Not many chicken owners think about the negative aspects of raising chickens. These not-so-good parts include having to deal with different diseases and illnesses that your chickens may encounter in their lifetime. The fact of the matter is a chicken getting worms is pretty inevitable at one point or another, so it’s better to be ready for it when the time comes.
We all know how much chickens enjoy foraging. They enjoy nothing more than roaming the land freely, carelessly pecking away at the ground eating any insect that crosses its path. Unfortunately, during all that pecking and scratching, they may accidentally uncover and eat harmful worms. Once a chicken has ingested a parasitic worm (or hundreds of parasitic worm eggs!), there’s really no looking back.
Depending on the worm type – it could be a tapeworm, roundworm, gapeworm, cecal (caecal) worms, etc. – they end up installing themselves in a specific area and then begin their attack. What’s really unfortunate is that these worms are easily transmitted. The infected chicken will release worms in their droppings and other birds will get it when they’re scratching and pecking in the newly infected area.
If a chicken with worms is not detected and taken care of quickly, there’s a high likelihood that the rest of the flock will end up infected, too. Then you will have a real big problem on your hands.
How To Tell If Your Chicken Has Worms
While there are many symptoms that come along with contracting worms, there are a few signs that you should keep a close eye out for specifically. Here’s a list of some of the easy-to-spot symptoms to expect from a chicken that has been infected with worms:
- Comb and/or wattle starts to look paler in color
- Loose, foamy droppings
- Rapid weight gain or weight loss
- Significant decrease in egg production
- Dirty vent area
- Stretching and straining the head and neck
- Breathing problems, like gasping for breath
- Overall lack of energy
If you typically pay close attention to your flock, you should be able to easily identify any major changes that would imply your chicken has been infected with worms.
I Think My Chicken Might Have Worms.
If you believe that one or more of your chickens has been unfortunate enough to become infected with worms, the first thing you should do is isolate them. You need to remove those infected chickens from the rest of the group. It’s important to do this as soon as possible so they have less time to release infected droppings thus reducing the chance of passing on the worms to the rest of your flock.
Once you’ve accomplished that, you will need to examine a sample of the droppings from each of those chickens. Fortunately, when it comes to the worms that would thrive with your chicken as its host, there are only a few you really need to worry about. Also, most worms will be visible in your bird’s feces and are easily identifiable.
If any of your chickens do in fact have worms, sifting through a dropping sample will help to make it easier to distinguish which particular worm your chicken has been infected with. Knowing which worm you’re dealing with will be the best way to figure out the best way to treat it.
3 Common Types Of Worms Found In Chickens
These are generally the most common worm found in chickens, are long (up to 3 inches!) and easy to spot. They have a few different varieties and may also be referred to as threadworms or hairworms. They like to hang out in the digestive system of your chicken.
These tend to be very contagious and will inevitably be a cause of rapid weight loss in a chicken. If left untreated, these sneaky worms can even find their way into your hen’s oviduct and begin infecting their eggs. You definitely don’t want to come across a bunch of these buggers when you crack an egg in your frying pan!
These are red in color and fork-like in appearance. These worms attack the respiratory system of your chicken including the windpipe, lungs, and trachea. They’ll cause your chicken to struggle for breath, strain to stretch their neck, and shake their head. If left untreated, a gapeworm can cause your chicken to suffocate to death.
These are long and skinny ribbon-looking worms that can also infect your chicken. Your chicken will usually contract these worms by eating another infected host, like a fly, snail, or earthworm. Once a tapeworm has entered the digestive system, it will then bury itself into your chicken’s intestines and stay there.
They not only affect the chicken’s immune system, but can also slowly starve your chicken as it will eat most of the food that your chicken ingests. Tapeworms, depending on their age, can range widely in size. They can measure anywhere from 0.15 of an inch to almost 10 inches! They aren’t usually fatal, but should not go untreated.
Once you’ve established that your chicken does have a worm infection, you’ll need to take it in to a veterinarian. If you do not want to go through the hassle of buckling up your chicken in your 4X4, you may be able to just send a stool sample to the vet. They have all the proper tools and skills to be able to diagnose your chicken with 100% accuracy. The veterinarian will also be able to provide you with the correct treatment and/or medication for your feathered friend.
Top Natural Treatments For Parasitic Worms
When it comes to chickens getting worms, the easiest and most cost-effective thing you can do is try to prevent the infection to begin with. Practicing good husbandry is a must and would include things like cleaning your coop and chicken run on a regular (read: daily or at least weekly) basis and keeping your chicken’s food and water supply pristine. Just maintaining a frequent and consistent schedule can make all the difference here.
Remember that the worms are generally transmitted from chicken to chicken by their droppings. So, by maintaining clean living quarters for your flock and reducing the amount of chicken feces they come into contact with, you can cut the infection rate down significantly.
However, since worms are a common and mostly unavoidable threat to chickens, there are a lot of different products readily available online and in pet supermarkets to treat them. They can come in liquid, tablet, or fine powder forms, so you have plenty of options out there regarding how to administer the treatment.
Also, it’s important to note that most products will cover a vast majority of worm infestations, rather than just targeting one type of worm. This extra protection will help you get the most bang for your buck, and it will also make it easier for you to distribute the medicine to your flock.
ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar)
This kitchen staple is a good go-to worming tool for fowl. It helps to use it all the time as it’s an extraordinary immune booster for your chickens. It’s packed with good minerals and vitamins, not to mention the germ and bacteria killing power it has, and it’s very easy to distribute. You only have to pour a little into their water bowl every time you refill it.
One of the most recommended prevention products for deworming chickens is something called Diatomaceous Earth. If you’ve owned chickens for a while, you may already be familiar with this. However, if you’re not, this is a fine algae powder that acts as a natural de-wormer for your chickens by literally drying those wriggling suckers out.
This dust can be added directly to the food you give to your chickens. For good measure you can also sprinkle it all around your yard, the run, and inside the coop. It is relatively safe for your chicken to consume, even if it does not have any worms.
What If I Need Something Stronger?
If the above methods don’t work for you, there are plenty of other more advanced deworming medications available for chickens. These include drugs such as Safe-Guard, Albendazole, Piperazine, and Ivermectin to name a few.
Usually, these medications come in a liquid form and are easily dispersed among your flock by adding it to their water bowl. Heavier drugs like these should be used sparingly as using them too often can cause worms to build up a resistance to them. Many resources may even encourage rotating them out to avoid diminishing their effectiveness.
These are oftentimes trickier to use because some of their ingredients may not be suitable for chickens that lay eggs for consumption. If you decide to go this route, it’s important that you read up on each ingredient so you know exactly what you are giving to your chicken.
Your chickens contracting worms is not the end of the world (or their little chicken lives). Usually, worms are easily treatable as long as you catch the infection early. Remember, when it comes to deworming chickens, the best course of action is always prevention. Do everything you can to prevent and lessen your chicken’s interaction with infected sources and you should never find yourself in the midst of an unmanageable infestation.
If you’re currently researching how to keep your chickens in top condition, you may also find our article on vaccinations to be a useful read.