Deworming is an essential part of caring for backyard chickens, yet it’s often overlooked. If you have chickens, you know they’re more than just birds in your yard; they’re a part of your daily life.
Worms can be a real problem for them and can affect their health and even the eggs they lay. As a chicken owner, it’s up to you to keep these pesky parasites away.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about keeping your flock worm-free. It’ll cover the types of worms that can harm chickens, when and how often to deworm them, and more. Let’s start!
Should You Deworm Your Chickens?
Deworming your chickens is a crucial part of their overall health and well-being. It’s a preventive measure that helps keep your flock free from harmful parasites and worms.
Worms often go unnoticed, and by the time you notice your chickens looking unwell, these parasites might have already taken a toll on their health.
If left untreated, worms can be problematic for chickens of all ages and sizes. They can mess with digestion, reduce egg production, hinder growth, and even lead to diseases in your flock.
Back when I was new to keeping chickens, I learned the importance of regularly deworming my flock the hard way. One summer, I noticed that my chickens weren’t laying as many eggs, and some of them looked tired.
It wasn’t until I consulted with a vet that I realized worms might be causing the problem. This experience taught me that prevention is indeed better than cure when it comes to dealing with worms in chickens.
By regularly deworming your chickens, you are taking a proactive step to ensure they stay healthy, happy, and productive.
Types of Worms in Chickens
There are different types of parasitic worms that can infect chickens, and each one has its own unique traits and effects on the health of the birds. Here’s a list of the common ones:
- Large Roundworms (Ascaridia galli): Large roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite found in chickens. They can grow pretty big, up to 3 inches, and can cause blockages in the small intestine. Chickens with heavy roundworm infestations may show signs of weight loss, malnutrition, and decreased egg production.
- Capillary Worms (Capillaria spp.): Also called hairworms or threadworms, capillary worms are tiny thread-like worms that can infest a chicken’s crop, esophagus, and intestines. They measure between half an inch and a quarter of an inch in length. These worms are particularly harmful as they can cause severe damage to the intestinal wall, which can lead to weight loss, diarrhea, and even death.
- Tapeworms (Eucestoda): Tapeworms are segmented parasites that attach themselves to the lining of chickens’ intestines. They have an indirect lifecycle, which means they can only spread with the help of creatures that act as secondary hosts, such as beetles or earthworms. Infected chickens may show signs of malnutrition and weight loss, even if they are eating well.
- Gapeworms (Syngamus trachea): Gapeworms live in chickens’ windpipes and lungs, making it hard for them to breathe. Infected chickens often show signs of gasping, coughing, and stretching their necks to breathe. Severe infestations can lead to suffocation.
- Cecal Worms (Heterakis gallinarum): Typically found in the ceca of chickens, cecal worms are not as harmful by themselves. However, they can act as carriers for blackhead disease, an illness that usually affects turkeys but can sometimes show up in chickens.
- Eye Worms (Oxyspirura mansoni): Eye worms get into the eyes of chickens and cause irritation, swelling, and discomfort. These worms are carried by Surinam cockroaches and are usually found in tropical regions.
- Gizzard Worms (Amidostomum Anseris): Gizzard worms inhabit the gizzard, a vital part of a chicken’s stomach that aids in breaking down food. These worms are more common in free-range chickens due to their increased exposure to intermediate hosts like grasshoppers, weevils, and beetles. Gizzard worm infestations in chickens can cause anemia, weight loss, and stunted growth.
Knowing about these worms can help you take better care of your chickens. With regular check-ups and the right treatments, you can keep these worms away and your chickens healthy.
When Should You Deworm Your Flock?
Deciding when to deworm your backyard chickens is crucial for their health. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, here are several key factors that should guide your decision:
- Seasonal Timing: Worms tend to be more active and problematic during certain times of the year. It’s a good practice to deworm in the spring, before the breeding season starts. This is when temperatures rise, which makes worm eggs more likely to become infective. It’s also a good idea to deworm again at the end of summer as the number of worm eggs goes down.
