Chickens love to eat worms, as birds usually do. But there are some worms that do far more harm than good. Such worms, also known as intestinal or internal parasites, can cause health issues throughout the flock. Therefore, knowing how to prevent chicken worms, and what kinds of chicken wormers are the best, will help you manage such a situation.
What are Chicken Worms?
Chicken worms, or parasites, live inside the body of their host — the chicken — and feed off of the nutrients that the chicken takes in. There are worms with both direct and indirect infestation patterns.
The worms with a direct life cycle spend their entire lives within a chicken’s body. When the chicken poops, there are parasite eggs in the excrement. Should another member of the flock come across the poop and start pecking at it or gets the excrement on them, they could get infected by the same kind of parasite.
An indirect parasitic life cycle refers to other animal species, like slugs, earthworms, and snails that the chicken could eat and then become infected.
But you don’t really have to concern yourself with how your chickens get infested with parasites. All that matters is knowing what to do when it does happen (and how to keep them away).
Most Common Internal Parasites in Chickens
There are many kinds of chicken worms out there. Knowing what kinds of worms will infect chickens is important to figuring out the best kind of treatment.
Roundworms are one of the few kinds of worms that will live out their whole lives inside a chicken. They are also incredibly common and can be seen without a microscope. Roundworms can get exceptionally long, sometimes reaching up to 6 inches in length. Because they can get so big, roundworms can cause a lot of problems, such as stunted growth, decreased appetite, diarrhea, pale comb and wattle, and a sickly appearance.
Roundworm infestation, when left untreated, may even prove fatal. This is because the worms cause intestinal blockages. When that happens, the chicken is unable to defecate.
There are three kinds of roundworms that chickens can get:
- Large roundworms
- Small roundworms
- Cecal roundworms
The latter is the most common in chickens. However, unlike large roundworms, which cause all kinds of health conditions, cecal roundworms don’t often cause issues. When they do, chickens may look pale and sick.
2. Gape Worms
Also called Syngamus trachea, gape worms are nasty little parasites that are problematic. These worms reside in a chicken’s windpipe, drawing blood from the blood vessels in the throat. Should a chicken’s gape worm infestation become severe enough, the bird may start wheezing or even struggle to breathe. This is because the worms will lock together in the shape of a Y, cutting off airflow.
Chickens often lose their appetite and lose a lot of their vitality.
Gape worm eggs are spread whenever the infected chicken coughs them up or spreads them through their excrement. From there, the eggs are spread easily to other chickens in the flock.
3. Eye Worms
For those who live in cooler, Northern climates, you won’t have to worry about your chickens getting eye worms. These worms are common in tropical zones, as well as the southernmost states in the US.
Often transmitted by cockroaches, these worms are extremely unpleasant and highly contagious. They live, as the name suggests, in the eyes of their host. Chickens can also spread eye worms to others through feed, poop, and bedding.
The most noticeable symptom is the whitish-yellowish discharge that comes from the eyes. Your chicken will scratch at its eyes and experience things like decreased appetite, conjunctivitis, and even blindness.
You will need a special medication from the vet to deal with eye worms.
4. Tape Worms
You have most likely heard of tape worms before. These are long, flat worms that have segments and attach themselves to the intestinal wall of their host. However, tape worms are relatively rare in chickens. You are more likely to see tape worms in other livestock.
However, that doesn’t mean that chickens can’t contract them. Chickens may pick up tape worm eggs when picking at beetles, snails, slugs, or other infected creatures. Once infested with tape worms, chickens will become depressed and be unable to eat. You will notice that they look starved.
5. Hair Worms
Sometimes referred to as capillary worms, hair worms are incredibly thin, like hair, and are only a few centimeters long. You can’t see them with the naked eye usually, but they may be visible when seen in water. There are many types of hair worm; most reside in either the crop, intestines, or ceca. But when infestations get severe, these worms will move into the throat and mouth.
Capillary worms are spread whenever chickens eat infected earthworms or slugs. The first symptom of hair worm infestation is a pale comb. Decreased appetite, weight loss, and diarrhea are also symptoms.
