Tis the season for mud, lots of mud, and with mud comes worms. For a chicken keeper worms means trouble. The definition of a worm according to The Chicken Encyclopedia by Gail Damerow says this: worm/ A common name for various unrelated invertebrate animals with slender, long, soft bodies, of which two groups are of importance to chickens.
Earthworms and parasitic worms are the two groups that chicken keepers should be informed on. Earthworms are annelids that live in the soil and occasionally come up to the surface. Earthworms are a favored delicacy among chickens and are quickly gobbled up. They can provide a good source of animal protein but they also can be an intermediate host for internal parasites that might effect chickens.
Parasitic worms are worms that live inside a chicken and disrupt nutrient absorption and reduces the bird’s immunity to disease. Roundworms and flatworms are especially common among chickens. Free-range chickens are less likely to obtain a heavy burden of worms compared to chickens kept in close confinement.
A few symptoms of worms are: anemia, diarrhea, weight loss, and poor egg production. Worms might also appear in the poop of an effected chicken. A chicken that has a lot of internal worms will look ruffled and droopy.
Chicken keepers are recommended to deworm their chickens 2 times a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. There are two ways you can deworm your flock: with veterinary approved commercial wormer or deworm naturally. I prefer naturally because with the commercial wormer you may not be able to eat the eggs for several weeks after you worm the hens because the medication could effect the eggs.
Pumpkin seeds and other seeds from that family work great as a wormer. They are coated in a substance called cucurbitacin which paralyzes the worms so that they can be expelled in the poop.
Garlic, mint, wormwood, and nasturtium leaves and flowers are also natural wormers. Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) is another great wormer. The diatomaceous earth is just crushed, fossilized skeletons of small organisms called diatoms. The sharp pieces of skeleton cut the worms and kill them.
A recipe that I like to use if I suspect worms in one of my birds is below:
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
1 clove of garlic
sprinkle of DE
Mix the apple cider vinegar, DE, and water together in a cup. Crush in the garlic. Let the chicken drink the mixture. I have only made this for one chicken at a time although I am sure you could make it for a whole flock by just increasing the measurements.
Keep those worms away and enjoy your weekend!