To Worm or Not To Worm Backyard Chickens…

August 21, 2011
worming chickens

Worming chickens is a topic of much debate in the poultry world.  Some people never worm.  Some people worm every six months.  The decision is your own personal preference.  However, there is a lot of information to take into consideration.

Worms are considered endoparasites and are found inside of the chicken’s body. They are often referred to in the veterinary world as Helminths. Helminths include all internal parasites living within the body of the chicken.   The most common types of worms found in chickens include:
Hair worms ~ These are found in the crop, esophagus, proventriculus and intestine. They are very thin and an inch or less in length.  They can use earthworms as intermediate hosts before infecting your chickens.  Symptoms of hair worm infestation include green diarrhea, pale egg yolks, anemia and a hunched over appearance with wing dragging.  With large infestations, birds can die.
Round Worms ~ These are found in the birds digestive system.  These worms are 2-4 inches long and live in the middle of the chicken’s digestive tract.  Infestation occurs from birds ingesting droppings.  These worms can cause chickens to become anemic, have pale egg yolks and appear depressed.  In young growing birds, they will prevent normal weight gain.  These too can kill your chickens. Large roundworms can even sometimes migrate into the cloaca and end up inside of an egg.
Gape Worm~These worms are found in the trachea and lungs. Fully grown gape worms are “Y” shaped and about 1 inch long.  Chickens become infected either by eating droppings or by eating earthworms or snails that act as intermediate hosts.  Infested chickens can also transmit the worms as they cough up the worms and another bird ingests what that bird coughed up.  The symptoms of gape worm infestation include respiratory distress.  The chickens can be seen coughing, shaking their heads and stretching their necks.  Sometimes, when held, these birds make a gurgling noise.  These worms can cause suffocation.  Young birds, up to 8 weeks old, are incredibly susceptible.
Caecal Worms~ These worms are very common and have no symptoms.  However, they can transmit blackhead to Turkeys.  It is for this reason, that many individuals that keep chicken and turkeys do not allow their flocks to intermingle.  These worms are found in the caecum.
A key piece of information in regards to worming is that the life cycle of the worm is 2-8 days.  If one chooses to worm their flock, this must be followed up with either preventative measures or another cycle of medication.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure~ Benjamin Franklin
 I have only wormed my own personal flock once.   When my girls were 10 weeks old, Tilly came down with symptoms of gape worm.   I had been feeding them lots of slugs and worms that I found in the garden.  I have no regrets about it.  I believe it possibly saved her life.
Since then, I have done quite a bit of research regarding this and have since learned that there are very simple things that chicken keepers can do to prevent worm infestations in their flocks.  Many of these take less than 10 minutes a day.
Apple Cider Vinegar~  I add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to each gallon of water that I give to my girls.  This helps maintain an acidic environment in the gastrointestinal tract of the chicken, creating a less than optimal environment for worms.
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)~  This prehistoric fossil remnant sure packs a punch against many critters that “bug” chickens.  As I feed the chickens, I mix in the DE to make-up about 2% of the chickens’ feed.  This can be used as a treatment as well as prevention. A study out of Clemson University showed that the fecal egg count declined in dairy cows that had FGDE added to their feed.
Plain Yogurt with Live and Active Cultures~ I believe that feeding my flock yogurt helps to maintain and add to the normal bacteria living within their guts.  This not only maintains and promotes gastrointestinal health, but also is a great source of calcium. The University of Florida suggests milk can also benefit chickens that develop the habit of egg eating.
Vitamins and Electrolytes with Probiotics~  I add this to their water supply about once a week in the summer and daily in the winter.  Again, this helps to maintain and promotes gastrointestinal health.  I love the Merrick’s Blue Ribbon Poultry Electrolytes.
Garlic~  Some people use garlic as a preventative as well as a treatment.  Garlic cloves can either be added to your chickens’ water supply or sprinkled on their food.  The University of Kentucky recommends combining it with mint for full effect.  This can be used as treatment and prevention. See the scientific studies below.
Raw Pumpkin Seeds~Ground Raw Hulled Pumpkin seeds have a coating on the seed that paralyzes the worm and allows it to pass out of the intestine.  This coating chemical is called cucurbitacin. These only work for tapeworm and round worm.  This is very easy to do for your flock in the fall.  When you carve or use your pumpkins, be sure to save the insides for your flock. Click here for the scientific evidence.
Keep the shavings inside of the coop clean and dry.  Avoid the chickens from eating off the floor out of the shavings in the coop.
Keep the run neat and tidy and if possible, rotate or change where the flock stays outside periodically.
Shortly cut grass where the chickens roam helps the sunlight kill the worm eggs.
Sometimes the only way to know if your flock is suffering from a worm infestation is a trip to the avian veterinarian.  Having their poop examined under a microscope is the only way to be sure that no worms are present in your flock.  There are medications available through your veterinarian, but come with strict directions and many of them are not approved for use in poultry.  If you do use any of these worming medications there is also a withdrawal period from the medication.  During that time, the eggs must be thrown away, as they are unsafe for consumption.  Also, do not feed these eggs back to your chickens.  You will only be redosing your flock through medication present in the eggs.
At the time of publication of this post (August 2011), these medications are available in the US for worming.  Recommendations regarding their use can change at anytime.
Flubenvet 1% safe for use in egg laying hens with meat only withdrawal period
Verm-X (herbal/no egg withdrawal)
Piperazine (Wazine)– cannot be used in egg laying hens*****READ THE PACKAGE INSERT
Fenbendazole (Panacur)– safe for use in egg laying hens with wwithdrawalperiod.
Rooster Booster Triple Action Wormer– no withdrawal period
Droncit- 10mg/kg-unclear of egg withdrawal period
(These precautions are those recommended at time of publication and are subject to change. Please research.)Be sure that the wormer you select is recommended for the types of worms you are treating. There are also some medications listed in The Chicken Health Handbook that are often used but not approved for worming.  It is recommended to consult with a veterinarian if you feel you need one of those medications.Please keep in mind that worming your flock is difficult on the chickens’ bodies.  Also keep in mind that different medications treat different types of worms.   If you chose to worm your flock, avoid worming during winter in freezing temperatures, during molting and under 6 weeks of age.  Most people that do worm choose to do it in spring and fall.


