Often times poultry farmers ask how they would know if their birds are suffering from worm infestation, well the signs that will show you if your birds are suffering from worm infestation include loss of weight, their faeces may turn brown, may be blood-stained or live worms may be seen in their faeces.
As for how often to de-worm your birds, it is recommended that you de-worm them first at 8 weeks, then subsequently you de-worm them once in every 2-3 months depending on your management system.
Regarding the right drugs to use in de-worming your birds, there are a lot of poultry de-wormers which include: Piperazine, Levamisole, Membendazole etc. your choice depends on you, your location and the counsel your Vet. Doctor who knows the prevalent worm on your farm at a point in time and the drugs that are most suitable.
Managing worm infestations in poultry requires a holistic and vigilant approach. By combining preventive measures, regular monitoring, and strategic deworming, poultry farmers can foster an environment that supports the health and well-being of their flocks, ultimately contributing to sustainable and thriving poultry production.
1. Types of Worms Affecting Poultry: Poultry can be susceptible to various types of worms, with the most common being roundworms, tapeworms, and cecal worms. Each of these parasites can impact the digestive system and overall well-being of birds.
2. Impact on Poultry Health: Worm infestations can lead to a range of health issues in poultry. Symptoms may include weight loss, decreased egg production, lethargy, diarrhea, and in severe cases, mortality. Worms compromise the bird’s nutritional status by competing for nutrients, affecting growth, and reducing feed efficiency.
3. Life Cycle of Poultry Worms: Understanding the life cycle of poultry worms is crucial for effective control. Eggs shed in feces can contaminate the environment, and birds become infected by ingesting larvae or eggs during foraging. Implementing measures to break this cycle is key to managing worm infestations.
4. Preventive Measures:
i. Regular Fecal Examinations: Conducting routine fecal examinations is a proactive measure to detect worm infestations early. This enables targeted and timely treatment, preventing the escalation of health issues.
ii. Rotation of Pasture: If birds have access to pasture, rotating them to fresh areas helps reduce the risk of worm infestation. This practice disrupts the life cycle of worms in the environment.
iii. Maintaining Clean Living Spaces: Regularly cleaning and disinfecting poultry houses and surrounding areas minimizes the buildup of worm larvae. This practice is essential for preventing the environmental contamination that contributes to infestations.
iv. Strategic Deworming Programs: Implementing strategic deworming programs based on veterinary advice and regular monitoring helps control worm populations. Targeting specific worms with appropriate medications is vital for effective treatment.
5. Natural Deworming Agents:
– Herbs and Forage: Incorporating certain herbs and forage with natural anthelmintic properties, such as garlic, pumpkin seeds, and certain grasses, can support natural deworming and contribute to overall flock health.
– Probiotics: Probiotics help maintain a healthy gut flora, creating an environment less favorable for worm survival. Including probiotics in the poultry diet supports digestive health and resilience against worm infestations.
6. Quarantine Practices: Implementing quarantine practices for new additions to the flock is crucial. This helps prevent introducing worms or other diseases to the existing population, maintaining a healthier and more resilient poultry environment.
7. Biosecurity Measures: Sound biosecurity practices, such as controlling access to the poultry area, preventing contact with wild birds, and practicing strict hygiene, contribute to reducing the risk of worm infestations.
8. Veterinary Guidance: Consulting with a poultry veterinarian is essential for developing a tailored deworming and preventive health plan. Veterinary guidance ensures the use of appropriate medications, dosage, and timing, minimizing the risk of developing resistance.
Read Also: Best Source of Water for Poultry Birds
Worm Infestation in Poultry Farming Business
There are three main internal parasitic worms that affect poultry:
Roundworms are the most common type of intestinal worm; they look like spaghetti and live in the intestine of the bird. They can affect chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.
There are several types of roundworm e.g. hairworms, threadworms, but the most common is the Large Roundworm. Most birds can live with some infestation but it can result in drop in egg production and weight loss.
Roundworms normally follow a direct life cycle i.e. an infected birds releases worm eggs in its dropping where another bird can pick up the eggs; or, they can be picked up by a carrier like an earthworm.
They have a 28 day life cycle and can be found not only in the intestine but also in the crop, gizzard or oesophagus. They can even infect the oviduct and be passed out inside the eggs. At maturity they are 3 inches long and can be seen in the dropping if expelled by the bird.
