We all know our domestic pets (and kids!) require worm treatment from time to time. Your dog and cat in particular need to be wormed at least every few months. But what about your backyard flock of chickens? Can they get worms?
YES. They can.
Worms in Chickens
Like any other animal, chickens are susceptible to intestinal worms. Worms are parasites which move into and thrive in the digestive tract.
- Tapeworms –
Common in chickens, they live throughout the intestines and difficult to control and treat. They require special treatment as well as control of the sources of transmission (flies, slugs, earthworms, beetles).
- Roundworms –
Live in the small intestine and interfere with the bird’s ability to absorb nutrients. The larvae can damage the intestinal walls, and adult worms can block the intestines.
- Capillary Worms –
Include Hair worms and Thread worms – these are very thin and smaller than 1.25cm long. They can live in the crop, esophagus, and intestines but are not generally visible in droppings. They take vitamins and nutrients from the bird.
- Caecal worms –
Are very common and usually not harmful to chickens. They are visible to the naked eye and live in a small pouch between the small and large intestine.
- Gape worms –
Rare in chickens, they live in the trachea (throat) and require specialist treatment over three weeks.
Worms are a common problem which is, fortunately, not difficult to prevent and treat.
Severe worm infestation can cause:
- Mal nourishment
- Internal hemorrhaging
Worms are easily spread via droppings. An infected chicken spreads many thousands of worms when it poops, and these tiny worms can lay dormant on the grass and other ground for many years. Chickens ingest these when they peck and forage.
Worms can also spread via other creatures which feed on them and are then, in turn, eaten by chickens – slugs, snails, earthworms, etc.
Signs and Symptoms of Worms in Chickens
- rapid weight loss
- increased hunger and consumption of feed
- reduced egg production
- eggs with pale yolks
- excessive daytime sleepiness or listlessness
- protruding breastbone
- diarrhea, causing a dirty, mucky cloaca and bum
- abnormal or foamy droppings
- active worms in chicken droppings
When are Chickens Most Prone to Worm Infestation?
Chickens are most prone to worms in spring and summer, especially if the season has been wet.
here are various poultry worming solutions available from your chicken feed supplier or pet store. They are usually either in tablet form or in liquid form to be added to clean drinking water. Your chickens may not cooperate with drinking this medicated water, so withholding water overnight can be what’s needed to encourage them to drink it throughout the next day.
The initial dose of wormer will kill active worms, but not the eggs. These will require a second dose of wormer between 10-14 days after the initial dose to eliminate any new worm hatchlings.
Some people recommend using apple cider vinegar, garlic, or Diatomaceous earth to treat worms. These are good to help with worm prevention, however, according to Avian Vets, the only thing that will effectively eliminate a worm infestation is medication.
You may need to change your worm treatment medication type as, over time, the effectiveness of one might become reduced.
Can Humans Catch Worms from Chickens?
Worms from chickens cannot be transmitted to humans. They may, however, be transmitted to your dog or cat.
Worm Prevention Tips for Your Flock
- Change the bedding in the coop regularly. Try using hemp bedding, which is very absorbent and a natural repellent against worms and other pests.
- Avoid keeping your flock in wet or muddy conditions – this includes the coop, run, and yard, as wet and muddy is what worms thrive in.
- Keep your lawn mowed. A trimmed lawn will help expose any dormant worms to strong sunlight and UV – which helps control and kill them.
- closely monitor your flock
- practice good hygiene – wash hands after handling chickens
- keep coops, nests, feeders, waterers, and runs clean
- worm your flock regularly
- regularly worm your dog, cat, and kids if they handle chickens
- treat your flock for tapeworm once annually and other worms regularly
- don’t overcrowd chickens in the coop or run
- don’t give too many treats
- don’t throw feed or treats onto the ground where it may become contaminated by droppings
- minimize stress in your flock
Natural Prevention to reduce worms in chickens
You can try adding small amounts of these to your flock’s diet to reduce worm infestation load and help prevent worms in your flock:
- Apple cider vinegar can help boost the immune system.
- Diatomaceous earth is an abrasive which helps exterminate worms in your chicken’s gut.
- Garlic is a chicken treat with medicinal qualities, and it can help kill worms.
DO NOT consume eggs (or meat) from a worm-treated chicken for between 2-4 weeks following treatment.
This is because there can be residual chemicals in the bird’s system which can transfer to eggs and meat, and which need to be naturally flushed out by the bird over a few weeks.
The best time to routinely worm your chicken flock is during the winter when they are not laying.
A healthy chicken can naturally manage a certain worm load, but if she becomes stressed or otherwise unwell, the worms can proliferate and cause major problems. Prevent worms as best you can and be alert for signs of a serious infestation. See your avian vet for treatment tips if required – treat them promptly and your flock will be as good as new in no time!