Chickens need to be wormed regularly to prevent a build up of worms in their digestive system that can cause health problems. Keeping chickens in a fixed area as so many of us do, where they are grazing the same piece of ground continually is the worst case scenario as they will be contaminating the ground and picking up worm eggs as they are feeding. Infected hens shed thousands of eggs in their faeces onto the ground and so, the problem gets worse.
How can you tell if they need worming? By using a Worm Count Kit! Using a kit means you’re not worming chickens unnecessarily.
I use a product containing Flubendazole when necessary to worm my chickens. This is a proven chemical wormer that kill all common worms and their eggs in the chicken and is the only product licensed for use in chickens feed. In between these times, I use Verm-X which has approval for use in Organic systems – now this is a herbal product which works in a different way – you will need to feed this to your hens every month for it to work. The really great thing about Verm-X is that being herbal, it contains many ingredients that are good for your birds so it can improve their overall health.
Practising good husbandry techniques is key, in between worming chickens. We try to rotate our birds grazing area every month so that they get some fresh grass but so the ground also gets to rest (this is one of the major principles in Organic farming) and we keep the grass mowed short which allows the ultra-violet light from the sun to reach droppings and kill off worm eggs.
General cleanliness is of course important so if your chickens scratch around in their own droppings, you should be thinking about cleaning them up, rather than hitting them with a regular dose of chemicals.
If you have a bad infestation of worms, you do need to keep in mind that eggs deposited on the ground will re-infect your birds and it is necessary to repeat the treatment before the eggs hatch and grow into adult worms to lay more eggs. This takes 3 weeks for most common worms carried by chickens so I would re-treat after 3 weeks if I suspect a particularly bad case of worms.
Where external parasites are found on the bird (such as Northern fowl mite or lice) a systemic wormer / pour on product containing Ivermectin is useful. This kills a more limited range of worms. Victoria Roberts Diseases’s of Free Range Poultry says it excludes tapeworm and fluke, but these are less common in chickens. It isn’t licence for use on poultry so you would need to go to your vet for their advice.
Please remember this should not replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian who can advise you about worming.
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