Although common among chickens, protozoan parasites aren’t often included in a list of worms. They are their own unique category, because they are so horrible. Nine species of protozoans affect chickens, but the one that is found in chickens the most is called coccidia. The result of coccidia infection is coccidiosis.
Symptoms include weight loss and diarrhea. Most chickens are infected at a young age but they develop immunity as they get older. Afflicted chickens will show signs of coccidiosis before six years old. Thankfully, most hatcheries vaccinate against this disease.
Preventing Worms in Chickens
The best way to deal with worms is to keep your chickens happy and healthy. The following methods will prevent worms in your chickens:
- Practice good husbandry. Be sure to keep the coop clean and sanitized. Do not let waste pile up, and keep the coop well ventilated. Make sure you clean the coop from top to bottom regularly.
- Clean water should always be available. Keep the water fresh. Add in apple cider vinegar, which discourages mold growth and mosquito larvae from hatching.
- Keep the surrounding environment dry. Parasites in general love damp, dark places.
- Use diatomaceous earth around the coop. You can keep parasites at bay by scattering diatomaceous earth on the ground. It sucks up moisture.
- Mow the grassy areas. UV rays will dry out and destroy any parasite eggs that are on the ground.
- Keep food off the coop floor. Do not let food and excrement mix, as that could lead to contamination. Since chickens poop even while they are sleeping, it’s important that you pay close attention to the cleanliness of the roosts, nesting boxes, and floor of the coop.
- Use natural wormers on your chickens. There are many natural dewormers on the market that you can buy, including ones that are made purely from herbs.
Natural Chicken Wormers to Try
If you want to prevent worms from infecting your flock, you can focus on feeding your chickens are variety of foods. There are many foods that counteract worms or even help your flock expel the worms. The fruits, vegetables, and plants do not entirely prevent a worm infestation, they will reduce the amount of worms in the chickens’ bodies.
Here are some of the best natural dewormers:
Apple Cider Vinegar
A natural booster of immunity, apple cider vinegar helps chickens fight off parasites. However, don’t use apple cider vinegar in water containers that are made out of galvanized steel. The acid in the vinegar will affect the steel when exposed to the sun, contaminating the water.
Pumpkin seeds, in particular, can be sprinkled around the yard. Optionally, you can grind up pumpkin seeds into a powder or chop up the seeds or fruit into small pieces for chickens to peck at throughout the day. There are compounds in pumpkins that counteract internal parasites, especially tape worm.
Crushed garlic can be placed in your chicken’s drinking water or in their feed in small amounts. Although garlic is a natural dewormer, you should avoid using too much. Eggs and meat will get a garlicky flavor.
Chickens will happily eat the seeds, rinds, and flesh of cantaloupe. This is excellent, because cantaloupe is a natural dewormer.
Dried Coconut and Coconut Oil
Coconut is a wonderful natural dewormer while also promoting better egg production. If you want to add dried coconut to your flock’s daily meal, it can help. Organic, cold-pressed coconut oil can also be used as a worm-treatment.
Bee Pollen and Propolis
Bee propolis is a natural dewormer. Furthermore, bee pollen is beneficial to intestinal health, while enhancing a chicken’s immunity to bacteria and worms. Propolis can be added to chicken feed or used occasionally to prevent worms from infesting the flock. You can find bee propolis tinctures from your local pharmacy or online.
This herb is all-powerful and healthy. Chickens love the flowers. Nasturtium is also known for its insect-repelling, antibiotic, and antiseptic properties.
Diatomaceous Earth Powder
You can find food-grade diatomaceous earth in a powder form that can be tossed in with your regular chicken feed. Why does diatomaceous earth work against worms? Because the powder is crystalline and sharp enough to tear a worm’s exoskeleton apart in the intestines. However, diatomaceous earth doesn’t affect your chickens at all.
The Best Deworming Medications for Chickens
You will find that there are many chicken wormers out there, but you should review these options with your veterinarian before making your choice. Fortunately, many of the medications on this list are 100% natural and made from the same ingredients listed above.
