Like most other animals, chickens are subject to intestinal worms. Worms are parasites that, upon entering your chickens’ body, will live in their intestines, leach nutrients from your chickens, and shed eggs in your chickens’ feces. Among the most common worms your chickens can harbor are roundworms, tapeworms, and hairworms. Intestinal worms are extremely contagious because their eggs can remain infectious for up to one year after they are shed.
Determining whether or not your chicken is infected with intestinal worms can be difficult, as symptoms are vague and can also be indicative of other diseases. Symptoms of intestinal worms include:
- Poor chicken growth and development
- Poor morale among flock
- Rough- or scraggly-looking feathers
- Pale combs and wattles
- Soft feces
- Reduction in egg-laying frequency
- Reduction in egg size
- Poor hatchability among fertilized eggs
The best way to determine if your chickens are infected with intestinal worms is to have a veterinarian perform an analysis of your chickens’ feces. Most intestinal worm eggs are readily visible under a microscope.
Follow these simple steps to treat and prevent further infestations of intestinal worms among your flock:
- Seek treatment for worms. If you suspect that your chickens are infected with intestinal worms, seek treatment from a veterinarian or county extension specialist immediately. Your veterinarian will prescribe a “dewormer,” or medication that get rid of parasites living in your infected chickens. Dewormers are usually specific to one or two species of intestinal worms, so it’s important to seek professional help to determine the right medication.
- Treat your chickens aggressively. Intestinal worms are extremely contagious, so if one of your chickens is infected, it’s likely that others are as well. Use the dewormer prescribed by your veterinarian as directed, and inquire about treating your other chickens and livestock for worms as well. Your veterinarian may recommend deworming your chickens several times each year to prevent further infestations of intestinal parasites.
- Regularly clean and replace litter. Intestinal worm infections are transmitted through feces, so make sure that you are scooping your chicken’s feces out each day to prevent excess fecal matter from building up in your coop. Replace your chicken’s litter when it becomes too wet or dirty.
- Develop supreme hygiene practices. Keeping a chicken coop clean can be difficult, as chickens are inherently messy. However, good sanitation practices are the best way to prevent intestinal worm infestations. In addition to regularly changing your chicken’s litter, perform routine cleanings of your chicken coop walls, windows, doors, and any other areas.
- Don’t leave feed lying around or on the floor. Excess feed attracts pests like mice and rats that can harbor intestinal parasites as well, so store feed in closed containers and in appropriate chicken feeders.
- Take appropriate measures to prevent flies, beetles, snails, and earthworms from living in your coop. Intestinal parasites are often transmitted through these species, so prevent them from entering your coop.