A customer called recently with questions about how to de-worm chickens. After some investigation, I found that there are no approved de-wormers that can be added into chicken or duck feed and only one such product for turkeys.
I was not sure how much of a problem worms were in poultry so I researched the topic and want to share the information I learned.
One reason we do not hear too much about worms in poultry is that commercial confinement systems have removed the secondary host that many worms need. However, the same cannot be said about backyard and free-range flocks. Intestinal parasites are common in these animals. Low levels of parasites usually are not a concern but severe cases can create problems that result in severe egg number decreases, going off alone, loss of balance and pale comb, wattles and eyes.
Ascarids (large intestinal round worms) are one of the most common worms in poultry and usually the most damaging. They are about the thickness of a pencil lead and up to 4.5 inches long. Ascarids can interfere in nutrient absorption, cause intestinal blockage and have been known to go into the reproduction tract and become part of a newly formed egg.
Of particular concern with an ascarids’ life cycle is that the worm eggs can be directly consumed by another bird via water, feed or feces. The de-wormer Piperazine (if available, check with manufacturer) will control adult ascarids but not juvenile worms so a repeat treatment is necessary.
Another worm common to backyard flocks is the Cecal. These worms live in the cecum, which is the little blind sac where the small and large intestines meet. Normally, Cecals do not create a problem, unless the infestation is large, but they carry an organism that causes a nasty disease in turkeys called Blackhead. Earthworms are the intermediate host that consumes the Cecal worm eggs. When the bird consumes an earthworm, the cycle repeats itself. There are no approved de-wormers for feed to eliminate Cecal worms therefore a veterinarian prescription is needed.
Other more common worms that affect poultry include the Capillary (or Thread) worm, tapeworms and Gape worms. These worms affect the birds by thickening the esophagus, directly consuming feed or clogging the trachea of the birds, respectively.
It’s important to stress that visiting with a veterinarian is the best method to treat chickens for worms. Safeguard (fenbendazole) is the only approved product in turkey feeds to help prevent Cecal worms. All other medications require a vet prescription. Natural de-wormers like diatomaceous earth or garlic (watch for off-flavored eggs) have variable results.
Much of the information I found was through the Cooperative Extension Service of New Hampshire and Connecticut.
As always, Hubbard Life welcomes your questions about animal nutrition and general health. Visit our website at www.hubbardlife.com for information or to ask a question through our comments section.
Posted on 5/23/2012 by Dr. Ed Bonnette | Category: Poultry
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