bacteria and germs, and deter worms from making a home in your chickens. Again, it’s not a 100% guaranteed treatment, but still beneficial to feed to your chickens.
Garlic is another natural food substance that is known to help keep worms at bay, and makes your chicken’s internals a less attractive place for parasites to settle. Adding some ground up garlic into your chicken’s feed is a great way to get your chickens to eat it, and you can also pop some slightly crushed cloves into their water. Again, garlic is just great to give to your chickens regardless, as it helps their respiratory system and boosts their immune system.
In terms of what the most effective methods for worming your chickens is, your safest bet is to go with a proper poultry wormer and apply that every three months as a preventative measure as you’d do with any other pet - it’s much better to stop worms rather than cure them!