Early Backyard Chickens Get the Worm, and Vice-Versa

Backyard Chickens love worms. If you throw a red worm in the yard, chickens are going to be on it quicker than you can blink. The first chicken there gets the worm.

Some Worms love backyard chickens too. These are the internal parasitic worms that feed in your backyard chickens. Some worms can be fatal and none are really good to for chickens.

Chickens can get worms from other chickens or pets. They can also get worms naturally from the soil and insects. Keeping your yard and chickens clean does not mean your chickens will not get worms.

Here are the most common worms found in backyard chickens:

Hair Worms - Found in the crop, oesophagus, proventriculus and intestine.

Round Worms - Found in the birds digestive system.

Gizzard Worms – Found in the gizzard, mainly in geese.

Tape Worms- Fairly uncommon, found in the intestine.

Gape Worms- Found in the trachea and lungs..

If you ask enough chicken breeders and experts, you will find varied answers on whether a backyard chicken needs to be wormed, how to worm them, and what products to use. There are no absolute answers, but there may be a best answer for you based on your circumstances and preferences.

My Chickens Are Healthy Since Being Wormed

Worming backyard chickens is really a personal choice. In my case, I lost a five year old hen rather suddenly and had a young hen start sneezing and gurgling from reparatory issues the same day. After some research, I felt reparatory worms, or gapeworms, were a real possibility. Worming was an easy enough way to eliminate this fatal possibility. I treated for worms and some other possibilities and my sick hen got better.

If you can afford to take your backyard chickens to the Vet or have their stool tested by a Lab, you will know for certain that worms are present. For many of us, our budget to spend on chickens is limited. Implementing a preventative program is a good option to avoid the crises of losing a chicken or having high vet/lab bills.  Vet bills can quickly reach hundreds of dollars for a sick chicken.

Some chicken breeders and owners use DIATOMACEOUS EARTH (DE) as a wormer, feeding it to chickens. Feeding DE to chickens concerns me, based on what I have read about it. The sharp crystals can be damaging to a chicken and scrub out helpful bacteria and enzymes, along with killing worms.

If you opt to worm your chickens and to do it yourself, there are several worm medications on the market. Wazine seems to be the most common I see in feed stores.

I have researched several wormers. The main issue I have is getting a wormer that kills most worms a chicken can contract. Many wormers do not kill all worms including gapeworms. Gapeworms are a worm that really concerns me, since it can be fatal.

Ivermectin was my personal choice for a wormer. It is a proven wormer in cattle and swine, is highly recommended by several experts, and kills most worm parasites, including gapeworms.

To add to the confusion of this decision is “how to worm a chicken”. Do you put it in their feed, in their water, inject them with a shot, squirt down their beak, or put it on their skin? I was not comfortable with putting a wormer in feed or water. How are you assured of correct dosage with feed or water? Some chickens eat and drink more than others.

Injecting or trying to get a wormer in a chicken’s beak allows exact dosing, but is not easy to do. If you have a lot of chickens, this can be a chore.

To really confuse the matter, many wormers and animal medications are not dosed for chickens. They are sold for cattle and swine. If you call the manufacturer, as I have, they will not even discuss the dosage for a chicken.

Companies that sell worming products are required to test the safety and dosage for any animal they prescribe the medication for. To arrive at proper dosing amounts, they most do extensive testing. Improper dosing can result in lawsuits or regulatory actions.

Manufacturers, by volume, sell a lot of medication for cattle and swine. They don’t sell much for smaller chickens. The cost and time to certify medications for chickens is not as cost effective for the volume they would sell.

Ivermectin, and products like it, kill worms in a wide variety of pets and animals. The same products are often used in dogs, cats, cattle, swine, & chickens. If you read the label for a dog wormer, many contain Ivermectin.  Finding the correct dosage and way to administer a wormer to a chicken is a real issue .

With the injectable form of Ivermectin, you can put a few drops on the chicken’s skin and it will quickly absorb into the chickens bloodstream. I found this method to be fast, easy, and accurate. The brand name Ivermectin I use is Noromectin. I can use the product for my dogs and could use it for a cat, if I had one.

The recommended dosage to me was to use six drops on the skin of regular size chickens and four on bantam breeds.  The drops must go on the skin, not on the feathers. I easily found bald spots under the wings of my chickens. It is easier to do this with one person holding the chicken and exposing the skin, with the second person  administering the drops. A que-tip can be used to administer the drops.

My personal policy is now to worm my backyard chickens every spring and fall. I also worm and quarantine any new chicken I bring into my backyard chicken flock. My quarantine period is thirty days for new chickens. Last, you should not eat chicken eggs for seven days after worming a chicken.

Worming backyard chickens is a personal decision and one of many best management practices a chicken owner needs to decide upon.  I hope my research and experience helps you make a better decision on the practice you will adopt.