worm in chickens

Worms In Chickens

Worms are one of the most common issues for poultry. A worm infestation is rarely life-threatening but will impact the health and productivity of your birds. It is important to acquaint yourself with the warning signs and to understand the preventative measures that you can take. Worms will deprive your birds of nutrients as they take these from the food of their hosts. This leads to weight loss or reduced growth rates. Worms can also damage the digestive tract of the birds leading to other infections. Egg production will fall in infested birds and they may become listless.

Which Worms Infest Poultry?

There are three worms which can infest your birds. Roundworms are the most common issue. They have a spaghetti-like appearance and live in the intestines of the birds. Chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese are all prone to roundworm infestations. There are several species of roundworm including hairworms and threadworms but the most common issue is the large roundworm which causes weight loss and poor egg production. The droppings of infested birds will contain the eggs of the worms which are then picked up by other birds or eaten by earthworms which are then consumed by the birds. They have a life-cycle of 28 days and can be seen in poultry droppings. Gapeworms are a type of roundworm which attach themselves to the trachea of chickens where they restrict breathing and so cause the birds to gasp. Young birds are the most susceptible to these worms and can become infected by sharing space with wild birds. Chickens become infested when they consume intermediate hosts such as earthworms, snails and slugs. Gapeworms have a life-cycle of 14 days. They can also be picked up from other birds when they cough up the worms which then fall on the ground. Tapeworms are not as common as roundworms and are segmented and ribbon-like in appearance. They attach themselves to the wall of the birds' intestines. Their eggs are carried by slugs and snails so free-range birds are more susceptible than indoor birds. Infestation reduces the birds' immunity. The worms are transferred to new hosts when segments of the worms break off and are passed in droppings, contaminating the ground. They have a life-cycle of 6 weeks and are very difficult to see with the naked eye.

How Do You Check for Worms?

It is useful to check your birds' droppings regularly. You may see worms in the droppings. Yellow-coloured loose droppings are also a sign of worms. A mucky bottom, a dishevelled appearance, listlessness, weight loss, a pale comb and a drop in egg production are all signs that your birds may be infested with worms.

How Do You treat Worms?

Chemical anthalmintics (wormers) such as are suitable for poultry. Flubenvet should be administered in spring and autumn and will rid your birds of worms. If you do not wish to use chemical treatments, there are herbal solutions and these are suitable for organic environments. Herbal products will not tackle grapeworms, however. They are preventative which make the host bird inhospitable for the worms. You could decide to use the herbal products per the instructions and only defer to chemical treatments if the worms persist.

What Can You Do to Minimise Worm Infestations?

Prevention is always better than cure. Here's what you can do to minimise the chances of your birds becoming infested with worms:

  • Give your chickens clean ground regularly. If they occupy the same ground for too long it will harbour worm larvae and bacteria.
  • If you are not able to move the run, install a surface which can be cleaned and sanitised.
  • Adding apple cider vinegar to your birds' drinking water will change the acid balance of their guts so that the environment is less hospitable for worms.
  • Keep any grass short so that sunlight can destroy any worm eggs which are present.
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