The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow

Rybaltovskii OV. 1966. On the discovery of cucurbitin—a component of pumpkin seed with anthelmintic action. Med Parazitol (Mosk) 35:487–8

Plotnikov AA et. al. 1972. Clinical trial or cucurbin (a preparation from pumpkin seeds) in cestadiasis. Med Parazitol (Mosk) 41(4): 407-411.

Evaluation of the anthelmentic activity of garlic (Allium sativum) in mice naturally infected with Aspiculuris tetraptera. Ayaz E, Türel I, Gül A, Yilmaz O. Yenisehir Ibrahim Orhan Vocational School, Uludag University, 16900, Bursa, Turkey.

Traditional antihelmintic, antiparasitic and repellent uses of plants in Central Italy. Guarrera PM.J Ethnopharmacol. 1999 Dec 15;68(1-3):183-92.

Antioxidant and schistosomicidal effect of Allium sativum and Allium cepa against Schistosoma mansoni different stages. Mantawy MM, Aly HF, Zayed N, Fahmy ZH. Therapeutic Chemistry Department, National Research Center, El Behooth Street, Dokki, Giza, Egypt.

Therapeutic effects of Allium sativum and Allium cepa in Schistosoma mansoni experimental infection. Rev Inst Med Trop Sao Paulo. 2011 May-Jun;53(3):155-63. Mantawy MM, Ali HF, Rizk MZ. Source Therapeutical Chemistry Department, National Research Center, Egypt.

The effects of different plant extracts on intestinal cestodes and on trematodes. Parasitol Res. 2011 Apr;108(4):979-84. doi: 10.1007/s00436-010-2167-5. Epub 2010 Nov 25. Abdel-Ghaffar F, Semmler M, Al-Rasheid KA, Strassen B, Fischer K, Aksu G, Klimpel S, Mehlhorn H. Department of Zoology, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt.



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27 thoughts on “To Worm or Not To Worm Backyard Chickens…”

  1. Lol! I am actually researching that very thing right now! A lot of wild birds around.. and quite a few flocks are being pesky by feeding their juveniles right out of my chickens' feeders. (Typical males right? Their day to feed the kids and they take them "out" to eat at a fast food joint.)

