Do Chickens have worms? No, I'm not referring to the earthworms they pull from the ground and enthusiastically consume giving them a rich source of protein. I'm talking about intestinal worms, of the same nature as horse worms, sheep worms, etc.. You've heard of tapeworms, and roundworms but I had never thought of them in chickens until I was reading a study done by the University of Aberdeen on natural wormers? (www.abdn.ac.uk.organic/organic_14c.php)
Yup, I discovered that chickens have intestinal worms inside them too and need a dose of dewormer like everything else. In fact, during the same week I read this article I was also reading my worm farming newsletter and it talked about worms having worms. For some odd reason that was a very unsettling thought. Why was I reading a worm farming newletter? A couple years ago I tried worm farming. Just a big rubber tub full of manure, dirt etc and redworms. I killed them though. I fed them paper to help stimulate the laying of worm eggs. It was the wrong kind of paper. Not completely discouraged by the experience, I still read my newletter for I'm interested in worms for their beneficial poo and their amazing ability to open up soil. I figure after all, isn't a garden just one big worm bin? I'd hate to mess that one up and kill all the worms.
All this information set off my curiosity and led to my looking up types of worms chickens become infested with. When I read the word hairworms my first thought was, "But chickens don't have hair." Sure enough horses and other livestock get them too. What came next on the list was cecal worms. Horses and goats don't have them but poultry and birds do. Next was gapeworms named because they lodge in the trachea causing the birds to gape for air. This gapeworm is the ones that earthworms have and give to your chickens.
The Aberdeen article was talking about different natural wormers to get rid of these terrible pests. Besides not wanting to ingest the chemicals in feed store wormers they have some large advantages. Home-made natural wormer have no withdrawl time before you can butcher, or not being able to drink the milk, or even eat your eggs. I've dabbled slightly with Diatomaceous earth and feeding coal to hogs, all as a part of my wide streak of independence. You know, you've heard it from a two year old, "I do it myself." But for lack of information the practice went by the wayside until I was reading this article and the results from a farm study that Sugar Mountain Farm blog post did on his livestock. It was then I decided to give natural wormers a more serious try. Two things interested me most since I could conceiveably produce them myself and would be eating them anyway - garlic, squash and pumpkin seeds.
Even though fresh garlic works best, my experience hasn't been positive in growing it. I think I need to shift my soils PH for them. So when Sugar Mountain Farm said they found excellent success with garlic powder, I thought that's where I'll start.
He fed the garlic in scrambled eggs to his chickens but I've always worried that giving chickens scrambled eggs might wet their appetite for cracking one open on their own and feasting upon it. I've been assured this won't be the case. Maybe it is all the garlic you flavor in them that confuses their taste buds. Do chickens have taste buds? Oh no, I must suppress the urge to go find out.
Anyway, I scrambled up a batch of egg yolks not used in the angel food cake and sprinkled on some garlic powder. The hens devoured it. So a couple days a go, I cleaned out the old eggs in the refrigerator and scrambled them dumping on a very hefty dose of garlic powder - enough to make even a Bask sheepherder wince. They scarfed those up too.
I ordered in a couple pounds of garlic powder and I'm wondering who my next victims will be - garlic in the goat's grain, or garlic in some grain for the beef ? Hm... think it will flavor the milk? Onions do.
The other natural wormer I've been unknowingly worming with all fall and winter is squash and pumpkin seeds. Especially the buttercup squash seeds as I single handily ate most of the pumpkin seeds myself. I tried a chex-mix like sauce on them and powdered ranch dressing and even plainly salted. The plain salted ones were my favorite. Yup, I figure I dewormed myself quite well when I learned that the seeds contain a deworming compound called cocurbitacin. It was a false sence of security for I read the article again and learned that cocurbitacin is only effective on certain types of worms. Okay, I'm partially wormed. Part is better than none, right?
This revolation has prompted me to plan on growing more pumpkin and winter squash. Not because I think I need wormed again but because pumpkins and particuliarly winter squash keep well in to the winter months. This extra squash and pumpkin could be fed to the chickens and the side benefit would be the deworming properties. Yet, this chemical isn't enough for it only is effective on certain worms and the doseage of cocurbitacin in the seeds is low.
That's where good nutrition and a healthy dose of Vitamin A comes in on warding off parasites. Before I turn this post into the length of a book I'll close. This subject isn't closed though and we'll talk more on how to naturally supply Vitamin A and what types of foods I'm going to grow to replace laymash.