Worms can be found everywhere in the environment. Worms exist on the ground, dirt, in animal feces, and on hosts such as crickets, flies, and slugs. If your chickens spend a lot of time in the coop, they are coming into contact with their own feces, whether through pecking on the ground, or getting it on their feet. Free-range chickens are equally susceptible to worms through all the pecking they do on the ground and via the bugs they ingest.
Signs of Worms
- Messy bottoms
- Unusual, foamy feces
- Feces on eggs
- Listless behavior
- Less feed being consumed
- Sudden, unexplained death (on rare occasions)
Most likely, your chickens have worms.
It is normal and usually no cause for concern that your chickens have worms. It is only when they become overloaded with parasites, that it can affect their health.
Is worming necessary?
It is not compulsory that chickens be wormed. Most parasites live in the digestive tract, and do not come into the reproductive system. It is very rare for eggs to contain worms. (but you should still always cook them).
For the health of the bird, worming twice a year, as well as preventative measures will keep your birds healthy!
Treatment vs Preventative
A treatment is giving a dewormer to your entire flock to kill any exiting parasites. This should be done twice a year, once in the spring, and again in autumn. Each treatment may require 2 sessions over a few weeks. There are several treatment options out there, and most can be found at your local feed store.
Preventatives are measures you can take to lessen the chance of worms. Preventatives should be done all year round.
This is my favorite dewormer! You can deworm your entire flock simply by adding the recommended dose to their drinking water. I use a couple capfuls to about 2 gallons of water. Wazine is mainly used for hogs and turkeys, but I have had great success with my chickens!
- Safeguard Pellets
These deworming pellets are also a great go-to for chickens, goats, horses, and cattle. I usually buy a 1lb bag and split it amongst my 20 chickens, 4 goats, and 1 pony. Safeguard is dispensed according to weight. A normal sized chicken (about 4-5 lbs) should eat 2-3 pellets each.
Ivomec, or any ivermectin generic formula, works great for worming. Please be extra careful in dosing, since too much can cause serious harm.
- Ivermectin Pour-On
4 drops applied to the base of the neck
1 drop for young chicks
- Ivomec 1% Injectable
Orally give 0.1 ml per 10 pounds of body weight
- Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth, or DE for short, has become common on most farms. It is readily available almost anywhere feed is sold. Sprinkle food grade DE all around the coop when the chickens aren’t inside. (Always wear a mask, as DE can damage your lungs-as well as any other animals). Sprinkle it in corners, on roosting perches, and on the floor. As well as ridding the coop of worms, it also kills any mites it comes into contact with. DE is made up of tiny particles of shells and crustaceans. Under a microscope, each particle looks rigid and sharp. These sharp ridges get inside any parasites’ body and essentially kill it by scraping. Sounds pretty medieval, but it works wonderfully for internal and external parasites! Add ½ cup to about 10 cups of feed and mix well.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV has long been used for countless ailments. Turns out, it can help keep worms at bay too! Simply add a small amount to your flock’s drinking water. It is widely believed the acidic nature of ACV creates an unpleasant place for parasites to live in the intestine.
- Clean Environment
Worms are inevitable, but simply keeping your coop relatively clean can combat worms. Clean out the shavings of your coop often. Remove any piled up feces under roosting perches. Always provide clean drinking water.
The only true way to be sure of what worms your chickens have is to consult a veterinarian.
With a fecal sample, a veterinarian can identify the worms and recommend a wormer (as not all wormers kill the same parasites).
It is recommended to switch up which de-wormers you use to avoid parasite resistance.
Most dewormers are not actually made for chickens, so have no research on the effects on eggs and meat consumption. Usually, worms are inside the intestines or external. To be safe, always wait about 1 week after worming to consume eggs. I like to wait at least 2 weeks after worming if we are planing on processing meat chickens.