    Maybe I am just paranoid.. (newbie panic).. but some don't seem as "red in the wattles-comb" as the others. They are out and about foraging in a 1+ acre area alllll day long (from an hour after dawn until sunset). If something moves.. they are going to eat it.. even the ingredient tag on the bag of scratch that escaped me in a storm.

    How do you know when they are anemic? Lethargic? Unknown.. they eat, they nap, then they go exploring… repeat several times a day. Watery poop.. and some milky ones.. and there goes my sanity! Who's doing it.. a mystery. I think I heard a few sneeze? (honk!) They got nailed by a nasty storm.

    Vet is out of my price range atm. Anyone know the average rate for fecal floating to test for worms?

    lol I won't even go into the worries about impacted or sour crops.. on the upside.. my poultry are pretty good about the weird human groping them and constantly trying to blow sunshine up their skirts when they are at the feeders (trying to check for bugs.)

    Chickens.. can make "normal" people do very strange things.

  2. We are active users of the de and the organic apple cider vinegar. The organic acv has the mother in it which is an active culture itself. My girls don't like yogurt for some reason. Your always so informative.

  3. Thanks so much for all the info. I have yet to worm mine, but I haven't really seen any symptoms either…they're not quite 20 weeks (and,no, we don't have eggs yet). I'm putting this one in my "chicken file"…great post!

  4. You are very welcome. I'm glad you found it helpful. You might want to check out my new page on the right side of the blog for more info on Chicken Health. Thanks for stopping by beardfamily!

  5. Tilly – love your blog and the tips/information you provide. I especially love your pictures. Hens are so beautiful! I live in Texas and have about 46 hens and 1 rooster. I like the tip on DE and Cider Vinegar, and have started using both in my coop. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I'm pretty sure I tried the vinegar & they wouldn't drink their water, but I'll try again. The pumpkin seeds I'll need to look for. I like DE & I already use that. Yogurt is 1 of their Sunday morning breakfast dishes. Garlic….ok I'll try that too! Thanks

    • Hi Pam, sounds like all these things are working for our flocks. I love that you are doing all the same. Try just adding a capful of the vinegar per gallon at first. This might help get the accustomed to the taste.

  7. I was told that DE once it was wet (as in internal) it had no effect whatsoever on anything. Using in dust baths for mites yes, but fed to them for worm killing/prevention, no.

    • I have heard that too, but when I decided to research the facts further I found this: Dr. Phillip Schaible, while heading the Dept. of Poultry Sciences at Michigan State University, reported:

      "Contains 15 trace minerals important to animal diets. DE mixes well with all feeds while guarding against insect damage. Prevents worms and keeps virus epidemics from developing. Saves albumen, destroys harmful acids, safeguards the stomach. Improves health and growth of young animals. Causes better digestion, allowing animals to absorb a higher percentage of protein from its regular diet".

  8. I've used flubenvet recently and the instructions say there is no withdrawal period for the eggs, they are fine to eat while treating. There is a 7 day withdrawal on the meat though- but I'm not planning to eat them! Hope this helps!

  9. I'm new to your blog. It looks great and I look forward to exploring it. With regards to pumpkins seeds to treat worms, how often and how much do you feed them to your chickens?

    • Welcome! Thanks for stopping in. I don't use pumpkin seeds to treat worms. If you think you have a worm issue, I would first recommend a fecal float test (done at your local vet's office). If worms are confirmed, then I would treat with traditional medications as the ones listed above. I use pumpkin seeds to help prevent worms from taking up residence in the gi tract. Cucurbiticin in fact is the amino acid that is able to paralyze the worms. You can read more about it here:

  10. I looked up the Clemson study on DE; the DE they used had garlic and cayanne pepper in it, which really cheeses me off. Why? Well, now I don't conclusively know if DE was the active curative or was it the garlic and/or Cheyenne pepper? How much garlic and Cheyenne pepper was in the DE? Who knows…such sloppy testing. And in what way is this relevant to chickens? What's the dosage for hens?…it's all maddening suppision. >: S

    • Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing. It certainly be either or could be both. Do you have an avian vet nearby that can help? They would be best to do a physical exam and be able to assess the situation for you.

  11. I was wondering what wormer you used on your flock. For the first time in five years I think my flock needs to be wormed.

    • I have never wormed my flock. I would bring a stool sample to the vet to confirm you do have worms. If so, then you might try one of those suggested in my worming post or one recommended by the vet.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.