- Environment: If your chickens spend a lot of time outdoors, free-ranging, and foraging in soil where they may encounter potential sources of parasites, deworming may be needed more often. Chickens living in warmer climates may also need deworming on a more regular basis, given the increased parasite activity in such conditions.
- Fecal Testing: One of the most accurate ways to determine when to deworm your flock is through regular fecal testing. Vets can use fecal flotation tests to detect the presence of worms. This method allows you to tailor your deworming schedule to your flock’s specific needs.
- Visible Signs of Infestation: Keep an eye on your chickens’ health. If you notice signs of worm infestation, such as weight loss, reduced egg production, or visible worms in droppings, it might be time to deworm outside of the regular schedule.
Keep in mind that deworming your chickens can be physically demanding. Hence, it should be avoided when they are molting and during the harsh winter months, as they are already under a lot of stress.
Prioritizing their well-being and picking the right time for deworming will help keep your flock healthy and thriving.
How to Deworm Your Chickens
When it comes to deworming your chickens, you can do it in two ways: naturally or with chemicals.
Each method has its benefits and can be effective depending on your flock’s needs and the severity of the worm infestation.
If you prefer an organic approach to taking care of your chickens, natural deworming methods are a great option. Common natural options include garlic, apple cider vinegar, and diatomaceous earth.
Both apple cider vinegar and garlic can be added to chickens’ water or feed to help deter worms. Meanwhile, diatomaceous earth has shown promising results in scientific studies.
A study involving two breeds of commercial egg layers found that when diatomaceous earth was mixed into the feed at a 2 percent ratio, it really helped reduce worm problems significantly.
Additionally, it was observed that chickens fed with diatomaceous earth were heavier, laid more eggs, and even had fewer mites.
This shows that diatomaceous earth is not just good for controlling worms, but it also helps keep your chickens healthy and productive overall.
That said, it’s important to remember that while many prefer these natural methods, they may not work as well for severe infestations or against all types of worms.
To find out more about naturally deworming your chickens, watch this video:
Chemical dewormers are especially effective for chickens with heavy infestations and can work within days.
The go-to choices are usually Fenbendazole, Flubenvet, and sometimes Ivermectin, which should be used under veterinary guidance.
Fenbendazole, specifically the Safe-Guard AquaSol brand, has been my preferred option when it comes to deworming. It’s effective against most worms, easy to use, and doesn’t require egg withdrawal.
I usually mix it in my chickens’ feed, but you can also give it to them directly. Just make sure you get the dose right, which usually depends on how much your chicken weighs.
Flubenvet is another popular choice, specifically formulated for poultry. It targets a variety of worms, including gapeworms, roundworms, and hairworms.
It’s often mixed into the feed, and the treatment usually spans several days to ensure all stages of the worms are targeted.
Note that certain chemical dewormers come with specified withdrawal periods. During these periods, it’s important not to consume eggs or meat from the treated chickens.
This is because the medication can remain in the chicken’s system for a while, and eating eggs or meat during this period could lead to the ingestion of residual medication.
How Often Should You Deworm Chickens?
Figuring out how often to deworm your chickens depends on your specific situation and the risk of worm infestation in your flock.
A common practice among chicken owners is to deworm at least twice a year, typically in the spring and fall.
I’ve been following this biannual deworming schedule for my chickens for several years now, and it’s worked really well.
By sticking to this schedule that matches up with when parasites are most active, I’ve seen a big improvement in my chickens’ overall health.
However, if your flock is at a higher risk of infestation, perhaps due to being free-range, deworming every 3 to 6 months may be necessary.
That said, be careful not to do it too much, as over-deworming can lead to worms developing resistance to the treatments.
Striking the right balance in your deworming schedule while maintaining good coop hygiene is key to keeping your chickens healthy and worm-free.
Pro Tip: To prevent the development of worm resistance to deworming medications, consider switching between different types of worming treatments each time you deworm.
By rotating your dewormers, you keep the worms guessing, and the medicine stays effective.
Do you have any questions or tips about chicken deworming? Kindly let us know about them in the comment section below.