It’s relatively common for parasitical poultry worms to spread through a flock of chickens because so many factors contribute to worm infestations. Sometimes, worms appear despite your best efforts. Therefore, it’s important to have both preventative and reactive measures in place to combat worm outbreaks.

Our guide provides all the information you need to deworm chickens and also protect your chicken flock from experiencing severe outbreaks.

new chicken divider Step-By-Step Guide to Deworming Chickens

Deworming your chickens takes several essential steps. Some things to consider are using a worm testing kit, figuring out the type of deworming medication you want to use, and how to prevent future outbreaks.

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Image Credit: greenOlli, Shutterstock

1. Detect Worms in Chickens

One of the best ways to grasp the severity of a worm infestation is to use a worm testing kit. Many of these kits will use a stool sample to provide information on worm egg count, the types of worms, and what kind of medicine you should use.

Worm testing kits require you to mail in a stool sample to a facility, so it can take longer to receive results. If you sense that your chicken flock needs immediate attention, you can also work with your veterinarian.

Not all worms will severely impact a chicken’s health. However, some worms can pose serious health risks:
  • Roundworms
  • Capillary worms
  • Gapeworms
  • Cecal worms
  • Tapeworms

Most of these worms can cause significant intestinal issues if left untreated. However, gapeworms affect a chicken’s trachea and respiratory system. Since worms affect the digestive system, you can suspect worms if there are changes in your chicken’s eating habits, weight, or fecal matter.

Here are some additional symptoms to watch out for if you think your chickens have worms:
  • Diarrhea
  • Worms in feces
  • Oral inflammation masses
  • Fatigue
  • Gasping (due to gapeworms)
  • Pale or dry combs
  • Reduced or stopped egg-laying
  • Premature death

2. Select Deworming Product for Chickens

There are several different kinds of deworming products that you can use. You can administer deworming medication in one of three ways:
  • Orally via syringe
  • Adding to drinking water
  • Topically, usually on the chicken’s neck

The best way to obtain deworming medication is through your veterinarian’s recommendation. Different types of medicine will be effective against various kinds of worms, and your veterinarian will know which one will work the best for your chickens.

In general, chicken dewormers contain one or two of the following active ingredients:
  • Fenbendazole
  • Ivermectin
  • Albendazole
  • Levamisole

Fenbendazole is a common active ingredient that can fight roundworms and some tapeworms. It’s usually administered orally with a syringe or by adding it to water sources.

Ivermectin fights off various species of adult roundworms and some mites. However, it isn’t effective against tapeworms. It’s administered orally, topically, or by adding it to sources of water.

Albendazole is for treating adult roundworms and tapeworms. It only works by using a syringe to administer it orally because it’s not water-soluble. Keep in mind that Albendazole isn’t FDA-approved because there have been limited studies with results showing concentrations of it on the eggs of laying hens.

Levamisole attacks adult roundworms, and it doesn’t treat tapeworms. The only way to administer it is to add it to the chickens’ drinking water.

chickens on fence
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3. Medication Regimen

Make sure to follow the instructions for each medication you use carefully. It’s going to take a couple of rounds of administering medication to get rid of worms because you have to break their life and reproductive cycles. These medications often only work against adult worms, so eggs can still hatch after the first application.

Whatever medication you use, make sure that you treat your whole flock. Worms travel quickly because they can lay hundreds of thousands of eggs, so if one chicken has a type of worm, it’s most likely that all your chickens have the same worms.

4. Natural Deworming Methods

Oftentimes, commercial medications restrict you from gathering eggs from laying hens. Therefore, many chicken owners will choose to use natural deworming methods.

There are several different types of foods that work as natural dewormers. The most popular are garlic, pumpkin, and nasturtium. These foods can paralyze worms in the intestines. For example, pumpkin seeds contain cucurbitacin, which is a compound that stops worms in their tracks and helps move roundworms and tapeworms out  of

There are other kinds of foods and plants that can help flush worms out of the chicken’s body:

Just keep in mind that natural methods can help flush out worms from a chicken’s digestive tract. However, they won’t work very well and might not be effective against severe cases of infestations. Therefore, natural methods are best for adding to a chicken’s diet as an additional safeguard and preventative measure.

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How to Prevent Future Worm Outbreaks in Your Chicken Flock

Once you have the worm infestation under control, you can take some time to implement preventative measures to protect your flock from future worm outbreaks.

Chickens typically get worms by ingesting them. They can either pick up dirt or litter containing eggs or ingest a small animal that carries worms, such as slugs. There are several things you can do to lessen the risk of your chickens ingesting worms.

chicken attempting to fly outdoors
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1. Regularly Clean the Chicken Yard

First, make sure to keep your chicken coop clean and dry. Damp conditions allow for worms to breed and perpetuate the life cycle. Since worms are also in fecal matter, it’s crucial to clean up after your chickens regularly. You can also completely clean out the chicken coop litter a couple of times a year to interrupt the life cycle of any worms hiding in the litter.

You can also rotate your chicken yard to alternate the spaces that a chicken uses at one time. Rotating your yard can ensure that your chicken has clean grounds to walk on, which reduces the chances of ingesting infected food.

2. Maintain Clean Food and Water Stations

Second, keep your chickens’ food and water stations clean. Make sure to replenish their water regularly and keep an eye out for any rotting food. Avoid tossing food throughout your yard because it can have a chance of landing close to any feces lying around.

3. Provide Adequate Space

Overcrowded chicken yards will cause faster and more severe outbreaks. Make sure that your chicken has enough space to roam around without bumping into other chickens. Your chicken coop should have about 2-3 square feet of space per chicken, and your chicken yard should have 8-10 square feet per chicken.

Overcrowding can also cause your chickens to feel stress. Too much stress lowers their immune system, so they’re at a higher risk of contracting a secondary disease as they get weakened by worms.

a flock of chickens
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4. Add Natural Dewormers to Your Chickens’ Diet

As we’ve mentioned previously, there are many different natural dewormers. You can add these natural foods as small snacks and treats to your chickens’ diet.

5. Add a Semiannual Medication Schedule

You can also choose to add a semiannual medication schedule to your chicken coop. Many chicken owners treat their whole flock in the fall and spring to prevent an outbreak.

If you choose to do this, make sure to administer the medication at least twice within a couple of weeks to kill adult worms and then any worms that hatch from eggs. Also, rotate the types of medication you use so that the worms don’t build immunity. Using three different medicines in succession should suffice.

Feeding Chicken
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Wrap Up

If you suspect that your chicken flock has a worm infestation, there are several methods you can use to deworm your chickens. You can use prescription medication and also add natural dewormers into your chickens’ diet.

Make sure to regularly check your chicken flock’s condition by routinely using worm testing kits. It will also help immensely to keep your chicken coop and yard clean by clearing up feces, replenishing the water supply, and cleaning up uneaten food.

Overall, worm outbreaks in our chicken flocks happen to the best of us. Therefore, the best thing you can do is have a good plan set in place so that you can react as quickly as possible.

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