Gapeworms are a type of roundworm; however, they attach themselves to the trachea (throat) of chickens where they impair breathing resulting in the birds gasping (gaping).
Young birds are particularly susceptible and can become infected by sharing space with wild birds such as pheasants. Gapeworm can be fatal if not treated.
Gapeworm is often brought about through an intermediate host i.e. earthworms, snails, slugs can all be carriers of larvae and once ingested by the bird have a life cycle of 14 days.
It can also be picked up directly from another bird coughing up the worms on to the ground and then your birds picking it up when scratching the ground.
Tapeworms are less common and are segmented, ribbon-like, worms. They attach themselves to the wall of the intestine by burying their heads in the lining of the intestine.
Their eggs are carried by slugs and snails so free-ranging birds are more susceptible than indoor birds. Heavy infestation can reduce the bird’s ability to fight other infections.
Reproduction is from segments of the worm that break off and are passed through the chicken in its droppings where it contaminates the ground for other birds to pick up. They are very hard to see with the naked eye and have a life cycle of 6 weeks.
Worm Hunt Guide
Check the droppings … It really is worth a regular (even if it seems unpleasant) hard look at your chicken’s droppings. Always think of the adage ‘You are what you eat’!
On the right, is an image of what healthy dropping should look like so you can make a comparison. Healthy chicken droppings should be fairly firm and rounded with two distinct sections.
The largest darker portion should be black, brown and/or grey in colour and the smaller portion should be white (this is the urine) and it will form a cap at one end.
As with all advice we give, it is not a precise diagnosis so if you are at all concerned, you should consult a vet who can arrange a worm count of the chicken droppings.
If the chicken droppings are:
Green coloured – this could be a dietary imbalance caused by too much green matter or too much protein, or can also be indicative of a more serious internal infection. Veterinary diagnosis is recommended if you have reduced the green in their diet but it makes no difference.
Yellow coloured – loose yellow droppings which will normally stick to the feathers of the birds bottom are most often a sign of internal worms.
It can also be that the birds have a diet rich in corn or maize but in our experience it is usually worms. It could also point to a respiratory infection but there would be other signs with this kind of problem.
This is not to be confused with Caecal droppings which are brown and foamy and expelled roughly every 7-10 droppings – perfectly normal.
Black, runny and sticky – Can point to nutritional deficiency. Revisit their diet and feed only layers pellets ad lib with treats of corn twice a day for two weeks to see if this improves their droppings.
Stop all other treats for this period. For example, too much green vegetables, like cabbage, can also affect make their poo blacker than it should be.
Other signs are:- worms visible in the droppings; mucky bottoms; dishevelled, depressed appearance; weight loss; drop in egg production; pale comb.
Prevention is Better than Cure
These simple preventative measures against worm infestations can help save a great deal or worry and loss of birds.
– Give them clean ground regularly: Never allow them to stay on bare earth for long periods, the ground will become fowl sick and harbour countless worm larvae, bacteria and potential infections.
– If in a fixed Run then move it regularly to new ground, or if you are not able to move the run then consider a surface that can be cleaned with disinfectant (not concrete please, it’s not a natural surface at all).
– Using a loose Hardwood Woodchip surface for example, then make a watering can mix of Virkon S Disinfectant, or Bi-OO-Cyst Coccidial Disinfectant, to regularly water the ground is a good solution
Note: do not use on grass or near watercourses. Use disinfectant regularly inside the henhouse too as contaminants can be carried inside.
– Use Apple Cider Vinegar in your birds drinking water regularly (plastic drinkers only). This changes the balance of acid in their gut so that it becomes a rather inhospitable place for worms to live and breed. One teaspoon per litre of water is all that is needed.
– Diatomaceous Earth Powder can also be used to mix with their feed at a rate of 5% to feed. To be effective though Diatomaceous Earth Powder should be used all the time.
– Keep grass relatively short as sunlight destroys worm eggs.
– If your birds free-range and come into contact with wild birds, like pheasants and rooks for example, as well as having regular treats of slugs, earthworms and snails, then more vigilance is needed.
To conclude, it is important to get rid of, or prevent, internal worms to have healthy happy hens, and for your own peace of mind. A few simple tasks and vigilance is all that is needed.
We hope that helps to simply explain what can often be very worrying for new chicken keepers.