Here are the best deworming medications for chickens that you can buy:
1. Verm-X Natural Wormer
When you ask other chicken keepers what they use to rid their chickens of dangerous vermin, they are bound to mention Verm-X Liquid Natural Wormer. This liquid chicken wormer is made from 100% herbal ingredients and is non-toxic. A single 250 ml bottle will cover 10 birds for an entire 6 months. Either add a dose to the flock’s drinking water or apply it to bread. Both curative and preventative, Verm-X is a cost-effective option to try.
2. VetRX Poultry Aid
Another identical option to Verm-X is VetRX Poultry Aid. Both are applied the same way and cost relatively the same. The formulation is also nearly the same. However, VetRX is more well known than the former, and so you may have an easier time finding it. VetRX comes in different sizes. While it is originally for respiratory disease, you can use this formula to kill off leg mites, eye worms, and other parasites.
3. Durvet Strike III Poultry Natural Dewormer
One of the reasons the Durvet Strike III dewormer is popular is due to the ingredients. This option contains both pumpkin and diatomaceous earth. These ingredients are gentle on the affected chickens, providing relief for young and old chickens. Plus, there are no reported side effects for those chickens.
To use this dewormer, all you need to do is soak the pellets in some water then feed them to your chickens like a snack. Do this a few times a month to get rid of gape worms and roundworms.
Since the ingredients are all-natural and non-toxic, you can also use this as a routine preventative measure.
4. Durvet Ivermectin Pour-On Dewormer
This is an easy to use alternative. You can use this FDA-approved dewormer on both cattle and chickens. To apply to your chickens, drop some of the Durvet Ivermectin Pour-On Dewormer on the chicken’s backside, just under the tail. Both internal and external parasites will be gone. If you find that the issue continues, Durvet Ivermectin can be used as a preventative every 6 months.
The downsides? This medication can cause behavioral and neurological issues in some chickens and cows. It also has a foul odor.
5. Boehringer Ingelheim CORID Oral Solution
Do your chickens have coccidiosis? Then you will need Boehringer Ingelheim CORID, which is used for either poultry or bovine. If the infection is widespread, you can use this dewormer on every animal in your backyard — goats, geese, ducks, and chickens. Made as a powder, this dewormer is cheap, easy to use, and even FDA-approved.
Contact a Veterinarian First
One of the things to do first before deciding which chemical-based or natural chicken wormer is best is to contact your veterinarian. They will ask you to bring some feces from your chickens for a test — either smear or float test.
The tests are effective and cost-effective. Once the vet has diagnosed which kind of worm your chicken is infected with, they can give you the names of medications that work. Also, make sure that you talk to your veterinarian about which chicken wormers are approved for use with poultry.
Keep in mind that if you use medical dewormers on your chicken, you won’t be able to use the eggs and meat for a while. Be sure to read the information about the medication, especially about administering the medication. Some can cause allergic reactions among humans.
How Often Should I Deworm My Flock?
If you have done everything right, you might not ever have to worry about deworming your chickens. Giving your chickens high-quality feed, adequate supplementation, and sanitary living conditions is the best thing you can do to prevent health issues. In fact, there are many chicken keepers who never have to use any kind of medication on their flock. This is even true for older chickens that have lived nearly a decade!
Also, you should use deworming medication with caution. Natural remedies are useful and can be given as often as you like, but chemical dewormers can be dangerous in larger doses. You don’t have to use deworming medication routinely, if at all. Dewormers should only be used when there is a definite issue.
Hopefully, you now know everything you need about chicken wormers, as well as the best dewormers available for your chickens. As always, it is best to get your chickens seen by a veterinarian first. Do the fecal float test then proceed with the best treatment option available to you. If you are unsure about a medication, discuss it with the veterinarian first.
And remember: Worms are a fact or life for chickens. Most of the time, birds and parasites live in a healthy equilibrium. Unless you see symptoms that your chickens are getting rundown, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about deworming your flock.
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.