If you raise chickens it’s important to watch for the symptoms of worms. I find I need to be more intentional with my flock during the winter and early spring months, but year-round maintenance is necessary. I prefer to use natural methods for deworming and for the overall health of my chickens.
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All farm animals are capable of hosting worms. Regardless if chickens are free ranged on a farm, or in a backyard coop, they are susceptible to picking up parasites.
Signs of worms
The most common symptom I see in my free-range chickens is diarrhea or foul droppings, but it’s important to watch for any health changes. Common symptoms can include:
- pale egg yokes
- weight loss
- loss of feathers or lack of shine – not the same as molting
- respiratory distress
Food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) can be added to chicken feed as a natural dewormer. I add ¼ cup of DE to a gallon of chicken feed. I make sure my flock is eating the feed treated with DE for at least ten days to achieve the full benefits.
Using a five-gallon bucket, I mix three gallons of feed with ¾ cups DE and put it in a feeder inside the coop. It’s important to mix it well and take care not to breathe in the DE powder.
My chickens are not huge fans of DE being added to their feed. Although they are free-range, they are locked into a coop at night. They seem to avoid the treated feed during the day but do eat it in the evening or early morning when they are closed inside the coop.
Adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with the mother to one gallon of the chicken’s water has great health benefits. It will help support the bird’s digestive system and will create an acidic environment the worms do not like.
During summer and fall, I feed chickens cucumbers and pumpkins from the garden. Not only are they great treats for the birds, but the seeds are natural worm repellants.
Keeping the chicken coop clean will help reduce parasites. Nesting box bedding should be dry and clean. If any birds are using the nesting boxes for roosting, try nesting box curtains to change that behavior.
Chickens hunt and peck where they poop, so worms can spread quickly in the coop. Keep food and water containers in corners of the coop away from roosting bars.
It’s important to keep the coop clean and remove droppings. I use commercial-grade sand to cover my coop floor. Droppings can be raked and removed. New sand is added as needed. Commercial-grade sand can be purchased at most hardware stores. Play sand should not be used.
Using natural deworming methods, and basic coop maintenance will result in healthy and happy chickens. A healthy flock will produce delicious and nutritious farm-fresh eggs.