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Worming Chickens - Worms and How They Affect Your Chicken's Health
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Worming Chickens - Worms and How They Affect Your Chicken's Health

Poultry
Health & Safety

Most people associate health problems caused by worm infestations as a something that affects cats,dogs and horses, but chickens too can get very ill if they are not regularly and routinely treated for these horrible parasites. A bad case of worms can prove fatal to chickens and it all starts out with some obvious and a few not so obvious signs that there might be a problem.

The Obvious Signs of a Worm Problem

The most obvious sign your birds might be suffering from some sort of worm problem is when one or more of your chickens don't look as good as they should, having lost too much weight and wanting to be on their own instead of with the rest of the flock. You might also notice their droppings don't look very healthy either. Instead of the usual hard droppings, your bird's may be runny as well as watery and extremely smelly.

Symptoms to watch out for are as follows:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Water, runny and smelly droppings
  • Dehydration
  • Hens stop laying
  • Hens want to be on their own
  • Loss of balance and coordination because of weakness
  • Combs, wattles and eyes seem dull

Although not all of the above symptoms may be present all at once, in the majority of cases when chickens are suffering from worm infestation, they could well be. If you don't treat your hens and cockerels with the right wormer, the chances are they will not survive, because worm infestations can prove to be fatal to chickens.

You would need to contact your local vet and speak to them about getting a course of worming powder which has been specifically formulated for poultry. The most commonly used one is called Flubenvet which is a seven day course that is quite difficult to dose out to chickens so you need to read the instructions carefully.

However, if you prefer not to use chemicals on your poultry, there are herbal wormers on the market which you can buy from most good pet stores and agricultural suppliers. The other option you have is to feed garlic powder to your hens every day as this will reduce the chances of them being infested with worms. But it is also advisable to regularly and routinely worm your hens to keep them healthy too.

Intestinal Worms That Affect Chickens

Ascarids Galli

These are large intestinal roundworms which are commonly found in both chickens and turkeys. The adult worms can get up to three inches long. If a hen is heavily infected with these intestinal parasites they quickly lose condition and become very weak with very smelly diarrhoea The worms cause a lot of damage with severely infected birds getting no goodness out of their feed at all, and if left untreated, chickens usually die.

Heterakis Gallinae

Cecal worms are parasites that are found in chicken's ceca. Turkeys and other poultry also suffer from these horrible parasites. The actual worms are very small only measuring around ½ inch in length and white in colour. Although some people believe these worms don't affect a bird's health and there are no obvious symptoms, it is however a very unwelcome guest because the parasites are carriers of Histomonas Meleagridis, a protozoan parasite which causes blackhead in chickens.

Capillaria

These worms are also known as Thread Worms and there are several types of them that infest poultry. One species, Capillaria Annulata Capillaria contorta lives in the bird's crop and oesophagus, causing a thickening of the mucosa which becomes very sore and inflamed.

Then in the lower intestinal tract there are other species of this worm that rear their ugly heads, but it's normally the Capillaria Obsignata which is the worst, with adult worms becoming embedded in the walls of the intestines. Eggs are laid and then passed out in the birds' droppings and hatch six to eight days later infecting any other birds that may stumble across them and eat them.

Severe infestations of these intestinal worms can cause a lot of damage in just two weeks causing haemorrhaging and erosion of the intestinal lining which can prove fatal to the birds. If you have a deep littered chicken house, you may need to reconsider the arrangement because these horrible parasites thrive in that sort of environment.

Cestodes

More commonly known as tapeworms, these flat ribbon type worms are made up of segments and can be really small or quite long, measuring several inches in length. A tapeworm's head is a lot smaller than the rest of its body and because they can be really small, can be hard to spot.

Syngamus Trachea

This is a nasty worm that lives in a chicken's lungs and trachea and is commonly called a “gapeworm”. If birds suffer from them, it more often than not proves fatal to them. The usual treatment for gape worm is an Ivermectin based wormer although Flubenvet does treat these nasty poultry parasites too. The best way to treat your birds, if you think they have gapeworm is to speak to your vet so your birds get the right and most effective treatment.

The worm actually clogs up the birds airways so they can't breath. Gapeworm is also referred to as red worms or forked worms because of their red colour. Young birds are prone to catching them, so it's really important to keep an eye on your birds if you think there is a problem.

The female lays the eggs in the birds trachea which are then coughed up and then swallowed again. These are then passed out and if any other birds eat the eggs they too become infected. Other hosts of these nasty creatures are earthworms, snails and slugs.

Conclusion

Chickens like all other animals suffer from worms and if left unchecked, worm infestation can prove fatal to them. It can be heart breaking if you lose a pet chicken to these nasty creatures because if regularly wormed you effectively keep your birds healthy. Careful and regularly worming your birds with the right wormer, will reduce the chances of them getting any of these nasty intestinal parasites, and this means you should worm your chickens every three months and make sure the environment they live in is kept as clean as possible.

Tips & Hints

Deep littering a chicken coop is never a good idea and houses need to be cleaned out at least once a week, with new bedding being put down. When you do worm your chickens, always make sure you read the instructions very carefully and seek the advice of your vet if you are unsure about anything. The well being of your chickens is of paramount importance because these lovely birds are great characters and can bring a smile to your face when you least expect it.

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